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School insensitivity to our daughter's origins - HELP!

(16 Posts)
AdoptionSOS Fri 22-Jan-16 17:25:39

Please can you help. This is my first post and I hope I’ve put it in the right area. I promise I’m not a troll (!) – I’ve been a mumsnet lurker for a while, although I have to confess up until now my main interests have been The Litter Tray and Small Animals. smile

Our younger daughter is 15. We adopted her from China at 9 months of age. She attends a school where she has been from age 8. School have always been fully aware of her origins.

Today she came home from school very upset. The Head Teacher had spoken in assembly about the One Child policy in China and also the disposal of unwanted babies by iodine injection, in the womb. No warning was given to our daughter (or even us) that this sensitive subject would be spoken about. Obviously our daughter is very aware of her origins and the probable reasons for her abandonment soon after birth. She has overcome her less than perfect start to become a fabulous, bright, funny, mature and compassionate young lady. We are immensely proud of her.

My husband has spoken to the head teacher. She is sorry for the distress caused to our daughter and we have set up a meeting with her on Monday.

To be honest, I am shocked and utterly speechless at the lack of professionalism, sensitivity, wisdom etc displayed by this Head Teacher. Please tell me, am I overreacting, if not, how should I take this forward?

waitingimpatient Fri 22-Jan-16 17:29:03

This is a difficult one. I can see why you and your daughter are so upset. On the other hand I can see that schools do sometimes need to teach about upsetting subjects (eg the holocaust in history lessons etc)

It's good they apologised for any upset caused and I hope your dd is ok now.

mybloodykitchen Fri 22-Jan-16 17:54:12

It's not that difficult to remember whether there are any children directly affected by something and speak to them before or afterwards. I'd have been expecting a good form tutor to pick this up.

In fairness to the ht I guess she has 1500+ children to think about and sometimes something gets missed. I'd be hoping for an apology, not sure what else she can offer.

Sorry your dd had to experience this though.

Italiangreyhound Fri 22-Jan-16 23:33:51

AdoptionSOS I am sorry your daughter was upset.

Re To be honest, I am shocked and utterly speechless at the lack of professionalism, sensitivity, wisdom etc displayed by this Head Teacher. Please tell me, am I overreacting, if not, how should I take this forward?

I am afraid I think you are overreacting a bit. It s a real shame your daughter is so upset and I think there are many factors here. If your dd were a lot younger or the school were very small, I would be more inclined to agree with you, but assuming it is a normal high school with 100s of students I think it would be quite possible for a teacher to speak on an issue relating to China and not necessarily to think how this would affect your dd.

It's important to remember of the potentially 100s of children in the school some may also have been upset for other reasons, their mum or sister may have lost a baby or had an abortion or may have had a child who was adopted, and some of the other children may have joined their families by adoption themselves. Some of these things may be known to form teachers and some not, certainly much of this may not have been known to the head.

I think it would be helpful in the meeting to remember that these are real life issues that your daughter may have already heard about or read about on the internet. The head teacher may or may not have known who would be affected, no idea if there are other children of Chinese origin at the school.

I think it would be helpful to use this as a way to communicate some helpful advice for the school, rather than just expressing your anger.

Please also do talk more with your dd about these issues at home. She may well be curious and read some things herself on the internet.

In some ways I am surprised she has not looked this up before or you have not spoken about it, or is it a case that you have spoken about it and did not want her to 'face' these issues in an assembly?

AdoptionSOS Sat 23-Jan-16 00:31:28

Thanks very much all, it’s good to have other perspectives.

I was hoping there would be some training or such like to point the head teacher towards. If I’m honest, I think that before giving this talk in assembly, our daughter should have been forewarned. The school is very small (200+ pupils in the senior school) and it would not have been difficult to give DD2 the ‘heads up’.

Very interestingly, it was her friends who sought her out during the day (they are in different option blocks) to say just how inappropriate the handling of the talk was, they were fuming on DD2’s behalf! Amazing that a group of girls aged 14-15 ‘get’ the issue (they are a fabulous little group with wisdom and maturity beyond their years) and a head teacher with many years’ experience clearly didn’t. Apparently it was part of a talk on women’s rights.

Believe me, we have spoken with both of our daughters about every single issue under the sun (!) over the years, many an hour has been spent putting the world to rights from a Chinese and Western viewpoint. wink Thankfully the girls share their ethnicity with one parent which is very helpful when exploring their origins and birth culture. Our daughter was really quite shocked that something so 'up close and personal' be shared in assembly, without forewarning her. If the school had been huge, I don't think the talk would actually have bothered her one jot, it's just that the HT knew her well, knew her background yet still didn't get that she might find the whole thing "awkward" and a poor reflection of her birth culture.

Anyhow, we will see the head teacher on Monday. Thankfully, DD2 is a resilient and mature young lady, with a wonderful group of supportive friends. She wants to be a teacher herself when she is older and is taking on board life lessons such as this to make sure she doesn’t make the same mistakes (although she and I agree she just might make a few errors of judgement all of her own!)

Again, many thanks for your input.

Italiangreyhound Sat 23-Jan-16 01:08:28

Believe me, we have spoken with both of our daughters that is very good news. It's a reminder to me too, to prepare my son well, he joined us by domestic adoption and is only 5 but some people do know he is adopted and one child has already suggested I stole him, thankfully not to him!

And the school does sound a lot smaller than I was imagining. So it should be easier for the head to have known who may be bothered by the talk.

I think whether you are totally justified in this or not the reality is your dd was upset and her friends knew that and the head did not, so that certainly does suggest the school should have been better prepared. Good luck.

Kewcumber Sat 23-Jan-16 11:25:09

AdoptionSOS - DS's is an intercountry adoption too and Ithought you were going to say that it was a huge secondary school of 1200+ But you would have thought in such a small senior school they'd remember.

Sadly I think your DD is a victim of her own success - ie if she has no ongoing issues then school have probably forgotten all about it. And the head was too bound up in crafting her careful talk to recall that one of her charges has lives what she's talking theory about.

I think it was an oversight and I'm not sure that any amount of training will get over that.

If it wasn;t an oversight and the HT had remembered just didn;t think it would matter then I'm not sure how you teach someone sensitivity.

mybloodykitchen Sat 23-Jan-16 11:34:28

Schools are incredibly busy high pressure places for school leaders. Things like this will happen and sometimes people will say and do the wrong thing. BUT IMO it's how you deal with that after the fact that matters. Has the ht been big enough to apologise directly to your dd? I agree with kew that it's not a training issue but she should have sought her put and spoken to her by now. That will tell you what you need to know I think?

tethersend Sat 23-Jan-16 11:52:51

Firstly, the fact that the head is sorry is a good thing.

Secondly, I suggest you meet with the head to discuss how this can be handled from now on. Talk about the need to prepare your DD for such discussions, and how topics should be carefully chosen. There were literally thousands of other topics which could have been highlighted, so it was insensitive at best to choose this one- the focus now should be how to move on without pretending it never happened.

Does the school have a counsellor? It might be wise for the head to ask them to offer a few sessions to your DD, even if she doesn't want to use them. This would reinforce the potential impact of discussing this topic incorrectly.

You may even wish to acknowledge that the head wanting to draw attention to this issue is a good thing, but that your DD's emotional wellbeing comes first.

Good luck smile

AdoptionSOS Sat 23-Jan-16 12:57:12

Thanks Italiangreyhound smile

We will see how the meeting goes. Perhaps to clarify, DD2 was not upset in a “tears, poor little me, I’m so destroyed and broken” kind of way.wink She was more totally gobsmacked and exasperated by the lack of wisdom and sensitivity from a HT she regarded as a role model, as were her friends.

DD2 is also very aware of other adoptees around her age (not pupils of this school) who are not all sailing through life the way she is; some are finding things very hard indeed and she realises for them a talk like this (i.e. on a subject very sensitive to the individual) has the potential to open up huge unhealed wounds. (The parents would then be on the receiving end of some interesting behaviour!) She will speak to the HT and knowing her (DD2), she will put her point across with wisdom and maturity. Sometimes it takes a teenage adoptee to understand and communicate the viewpoint of teenage adoptee and I hope she is listened to.

Yes, I’d very much encourage you to prepare your son, but please be aware that even with the best preparation not everything can be predicted.wink The best thing is to build resilience, if possible.smile DD2 had steam coming out of her ears yesterday. Today it is regarded as a bump in the road and one she will get sorted. Onwards and upwards, to a friend’s birthday celebration and sleepover. Thanks again for your helpful advice.

AdoptionSOS Sat 23-Jan-16 14:33:39

Thanks so much, Kewcumber, mybloodykitchen and tethersend

I was compiling a reply to Italiangreyhound whilst dealing with the usual Saturday morning craziness and didn’t realise I’d got some more replies! smileblush

Kew – thanks so much for your post, I think you have hit the nail well and truly on the head and articulated my thoughts for me.smile As the years have gone on even we as parents have to admit we ‘forget’ our girls are adopted. The girls themselves freely admit adoption is rarely at the forefront of their minds, although like all other important things, it is discussed from time to time. It’s just situations like the one yesterday bring home again the fact that the girls have not had the same start in life as their peers. DD2 has been at her school for 7+ years and in some ways it is nice to think that she is defined for who she is, not just her adoptive status. You are so right about what was an 'academic' exercise for the ht was full on real life for DD2 and I think that's where the problem lies.

Mybloodykitchen you are right, school leaders are under considerable pressure, as are teachers in general, I feel. This was the main reason for us deciding to scrape the money together and send the girls to a small independent school; our reasoning being less children per teacher/ht, less pressure and less chance of things going wrong. Perhaps we were a bit simplistic there!smile Hopefully though, it will mean there is more capacity to now put things right for our daughter and equally importantly learn something that can benefit future pupils.

Tethersend - the focus now should be how to move on without pretending it never happened. That’s exactly it and the main reason we want to be with DD2 when the ht speaks to her, just in case there is any temptation to sweep things under the carpet. Interestingly, DD2’s form teacher is also an adoptee and a lovely, lovely person. She and DD2 get on so well, so DD2 does have someone to go to if she needs to talk. I think we will stress that this needs to be made available to DD2 if she feels she needs it.

I think one thing we are going to emphasise is that not all teenage adoptees have DD2’s resilience and even those who appear very together and confident on the outside can have a soft centre!

To everyone who has replied, thank you so much for your help. It would have been easy for us to run the situation past our friends for their input. They are all very fond of our girls and of course would have taken a less dispassionate view!wink So thank you for helping us, it has been very valuable.

mybloodykitchen Sat 23-Jan-16 16:31:57

Oh well if you're paying I'd raise hell wink

AdoptionSOS Sat 23-Jan-16 17:09:33

Oh well if you're paying I'd raise hell

I like your style grin wink

scarfonthestairs Sat 23-Jan-16 17:41:15

I work in a high school amd we know all of the lac. We also know if certain students shouldn't be in certain assemblies eg of a parent or sibling is deceased. We're not a particularly small school but it is important to know.

Italiangreyhound Sat 23-Jan-16 21:45:49

The thing is I do want schools to tackle 'hard' topics so it would be good for schools to have some sort of 'protocol' for how to do this safely.

My little lad knows all about his past but tonight when we were talking I said he had lived here nearly 2 years, he said 'oh no, much longer. More like 5.' (He is 5!) It's easy sometimes for them to sort of forget the past and I always try to be really honest about things but it is hard..... anyway, slightly off topic.

Hope your dds are OK. We looked into adoption from China many years ago. It's great to hear your children (and you) have managed the whole process so well.

AdoptionSOS Sun 24-Jan-16 16:50:26

Thanks, scarf, your school sounds great. smile

Italiangreyhound your little boy sounds gorgeous. I love 5 year old logic! grin

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