By Richard M. Cash, Ed.D., author of Self-Regulation in the Classroom: Helping Students Learn How to Learn
Part of our Cash in on Learning series by Richard M. Cash, Ed.D. Click to read other Cash in on Learning posts.
The isolation of the pandemic has had an emotional impact on all of us. Young people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning/queer, and a rainbow of communities that do not fit within the binary system of sexual orientation and gender (also known as LGBTQ+) may have found the separation from friends and supports doubly crushing. Not only have they been isolated from friends who uplifted them in a sometimes lonely life, they also may have experienced tense or unsupportive home environments. At the same time, school hasn’t always been the safest place either. For students who are LGBTQ+, getting back to in-person school may be both exciting and terrifying.
So, how can we as educators and advocates support both the academic and social and emotional needs of our students who are LGBTQ+ as we head back to in-person learning? Here are 10 strategies we can use to be more inclusive, inspirational, and supportive of all our students:
1. Make your programs and services a safe zone for kids to be themselves. Let’s insist that every child has a voice, and make sure that voice is heard. Put up posters, images, or a rainbow flag to declare your classroom or program space is a place free of bullying, othering, and discrimination.
2. Be a partner in a Genders & Sexualities Alliance (GSA) or LGBTQ+ organization in your school or district. You may also consider being the advisor for the group. For more information, visit the GSA Network website.
3. Stand up and speak out against homophobia, transphobia, and all other forms of overt and covert oppression or discrimination. Make your presence known in the hallways or on the playground, where hurtful comments and actions are most likely to occur. Also, monitor the social media platforms of your community and call out discriminatory language and actions.
4. Include in your content inspirational people who are LGBTQ+. All children need to see themselves in the representations of curriculum. A quick internet search can help you find role models and icons for your students.
5. Provide resources such as books, magazines, and websites that highlight the contributions of the LGBTQ+ community.
6. Don’t make assumptions about a child or a child’s background. Don’t assume that boys will be boys and girls will be girls. Allow students to express themselves in ways they feel most comfortable. Listen to and learn from your students.
7. Advocate for policies of nondiscrimination in your school, district, and programs. Check out this website for a model of anti-harassment and anti-discrimination polices for schools.
8. Make sure school events are inclusive. Dances, carnivals, celebrations, and pep rallies should support and include representations of ALL students. Truly embrace “love is love.”
9. October is LGBTQ+ history month. Include information in student newsletters and announcements to celebrate the historical achievement of the community. For more information, visit the “Teaching About LGBTQ+ World History” page at the Educators 4 Social Change website.
10. Be supportive! Listen to your students’ stories; let them know you hear and see them. Show your support by being in the moment with your students. They need to know you care about them as whole individuals.
Educate yourself and your colleagues about LGBTQ+ issues, the community, laws, and rules. Also, check your own biases—you may unintentionally use less inclusive language or inadvertently misspeak. Pay attention to what you say and how you say it.
Finally, provide resources and information about people who are LGBTQ+. Below is just a short list of websites:
- Human Rights Campaign
- Matthew Shepard Foundation
- National Center for Transgender Equality
- TransYouth Family Allies
- Genders & Sexualities Alliance Network
Richard M. Cash, Ed.D., writes the monthly Cash in on Learning blog posts for Free Spirit Publishing. He has given hundreds of workshops, presentations, and staff development sessions throughout the United States and internationally.
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