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Op-ed: As a teacher, I’ve seen good parents from all walks

By Peter Hayes

First Published Feb 22 2014 01:01 am • Last Updated Feb 22 2014 01:01 am

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Spanning the course of 28 consecutive years, I taught science in both public and private schools in Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. During that time, I taught nearly 3,000 students from all walks of life, including those who had billionaires for parents and those who lived in cars. I had students whose parents were single moms or dads, divorced, married (both happily and unhappily), unknown to them, same-sex and heterosexual.

Students came to my class with all sorts of emotional baggage from their home that manifested in their behavior. I had students who isolated themselves, those who lacked self-esteem, who were angry, who never did their homework and those who failed. Conversely, I also had students who added much to the class environment, those who were thrilled to learn, and those who were joyful and succeeded.

With increased experience in the classroom, I became adept at predicting the nature of the home based on how my students behaved in and out of class. Parent-teacher conferences often validated my initial impressions.

Though I got very good at predicting the home environment, I could never predict which of my students had same-sex or heterosexual parents. As a veteran educator I came to see this variable as inconsequential to whether the student was happy and successful. It simply did not matter.

Recently, I have read the rhetoric that claims "good" families are only possible if the married parents are heterosexual. If student happiness and success – both in the class and in their future lives — are any measure of whether a family is "good," then those who oppose or even fear same-sex parenting are laboring under impressions that my experience contradicts.

There are countless successful heterosexual parents, and without question, there are numerous successful same-sex parents. However, if we are honest, then we must admit that a heterosexual marriage is not the absolute model for a successful/happy family: half of heterosexual marriages in America end in divorce, often leaving a single parent struggling to make ends meet and raise their children.

Dreamy-eyed pundits who advocate the paradigm, "man + woman (only) marriage = best family," are wearing blinders. In my long teaching career, students who thrived came from homes where parents – regardless of sexual orientation – were supportive, loving and happy … period.

Peter Hayes had to leave teaching after he was diagnosed with a terminal lung disease. He is happily married to his wife of 21 years.


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