We spoke to two teachers about how they teach and support LGBTQIA+ inclusivity in their classrooms.
Check it out!
Special Education Teacher at Young Scholars of Greater Allegheny in Pennsylvania.
I am very excited to have the opportunity to share this space with you! My name is Kathy Hoehl and I am a Special Educator living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with my wife, a Speech-Language Pathologist, and our dog. My pronouns are she/her and I am a proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community. When I received the invitation to write this post, I knew that I wanted to touch on the importance of incorporating diversity and inclusion into our teaching practices.
As a relatively new teacher, I have been navigating this process within my own experiences and would love to hear any thoughts or suggestions that you may have as well.
In my opinion, one of the best ways you can start incorporating diversity and inclusion into your classroom or school community is through literature. There are so many wonderful books out there, some examples for little ones are Heather Has Two Mommies and Sparkle Boy, which you can use to connect with your students. Even just having these books as an option for students to pick up is giving them immense agency to expand their worldview. As we know, print-rich environments are key to student growth in many facets and it can extend far beyond the books selected in your classroom. Other suggestions could be hanging posters or affirmations, sending the message to students that all of them are welcome in your room, like a safe space sticker.
I also want to mention that communication with your students is key. Let them know that they can always talk to you and that your room is a welcoming place for all. You will be amazed at how meaningful that statement is for students, especially in the LGBTQIA+ community.
Having conversations about LGBTQIA+ inclusion, especially when you add in individuals who may not be tolerant, is extremely difficult, yet extraordinarily important. By establishing a culture of respect for all and representation within your school community, it will ripple to others so be the advocate for your students. This could look like reaching out to administration if you notice a lack of representation or a need for staff training about the topic. Conduct your research; what laws and protections are in place around the school or environment you work in? How are LGBTQIA+ staff members treated? Are your students able to be safe? How can you be a better advocate and/or ally for your colleagues and pupils?
Thank you for reading and I hope you have a safe and healthy school year!
Formally trained art teacher currently working with students aged 12-13 in a homeroom setting.
When I ask my students about diversity and why it matters, they will often come back with “our class would be boring without it” and that could not be more true.
I’ve worked with students at all different stages of their journey of understanding who they are, and how they relate to those around them. As I think about all of the rainbow youths I have worked with, one of the most consistent things that pop into mind is the ability to listen and let it come from them. As an educator, I found that I need to be flexible and understanding. I have students regularly trying out a variety of pronouns and names. I’ve never questioned what they’ve asked me to call them. I go with the flow – believe me, sometimes it is hard to remember which to use, but my students have mostly just appreciated that I’m trying and that I’m willing to change to make them feel welcomed.
In my classroom, I try to allow all students to feel comfortable and welcomed; I try to think of my classroom as an academic living room where students can be themselves and have trust in me. Having access to books and resources that are written and show LGBTQIA+ topics is essential to me because showing diversity matters in education.
Building trust is a slow process with students. I’ve found that they’ll respond the best when I open up to them. Some of the easiest and most effective ways I’ve done this is sharing my pronouns at the beginning of the year; discussing that I get to choose how I look, some days I like to look very feminine and some days I don’t; having small yet meaningful symbols of Pride, a small flag cozily placed in my display area; answering the questions that they ask during health as honestly and as best that I can, and having more in-depth discussions with those who are ready to talk about gender and sexuality.
Incorporating inclusive behaviors into your classroom doesn’t have to be over-complicated, start small and the rest will follow!
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