How Youth in Foster Care Inspire Me

By Edward Brown, Treehouse Education Specialist

A class clown myself, I have always placed a high premium on shenanigans. But since I started with Treehouse, I have found myself scrambling to keep pace.

In an enrollment meeting for one student’s new school, their counselor fired a volley of questions at him: “Why are you switching schools? Why didn’t you like your previous school?” These questions were seemingly harmless but also highlighted how little control my student had over his school placement. He skirted the questions gracefully.

The real kicker came when the counselor referred to me as my student’s father.

I immediately cringed and looked at my student to see if he or I should make the correction. He shot me a wry smile and a nod as if to say, “Let it go.” Following his lead, I completed the meeting as his “father,” doing my best to respect his request for privacy. Still, I was uncomfortable.

After getting his schedule sorted, we left the counselor’s office in search of his locker. On the way out, he hesitated and said, “Thanks, Dad.” We both looked at each other, paused and then burst into laughter loud enough to draw glances from the staff.

My student did not resent the counselor for her assumption. Rather, he said: “I don’t want to make her feel bad. And plus, it’s kind of funny.” His humor wasn’t mean-spirited or in search of one-upping someone. Instead, he used it to normalize an uncomfortable situation.

There are many assumptions about the way families should look. Many people think children should come with two parents—a mom and a dad—from whom they were biologically created. This couldn’t be further from the truth. A family is a person or group of people that you rely on and trust. Though my students are often unfairly tasked with challenging our assumptions, I am left in awe by the grace and humor with which they accomplish it.

Another of my students, David, came into our meeting furious about his least favorite class, Marketing. He described in detail how boring the class was and how the teacher was too strict. In the middle of these descriptions, he suddenly stood up, headed to the white board in the room and erupted into a lecture, using his finger to imitate a mustache.

“First you need to buy, but then you need to sell! Sell it all! But before all that, you need to take the one percent and subtract the margin from the other side’s numbers and don’t forget about the tariffs! Spelled T-A-R-I-F-F.”

Each key concept was written on the board with a storm of arrows creating a bizarre, illogical web of connections between the economic buzzwords. I was cracking up.

Like David, my students are sometimes placed in situations that can make them feel powerless. Their sharp wit is just one of the many tools they use to reclaim this power—and of course, make me laugh along the way.

I often see bumper stickers on parents’ cars bragging about their talented kids. I want a sticker that says: “My student is funnier than your kid.” I know, I know, it’s a generalization. But I am proud of my students, and I want everyone to know the joy they bring me.

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About the Author

Edward is a Treehouse Education Specialist in central Seattle. He was a teacher and worked in after-school programs prior to joining Treehouse. He loves getting to laugh and learn alongside his students.

Comment (1)

Paula Lee

May 17, 2018

Edward, that was great…so well written. Janet and the rest of us old gals are so, should I say proud?…It’s more than that. What a truly beautiful person you are. The world needs more people like you. We are in Rome, but when we get home I’ll show your blog to Brooks. Thinking of you, Paula


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