April’s Story April’s Story Growing up in the educational system as a multiracial child
This is April Marie Patten. April is 21 years old, and this story is about her experiences growing up and going to school as a multiracial child.
Who is April? April is the daughter of Judy, who is a Caucasian mix of German and Irish, and Abdula, who is Saudi Arabian. Although she lived in Illinois for a short while, she spent most of her growing up in Naples, Florida. She grew up with her mother and stepfather, David, who also is Caucasian. Although she has never actually met her biological father, she is indirectly affected by him everyday….
April has always enjoyed school, and for the most part, has had a positive experience. Her mother, Aunt Kathy and Godmother, Jane, have always been involved and inquisitive about April’s schooling. In school, April enjoyed writing stories and learning in centers.
April’s Childhood April grew up like most American children in the respect that she loved cartoons,such as Care Bears and Strawberry Shortcake, and of course boy bands! April could do without math classes and homework though. Judging from this she sounds like any of us, right?
Unfortunately, April has experienced situations that many of us may not have. In the next couple of pages that follow, April will tell some stories of how being multiracial has not only affected her school life, but her home life as well.
School Days… “I was always quiet and shy in elementary school. I also kept to myself a little. Because I behaved this way and also looked ethnic many of my teachers just assumed that I couldn’t speak English, when in fact that is the only language that I speak!”
“ Saudi Arabian was not a race that was commonly addressed in school, therefore many children did not know that it existed. Due to this, for many years I was called the ‘Little Mexican Girl,’ because I guess that is what they thought I looked like.”
“ Since my mother has blonde hair and blue eyes, and I obviously do not, any time that we would have parties or show and tell in my class my teachers and classmates would ask me if my mother was my babysitter. No one believed she was my mother, and that was hard.”
Stories from the home front.. “My mother has very blonde, very straight ‘normal’ hair. I, on the other hand, have very thick and very ‘ethnic’ hair. My mother had no idea what to do with my hair or how to even deal with it. I remember many a time when she would get the brush stuck in it. She just didn’t understand that my hair was not like hers.”
“ There were also many times when I felt that my mom just forgot that I was not ‘white.’ For example, filling out forms she would always question me as of to why I didn’t check the ‘white’ box, and I would have to tell her ‘Mom, because I’m not white.”
Overall, April just remembers the feeling of not fitting in. Being multiracial there was no clear group she could associate with. She recalls how this played very true in making friends. As she looks back most of her friends were ‘ethnic,’ since at that age many children befriend those similar to themselves.
A look into the parental educational experiences: David, April’s stepfather, always excelled in music and so he would focus on that. In high school, his guidance counselor helped him switch his schedule so that he took mostly music classes. When it comes to April and her education he valued the grade and saw that as the motivation for education.
Judy, April’s mother, had an unrecognized learning disability and was out of school a lot for surgery. This caused her to fall behind and barely made it through. When it comes to April and her education, her mother valued education as a whole and was very involved.
Family strengths and activities April sees her family’s strength is that of their great sense of humor. Camping, theme parks, movies, and cooking rate among the top of the activities the family enjoys together.
Stories of others… “My Aunt Kathy has been very influential in my life. She has always been very involved in my schooling by helping out whenever possible and also stressing its importance. Although she never questioned by relation to my parents, like many others she was not knowledgeable about my “other half” - that of my Saudi Arabian ethnicity.”
“My teachers played a huge role in who I am. I can count on only one hand the bad teachers I had. Once my teachers saw my potential, they did all they could to help me succeed, whether it be by encouraging me to enroll in higher classes or giving extra attention.”
Home/School Relationships April’s and her family did not have a strong relationship with her schools. She offers a couple ideas to help build relations: 1.Make diversity in that of races and families that aren’t common more relatable to all students. 2.Keep in mind that not all parents can come to functions that are offered during school hours. 3.Try to integrate materials that represent all ethnicities and races.