Sensitivity to Adoption in the Classroom

On Twitter, I found this link to a blog for the Master of Arts in Teaching program at USC, with a student, who is also an adoptive parent, posting about sensitivity to adoption in the classroom:

Last week I was in a 7th grade History class doing my weekly observations for the MAT@USC program. The lesson was about matriarchal lineage in West Africa. Homework was a triple-generational family tree due the following day. Lineage has to do with tracing blood lines, explained the teacher, “but if you are adopted and don’t know your blood lines you can use the blood lines of whoever you live with.” I was taken by surprise by her comments. Sure, a literal translation of lineage is the trace of ancestral blood lines, but adopted children should be secure in their family whether they know their actual blood lines or not. Calling a student’s family “whoever you live with” is highly insensitive and completely inaccurate in the case of adoption. Adopted children may face challenges other children do not, but I am sure that to many adopted children hearing that they are the exception to the rule when it comes to a simple family tree may be disheartening. Adopted students may never have thought about their relationship with their family in those terms. I don’t think a 7th grade History teacher is the person that should point out how they are technically different from their classmates.

Hmm, I'm not sure he's identified the real issue here!  I would have hoped for more from a student getting a degree in teaching. Here's what I said in response in a comment to the post:

Actually, true sensitivity to adoption in the classroom would be to recognize that adoption is in fact different instead of pretending that it is the same as biological relationships.

What the teacher in this classroom should have done was not to pretend that adopted children don't have biological relatives in addition to adopted relatives, but to modify the assignment to allow space for BOTH families on the family tree.

There is actually quite a lot of literature about sensitivity to adoption in the classroom. Have you looked at it? Take a look at the following link to links for a starting place:


I kept it brief.  What else should I have said in the interest of being helpful to a budding teacher?