Merf. Thinking is Hard.: A school project not to assign




If you are a teacher, do not ask your students to make a family tree as a school assignment. *Especially* do not do this as a class art project to be posted on the wall.

A lot of kids have very complicated families, and complicated feelings about which words to use for which people.

For instance: Some kids call multiple people “mom”. Sometimes this is because they’re being raised by a lesbian couple. Sometimes this is because they are adopted and also maintaining a relationship with their mother who gave birth to them. Sometimes this is because their parents divorced and remarried and they also see their stepparents as parents. None of these relationships map easily onto a family tree project.

Some kids don’t have any parents at all. This isn’t something that they should have to tell their peers if they don’t want to. 

Some kids aren’t sure who their parents are. Is it the people who adopted them when they were a baby and disrupted when they were six? The person who gave birth to them? The people they’re living with now? The one nice staff in their group home? The person they’re in foster care with who they’re hoping will eventually adopt them? It’s complicated and not ok to ask kids to declare this in writing in front of everyone.

There are any number of emotionally fraught and complicated situations that go along with describing families. It’s not good to have kids do that as part of an assignment, unless you’re working in a context in which getting people to do emotionally fraught things is appropriate.

eshusplayground said:

Not to mention, some kids have a family history that’s been damn near erased due to enslavement and/or genocide.

casanova-frankensteins-monster said:

we had to do a family tree project in the 6th grade

i put a lot of time and effort into my project and was very proud of it

but when i turned it in to class at the end of the year, there were literally (white) kids with BINDERS (not 1 binder, multiple) full of material tracing their routes back to like the exact latitudes and longitudes in Europe that their families came from

my family tree project was the size of one notebook and only went back about 4 or 5 generations, and a lot of the information we had was by word of mouth and not, you know, actual documentation

ahirumama said:

yeah teaching English as a foreign language, I was worried about how to do this and found a cool idea of teaching the kids the words and then having them make their own families from whatever they wanted.  So they could have characters and what not or use their real families if they wanted but none them were obligated.  Most ended up with tons of characters or weird creatures and it worked pretty well.  The time one of my head teachers made them use their real families, we did have a breakdown in the class.