June is LGBTQ pride month, and though school is no longer in session for most of you, now is the time to think critically about how you treat LGBTQ students in your classroom.
Over the course of your career you are going to encounter students on the LGBTQ spectrum. Regardless of your personal feelings about sexual orientation, as a teacher it is your job to provide a safe space in your classroom where all your students feel accepted so they can focus on their education.
LGBTQ students are 140% more likely to skip school due to safety concerns and they are twice as likely to say they’ve been physically assaulted. If your students don’t feel safe they’re going to have a difficult time focusing in your classroom.
Luckily there’s a lot you can do to create an inclusive classroom for these students.
Even if you think you’re already educated about the LGBTQ community you should still spend some time reading websites and blogs so you can be sure you have the most up-to-date information. For example, the language being used within the community is always involving, so you should strive to learn the terminology and use it correctly with your students.
Understand Your Own Biases
It is crucial that you take a step back and acknowledge what biases you may have about the LGBTQ community. Many of us have unconscious biases that impact the way we think about and treat other people. The Implicit Bias Test can be a good first step to recognizing all of your unconscious biases. Think about the messages you’ve heard about LGBTQ people and question if they are accurate. Remember that people who are not heterosexual are just people with hobbies and dreams, not an “other”.
Show Your Support Visibly
Showing your students that you are an ally is a simple way to make your students more comfortable. You can do this in a number of ways. Displaying a Safe Space sticker or poster is easy and inexpensive. You should also make it a point to use visuals that display diversity in your classroom. While this may not overtly show support for the LGBTQ community, it sets a good example for how you view diversity.
It’s no secret that LGBTQ students face bullying in their schools. Most bullying incidents happen in school hallways, the cafeteria, and disturbingly, in the classroom itself. You must take action when you witness anti-LGBTQ statements and bullying in your classroom. Always address why the specific bullying action needs to stop. It can be as simple as “we do not discriminate in this classroom”. Taking no action at all, or ignoring the specific comments bullies are making shows a lack of support and enables the behavior to continue.
Be Supportive and Respect Privacy
When you position yourself as an ally, students may come to you for advice. If a student comes out to you be supportive. Don’t assume anything; simply listen to what the student has to say. You must also keep sexual orientation and gender identity private. Do not share this information with others if the student has not granted you permission to.
Support The GSA
A GSA – a Genders & Sexuality Alliance, is a club that is run by students to provide students with a safe space to discuss LGBTQ issues. These clubs may also work to combat homophobia in the school and the community. If your school doesn’t offer a GSA, you can encourage students to create one. Maybe you act as the faculty advisor for the GSA, or maybe you simply make sure students are aware that it exists.
Include LGBTQ Voices In Your Lessons
It is important for LGBTQ individuals to see people like themselves reflected in your lessons. This may mean including LGBTQ history in your curriculum, reading novels with LGBTQ perspectives, or simply using the voices of LGBTQ individuals to add content to your lessons.