Child in kindergarten
Adopted from Russian orphanage at age 27 mo.
I received the note you sent home with [Child] this morning regarding your teaching the children about families and how they grow and change. I must admit that I am disheartened by the fact that such an assignment would be requested and that you are asking the children to bring in baby pictures. I have had two children already attend [school] and I was grateful this type of assignment was never issued. I had hoped the educational guidelines regarding family photos or family tree assignments had already been addressed. I assumed incorrectly and hope to enlighten you a little on this topic.
The problem with all of these types of assignments is that there are many children who simply cannot complete them, for any number of reasons, not just adopted kids without baby pictures, as is our situation. Kids in foster care, kids with parents in crisis, kids whose families can't afford to take pictures, etc. all may be unable to provide pictures or say "where" they came from, or simply may not want to share that information. To ask some families to do this type of assignment is cruel and insensitive, and as an adoptive parent, I try do everything I can to educate others about that perspective. For example:
What do you say to a kid who is in foster care, who has been going from house to house for several years? How does that child furnish baby pictures, or tell about his/her parents?
What do you say to an immigrant family who has come to America with very little, who is surviving right now on the help of strangers?
What do you say to a family who has multiple parents or to a family on welfare who has never taken pictures, or to a family going through a bitter divorce or custody case?
What to you say to a kid whose family can't afford food or sufficient housing, let alone a baby picture? Pictures are a luxury. So are magazines to even cut out a "pretend" picture.
The basic problem is that insensitive assignments put children in a situation of providing information that is (a) private and/or (b) potentially impossible to have. Yes, you could always make up stuff, or fake a picture, or whatever -- but then you are the odd one out. When a teacher (or anyone) makes a child feel "different" that way, "different" is usually a negative.
I ask you to consider a different methodology of teaching this unit. For example, I have copied the below from the website www.familyhelper.net/ad/adteach.html:
BABY PHOTOSI will be able to provide a picture of [Child] at the age of approximately 27 months, and I am sure the other children will never notice that this is not a baby picture. But if this assignment had been given to my other children, both adopted at age 7 years, they would not have been able to bring any pictures. I am bringing this to your attention as I am sure you have probably not thought of this angle.
The assignment: Bring in a photo of yourself as a baby
The bias: This excludes children who might not have a baby photo -- foster or adopted, immigrant children or children whose families have no camera. If the object is to match a baby photo with a child today, children who are a visible minority are eliminated early from the fun.
Achieving the goal: To illustrate growth and change, bring in a picture when the child was younger or smaller. To describe a child, bring in something else to tell us more about her -- a book, a trophy, a pet. To test reasoning ability, bring in a picture of someone we all know, or describe yourself with three clues, adding one a time until someone guesses correctly.
I know of many other websites full of information on this very subject. Please feel free to contact me for any other information. In the meantime, if you could submit a change in this assignment to the parents, it would be greatly appreciated.
copyright (c) 2003 by Kelly Trainor