An Open Letter

Dear Teacher,

This September I am entrusting to your care a very special person, my child. I am sending him to be educated, trusting that you in your wisdom will draw out from a desire to know, to grow, to recognize in himself that wondrous, wondering being: a student.

She more than many in your class needs an education. Though her body has been to school before her mind has often been elsewhere, hiding away from her pain. She has seen too much in her short life and felt too little. Her body will fit well in that fourth grade desk but the person inside is a preschooler as incapable of delayed gratification as a two-year-old.

You may notice that some of his behaviors are clearly unacceptable. I trust you will help him to understand the limits in your classroom and to gain comfort from their stability. When he breaks the rules I trust you will allow him to suffer the consequences. I know that you might want to give up and send him away. He will understand Ė people have responded that way all of his life. But rejection will only teach him what he already knows: that he is bad, different and forever an outsider.

We have shared some parts of her history with you but please donít blame everything she does or does not do on adoption. She may have a hearing, speech or visual problem or a learning disability. Maybe she, like I, will choose to goof off on occasion. That is not necessarily pathological.

I hope you will honor his heritage and work toward overcoming the stereotypes we all have learned in our racist society. But remember, he is one small child, not a representative of a particular race or culture. Please welcome him by including pictures, stories and examples of many cultures in your curriculum. Remember that you, I and all the children in your classroom have ethnicity; it is not a minority phenomenon.

She will make you feel sorry for her, poor waif. She is so accustomed to being a victim that she has never learned to own her own actions. Help her to understand that she has power to act.

He acts tough and seems to have no shame. But please donít ridicule him for his faults. He, more than most, needs to build on what self-esteem he has.

Please donít ask her to bring in a baby picture or do the standard autobiography. If you must do a family tree allow for a forest. She has grown on at least two trees. I hope your examples will include adopted and multi-ethnic families. She and we need to be validated as real.

You might find food missing in your classroom or hear reports that he is sneaking half-eaten lunches from the garbage cans. I hope you will find a way to use these episodes as private educational opportunities both for him who cannot yet distinguish between physical and emotional hunger and for those over-fed kids who think nothing of wasting food.

When we met to discuss my son I sensed your fear. Those test results do seem overwhelming but they donít reveal anything about his sly sense of humor or his gentle patience with his disabled sister. Nowhere does it show that he alone in our household wakes up with a smile or eats all his oatmeal.

I am sending you a challenge. She has much to learn and not a little to teach.


His mom

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