Sunday, October 30, 2016

What is a Family?

Safe Spaces - Vaccaro, August, Kennedy

The last few readings have been more difficult for me to get through, but this one felt a little easier.  (Maybe it was just because my husband took the kids out for the day though.) I don't really know what about it made it easier - I don't personally identify as LGBT nor does anyone in my family.  However, for some reason, I found a lot of the examples, relatable in some way.

The chapter starts off by talking about our classrooms, "The walls are permeable: students (and teachers) bring their personal experiences into the classroom and carry their classroom experiences with them when they leave." (83)  I think I have mentioned this before but I find this to be especially true being a language teacher.  In my classroom, there is so much room to get to know the students and for me to share information about myself with the students.  Just the other day, I wrote a little blurb about my daily routine as an example for their writing assignment - which was to write about their daily routine and incorporate their new vocab and grammar concepts.  Just from that one assignment I could get a peek into what their day is like.  Some of my students don't eat breakfast, some of my students have to make their own breakfast (and it usually consists of cereal or a rice crispy treat), some of my students have a plate of pancakes, bacon and eggs waiting for them in the kitchen before they leave for school and others not only have to get themselves ready, but also a younger sibling ready.  In that same assignment, I learn who plays sports after school, who is involved in theater, who goes to the cafeteria to get HW done (because it's possibly better than going home to an empty house or because they don't have a ride), who goes off to practices for outside activities, who goes to work, who goes home to take care of siblings...the list goes on and on.  The hard part for me sometimes is to determine whether what the student is saying is accurate or if it is a vocab/grammar error.  For example, I have had students say they slept in their "coches" (cars)...but do they mean that...or do they mean "camas" (beds)????

In the next paragraph the authors talk about the relief that comes when you know a friend is saving your seat in a class and how that cuts down the anxiety of entering a new classroom.  (83) When I was reading this, 2 similar memories came rushing back to me.  The first was when I was a freshman in high school and was called up to play varsity a little ways into the season.  While I was obviously thrilled at this opportunity, I was completely panic stricken about who would be my catch partner! I mean, not only was I young and new...but the season had started, everyone had established a catch partner already! I was anxious about it all day!  Luckily at the start of practice, one of the senior captains asked if I wanted to join her and her partner to warm up.  That small gesture made me feel so much more at ease.  Similarly, my freshman year of college, I was in the same situation.  I was all moved in and classes had started.  I was looking forward to the start of pre-season but that same panic took over me.  What if there were an odd number of new players and I was the odd one out?! One night before the season started, our RA held a "get to know you" meeting for our floor and I discovered that another girl on my floor was also going to play softball.  After the meeting we went running towards one another and you could tell we were both thinking the same thing.  At almost the exact same time we looked at each other and blurted out, "do you want to play catch together tomorrow?!" We met each other in the hallway, and confidently walked to the field together.  To this day her and I joke around about what a relief it was to know we had a catch buddy before we got to the field!

The authors start off this section referencing how those who identify as LGBT don't ever see themselves portrayed in everyday life...not in movies, books, tv shows etc.  I of course, immediately thought of SCWAAMP! Furthermore, most times when the topic comes up in the classroom setting, the teacher either just skims over the topic and brushes it aside or may even speak openly against it.  It was shocking to me to learn that some states "specifically prohibit the affirmation of same-sex relationships." (88)

That being said, the curriculum is definitely SCWAAMPy! It is safe so say that there are no activities, readings, or listenings, or videos, where the family's used are neither divorced, nor same-sex, nor adoptive or any other possible variation that a family be consist of.  I have mentioned before that when the book presents the vocab on family, it is the "traditional" (I hate that term) family members that are given.  The text book doesn't even teach step-siblings until halfway through Spanish II, so I hope no students in Spanish I have a step parent or step/half sibling!  When we get to the family unit (in Spanish I) I give them supplemental vocab and make up a crazy family tree that includes both half and step-siblings.  In an ideal world, this year, I would include a same-sex couple with an adopted child in the mix....but I would not be allowed to do that in my Catholic school.  

On page 89 of the text, there are few points for reflection that I would like to answer:

The messages I received in school:
When I was in high school, there was little, if any, mention of the LGBT community.  Towards the end of my high school career, I can vaguely remember a support group of some sort being formed, but other than that I don't recall anything ever being mentioned.

I know little to nothing about the gay rights movement as a specific "movement."  I mean, I am aware that certain changes have occurred over the years, but I do not know the history of these changes by any means.

Sadly, I do not directly address the youth in my life about the LGBT community.  My hands are somewhat tied as far as the youth I deal with in my school because of the fact that I teach in a Catholic school and we are not allowed to enforce anything that is against Catholic teaching.  However, I think of this question more as a parent.  The answer is still no...but I would love to!  I struggle very much with this as a parent.  It's difficult to start these conversations, especially since my kids are so young.  I mean, with Laura, it sometimes comes up...but she always makes it awkward because her curiosity causes her to ask questions as sometimes inappropriate times.  We were at a family function one time and I have a cousin who I am honestly not sure how she identifies, it's really never been discussed.  We have never met neither a boyfriend nor a girlfriend and I really don't know how she identifies internally, her outward appearance is that she is "manly."  While at dinner Laura asked me if she was a boy or girl.  The ironic part is that she somehow knew enough to come ask me that in ear very quietly.  I pulled her aside and told her that she was a girl and she asked why she looked the way she does and I tried as best I could to explain that everyone is different etc. But if she didn't ask me that question, what would she have thought? And did I answer her question well enough?  How did she know to ask me quietly?

Zeke Lerner - Integration & Interpretation:

I love the idea of the integration and interpretation.  I like the idea that things are brought up naturally through various contexts versus "okay class, today we are going to talk about same-sex relationships." In this way, it's presented as it should be...something normal and natural...not different or out of the ordinary.

Now that my daughter is very much into reading (thank you to her Kindergarten teacher!), I am going to make it a goal of mine to start to integrate these books to her.  I found this list of children's books that I will look into for her to add to her library!  She is very inquisitive and it often comes up at inappropriate times because of my "color blindness" to many differences.  Just the other night we dropped something off at her friends house and she noticed that her friend's neighborhood was different than ours.  She didn't really say much but just asked "How does Adrianah and her family and all their stuff fit in this small house?" (it was an apartment.)  Thankfully, she did not ask when the other family was around...but I just explained to her that everyone lives different lives and lives in different places.  Some people have big houses with a lot of stuff and can go on vacation a lot and some have little houses and less stuff and travel less.  I tried to explain that none of that matters nearly as much as the person they are and that size and amount of things are all relative.  We may be a little more fortunate than her friend but we have several other friends/family who are far more fortunate than us.  I reminded her of a graduation party of one of my students that we attended last year.  When we pulled up to the (very large) house...she asked why the party was at a hotel! And when I explained that it was just their house, she was amazed.  So I compared that house to ours and their "stuff" to ours.

Just to wrap things up...I started this blog unsure of why this reading/blog was an easier one for me and I think throughout the blog I got my own kids.  My kids are 5 and 2...I have no idea who they will fall in love with in the future and I guess I want them to know that I don't care who they love as long as the person treats them well!  I hope that one day when you google "family" something more than this comes up, because "family" is defined by so much more than what is portrayed in these images!   #sappymoment #imayneedcarbs


  1. Hi Stefanie,

    I agree, even when I was in high school there was little or no mention about the LGBT community and I feel like if it was brought up, teachers and students snickered like there was something "wrong" with the mention of it. One of my best friends and one of my brothers is gay so I feel for them when thinking about how hard it must have been to have nothing to relate to or a comfortable space to talk about this. I am also happy that teachers in the earlier grades are beginning to incorporate more diverse families into their literature because the reality of today is that a family with a mom, dad, sister and brother is not always the deal. It is extremely important to make those kids feel like their parents matter, no matter the situation because then they will begin to feel shame for themselves and family, which is so sad to think of a little 5 year old feeling shameful over something they have no control over.

  2. I appreciate your post - I felt similar ways in reading this. It is a hard subject to talk about and hard to know how to talk about it with children, and I can't imagine how I would handle it. What I appreciate though is that you are sensitive to these things not only to your children, but also your students. It can be a hard topic to cover in ELA - and I imagine that in language it would be even harder - especially if students don't have the background knowledge and experience to know what they mean. Not to mention in a Catholic school!

  3. In response to your google search on family, it's troubling that it still turns up results for a nuclear family. Two heterosexual parents with two children of the opposite sex.

    Having students free write, is a great way to learn about their lives. Like you said in your blog, and the comment you left on my blog, you've got to make a judgement call to see if they are really sleeping in their car, or they used the wrong word. Similar to novia and novio!

    Teaching through literature, or having literature available is a great way to educate our youth. Like you said your hands are tied at school, but introducing your daughter to all sorts of books will make her very worldly.