The Modern Family


The Modern Family

In our previous blog post, we sat down with Dr. Phyllis Gorman to chat about her recommendations for introducing students to LGBTQ+ history. We wanted to continue that conversation by delving into the differences in families, and how we as educators can respect those variances. Students can come from all kinds of family dynamics that do not just include a typical “mom” and “dad.” We believe these are important topics to discuss.

Dr. Gorman is a life-long Ohioan, LGBTQ+ advocate, former director of Stonewall Columbus, and currently holds a leadership role in the Office of Professional Development and Retention at Columbus State Community College. Dr. Gorman received her Ph.D. from The Ohio State University with her major in sociology and minor in women’s history. Check out a continuation of our conversation about non-traditional families, and how to navigate the meaning of family.

When I was younger, in elementary school, I remember activities similar to a “family tree” with questions like “what does your mom do?” and “what does your dad do?”. With students from non-traditional families, I feel like that can be an issue that teachers may not even think about. I’m from a non-traditional family myself and it always made me feel different. That’s something I am sure some schools still have activities about.

Exactly. When my son was in elementary school, he was sent home with a similar assignment to a “family tree”. Since my partner and I were activists, I went into school and pulled the teacher aside to discuss. The teacher was very responsive to the feedback and as she changed that assignment, she started to find out there was all kinds of differences in families. It wasn’t just us. In terms of allyship, asking honest questions as a teacher/parent can help. “How do you want me to refer to you?” with gay parents’ involvement – like “papa” and “pops”. It’s okay to ask questions early on about the family dynamic. And mainly, listen, be respectful, and be prepared to make changes in the classroom or in your teaching, if necessary.

As educators, we can sometimes forget how diverse families can be if we have not experienced them directly. Father-daughter dances, interviewing students’ parents as an activity, asking questions like “what does your mom do?” are all detrimental instances that isolate students that come from a different background. Consider asking yourself: What is the meaning of family to our students? Who do they consider members of their family?

Below we’ve put together a list of resources to help educators and family members discuss non-traditional families. Got a go to resource not listed? Share it with us at [email protected].

Lessons & Activity


Blog Post Image Citation: Family portrait daguerreotype. Picture. Columbus: 1855. Ohio History Connection: Ohio History Connection Antique Photography Collection, (accessed March 26, 2021)


Posted March 30, 2021

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