Friday, October 28, 2011

Sensitivity to Adoption in the Classroom

On Twitter, I found this link to a blog for the Master of Arts in Teaching program at USC, with a student, who is also an adoptive parent, posting about sensitivity to adoption in the classroom:

Last week I was in a 7th grade History class doing my weekly observations for the MAT@USC program. The lesson was about matriarchal lineage in West Africa. Homework was a triple-generational family tree due the following day. Lineage has to do with tracing blood lines, explained the teacher, “but if you are adopted and don’t know your blood lines you can use the blood lines of whoever you live with.” I was taken by surprise by her comments. Sure, a literal translation of lineage is the trace of ancestral blood lines, but adopted children should be secure in their family whether they know their actual blood lines or not. Calling a student’s family “whoever you live with” is highly insensitive and completely inaccurate in the case of adoption. Adopted children may face challenges other children do not, but I am sure that to many adopted children hearing that they are the exception to the rule when it comes to a simple family tree may be disheartening. Adopted students may never have thought about their relationship with their family in those terms. I don’t think a 7th grade History teacher is the person that should point out how they are technically different from their classmates.

Hmm, I'm not sure he's identified the real issue here!  I would have hoped for more from a student getting a degree in teaching. Here's what I said in response in a comment to the post:

Actually, true sensitivity to adoption in the classroom would be to recognize that adoption is in fact different instead of pretending that it is the same as biological relationships.

What the teacher in this classroom should have done was not to pretend that adopted children don't have biological relatives in addition to adopted relatives, but to modify the assignment to allow space for BOTH families on the family tree.

There is actually quite a lot of literature about sensitivity to adoption in the classroom. Have you looked at it? Take a look at the following link to links for a starting place:


I kept it brief.  What else should I have said in the interest of being helpful to a budding teacher?


Dee said...

The Center for Adoption Support and Education (CASE) has the book "S.A.F.E. at School: Support for Adoptive Families by Educators." FAIR (Families Adopting in Response) offers "Adoption and the Schools: Resources for Parents and Teachers," edited by Wood and Ng. I've found both helpful. Then there are lots of online resources, starting with those at the Adoptive Families magazine website.

Sarah said...

I think your suggestion was a very good one. However, I also don't think that the commenter considered that the teacher's word choice may have reflected the fact that not all children live with live with biological or adoptive parents. "Whoever you live with" is not the most delicate term, but it is one that encompasses a variety of living situations - foster care, caretakers who are relatives but not parents, etc. This diversity highlights the fact that projects involving students' genetic ancestry can be problematic, which relates to the original commenter's point. However, it also suggests an aspect that he or she didn't consider - the fact that presuming all students live with their parents is insensitive to those who do not.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the 80 million other things that people can be sensitive about, from adoption to zionism.
Reality is that people can only be sensitive to a certain number of things at a time.
Ideally, we should all be sensitive to everyone else. Ain't going to happen (oops, just offended the grammarians).
Frankly, this blog offends me. The single-mindedness of it is horrendous. It's like you're expecting everyone to know all the adoption issues, and when someone doesn't, you act like a sanctimonious ass.