Yesterday in Alexandria, VA, the Second Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden, delivered the opening remarks at PFLAG's annual convention. Dr. Biden's a mother and teacher, and her remarks were richly informed by personal experience.
Speaking at the Westin Alexandria, Dr. Biden said:
... As a teacher and a mom, I know what Jeanne Manford knew: that there is a direct connection between acceptance and positive, healthy outcomes in every important area of life, including education, mental health, and physical health. So I’m particularly happy to join you all today not only as Second Lady, but as a mother and also as an educator.
As was mentioned, I’ve been a teacher for longer than I care to admit... I’ve taught as a reading specialist in public high schools and I’ve tutored at-risk teens at a psychiatric hospital in Delaware. I believe the greatest accomplishment of any teacher is not instructing students how to read or how to understand biology, but giving them the confidence to do the work. Instilling that belief in themselves is the key – not only for learning in the classroom, but for succeeding in life.
We all know that self-confidence can be a challenge for youth and adolescents – even under the best of circumstances. These are the years when all kids are trying to figure out who they are and who they hope to be. For children who are struggling with understanding their sexual orientation or gender identity, the teen years can be particularly challenging. And, of course, kids are not always kind to each other during these times, especially when one of them is different.
As an English teacher, I have my students write about themselves in their journals. Through those journal entries and my conversations with them, I have heard first-hand about this kind of pain and anxiety. And I have seen how this situation makes it almost impossible for students to concentrate on their school work. How can we expect kids who are taunted by their classmates to flourish in an academic environment?
We have all heard painful stories of bullying and harassment. And we have read too many accounts of heartbreaking incidents where kids are driven to take their own lives rather than endure the taunting of their peers. No child should be subjected to that. And no parent should suffer that horrific loss.
Read Dr. Biden's full remarks here.
(Photo: Borrowed from PFLAG blog.)