While there is currently more LGBTQ representation in media, politics, and entertainment than ever before, school can still be a challenging place for LGBTQ kids and kids who are questioning and discovering who they are. Here are some tips for making your classroom a safe and inclusive space for all of your students.
Include Resources By LGBTQ People In Your Curriculum
Be deliberate about who makes the cut in your syllabus and include LGBTQ people. You don't have to announce, "And now we'll look at the gay paintings by the gay Michelangelo," but our students (queer, straight, trans, cisgender, whatever) deserve to know that LGBTQ people are important contributors to their learning.
Hang Some Rainbows
Maybe you cover the back wall of your classroom with a Pride flag printed with subtle messages like, ALL STUDENTS WELCOME or DON'T WORRY, THIS CLASSROOM ISN'T HOMOPHOBIC. Or maybe you just stick a Safe Place sticker on your door. A lot of kids will never notice it. But the queer kids will. The kids with queer families will. At least one kid will ask you what that sticker means, and then you'll have the opportunity to talk about it.
Call Students What They Want To Be Called
If Melanie goes by Mel with her friends, call her Mel in class. Let her write Mel on her papers. Call her Mel when including her in parent-teacher conferences.
Stop "THAT'S SO GAY" Every Time
That goes for "fag" too, and any other way that kids test out their moxie by using homophobic slurs to bully, tease, or flirt. Even when you have a lesson, a quiz, and a new seating chart to get through, stop it when you hear it. Even when you're forty minutes into the fifth class you’ve taught that day, stop it when you hear it. Even when you suspect that they don't understand the meaning of what they're saying, stop it when you hear it.
Gather up the LGBTQ teachers and allies in your building and start talking about how to make your school an inclusive — not just tolerant — place for LGBTQ students.
Kristin Leong, M.Ed. is a 2016-17 TED-Ed Innovative Educator and Washington State Teacher Leader specializing in student-led learning. In addition to teaching middle level Humanities, she is also a public speaker and writer focused on equity in education. She once delivered a talk at Town Hall entitled, "Nightclub Bartending & Middle School Teaching: A Venn Diagram." Videos of Kristin and information about her upcoming workshops are available at kristinleong.com. Connect with Kristin on Twitter @kristinleong and Instagram @leongstagram.