When Students Return: Supporting and Inspiring Students Who Are LGBTQ+

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.

When Students Return: Supporting and Inspiring Students Who Are LGBTQ+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:

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.

Free Spirit books by Richard Cash:

Self-regulation Advancing Differentiation Revised and Updated Edition

Differentiation For Gifted Learners


We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.


FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2021 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved. The views expressed in this post represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily Free Spirit Publishing.

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Win Books That Promote Acceptance and Inclusivity!

Win books that promote acceptance and inclusivityIn honor of Pride Month we are giving away eight books that promote acceptance and inclusivity. One lucky reader will win:

To Enter: Leave a comment below describing how you promote acceptance and inclusivity among kids.

For additional entries, leave a separate comment below for each of the following tasks you complete:

Each comment counts as a separate entry. Entries must be received by midnight, June 18, 2021.

The winner will be contacted via email on or around June 21, 2021, and will need to respond within 72 hours to claim the prize or another winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way affiliated with, administered, or endorsed by Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Winners must be US residents, 18 years of age or older.


FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2021 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved. The views expressed in this post represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily Free Spirit Publishing.

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How to Break the Habit of Using Gendered Terms in Your Classroom (and What to Use Instead)

By Lydia Bowers, author of We Listen to Our Bodies

How to Break the Habit of Using Gendered Terms in Your Classroom (and What to Use Instead)“Ok, line up . . . boys in one line, girls in the other!” How many times have we heard statements like that in a classroom? Yet we live in a beautiful, colorful, diverse world and we get the chance to embrace more than just two options.

When we use gendered terms, we’re often boxing children (and ourselves!) in. We may add to stereotypes about gender, and invalidate many people’s personal experiences. As the adults, we are sending children messages about gender, about who is accepted and who is not. We may not realize we have gender expansive children in our classrooms, and although we (and our activities and environments) do not determine a child’s gender, we do influence children’s emotional health and well-being.

More than two genders exist in the world! So instead of “boys and girls,” “ladies and gentlemen,” or other similar terms, try addressing children in non-gendered ways. You can use terminology based on the activity happening: “Attention, scientists!” “Ok, readers,” “Alright hikers, let’s head out!” You can also use general and inclusive terms like children, people, folks, friends, and everyone.

Another way to move away from gendered language is by getting creative in the ways you divide up a group of children. Instead of “boys and girls,” line up by even or odd birthdays or by shirt or shoe colors. Come up with groups ahead of time and name them: Tigers here, Lions there! Or ask a question such as, “Do you prefer cats or dogs?” and group according to their answer.

Consider also the expectations we put on or associate with gender. Boys are more likely to receive compliments about how tough, strong, or cool they are. Girls tend to get more praise for being pretty, kind, or sweet. Every child has times when they are kind! Every child has moments when they are strong. So instead of asking for a “strong boy” to help you move chairs, ask for some friends with strong muscles to help.

Sometimes being inclusive with our language means pushing back on stereotypes already learned by children. How do we talk about community workers? Firefighters, mail carriers, construction workers, and so on all can be different genders, and you can model this in your classroom. When you hear, “pink is for girls!” ask some questions: “Why do you say that? What makes pink a girl color to you? I think pink is for everyone!” Same goes for toys, hairstyles, clothing, and dramatic play roles. Any child can enjoy sparkly shoes that make a fun “tap-tap-tap” noise on the ground.

By changing how we use language in the classroom, we communicate a sense of safety and inclusion to all children and families. We have the chance to let children be free to be who they are, and to show them how big and varied our world is. So, friends, what’s your favorite new term to use?

Check out genderjusticeinearlychildhood.com for great resources on supporting gender development in young children and their tips on changing how we talk about gender in classrooms.

Gender Spectrum also has resources on making our language more inclusive of all genders.

In addition to language, Afsaneh Moradian offers ideas on creating a gender-inclusive environment.

Lydia BowersLydia Bowers is a speaker, consultant, and trainer who happily exists in the Venn diagram overlap between early childhood and sex education. After spending almost two decades working directly with children as a classroom teacher and a parent, she is passionate about reframing sexuality conversations. Lydia now teaches families and educators how to talk to children about subjects like gender, reproduction, and abuse. When she’s not traveling around the country for conferences and speaking engagements, she lives in Cincinnati with her husband and two children and adds to her growing collection of children’s book character tattoos as often as she can. Follow her on TikTok @lydiatalksconsent and Instagram @lydiambowers.

We Listen to Our Bodies book coverLydia is the author of We Listen to Our Bodies.


We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.


FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2021 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved. The views expressed in this post represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily Free Spirit Publishing.

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How Parents Can Challenge Their Gender Stereotypes

By Afsaneh Moradian, author of Jamie and Bubbie: A Book About People’s Pronouns

How Parents Can Challenge Their Gender StereotypesIt’s surprising to realize how much gender is a part of parenting, even before we welcome our little ones into our lives. From gender reveal parties to gendered baby showers to pink or blue balloons in the birthing room, ideas and decisions based on gender are present. What clothes the baby wears, do they wear a baseball cap or a headband to clarify their gender to strangers, what toys they see and touch, what images are on the way, what figures are on the mobile—all of these decisions tend to be influenced by gender stereotypes and what each gender is supposed to have and wear.

We define gender in so many ways for our children before they are able to talk and share with us who they are. Without meaning to, we’re teaching our young children that their gender is a defining trait.

In some cases, we let gender stereotypes guide how we expect children to think and act. For example, many adults expect girls to sit quietly and boys to be restless.

This reaches a whole new level once kids start playing. For example, we expect girls to play princess and house while boys play superheroes. Of course, girls and boys have more options for play and can choose to play anything they like. While, as parents, we encourage and facilitate that, we still have to push gender stereotypes out of minds that creep up in the form of concern or worry. Do we get concerned if a girl shows no interest in dolls or if a boy does? While we encourage young girls to be athletic, do we worry when boys don’t want to be? Does a girl have to wear a dress? Is it a problem if a boy wants to wear one?

What if we didn’t emphasize gender so much from the beginning and what if we just let children develop without any connection to gender? What if we focused on who are children are as people, rather than holding them up to other girls or boys their age?

Finding out who your child is as a person is far more important than whether or not they fit an idea of what it means to be their gender. There are many ways to do this, but here are a few:

  • Give your child a choice of two outfits to find out what they want to wear. Remember, girls don’t have to wear dresses and boys might like to.
  • Pay attention to which toys your child likes to play with at home, child care or preschool, and at other people’s homes so you know how better to set up your child’s play area.
  • Giving your child room to make choices in as many areas of their life as possible is empowering and makes children feel confident in themselves.
  • Ask lots of questions to find out more about how your child thinks and what their preferences are.

Creating a gender-neutral environment in your home where colors, clothes, book, and toys are for everyone plays an important role in the child developing with any constraints or expectations rooted in gender stereotypes. Here are more ideas for creating a gender-neutral play area.

Becoming aware of the gender stereotypes we’ve internalized is key to creating space for our children to be themselves without feeling they are disappointing or upsetting us. This is especially true for children who, in fact, are not the gender listed on their birth certificate. Gender is commonly thought of as a spectrum and, as children grow, many will realize that they are transgender, nonbinary, or a different gender identity.

As parents, we’ve got to let go of the gender stereotypes we were taught so that our children feel loved and celebrated for who they are. We still have a lot of work to do to create inclusive spaces in our society, but we can make our homes places where our children feel accepted 100%.

Afsaneh MoradianAfsaneh Moradian has loved writing stories, poetry, and plays since childhood. After receiving her master’s in education, she took her love of writing into the classroom where she began teaching children how to channel their creativity. Her passion for teaching has lasted for over fifteen years. Afsaneh now guides students and teachers (and her young daughter) in the art of writing. She lives in New York City.

Free Spirit books by Afsaneh Moradian:
Jamie Is JamieJamie and Bubbie book cover


We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.


FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2021 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved. The views expressed in this post represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily Free Spirit Publishing.

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How Respecting Personal Pronouns Is Part of Respecting Boundaries

By Lydia Bowers, author of We Listen to Our Bodies

I have one of those names that gets mixed up frequently. Leah and Linda are frequently *misused* names for Lydia. And when someone gets my name wrong accidentally, or because they genuinely misheard it, I tend to brush off the mistake. When it happens repeatedly, though, I’m likely to say, “Excuse me, my name is Lydia.” Names are important to us, as people, and they are an important part of our identities. I want to be referred to correctly, and I’m sure you do, as well.

How Respecting Personal Pronouns Is Part of Respecting Boundaries

What About Pronouns?

Grammatically, a pronoun takes the place of a noun. Pronouns are placeholders for our names and deserve the same respect. Just as I want people to respect my name, I expect them to respect my pronouns. It is rude to intentionally call someone by a name that’s not theirs, and the same goes for their pronouns. My name and my pronouns are part of my identity. When we don’t respect someone’s pronouns, we send the message that “I don’t care who you are; I only consider you on my terms.” Pronouns don’t have to reflect what the doctor said when someone was born; they are part of how a person expresses themself to the world.

Talk with children:

Create opportunities to talk about which pronouns feel right to us during read-aloud stories. For example, in We Listen to Our Bodies, the classroom teacher asks the children to find an object they like. Deja picks up a smooth stone that makes her feel calm and happy when she holds it. Harrison likes the “tap-tap-tap” of dress-up shoes. He says they make his feet “feel happy.” But Deja says the dress-up shoes make her feet say, “No way.” Talk about how, just like the stone feels right to Deja and the shoes feel right to Harrison, our pronouns should feel right to us. Ask, “Do the pronouns that replace your name feel right to you?”

What About Personal Boundaries?

Personal boundaries are the limits and rules we set for our interactions with others. Many of us would feel that our boundaries had been violated if someone intentionally used the wrong name for us. Our pronouns, as a part of who we are, are also a personal boundary. When we respect and use someone’s pronouns, we send the message that we respect that boundary. It shows that “I acknowledge that who you are as a person is not about how I see you, but about who you know you are.”

Talk with children:

Talk with children about personal boundaries. Share that our boundaries are about how we like other people to interact with us—from our physical boundaries to how people talk to us to what we like to be called. Ask, “What does your body tell you about your boundaries? Do you like hugs? Is there a nickname that fits you? What about your pronouns?” Tell children, “Other people have boundaries as well, and it’s important that we respect their boundaries, just like we want them to respect ours.”

In Jamie and Bubbie by Afsaneh Moradian, Jamie’s mother reminds us that “sometimes people change their names or pronouns or both. So make sure you call someone by the name and pronouns they want to be called.”

For more ideas on how to talk with children about personal pronouns, check out these articles from Free Spirit author Afsaneh Moradian (Jamie Is Jamie and Jamie and Bubbie) on how misusing pronouns can be harmful and tips on asking for someone’s pronouns.

Lydia BowersLydia Bowers is a speaker, consultant, and trainer who happily exists in the Venn diagram overlap between early childhood and sex education. After spending almost two decades working directly with children as a classroom teacher and a parent, she is passionate about reframing sexuality conversations. Lydia now teaches families and educators how to talk to children about subjects like gender, reproduction, and abuse. When she’s not traveling around the country for conferences and speaking engagements, she lives in Cincinnati with her husband and two children and adds to her growing collection of children’s book character tattoos as often as she can. Follow her on TikTok @lydiatalksconsent and Instagram @lydiambowers.

We Listen to Our Bodies book coverLydia is the author of We Listen to Our Bodies.


We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.


FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2021 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved. The views expressed in this post represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily Free Spirit Publishing.

Posted in Parenting, Teaching | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment