I Wish People Knew…part 3: a teen shares her thoughts on adoption

I Wish People Knew… by Taylor Kelly-McMahon

I wish people knew that it doesn’t matter why someone is adopted. As long as they have good support from their adopted parents, and are genuinely happy with their surroundings, then nothing else should matter.

I wish people knew not all adopted kids sit around wondering why our birth parents decided to give us up for adoption. Most other people I know who are adopted are very content with their lives, and could not picture it another way.

I know that I am very happy right where I am, and very happy that I was adopted because I doubt that I would know any of the wonderful people I know today. And I definitely wouldn’t be writing this.

 

Thank you so much, Taylor, for sharing your thoughts. I’m so glad you DID write this!

Taylor Kelly-McMahon is a junior in high school. She loves tap dancing and is going to the Oregon Regional Thespian conference this weekend with “Good Mornin’” from SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN which she put together with two other boys–and what a timely tribute coming on the heels of the passing of the wonderful Debbie Reynolds. She is hoping to attend a small Liberal Arts college when she graduates. Future goals include writing for tv, and working in a collaborative atmosphere with other writers. 

If you are a parent, child, or sibling of adoption interested in sharing your thoughts, use the contact form on my web site or leave a message in the comments below. Here’s a link to the first post in this series which explains the details.  

Stop by next week for a second guest post from Hannah, whom you met in part 1 of  I Wish People Knew. 

I Wish People Knew… a mother shares her thoughts on adoption

Illus: Luciana Navarro Powell BABIES COME FROM AIRPORTS Kane Miller Books

A Mother’s Response

I wish people knew that the love in your heart is no different whether your family member is adopted or biological.

My mom secretly confided after my child arrived via the airport, that she had been afraid that she wouldn’t love her adopted grandchild as much as her other bio grandchildren.

Within seconds of getting off the airplane she had her new grandchild in her arms beginning a relationship that is still extremely close. And she proudly confided that she was relieved to say that she loves them all the same!!

I wish people would not use the term “real” when asking about my child’s birth family or when asking if I am the “real” mom.*

I wish people would understand that you don’t have to look alike to be a family and not all adopted children want the fact that they may look different from other family members to be the main topic of conversation.  Honestly, I don’t even think about the fact that my child doesn’t look like me.

Many thanks to today’s guest contributor, Kathy, who contacted me after reading Hannah’s post last week. 

*Another mom wrote to say her preferred phrases are

  1. family formed through adoption
  2. birth parents, (mom or dad)
  3. life parents, though there are many other good phrases out there.

She added, “I can’t stand [the terms] real parents, blood sibling or blood parents. My 2 cents!”

If you are a parent, child, or sibling of adoption interested in sharing your thoughts, use the contact form on my web site or leave a message in the comments below. Here’s a link to the first post in this series which explains the details.  

Stop by next week for a guest post from Taylor. 

I Wish People Knew… a guest post about adoption by Hannah Wasserman

I am honored to welcome Hannah Wasserman, the first guest contributor to this ongoing conversation about adoption. I have known this amazing young woman since she arrived in the US over twenty-five years ago from her birth country, Korea. The opinions in this post are hers. 

I WISH PEOPLE KNEW…   by Hannah Wasserman

I wish people knew…I am just me.

Identity. /// What makes up a person’s identity, their parents, their siblings, their last name, their friends, their place of birth, their personality? How does one define him or herself? Throughout my life I have told people I WAS adopted. But am I “supposed” to say I AM adopted. I have tried not to think about saying AM or WAS and just let whatever word comes out of my mouth first be the one I use. But this has got me thinking lately. Yes I was adopted 28 years ago. I was adopted by two amazing parents. I am Korean-American. In my story I believe that saying was adopted suits me best because it happened in the past. I would not be the woman I am today if I had not been adopted. But today, in the present, I am just me. I am a daughter and a sister, just like anybody else. I share a bond with my brother and sister that any siblings would have.  I think that even sometimes my family “forgets” that I was adopted. I remember one time my dad said “oh yeah when your mom gave birth to you,” meaning my mom and not my biological mom. I had to kindly remind him that mom didn’t give birth to me.

Last names are family history. Stories of where your ancestors came from. My last name is Wasserman. You can only imagine the confused looks I have gotten when I have introduced myself to people and they look at me and then think about my last name.  How can your last name be Wasserman? You’re Asian. Yes I am. Names are important which is why my parents decided to keep my birth name in my name. It is a part of who I am, and really a part of who my family is because this is our story.

I wish people knew that just because I was adopted does not automatically mean that I am going to eventually adopt children as well. This is a question I’ve been asked by other adults.

I have obviously experienced firsthand how amazing and incredible and fortunate and life-changing adoption is. I have no idea where I would be today if it weren’t for my parents. I thank them for choosing me to be their daughter. I simply cannot imagine how difficult it was for my birth mother to make that choice to give up her daughter to another family, complete strangers, without knowing what would happen to her, if she would be loved and cared for and happy. I received all those things and much more. I have realized as I have gotten older that I could have literally ended up anywhere in the world and how different my life would have been if I had stayed in Korea, in foster homes, or if I lived in a completely different part of the world.

Adoption is a beautiful thing. In many cases, it allows a couple to become parents. My parents tell me that they needed me to start our family. My arrival created the family they so dearly wanted to be. Our family continued to grow when 18 months later my brother was born, and 6 years after that my sister was born.

Hannah and her mom.

I wish people knew that not every person who is adopted might feel the need to find/meet their birth family. I have had people ask me this question, usually when I first meet them:

“Don’t you want to meet your “real” family?”

First off, you mean birth family or biological family. Secondly why would I? I know that some adopted children may feel like part of their identity is missing, or that they want or need some sort of connection with their birth family and I completely understand that. However, for me I do not feel like a part of me is missing. Sure as I have gotten older I have noticed some things, personality traits that my brother and sister have that are the same as my parents, that I do not have. Does this make me curious if I have some personality traits as my biological siblings? Sure. But I do not need to, or have the urge to meet my birth family. They are complete strangers to me. Maybe that sounds harsh but for me it’s the truth, they are strangers and not my family.

Thank you for including me in this blog series. I will send more as thoughts come to me.

Thank you, Hannah! I look forward to future posts from you. 

To read about how this blog series about adoption came about see yesterday’s post. If you are interested in being a guest contributor to this series, please use the contact form on my web site, or reply in the comments below. 

Up next Thursday: Guest contributor Kathy, a mom, shares her joys and fears. 

 

I Wish People Knew… thoughts from adopted kids and their families

I am not an expert on adoption.

I am the author of the picture book, BABIES COME FROM AIRPORTS, a kid’s-eye-view of adoption, out this month with Kane Miller. I wrote it for my dear friends and their families, kids my own child grew up with, who began their lives in other countries and met their families for the first time at the airport.

I love this pic of Hannah and her mom.

Our book is one story–a fictional one–a child’s view. To me it’s about love and the fact that not all families look alike –or are formed the same way. I am beyond thrilled and amazed by the incredible passion, respect, research, and details that illustrator Luciana Navarro Powell and editor Kira Lynn have put into our project.

The fabulously talented Luciana Navarro Powell.

Thank you to my own mom for always teaching me, “There are two sides to every story.” In the process of making this book, we have been reminded time and time again that every adoption experience is different. Each is VERY important to those involved.

So I put the word out–to adoptive parents and more importantly adopted children. They too, put the word out and the responses have begun to come in–from teens; college students; grown adults with children of their own. I gave each the same three questions, modeled on the classroom activity where students finish the sentence: “I wish my teacher knew…”

Some have chosen to be anonymous. Some names have been changed or left off completely. The focus of their answers was also up to them– experiences in elementary school, or as teens or adults–with the following questions about adoption:

1. I wish people knew….

2. I wish people would… (or would have)

3. I wish people wouldn’t….

I’m so very grateful to the guest contributors in this series for opening this conversation, and helping to lead the way. The opinions are theirs. They are the experts.

Click here for the first entry–from Hannah.

Truth Detectives…five activities to teach Ss about media bias

Dear Teacher pals,

No doubt you’ve found many teaching moments in the past week.

Here are five activities I’ve used in my own classroom to teach BIAS and SLANT in the media and turn your students into TRUTH DETECTIVES. 

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  1. What just happened? — The truth about “eye-witness” views.  Ahead of time, arrange with two upper grades students or a student + a teacher or administrator to come into your classroom –one chasing the other — in the middle of a supposed altercation. (Make it real but not too frightening.) After they exit, have your Ss write down every detail of what happened. Describe the people. Was there a problem? Is someone in trouble? Why? Important: Have the two “runners” return to your classroom —so Ss see that this was only an experiment— and join the discussion of different perspectives, eye witnesses. What influences them?  How reliable are they?headline
  2. The Power of Words — Read several news headlines or a short news article. 

    a. Have Ss point out and/or circle nounsverbs and adjectives that strike them as biased.

    b. Replace the biased nouns, verbs and adjectives with synonyms of those words. Compare. How has the tone or slant of the article changed?

  3.  2 Lies and a Truth — A reversal of the game, Two Truths and a Lie

    Overview: 2-3 volunteers think of 2 lies & 1 truth about themselves to share with the class. The class votes for the statement they think is the truth.

    a. Once votes are tallied, reveal results and compare with the correct answer.

    b. Have Ss discuss why they voted the way they did. What swayed them? Physical appearance?  Culture? Speech? Age?

    *Suggested variations (Avoids possible hurtful comments about fellow students.)–Instead of Ss volunteers:

    *Teacher collects 3 photos of kids in the news (Not celebrities). T writes 2 lies & a truth about each. Share with the class. Proceed with steps a & b above.

    *Does your school have a Theater class? Use Theater kids as your volunteers.

  4. What Are They Selling? Watch ads on TV or examine print media for kids. What product are they selling? What message is the photo, background, music or sound effects selling? What do they want the consumer to believe? Who is the spokesperson? Why do you think he/she was selected? Do you believe him/her? Why or why not? chewing gum Example: Chewing gum commercial– Message is cool kids chew this gum. You will be cool too if you buy it. The kids in the commercial are cute, hip, and friendly. etc…(Oh and PS–They are ACTORS.)
  5. Two Sides to Every Story:  See my blog post about how to format a debate here. Instead of two debate teams arguing opposite sides of the topic, the same team must first argue one side, and then the other. Audience discusses how the team’s tone, vocabulary, facts and approach had to change to argue the two different sides.

STUDENT RESPONSES /follow-up:

  1. Have Ss watch a nightly news program. (*Here’s a list of the major outlets and which direction they lean.) List words, photos, graphics, sound effects, or music that set the tone or strike you as biased.
  2. Create a fake biased video or news article covering a fictitious event or statement. The goal is to make it as convincing as possible. Show the class.
  3. Have students write about a school rule or family rule they have issues with. Now have them write about it from the parent or administrator’s point of view.
  4. Writing prompt or Think/Pair/Share: Why should news reports remain impartial? 

More sources: 

PBS Kids has a unit on MEDIA LITERACY. Here’s the link to their Don’t Buy It. Teacher’s Guide.   

Also from PBS/KVIE: A Media Literacy workshop for Teachers 

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