Adoption and Heritage Presentations at School

In my last blog I wrote about questions from classmates that have been bothering Meg. I wrote about how I had worried that making a class presentation on adoption would just call extra attention to Meg and make adoption seem like a big deal. In my experience the only parents who came and made a presentation to the class about their child were parents whose child was newly diagnosed with Type I Diabetes. They came to explain to the other kids why their daughter was in the hospital and what she’d be able to eat when she returned. I don’t want adoption to seem like an anomaly. (I still remember how I felt as a parent beginning to research adoption, when I found “Adoption” in the library between “Addiction” and “AIDS”.)

While I try to decide what to do with the current questions from seven-year-olds, I’ll share what we’ve done in the past. I did a presentation on Korea at my daughter’s preschool during their “International Week”, when they learned about a different country each day. Parents from India and Israel also presented that week. Meg wore her special Korean dress. I showed pictures and toys from Korea and read the Korean Cinderella story, and showed a few clips from a video about Korean Americans from the American Cultures for Children series. Meg chose to bring her adoption scrapbook, which had photos of her as a baby with her foster mother as well as pictures of Seoul. She had also chosen to bring her scrapbook for show and tell once, and to wear her Korean dress for a Mother’s Day party. Her teacher commented on how proud she was of being Korean, and how neat that was.

This past February, I did a presentation to Meg’s Brownie group on how Lunar New Year is celebrated in Korea. This time Meg chose not to have me show her scrapbook, and she told me to bring the dress on a hanger and she would model it only if the girls asked her to. (They didn’t.) I read a library book on children of different cultures celebrating Lunar New Year. The girls decorated craft sticks to be used in a traditional Korean board game played at New Year’s. We played a few rounds (probably not correctly) on a game board I had made. I brought honey cakes and rice cakes which were received less than enthusiastically (hey, the last snack mom had brought Girl Scout cookies—who can compete?)

I was lucky when Meg started kindergarten. The school principal had himself adopted children from Korea. So when the class scheduled each student and teacher for “Person of the Week”, as many classrooms do, the principal was scheduled as the first Person of the Week. He came into the class bringing his own family pictures. The children were given a chance to ask him questions, opening the door for them to ask why his children were a different race. This gave them the chance to hear about Korean adoption while focusing on someone other than my daughter. I think this made her more comfortable and made the kids think of adoption as something normal or at least familiar. (By the end of the session Meg was waving her hand wildly, “Me too!”)

I hadn’t asked to have this done, and I still don’t know if the principal introduces himself to all the kindergarteners this way each year or if he was there especially because of Meg. But it was great.

However, now at the end of first grade questions are coming up again from kids who weren’t in her class last year.

Our school has the kids do a lot of projects about ethnic heritage in second grade, so I had planned to do a presentation about Korea then and answer any adoption questions that came up at that time. But this time the questions are more adoption-related than Korean-related. I’m not sure if I should ask the principal to repeat his “Star of the Week” performance, speak to the class myself, or what. I’ll keep you posted as to what I do!

Please see these related blogs:

Stumped at School

Talking About Diversity in School and at Home

Lunar New Year

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About Pam Connell

Pam Connell is a mother of three by both birth and adoption. She has worked in education, child care, social services, ministry and journalism. She resides near Seattle with her husband Charles and their three children. Pam is currently primarily a Stay-at-Home-Mom to Patrick, age 8, who was born to her; Meg, age 6, and Regina, age 3, who are biological half-sisters adopted from Korea. She also teaches preschoolers twice a week and does some writing. Her activities include volunteer work at school, church, Cub Scouts and a local Birth to Three Early Intervention Program. Her hobbies include reading, writing, travel, camping, walking in the woods, swimming and scrapbooking. Pam is a graduate of Seattle University and Gonzaga University. Her fields of study included journalism, religious education/pastoral ministry, political science and management. She served as a writer and editor of the college weekly newspaper and has been Program Coordinator of a Family Resource Center and Family Literacy Program, Volunteer Coordinator at a church, Religion Teacher, Preschool Teacher, Youth Ministry Coordinator, Camp Counselor and Nanny. Pam is an avid reader and continuing student in the areas of education, child development, adoption and public policy. She is eager to share her experiences as a mother by birth and by international adoption, as a mother of three kids of different learning styles and personalities, as a mother of kids of different races, and most of all as a mom of three wonderful kids!