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Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, Peter DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. Former superintendent Michael Nelson is a frequent contributor. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

Modern Family

By Peter DeWitt — August 25, 2011 2 min read
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The first gave you a need for love; the second was there to give it” (Masse, 2007).

A few weeks ago a reader told me to stay away from diversity because schools use it as a catch phrase and should avoid it because it is not our business. So in an effort to go where I do not belong, I wanted to write about families and diversity. In the public school system, and this blog which focuses on the social and emotional growth of children, I do believe that families and diversity are very much our business.

Some conservative groups believe that a family only exists when children are raised by a biological mother and biological father (Family Research Council). While that is a great family structure, those of us in the public school system understand that the family structure can be much more diverse than that, which does not make them wrong or any less than the family structure that the Family Research Council suggests is the only “true” family.

We have children who are raised by one parent because of the death of another parent. We also have children who are being raised by divorced parents, adoptive parents, step parents, same-sex parents and grandparents. Those family structures can provide just as much love as a household with two biological parents.

In an effort to help children feel like they belong, instead of making these children feel like outcasts, educators should find diverse literature to read to their students. Stories that involve a diverse family structure are very important. Students who are able to see their diverse family structure in a book makes a lasting impact on them. It provides them with a family they can identify with.

Ways Schools Can Incorporate the Modern Family

Find posters to hang in the hallway and cafeteria that depict diverse family structures Have students draw pictures or do some art projects that focus on their family Include literature in your classrooms which explore diverse family structures Make sure classroom resources (i.e. textbooks, etc.) depict diverse family structures During discussions about families, allow your students to talk openly about the family structure they live in (i.e. grandparents, adoptive parents, etc.) There will be students who have same sex parents, don't ignore them when they want to talk about their parents

A couple of years ago, I received a gift of a picture book entitled Motherbridge of Love by Josee Masse which beautifully tells the story of adoption. Motherbridge of Love is written from the point of view of an adoptive mother who is telling her daughter the gifts the biological mother provided for her and the gifts that she will provide for her daughter. It was published by Barefoot Books. Barefoot Books publishes diverse literature for children and all of their books are beautifully written.

Whether our children are in one parent households, two parent households, same-sex, adoptive, or households where they are raised by grandparents, they all should have a place within our schools. Considering all of the negative statements that have been made about the family structure over the years, these students deserve a safe place where they can be themselves, and our public school system should be one of those safe havens. We should embrace diversity, not ignore it.

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Masse, Josee. (2007). Motherbridge of Love. Barefoot Books.

The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.