In your classroom are 20 – 30 – 40 kids that you don’t really know. You have a really, REALLY tough job of trying to teach these little minds some information they will need for the rest of their lives and you are constricted by a lot of things. I get that. I feel for you. I really do. Quite frankly, your job is sometimes impossible. There’s no way for you to get to know 30 kids and know how each one learns and be able to provide, by yourself, everything that kid needs to be successful in learning. I know this. I respect and admire you for what you do and what you have to put up with… and tenfold when it comes to my kid. And now I’m asking for your help by bringing some things to your attention.
I do want to share some things that you are doing that are triggering our kids, and when our kids are triggered, their behavior gets worse and sometimes uncontrollable, which makes your job more difficult. Family. These projects – bringing in baby photos, family trees, Mothers Day, Fathers Day, talking about race within families, talking about adoption, these things trigger our kids emotionally, and that triggers their behaviors. This makes your job much more difficult, and our lives more difficult. And you probably have no idea why it’s even happening.
Baby photos? Its quite possible they don’t have any. And bringing in a photo of them at 5, if that’s the earliest they have, and sticking it up when the other kids have real baby pictures makes the child stand out at a time when these children just want to fit in with everybody else. It makes the other children ask questions about things that the child may not be ready or willing to share yet. How about just their favorite picture of themselves?
Family trees – what do you have when you have a bio family, three foster families, are currently living in an adoptive home but the adoption isn’t finalized? How do you pick what your family tree is then? Or what if you’re adopted internationally, and have no idea who your bio family is? How hurtful is that?
Mothers Day and Fathers Day – there are lots of issues here. Some kids’ mothers, fathers have passed. You usually don’t know the background on the kid – are they a foster kid? Raised by step-parents, grandparents? If they were in foster care, did they spend the first 3 years of their life in a bathtub because mom didn’t want to pick them up from the day they were born, nearly starving to death, hips dislocated, unable to move, until they were rescued at age 3, the size of a 4 month old? Celebrate THAT version of motherhood? Fathers who beat their mothers, sometimes to death in front of the child, and the kid is now in foster care or has been adopted – you wouldn’t necessarily know the background on this. But the kid does.
Talking about race. We need to talk about race and differences in the classroom from day one, yes, absolutely. But when talking about it within families, make sure not to make generalizations. Assume at least 1/3 of your classroom has different race siblings for whatever reason, and that it’s no big deal – unless you make it a big deal. If it’s adoption, and the adopted child is in your classroom, pointing out the differences to that child only makes them feel more alienated, hurts them more, already feeling like an outside within their own family (through no fault of the adoptive family, that’s just a part of the adoption loss). For younger kids, when you bring books in with kids of mixed race in the same family, etc. so that even in the books it seems normal. This will not only benefit the kids whose families are “different”, but will help the other kids see that it’s ok, even the books have families like that!
And finally, talking about adoption. It’s a good thing. (Don’t compare it to adopting a pet, please, because people do return pets for various reasons.) But please don’t point out the kid that was adopted or ask the kid to do a presentation on “what it feels like to be adopted”. These are big feelings and need to be shared with a therapist, not a classroom. And please don’t assume adoption is happy thing. There is always, ALWAYS loss on the part of the child, and there is always pain. So talking about it as a fact, it exists, there’s many reasons for it, it doesn’t mean anything bad on the part of the adoptee, etc is fine. But painting a rainbow picture of it only makes a traumatized kid hurt worse. (I’m bringing this up because one teacher kept talking about how she gave a baby up for adoption in her classroom, was constantly showing pictures of “her” child, not realizing how much pain she was causing some other children in her class.)
So just for planning sake – assume 1/3 of your class has biracial or multiracial parents/siblings/families, 1 of the children in your class has witnessed the murder of a parent by another parent, 7 of the kids in your class are adopted, 4 are foster kids, 5 are trauma kids, 2 have had a parent either die or abandon them. (I made up these numbers, these are not statistics.)
Does that mean I’m asking you to stop doing all the projects you like to do with your kids? No. But I am asking you to be aware of the triggers, especially with Mothers Day and Fathers Day, and the rest of the projects just be careful of your wording so it’s broad enough to include everybody. I know it’s hard already and what I’m asking you to do makes it harder.
You’d be surprised at how many kids in your classroom act out because they are trauma kids, and you don’t even know it. These are some of the triggers that make them act out that can be avoided, if you keep these things in mind.
Thank you for all that you do. Thank you for all your hard work in teaching the young minds with all the restrictions and tests and things they have you doing, rather than just teaching the children. I appreciate you so much.
And as far as my kids’ teachers are concerned, because some of them read this blog – YOU ROCK. And Mrs. L and Mrs. K (retired) – you are ROCKSTARS!