Follow me on the crazy, hopeful, discouraging, funny, and ultimately successful (one way or another) path to parenthood while facing infertility.

Monday, January 9, 2017

#Microblog Mondays: Teaching The Giver Through My Lens



A few years ago, I mentioned how awful it was to teach the book The Giver** by Lois Lowry when my co-teacher clearly did it through his linear-life lens. Lots of "in our world, ANYONE can have a baby! NO ONE in our world applies for a child!"

The first year I was in the midst of IVF, and this message of sex=baby both irritated me and left me in barely concealed tears. The second year I was heading into the adoption process, and was far more vocal -- "You know, I am actually in a sense applying for a baby. Doesn't quite work the same, but not everyone has babies through sex." Last year I was more confident in the same type of comments. This year I added in how interesting it would be if EVERYONE had to "apply for a baby," like I am, to go through all the requirements and thought processes and vetting. And how I'm a little jealous of a yearly Ceremony where people receive their babies they've applied for, instead of waiting for an indefinite period of time.

Every year it's gotten better. Somehow, I got him to see through my particular lens, and now he offers up some of the more inclusive wording without me having to jump in. I feel like it's a little win for the twisty life stories: for me but also for the students whose lives aren't quite as neat and tidy, who probably feel a bit alienated by the assumption that everyone's life paths are pretty homogenous.

**OH HOLY JEEZUM, please go read the linked post, because I totally forgot how very awful the first Giver experience was when there was no thought to other parenthood paths or lenses. We've come a long, long, LONG way from that hideousness. And also, now I run this discussion in our blended sections. Because I don't shy away from health-class-type talk and I can speak with authority on all the ways you can have a baby without having any sex at all. Well, from a theoretical standpoint.


Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy! 

19 comments:

  1. Just throwing out the caveat that all the stuff about Birthmothers in the linked post is nearly verbatim from the book, and not at all my thoughts on birthmothers in THIS world, for whom I have the greatest respect and empathy.

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  2. Oooooweee! I can't leave a comment on the othe post, for some reason, but ooof. Hard hard hard. But this made me chuckle: "My head: TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS AND A STRONG STOMACH FOR INJECTIONS."

    I taught that book once too, while I was going through treatments, and it was so hard every day not to cry.

    Still. I love the book.

    You HAVE come a long way.

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    1. SO hard not to cry. Before, at least. This time was much easier. I love the book, too. Such great discussion generated by it!

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  3. I read the older linked post and cringed along with you. I'm so glad you are in a healthier place and now part of the discussion. I had forgotten that aspect of The Giver, but of course I only encountered it years ago as a student teacher. It makes me think about how my life has changed because of course the reproductive process would stand out possibly more so than other aspects of the book. I feel like maybe a slightly horrible person for thinking that some aspects of The Community make a lot of sense. Any time I read about child abuse or some parental idiocy the thought crosses my mind that some people shouldn't be allowed to have children and other more deserving people should have them. An application process does sound more fair and just,especially with that yearly baby fair. Well, it at least it would be fair and just if not for the "birth mother" bit which is totally icky. And all the other ethical issues. But still, there's an emotional aspect to the question that wasn't there when I was 23, focused on choice not fate and assumed I was immortal and fertile for another couple of decades. I'm glad you've found a way to incorporate the book and discussion into your professional and personal life that is generative rather than only painful.

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    1. We do a whole thing with the straight line versus the up-and-down line -- what are the benefits of each? What are the downsides? Because you're right, there are upsides to the Community. I mean, definitely not treating people like livestock baby farms, or that other business about Release. I wouldn't want to live in a world that's so safe but devoid of interesting things or originality or thought... It is such an interesting thought experiment, and really tests what the students think is ethical and then question things in our world, too.

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  4. That old post... oh my gosh. I could have written that with the oblivious people in my own life. I'm glad you're in a better place. I read that book so long ago and watched the movie awhile back, but yes, now I remember that storyline. Fascinating. I need to read it again.

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    1. Oh god, the movie... ick. I hated the movie so much. THe book is such a slow reveal, and then the movie ruins everything in the first five minutes...you don't have to guess at hardly anything. Oblivious is the right word. Not intentionally hurtful by any means, and I was glad there wasn't a repeat performance, but just clueless as to other people's realities.

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  5. I just read your original post. I'm going off topic a bit but on the subject of sex = babies, this douche of a teacher reminds me of an acquaintance who is so blinkered and bigoted, and closed to anything that is not the norm, that we used to have arguments that went as follows:
    Her: "Gay marriage is disgusting. If gay people were meant to get married, and have sex, how come they can't have babies together? Because gay sex is not natural, that's why"
    Me: "So you think because I can't have babies I should have been prevented from getting married, or having sex?"
    Her: *frown* "Well, it proves that gay people shouldn't be together because they can't have children together. The human race will run out if we let them get married". ETC.
    It's a bit different to the matter at hand but I also just read a comment on a childfree site from a mother (in response to an article about choosing to have or not have kids) who pondered "Why are we driven to have sex if we do not want to reproduce?". This rankled with me: it throws up so many arguments. Do people really not accept or know about diversity: some of us CAN'T reproduce, some of us don't want to reproduce, some of us are gay and will have obstacles to reproducing... where do these dumb, reductive statements and assumptions leave these groups?
    Sorry to go off topic a bit but these issues have been playing in my mind today and they seemed linked to this teacher's ignorance.
    I'd never heard of The Giver: sounds like a curious read, I'll look out for it. Kudos to you: the teaching environment can't be easy when you're going through IF and then the adoption process. On that note, all work environments are a nightmare and seem to be populated with unempathetic idiots!

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    1. Oh no, that gay marriage discussion! I had a similar one once, but they at least had the decency to squirm when I asked if then infertile people or people over 50 or whatever should be allowed to marry then. Ugh. So amazing how people don't fully think through these things before they leave their mouths... and the whole sex thing, um, because it's FUN? I mean yeah, the biological point is to reproduce, and biologically they probably made it so pleasurable so you'd want to do it, but every time you have sex you're not going to have a baby, even if you're super fertile Myrtle. Humans figured out that sex is a fun activity (well, chimpanzees too. I'm sure there's lots of animals who have recreational sex). I do have to say that in my story, the ignorance was rectified and so I am glad that there is growth here, an acceptance of new perspectives and sensitivities to them once identified. So that's good! It is possible for people to open their minds up and/or realize that something said was ignorant. :)

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  6. Just an overarching comment... I have a lot of respect for the teacher I work with, because there is so much growth in terms of attitudes and realities outside his bubble. In the beginning, that first post, things were awful but we didn't know each other and to his credit a discussion like that didn't happen again to that extent where it ignored other possibilities. We both came a long way, together, and I want to give credit to a growth mindset where I honestly think if he read that first post he would be mortified. I don't want to turn this guy into a boogeyman when he's clearly shifted his mindset. I don't want to say that it's all me or anything, but I really think my situation opened eyes to how difficult this particular endeavor can be.
    Whew! I was feeling some pitchforks coming on, which wasn't my intent... :)

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  7. I just watched the movie version of the Giver (Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep did an amazing job!) and was reflecting back on the book. The movie glosses over a lot of these details, making it unclear how families are formed in this society. But regardless, it does raise questions even with this glossing.

    I also wonder about people's perception on the adoption process given what is illustrated in the Giver. There is a continual assumption that it is insanely easy as people point to all the children that are in the foster system. What isn't understood is both the actual function of the foster system (the primary goal is to reunite children with their families, etc) and the fact that adoption comes with a whole host of complex issues. What the Giver illustrates to me is how I think most people view adoption and even assisted reproduction. Which is likely where your colleague was coming from.

    All that said, I am glad you've been educating him. Baby steps indeed. But at least they are there.

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  8. I just saw a stage version of the book, and it had been so many years since I read the story that I had forgotten that part until it was being performed in front of me. Everyone looked at me sideways when it was discussed.

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    1. Interesting, I didn't know there was a stage version...was it well executed? SO many aspects of that book work so well in print but are challenging to do visually. Oh, sadness to being side-eyed when there's an infertility subplot.

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  9. I'm glad that teacher has gotten better about being more inclusive and realizing that sex doesn't always equal baby! Just wondering, do wordpress users ever have problems commenting on your blog? I've heard it is a common problem between google bloggers and wordpress users but not sure how to fix it.

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    1. Hmmm, I don't know about the wordpress piece... I do have comment moderation and I check "awaiting moderation" fairly frequently because a few people only show up there, not in my email. So strange. But yes! So glad for growth in this area. Jeezum.

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  10. After what had been a painful experience teaching The Giver with your co-teacher in the past, I am glad to hear about the evolution and shift in the conversation with the book. Thank you for following up and sharing how you were able to help your co-teacher to broaden his perspective and include this in your teaching with the students. Good for you in not remaining silent and choosing your voice to expand the conversation. A good partnership grows with each other and the students benefit.

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  11. That's awesome that you were able to speak up to your coworker and remind him that the 'default' method of becoming parents is simply not what happens for many people. Glad that the other teacher was open to being taught and using more inclusive language. I wonder how many of your students have some sort of experience with a family member's infertility or - and I hope not, but we all know the statistics - may someday experience their own. These moments sort of add up and perhaps infertility/adoption/reproductive issues won't be something so hidden eventually.

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  12. I too am very glad that your colleague has learned from you, and grown as a person and a teacher. Like the others, I cringed at the previous post, and as much as I wanted you to have contradicted him at the time, I also understood that you can only talk about it when you are ready.

    "I feel like it's a little win for the twisty life stories: for me but also for the students whose lives aren't quite as neat and tidy, who probably feel a bit alienated by the assumption that everyone's life paths are pretty homogenous." Yes. It is a win for you, AND for your students. Yay.

    Now I'm thinking of looking for that book, as I don't think I've ever read it.

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  13. This hurts my brain on so many levels. Kudos to you for standing up on behalf of those people who don't have neat and tidy lives!

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