Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Note @ Telling Students

Based on "The Mom's" suggestion to notify parents I feel compelled to explain my thoughts on this... (thank you for your comment "The Mom")

I didn't send a note home to the parents informing them that I was pregnant with Myles (and don't know any colleagues who have), so I don't know why I would do that now. I'm not telling my students what they should/shouldn't support (I don't do that) nor am I trying to change their moral/ethical beliefs, but rather am presenting how I am expecting my children. The FACT of the matter is that I'm expecting two babies via a gestational surrogate and I'll explain that. I don't intend to debate the ethics of IVF or surrogacy (although we do have a bioethics unit later in the year where it may come up if students choose to research it; many opt to research PGD and "designer babies"). Obviously, it's clear that I'm in favor of IVF and surrogacy given my situation, but I understand that not everyone is. I don't expect my students to support my personal decisions (nor do I really care if they do or don't). However, it seems unfair to them not to explain how these little lives came to be, which is why I will present the facts of IVF and surrogacy as applications of genetics. (Note: there are National Science standards that would be met by doing this and it's part of our curriculum to present biotechonological advancements.)

Admittedly I don't love the idea of sharing such intimate details of my personal life with my students, but at the same time it just feels weird not to. What would the students think if I just up and left for the remainder of the year in February without any explanation? (I plan to take maternity leave for the rest of the year after the babies are born.) My guess is that they'd be worried and confused. I respect them too much to do something like that. I found my students were interested in my pregnancy with Myles and were amazingly supportive when I was on hospital bedrest. They requested weekly updates from my sub, sent cards, and a large number came to show their support at Myles' funeral. So, I know they care and genuinely have an interest in my life just as I do in their's. Plus, quite frankly just like any expectant parent I'm excited to share my news with others. If I was carrying the babies myself, I probably would have told my students by now (or clearly they'd have figured it out by the size of my belly). So, I plan to share the exciting news with my students knowing that I may have questions from parents and students. Questions don't make me uncomfortable. Questions actually give me an opportunity to do what I do best--educate!

27 comments:

StaceyG said...

I agree with you 100%. You have no obligation to explain anything to the parents first. I would expect almost all of your students will be excited for you that you are expecting twins via surrogacy.

By the way - I like the extra credit question!

Stacey

M said...

i sent a note home... but first grade is a fairly different ballgame ;) i think you explained this quite well to us and have every confidence that you would do the same with your students. i think you're right that you do owe them the explaination as to where you are off to and what is going on in your life (with something this big). plus it's an interesting topic to discuss and be exposed to. just think, perhaps one day down the road one of you students will feel less alone if they are suffering with IF because you took the time to explain and speak with them in high school. education is a powerful thing! good for you for being brave enough to share and help students be exposed to new things :)

meinsideout said...

I fully support you - no matter what you do!

SMK said...

HI! I think you are not just an amazing woman but an amazing teacher! I know you probably don't watch Y&R but Michelle Stafford (Phyllis) is expecting a baby by surrogate in December. So many amazing women in this world just like K. ;)

SMK said...

OOPS forgot to post the link

http://www.soapcentral.com/yr/news/2009/0907-stafford.php

Infertile In the City said...

Good for you Niki! So much braver than me, I have no idea what I would do :)

Caba said...

I think you are doing the right thing. I can't imagine sending a note home to tell parents that. Do teachers have to send notes home explaining that they are presenting the theory of evolution to students? Many parents have issues with that due to their religion as well.

I think you are being open and wonderful, and sharing a lot about yourself with your students. Kudos to you!

Jackie said...

I agree with you, too; but I think the difference would be with the age of the children. I have 3 children (all grown now) and I would have liked to have a note prior to the explanation, IF they were still in elementary school. Beyond that, no, you don't have to do that nor would I expect it, as a parent. I liked the idea of the extra credit question!
I have read your blog for some time now and never posted before. I admire your spirit and determination and am thrilled for you with your twins! You so deserve this happiness and you are a wonderful mother to your dear Myles. Your tributes to him are heartfelt and filled with love. I continue to look forward to your future updates!!!

Lost in Space said...

I agree with you completely, Niki. If you were discussing this in an ethics class, maybe a note to the parents might be more necessary. Discussing the biology and techniques of science are very much "what you do". Good for you and how fortunate for your students!!

Jaymee said...

i totally agree with you and think that it is an amazing teaching opportunity!

Kandi Ann said...

Can you just wear your shirt you made for you and K? :o) xoxo, Kandi

Ruth said...

Niki, You are an amazing woman. Highschoolers are thinking indviduals and since you are not trying to teach them anything immoral or questionable I wouldn't think you would need to send a note home. If anyone heard a fraction of your story they should be rejoicing with you and being as supportive as possible. Years ago this is not how you thought your children would be born, but thank God for medical technology and for K to make this miracle possible for you. Besides the biology aspect, I think it is a good "lesson" for the kids to think about how to handle difficulties in life and K's beautiful example of unselfishness and generousity. Also, since you will have most of the school year with them, I do think that it is respectful to let them know of the change of teachers that will come once the babies arrive. You are doing an awesome job of handling all of this!!!!!!

Gabby said...

i respect you so much and i respectfully disagree with needing to tell the parents first. if you want to, you can. but i don't think you have to. you are only presenting the facts, more as a way to tell them why you'll be leaving them, then to change thir hearts and minds about IVF. your motivation is not to sway theri opinion.. just to share your status as an expectant mother!

can't wait to hear how it goes!

Karen said...

I agree with one comment on the last post that this is awfully personal information and I question your motivation for sharing it with children.
Is it an attention thing? Do you need these children to "feel your pain" and know what you've gone through or are going through?
I think this is a very adult subject. If one of them has a mother or sister going through this then they learn about it from family and may even be told not to go around yakking about it to others because it is very. personal. information.

Cali said...

I have to respectfully disagree with Karen's comment. I think the fact that Niki is sharing this information with her students means that she is a good teacher and had developed a positive relationship with them. If she was pregnant with those darling babies, there would be no question about sharing this pregnancy with them. I am tired of people walking around on tip-toes around our kids. It is good for them to learn that life isn't always perfect. I think Niki is a wonderful example to those teenagers. I wish my kids had teachers that were willing to go above and beyond the call of duty and teach them not only book smarts, but things that will help them in their future lives and the challenges they may face (which may include infertility).

Jackie said...

I agree with Cali. And, as far as processing information, teenagers are far more savvy and aware of things than we give them credit for. These aren't 3rd graders we are talking about. Besides, maybe I'm off base here, but isn't this Niki's choice on how much personal info she wants to share? Everyone has their own opinion of what is 'personal' and how much they choose to share, in ANY given situation. Far be it from me to tell someone that their decision/opinion is not the right one. What people share is what works for THEM, as it should be.

Niki said...

Thank you so much for your support girls and a special thanks to Cali and Jackie for understanding and defending my position! :)

I do want to clarify something ... I do NOT intend to present a detailed rundown of my infertility history when I explain that someone else is carrying my babies (although I'm not really ashamed or embarrassed of it). My infertility problems are not the only reason why we pursued surrogacy. Yes, I have a history of infertility (ovulation problems) and recurrent miscarriage, but eventually I probably would've gotten pregnant again (who knows how long it would've taken). But I also have a history of extremely early and severe preeclampsia and was told that I would likely get it again, but couldn't be told when/how severe. This is not only a risk to my life, but to any future child's life. My husband and I wanted to protect our future children and did not want to risk having another baby born way too soon. Therefore, we opted to use a carrier to prevent this.

I plan to very briefly mention why we opted to use a carrier (this won't be the focus as the focus is that I'm expecting twins!) and will explain how it works from a scientific point. The last thing on Earth I'm looking for is sympathy or to have these young adults "feel my pain". When they ask me if I have children I tell them that I had a son who died. This certainly isn't an attempt at to get sympathy, but rather is to remember and honor Myles.

I have to respectfully disagree that fertility and infertility are adult subject matter. I teach biology (study of life) to high school students and reproduction is characteristic that all living things have in common with one another. (Not to mention that over 50% of them are engaging reproductive type behaviors themselves!) We are currently discussing modes of reproduction and further discuss it in upcoming units. It's a huge part of life and shouldn't be ignored just because the topic makes some uncomfortable!

Dora said...

Running to an appt. No time to read the other comments first, but I TOTALLY AGREE WITH YOU! This is the reality of the world we live in. There are different types of families, and babies come to families in different ways. Your students are not small children. They can figure their own values at this point.

Brava to you! xoxo

Gretchen said...

I will never, for the life of me, understand why people think that things should be sugar-coated for "children." Teenagers much smarter than people give them credit for, and as a good teacher you owe it to your students to not just disappear in February. I think the fact that you're sharing what you're going through is a huge testament to you as an educator (and a person)...Hugs from PA; I wish you, K, your DH, and the babies all the best!

Jaymee said...

i just want to add that i think telling your students is the right thing to do, without a doubt. first, it is a wonderful way of making what they are/will be learning relevant to a real life situation, which needs to be done more in education. second, they have a right to be treated like the young adults that they are, and the fact that you want to share this information speaks highly to your respect for them as individuals. third, talking about your situation when you have been through so much is never "attention seeking" it is educating. you should be proud that you are becoming a mother again and have every right to share this information with whoever you wish to let into this amazing journey.

nikki, you are an amazing woman and all of your students are very lucky to have such a wonderful educator in their lives. your children are very fortunate to have such a wonderful woman to teach them how to navigate the world.

Bluebird said...

I was hoping you'd respond to this :) I think your plan makes perfect sense, and that this is obviously all about the presentation. (And it sounds like you intend to handle it as well as you possibly can!)

Jenna said...

I think it's very important to let them know you are expecting twins. Many expectant father's would let their students know, and they aren't carrying the babies so why shouldn't you? Also, I have to say I disagree with Karen. I was a gestational carrier for my sister and I have two young children. The topic came up at their preschool/JK class and my kids, my husband and I were very open with their classmates, teachers, and parents that it was Auntie K's baby in mommy's tummy. My practice also has a large pediatric portion to it and again, as soon as I was showing I informed ALL patients what was going on. No parent, patient or child had any issues with the topic or accepting the idea, regardless of religious or spiritual beliefs and I got an incredible amount of support. I feel it was a great opportunity for people to be exposed to alternatives and that will only make individuals more well rounded and potentially help them realize other options if they are ever faced with IF.

Enjoy this moment, have fun sharing your very exciting news and I am sure you will be met with only love, support and excitement!

Karen said...

There is still the fact you didn't address, it's very personal information and it's none of their business. I have a high school aged son and I want his teachers to teach him what is on the curriculum and not spend valuable time discussing themselves and what's happening in their lives. It's simply not necessary and should not be part of the educational environment.

Niki said...

Karen, you're right I am sharing a piece of personal information with my students. I didn't claim not to be. I wonder if you think it would be better to not say a word and just leave in February? Or do you think I should lie and tell them I'm adopting babies? Is it wrong for a pregnant teacher to tell her students she's having a baby? Do you think it's wrong for a pregnant teacher to take a minute to answer a student's question about her baby's development? I'm having a really hard time believing that your issue is me taking a few minutes to mention that I'm expecting two babies (i.e., discussing my personal life) or if the real issue is your own personal problem with ART, specifically IVF and surrogacy?

I think it's unfair to think that teachers shouldn't share a bit of themselves with their students, particularly when we expect them to share some of themselves. I'm not going to start a debate on best practices in education, especially since I doubt you are in education yourself, but I will tell you that establishing a rapport with your students is Teaching 101. In order to do this I let them see me as a human and share a few tidbits of information about my life (hobbies, family, pets) with them and they do the same with me. The first day of school we play a get to know one another game and then every Monday morning we spend a few minutes talking about what they did over the weekend, good/bad movies they saw, how sporting events turned out, etc.. All of this helps me to build better relationships with my students and they seem to appreciate it. The few minutes of valuable time that you claim "is lost" doing these things helps me maintain better control over my classroom and ultimately means I don't waste a lot of valuable time constantly dealing with behavioral problems.

It's a two-way street of communication in my classroom, which is based on mutual respect, so I hear a lot about student's personal lives as well. My job as an educator goes far beyond teaching--I counsel, I parent, I mediate, I advise, etc.. If I didn't open myself up to my students some of them who might need more than just a teacher wouldn't feel comfortable talking with me. You must realize that your son is fortunate to have a loving home, but others are not and rely on the only positive role models they have--their teachers.

I highly encourage you to spend some time in your son's classrooms to see what its like and ask his teachers if they think rapport is important to education. I can guarantee you that they will concur that rapport is essential to teaching!

Karen said...

I taught for 3 years, grades 2-6. Not strangers, though, I home schooled my own children.
I didn't think it was going to be a few minutes of conversation but a "lesson plan" of sorts. That's just the way it sounded in your post. Telling students that you're having babies and will be on maternity leave is essential, of course. If more is asked, in my opinion, you should share the information privately with them. What you do is totally up to you, obviously.
I mean, seriously, you don't have to keep sparring with me. I have a different opinion than you do. Big deal. Move on. I'm going to.

Barb said...

Yeah, I'm not sure why you would have to explain it to the parents. I definitely think you should share it with your students like you said if you were physically pregnant they would know, I always liked teachers that shared personal information with the class...it makes them human. Keep up the positive attitude:)

Hinkle said...

I'm sorry Karen, but home schooling your own children and teaching a classroom full of other people's children are COMPLETELY different.

Niki, I admire the honest relationship you have with your students. I am a social worker, and the majority of my caseload are teenagers. I typically end up working with them for several years, and quite possible am the only consistent person in their lives.

As professionals we learn the difficult art of balancing personal information and being honest to develop a positive relationship with the kids we work with. Someone who has never been in the position, will never truly understand it. There is a line and we know what that line is.

My "kids" know that I am married, and will know when we get pregnant (usually b/c that kind of thing is difficult to hide!). I use examples from my life to illustrate life lessons, and am able to do so with out sharing too much information. It shows them that I am not only human, but hopefully gives them a new perspective on life situations.

The teachers that were open and worked to create an environment where I felt safe to talk to them or ask questions (life or school related) are the teachers that I remember to this day and credit with being who I am. My parents did a good job, but they couldn't do it alone. It takes a community to raise a child.

Thank you for being a teacher Niki,