By Kate Okeson and Amy Moran, Ph. D.
This year, we challenge YOU to make queer history in ways you haven’t before! Consider adding some of these affirmations of LGBTQIA+ culture to your educational practices:
- Signal that you’re open to others’ authentic gender expression by adding your personal gender pronouns (PGPs) to your work e-signature. When writing your name on a whiteboard, add your pronouns to help normalize it for everyone.
- Put away “boys and girls” and “guys” when addressing students, and opt for something gender inclusive like “scholars,” “scientists,” “authors,” or “wonderful people.”
- People at home may be of any gender identity. When generalizing, put away “mom and dad,” and try “your grown-ups,” “your adult family members,” or simply “your folks.”
- Who is the Gender & Sexuality Alliance adviser at your school or in your district? Connect with them to see how you can support their work and how they and the GSA participants can help you guide your practices in ways that are even more LGBTQIA+ inclusive than last year.
- Remember: students can use the bathrooms and locker rooms and play on sports teams that align with their gender identity.
- Set a goal: If you included LGBTQIA+ themed literature, word problems, project options, or historic figures once per marking period last year, try doubling it this year.
Co-creating for change
Build sustainable changes through inclusive practices in partnership with colleagues. Many schools utilize professional learning communities (PLCs) to increase dialogue around educational programming, especially around deploying new lessons and materials.
Build your own team by working with a colleague or two who are willing to partner in the work. Two educators talking about a new lesson and sharing resources leads to conversations that transform your own thinking and practice even before you get to the lesson with students. For example: Lead a lesson that combines reporting (ELA, journalism) on recent science or medical discoveries (sciences) and evaluate who is being represented or underrepresented.
Who has your back?
Resources that back up the LGBTQIA+ affirming work you are doing can smooth over rough moments when working on inclusive lessons and providing wider representative experiences for students. You have New Jersey’s long history and commitment to equity in schools. Our curriculum mandates are law, are some of the most comprehensive nationally and are reflected in our state’s Student Learning Standards.
Decades of research back the outcomes-based approaches for LGBTQIA+ inclusion in school resources and curricula. Positive LGBTQIA+ visibility, through books in classroom and school libraries, lessons and materials that specifically name queer and transgender writers, characters, contributors, and topics create environments where students are seen—positively—and that impacts school belonging, attendance, discipline and GPA.
Intentional, diverse representation in school materials is in line with New Jersey’s Social Emotional Learning (SEL) competencies. Research also backs these foci as improving understanding, acceptance and respect in the classroom.
Know your rights. If you feel that something is not right, that you are being harassed or that negative attention is being paid to you, your students, or your work, reach out to your local association rep or local association president to seek support.
Further, know how the law protects people in places of public accommodation (public schools are places of public accommodation) by reviewing the fact sheets we have shared from the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights.
YES, you can do this! There are educators all over NJ ready to support you with guidance and ideas. Ask us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let’s enter the 2023-24 school year centering equity and justice. Remember to start with yourself.