As the only other Asian in her immediate fifth-grade homeroom class, Teagan Whitehead stands out among her classmates at her elementary school in Cedar Park, Texas. “My classmates and sometimes even my teachers will ask what country I’m from,” the 11-year-old says. “I tell them I’m American and that I was born in Seattle, but then they’ll ask where I’m really from.”
These questions, as well as teasing comments about her eyes and a desire to look more “American” to help her fit in, come up often as Teagan shares stories of her day at school with her mom. But Michelle Whitehead’s advice is simple: If people make assumptions, talk to them about it.
“You can’t control what other people say or think,” she says. “Most of the time, it’s how much they know. I have a friend who says it’s not her job to educate people, but my response to her is, ‘How else are they going to learn?’’’