I do. Here’s why.
My son is in first grade and yes, I always tell his teacher that he is adopted. I don’t lead with it. I don’t blow through the doors on the first day of school announcing it. But generally, toward the beginning of the year, his teacher will ask if there’s anything about him I’d like them to know, and I will respond with a list of things, including the fact that he is adopted. I mention it so they can take his family structure into consideration when planning family tree projects or just talking about families in general. I consider Levon’s teachers to be an extension of his village and because his birth grandparents are an active part of his family, it makes sense for me to explain. I don’t divulge any other details of his adoption story, just as my mother didn’t share details of my birth with my teachers. But I think it’s important for parents to share anything and everything about their child that could help their teacher support them and advocate for them inside the classroom.
As Levon gets older, it will be up to him to decide what to share. As far as family tree and biology projects go, I don’t fret over them. In this house, family isn’t restricted to biology. We simply explain to him that “We have a bigger family than most people. A lot of your friends only have one mommy and one daddy and four grandparents. You have more, so your tree is going to be bigger!” Levon is only six, yet frequently explains to strangers, “My mom’s sister is named Emily and she is my aunt, but I don’t call her ‘Aunt.’ My Aunt Jill is not my mom’s sister, but they love each other like sisters, so I call her ‘Aunt.’”
As for why he doesn’t call my sister “Aunt Emily,” no one from Kansas wants to be called Auntie Em.
Once biology-based projects start, we’ll explain the importance of understanding the concepts and then allow Levon to plug in whatever family members he wants to use. I consider these projects to be teaching tools, not an attack on non-traditional families.
I’m curious, do you tell your child’s teacher about their adoption? And if you’re an adoptee, I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Jessica Butler is the co-founder of Raise, stepmother of two, and adoptive mother of one. Prior to Raise, she was a writer on USA’s "In Plain Sight" and TNT’s "The Last Ship." She and her husband, writer/producer Warren Bell, co-created the Nick at Nite series "Instant Mom," based on her life as a stepmother. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and six-year-old son, Levon.