Filling your Adoptive Family’s Backpack- October Meeting at AKA
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The third Monday of the month has me driving almost an hour to northwest Austin- the longtime home of Adoption Knowledge Affiliates is at Westover Hills Church on the corner of Steck and Mesa. It’s hard to believe that although I’ve been around AKA since 2007, I have only been actively involved for about a year. I can hardly imagine life without AKA!
This month, we were pleased to welcome Becky Harding and Deanne Brown to our monthly education meeting. Both adoptive moms to daughters from China, Becky is the current president of the Austin chapter of Families with Children from China. Becky and Deanne are both former teachers and brought to us their wealth of knowledge about how to make the most of your adopted child’s school experience.
(Deanne and Becky)
Filling your Adoptive Family’s Backpack covered four main points:
- What does the ideal school look like for YOUR child and family?
- How to cultivate a positive and mutually beneficial relationship with your child’s teacher
- Tools to handle intolerance, racism, and inappropriate questions
- How to become a social advocate for adoption
It was easy to see why Becky was the Austin ISD 1999 teacher of the year. Becky and Deanne were captivating, entertaining, and provided relevant and useful information. And most important- we laughed a lot!!
Your Ideal School
- Decide what your priorities are. If you are a transracial family, it may be a priority for there to be some racial diversity in your school. Other families may prioritize a school that recognizes and provides opportunities for students who are “non-traditional learners.” The important message here was decide on your priorities first and look for a school second.
- Find a school that provides your child with role models your child can identify with.
- Is it “OK to be different?” at your child’s school? Is diversity celebrated?
Build a Good Relationship with your Child’s Teacher (and other school officials)
- Acknowledge that your child’s teacher has a lot on his or her plate- teachers play different roles to different students.
- Begin the year by building a friendly relationship with your teacher. Say hello, ask how their day went. If you can establish a positive relationship with your teacher before you NEED something from them, you will be much more likely to get what you want (or need).
- Be preemptive. Anticipate conversations, topics, units, and assignments before they happen. Your teacher will likely be happy to help accommodate you and your child- but it’s much more difficult to do that AFTER the assignment has been given.
- Use email!
- Do not go over your teacher’s head (ie, take your concerns to the principal) unless you have already unsuccessfully attempted to resolve the situation with the teacher. No one likes to have their boss involved before they are given a chance to fix it themselves.
- If you build a strong relationship with your teacher first (see above!!!!), that teacher will be much more likely to be your child’s advocate.
- Help your children differentiate between intolerance and curiosity.
- Identify an adult at school whom your child can trust and who will listen to your child. Teacher, guidance counselor, social worker, vice principal…
- Buy the WISE UP! powerbook and give your child the skills to respond to difficult or inappropriate questions. And PRACTICE those skills at home!
Be an Advocate for Social Change
- Stay involved in your child’s school. Eat lunch with her. Read a book about adoption to his class. Volunteer to go on field trips.
Remember that teachers WANT positive parental involvement. Be involved. Be positive. Build a relationship.
PS The AKA Annual Conference is fast approaching. With keynote speakers Patricia Martinez Dorner, MA, LPC, LMFT and Dr. Ruth McRoy, you won’t to miss out on this amazing two day conference that celebrates all members of the adoption triad. You just might get to hear me speak, too J Click here for more details and to register!
Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a child and family therapist in Austin and Bastrop Texas specializing in adoption and attachment.