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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Stepping through the #FantasticFrame with author Lin Oliver

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Author Lin Oliver can make anything fun.

Seriously–from SCBWI conference announcements to the crooked finger on her right hand (see #7 below), Lin’s repartee will have you chuckling. So I jumped at the chance to ask Lin about her action-packed new chapter book series,

THE FANTASTIC FRAME.

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Think MAGIC TREE HOUSE meets your favorite works of art–masterpieces by Henri Rousseau (Samantha Kallis illustration above; book 1), Georges Seurat (bk2), Edward Hopper (bk3), Georgia O’Keefe (bk4) and more to come!

Each book takes 10-year-old Tiger Brooks and his friend Luna through a magic FRAME, straight into a famous painting and an on-going quest to find a boy who disappeared decades before.

Teachers and Librarians–what a wonderful way for young readers to discover art history via intrigue, adventure–and did I mention humor? I love the non-fiction component about the featured painting and artist at the back of each book too. Which brings us to our own FANTASTIC adventure–8 Questions with Author Lin Oliver:

  1. Which character in THE FANTASTIC FRAME series is most like you? Tiger Brooks?  Luna Lopez? Viola Dots? Chives (…the talking pig/butler)? David Dots? Maggie Brooks? Cookie Brooks?Lin Oliver: Oh, that’s easy.  Tiger Brooks is a logical thinker and a scientist.  I am neither.  Viola Dots is a shut-in and a grouch.  I am neither.  Luna is a creative person, a maker, a dreamer and a hugger.  I am ALL FOUR OF THOSE THINGS.  Making things is my favorite activity in the world—whether it’s making a book, a pot of soup, a crazy quilt, a mosaic bird feeder, or a tower of rocks and sea shells at the beach.  I think Luna and I would be very good friends.
  2.  Which of the titles from your FANTASTIC FRAME series best describes your path as an author? (or your revision process?) Book 1: DANGER! TIGER CROSSINGFantastic Frame bk1Book 2: SPLAT! ANOTHER MESSY SUNDAY  FantasticFrame2Book 3: BEWARE! SHADOWS IN THE NIGHT  **release date Oct. 2016 FantasticFrame3

    Book 4: LOOK OUT! GHOST MOUNTAIN BELOW **Coming soon!

    Lin Oliver: This is such a funny and clever question.  It would have to be SPLAT! ANOTHER MESSY SUNDAY.  Messy is a key word to describe almost everything I do.  I meander through life, looking at everything, getting distracted by what interests me, collecting odd things, being overly-curious about everything.  That makes for messy outcomes.  Some people are planners and some, like me, just mess around until they get where they’re going.  I never outline a plot, I just keep fooling around with it until it’s right.  I only tidy up my writing desk when the potato chip bags get so high I can’t see over them.  And don’t try to find anything in my closet unless you’re willing to go to battle with the dust bunnies.  

  3. What is the most surprising fact or discovery you’ve made thus far while writing this series?Lin Oliver: I learned so many facts about artists and their lives.  Georgia O’Keeffe never painted a person—only flowers and skulls and landscapes.  And when she was painting in Santa Fe and it got hot, she would lie under her car in the shade and paint. Edward Hopper, although he was wildly successful, lived in the same tiny New York apartment his whole adult life and had to walk down the hall to use the bathroom.  Henri Rousseau painted jungles but never saw one.  He was a customs agent and worked in an office in Paris.  I love to learn about people who lived odd and unique lives because they were pursuing their artistic dreams. 
  4. How are your experiences of writing a series like FANTASTIC  FRAME and writing for television similar?Lin Oliver: Writing a book series is a great deal like writing for television.  You have to come up with a premise that suggests many different story lines. THE FANTASTIC FRAME presents as many stories as there are paintings in the world.  Next, you have to come up with a cast of characters that your readers or viewers love and want to hang out with.  Every successful TV comedy you can think of has that—think of Friends or The Big Bang Theory or Seinfeld.  You want to be right there with those adorable folks.  I hope that the readers of FANTASTIC FRAME love the characters, especially Tiger and Luna and Chives, and are happy to be with them on all their adventures. 
  5.  If you had an “Hour of Power” like Tiger and Luna, and could walk through the frame of any of the world’s greatest paintings, which one would you choose? Why?Lin Oliver: Oh, I love so many paintings that it’s hard to choose just one, but I think it would be thrilling to enter Salvador Dali’s painting, The Persistence of Memory—-you know, the crazy surreal one with the fluid looking clocks draped over weird tree branches in the desert.  I assume I’d turn into a liquid creature too, and slither all over that strange world. 
  6. What is your favorite question asked at school visits or in fan mail? Lin Oliver: Well, the most common questions from kids are: How much money do you make? (I never answer that) and What kind of car do you drive?  (When I tell the kids I drive an unexciting but eco-friendly Prius, there are usually wails of disappointment.)  My favorite question, which I’ve been lucky enough to hear on many occasions is, “How did you know me so well?”  It is thrilling for me as an author, to have kids recognize themselves in my books.  My answer to them is,

    “I know you because way down deep, we are all the same.”

  7. Why is the little finger on your right hand crooked? (I found this fact on Lin’s web site. I asked because my husband’s finger was jammed by a basketball…WHO KNEW her answer would be about MY favorite sport? GAME ON, Lin Oliver!)

    Lin Oliver: I was a tether-ball fanatic as a child.  I played non-stop, and was crushed when I learned there was no Gold Medal given at the Olympics for tether ball.  I broke my little finger many times, either jamming it into the tether ball or getting it all bent up in the rope, or worst of all, slugging at the ball but hitting the metal joint that attached it to the rope instead.  Ouch, I can still feel that.

  8.  What question do you wish I’d asked?Lin Oliver: Why do I write for children?Answer:  Because I think all kids want and need love, and by writing for them, I can reach across time and space and love them up through my books.

     

    Bonus WRITING PROMPT for Teachers: Try question #5 with your class! Tweet snippets or even sketches of their answers to @LinOliver  with the hashtags #FantasticFrame #edchat 

Three #amwriting #writingprocess reminders from the Olympics. (Obrigada, Brasil!)

 

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Confession: While I’m incredibly inspired by each Olympic athlete, my current personal best is an occasional sprint to the fridge between competitions. Thus, I hereby justify my Olympic-binge-watching by offering three #writingprocess take-aways. #amwriting reminders too. Dive in.

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  1. When I teach the WRITING PROCESS, I neglect one of the hardest parts: The WAITING PROCESS. Like an athlete’s Olympic journey, our writing steps from brainstorming to revision are key, but the WAITING. Yeesh. You’ve submitted your work. You’ve put yourself out there. And now you have to believe. As young writers work through the PROCESS, let them know that authors wait. A lot. Part of an author’s WRITING PROCESS is waiting for response from critique partners, Beta readers, agents, and editors–way before the final PUBLISHING step. Sometimes it takes months. Sometimes you don’t receive a response at all. This is GOOD NEWS, teacher pals! The perfect answer to those students who ask, “Have you corrected our papers yet?” After all, our job as teachers is to prepare students for the real world, yes? Obrigada (Thank you) USA gymnastic All-Around medalists, Simone Biles and Aly Raisman for the reminder that waiting is a huge part of the process. (And CONGRATS!)
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2. USA superstars, gymnast Gabby Douglas and swimmer Missy Franklin (Remember London?) deserve medals for cheering their teammates while battling that evil green monster, ENVY and the relentless media. NO PRESSURE.

So often students see A grades and 100% as gold medals. Highlighting the gold in the work of emerging writers, sharing an excerpt from their work with the class, builds much needed confidence. I also add it to our Moments of Magic butcher paper on the wall. Pure gold.

I’d love to say I always view the well-deserved publishing success of author/illustrator friends as another medal for TEAM #Literacy. Admittedly, that green monster stalks us all, but Dearest authors and students (teachers too!):

The SUCCESS of others is NOT your FAILURE.

We all have MOMENTS OF MAGIC. Celebrate those. Obrigada Gabby Douglas and Missy Franklin. You rock. 
IMG_31093. I almost wrote off “veteran” swimmers Michael Phelps and Nathan Adrian —and what about Oksana Chusovitina, the 41-year-old vaulter from Uzbekistan who competed in her SEVENTH Olympics? Well guess what world, I was WRONG. And oh-so-happily so! Kudos to all.

This Phelps-Adrian-Chusovitina lesson applies to the #kidlit world, for the fabulously talented young authors and illustrators, as well as “veterans” like me. As Penguin senior editor Stacey Barney reminded us at the #LA16SCBWI Summer Conference: “Publishing is a marathon, not a sprint.” (Teaching too, my friends.)

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A special shout out to the amazing International Schools in Brazil where these photos were taken.

Happy Beck-to-School to all.

Obrigada Brasil! Tchau. My DVR calls…