Thursday, December 8, 2011

Dear Teacher: About the movies you show in class

On the way to school this morning, my daughter announced to me that you were showing the movie, “Elf” in class this week.  Dear teacher, this movie is highly inappropriate for the adopted/foster children in your classroom.  It is also inappropriate for these children’s classmates, as it often adds fuel to the fire for kids to be cruel to one another.  “Elf,” along with movies such as “Despicable Me,” “Tangled,” and even “Annie,” give poor portrayals of adoption, adoptive families, and children who entered their family by adoption.  They show ridiculous scenes of abandonment, child stealing, and abuse.  They nearly always portray the adoptive parent as “evil.” 

These movies are disturbing for many adopted kids to watch even in a place they feel most safe, such as in their own home with their parents’ guidance.  They are especially disturbing in the atmosphere of the classroom, where movies are shown most often as a “reward” for the students, and a break for the teacher.  These periods are usually much less structured than a regular classroom period.  Teachers are not aware of students’ emotional distress.  Yet, fellow students, aware of a child’s status of “being adopted,” are often inspired to engage in escalated cruelty and teasing toward the adopted child outside the classroom.  Please remember, dear teacher:  middle school is its own hell for a lot of your students.  Heaping on trauma triggers, even unintentionally, makes it no easier.

Occasionally, you will encounter a parent who works hard to educate educators about such things.  At first, these parents are often seen as good resources to teachers.  They are helpful.  They have a lot of information, and they can remind you of things you already know, but don’t think of that often.  Some of them even do some of your work for you.  At first, you are quite thankful for them.  Later, when you forget about trauma triggers, and you’ve hurt a child, these same parents may seem more adversarial to you than helpful.  You may be tempted to resent them.  However, please don’t receive them that way. 

If you are a parent, remember how important it is to protect your child.  Help them protect their child and assist in their hurt child’s healing.  If you’re not a parent, remember why you went into teaching in the first place.  You wanted to help kids. 

Accept a good parent’s correction.  They are much more likely to see you as a partner in helping their child become the best they can be when you remain open to learning.  The best teachers are continually learning, just as the best parents are continually learning.  Don’t get defensive.  Think about what this parent is saying and respond appropriately.  If you’ve started showing a movie that shouldn’t be shown, stop.  You allow “do overs” for your students.  Allow do overs for yourself, as well.  And remember: You’re always saying you wished more parents were involved?  When you meet one who is, be happy.  You have your wish!


Your student’s parent


marythemom said...

Thank you for this post. My daughter's school never thought twice about the movies the kids watch, especially during finals weeks or in homeroom as a reward... my daughter has been allowed to watch Outsiders (lots of domestic violence and death), Elf, Indiana Jones (violent deaths and action!), and most recently Seven Pounds (which advocates suicide)... she's been hospitalized 8 times this year for suicidal ideation and no one thought this might be inappropriate!

Thanks again,

Trauma Mama T said...

Oh Mary, I'm so sorry your daughter has had to go through that neglect and abuse at school -- and let's face it. That's what it is. Neglect and abuse. The teacher neglects the child by not meeting her needs. The teacher also abuses the child emotionally and psychologically (intentionally or not) by allowing her to be subjected to such triggering images and stories. It's hard for traumatized kids. Really hard, but sheesh! Those movies aren't good for "healthy" kids either. Makes you wander what the heck some people are thinking.

(And yes, I get a little hot when I learn a child's been hurt.)

Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope you'll stick around.