The events of the few weeks are a stark reminder of the long history of racism and injustice that Black people in America have faced. So as we celebrate Pride this June, we’re also reminded that, at its core, Pride is rooted in protest against oppression and the unwavering push for social change. Educators have an important role to play in having essential conversations with students around identity, racism, social justice and inclusivity. To help with this important work, we asked LGBTQ+ Teacher-Authors: “How can educators create inclusive classrooms where students can feel supported?” Read what they had to say and get inspired with thoughtful ideas on how to teach about inclusivity, acceptance, and LGBTQ+ history and issues.
Bond With James
High School Science Teacher and Instructional Specialist
Advice for creating an inclusive classroom: “Diligently research the history and current perspectives of LGBTQ+ students and other historically marginalized groups. When you step into that classroom, it is your responsibility — your commitment — to educate and support ALL students no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, or ability.
While it is essential to include stories and personalities of various student groups into your curriculum, you need to go beyond that. Utilize inclusive language in the classroom to facilitate a welcoming environment for all students. For example, referring to your significant other as your “partner” versus your “husband” or “wife” will help normalize the term so that LGBTQ+ identifying students can utilize the terminology without having to worry about outing themselves. Stating and posting phrases and images such as “no place for hate,” the Pride flag, and creating or acknowledging the campus GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) group are methods to help LGBTQ+ students feel safe and welcomed. Quickly address all inappropriate or discriminatory actions because these behaviors can manifest into long-term trauma for the recipient(s).
I’m positive that many of your students, regardless of their background, are willing to help you incorporate these changes into your classroom.
The Brainy Corner
PreK Curriculum Creator
Advice for creating an inclusive classroom: Creating a space where LGBTQ+ students feel safe and seen is important. Teachers can do so by using their pronouns and having open conversations about the pronouns their students identify with, signs throughout their classrooms, representing all types of family makeups and gender identities through literature and curriculum resource choices. It’s also important to pay attention to the language used throughout the classroom. Teachers should refrain from using “boys and girls” or “guys” as attention grabbers. Words matter. Having open discussions about the LGBTQ+ community is not only beneficial for them, but also for your classroom as a whole. Get familiar with the terminology, and get to know ALL of your students. These suggestions just barely scratch the surface, but are a great place to start. It’s time to do the work!
A Teacher’s Plan
K-1st Grade ELL Teacher
Advice for creating an inclusive classroom: “Include voices of those that have been traditionally oppressed. Read books that include characters from the LGBTQ+ community, Black, brown, indigenous, or other communities of color. [Teach from] books that have been written by or illustrated by those communities. Inclusivity means accepting that these kids are in our classrooms right now and we, as educators, must make space for them and their families to be seen and heard.”
8th-9th Grade ELA Teacher
Advice for creating an inclusive classroom: “History belongs to all of us, and we all deserve to see ourselves in what we learn. You can easily make your classroom library and reading materials more inclusive. You can challenge students to find the “missing stories” in their textbooks, such as the amazing tales of women and people of color who fought at the Battle of Gettysburg. When you’re choosing your classroom decor, you can include quotes and portraits from a wide range of role models. Lastly, make sure you’re getting professional development from thought leaders of all backgrounds. Push your district to provide more voices. Otherwise, seek out webinars, books, and Instagram accounts from these leaders.”
Ways to highlight LGBTQ+ history, issues, and individuals in lessons: “I include a range of LGBTQ+ leaders, thinkers, inventors, scientists, performers, and athletes through classroom decor and texts. For example, when we’re studying the Harlem Renaissance, we talk about the tension between the Blues scene and the “high art.” This allows me to share about Ma Rainey — a Blues icon and queer feminist — and gets students to think critically about differing perspectives on Black art during that era. As another example, we can study the poetry and essays of Audre Lorde for rhetorical analysis.”
Advice for creating an inclusive classroom: “Since I teach kindergarten, books are powerful tools to teach my students about diversity. The books give students a starting point for questions and discussions and allow us to have powerful conversations around diversity issues. Books also allow my students to see characters who look like them, which is powerful for my students.”
Ways to highlight LGBTQ+ history, issues, and individuals in lessons: “I’ll share a personal example. When we were in the process of adopting our daughter, I wanted to share the news with my class. So, on Thursday, I read them the story Tango Makes Three. We talked about how the two male penguins wanted a baby so the zookeepers gave them an egg and they raised the baby. My kids thought this was amazing. The next day, during our regular morning meeting, I asked the kids if they remembered the story of the penguins. We talked about the story. Then I told them that I had news to share. I told them that Mr. Greg and Mr. Jason wanted to have a baby and we had someone who was going to give us a baby so we could grow our family. They were so excited and immediately said, ‘Just like the penguins.'”
Advice for creating an inclusive classroom: “As teachers we have the chance to be another adult in students’ lives who clearly know that LGBTQ+ people exist and are fine with it. And not just as a “very special episode” — but rather as things that are said as asides in conversation (“my cousin and his husband just went on a trip to Spain and took pictures of the tesselations at the Alhambra for us!”). [It’s also] using language that signals awareness of other people — such as “your parents” vs. “your Mom and Dad,” “friends” vs. “boys and girls” when addressing the classroom — and not assuming a student is interested in/dating someone of a different gender. It also means having clear signals in the classroom that this is a safe space — either a rainbow or pink triangle or an #IllGoWithYou sticker or posters about people with different backgrounds. When someone who is LGBTQ+ walks into a new space, they consciously (or unconsciously) look for evidence that it is going to be safe to be in that space….And I’ve [also] tried to combat stereotypes and add more diverse characters to my word problems, while trying to keep the flow ‘natural.’ So Cynthia and Anne go out to dinner and have to calculate the tip. Or Martin is having trouble with a cooking math problem while Claudia is working on a motorcycle. A slight side project in this regard is that I’m trying to bring in more Latinx names because I read somewhere that the more we see people doing regular things in the world, the less they seem like strangers. I want my (mostly white) students to see people with other backgrounds who are just living their lives and doing math.”
Just Add Glitter
2nd Grade Teacher
Advice for creating an inclusive classroom: “It’s important to educate students on the history of the LGBTQ+ community, gender norms, and preferred gender pronouns (PGPs). I believe that lack of educating fosters space for prejudice and hate. I have a passion for social studies and facts based information. I think offering students the same facts can really help with conceptualizing the importance of having an inclusive background. I’ve had students who are LGBTQ+ themselves or have parents or other members of their families who are. I don’t want any student to ever feel like they need to shy away from their truth. I try to lead by example, by living my own truth, so my students can hopefully feel comfortable to do so also. If they don’t have that comfort, at the very least, I want them to know my walls are a place where they can find acceptance. My room is full of rainbows and signs that say ALL are welcome here.”
The SuperHERO Teacher
Middle and High School Teacher
Advice for creating an inclusive classroom: “Be open to having challenging discussions with students about inclusivity and the importance of being kind and accepting regardless of gender or sexuality.”
Ways to highlight LGBTQ+ history, issues, and individuals in lessons: “When I’m creating resources for middle and high school ELA, I include examples of LGBTQ+ characters in informational text and reading samples. Representation is so important. The sooner we normalize and acknowledge the fact that every single classroom will have LGBTQ+ students in it, the sooner we can make sure those students have the resources and safety they need to be confidently themselves.”
The Teaching Texan
K-1st Grade Teacher
Ways to highlight LGBTQ+ history, issues, and individuals in lessons: “Just as we would be thoughtful in our planning to include individuals of different ethnicities, varying SES backgrounds, and physical abilities, we MUST be sure that we take time to find individuals that represent LGBTQ+ individuals. One of the easiest, and age-appropriate, ways that I have found to do this with young learners is through picture books. We are blessed that there are more titles than ever before with characters or individuals representing the community LGBTQ+, and we should use those resources to the best of our ability.”
Creator of Queer Kid Stuff
Advice for creating an inclusive classroom: “Using gender-neutral collective nouns for groups of students, including LGBTQ+ history in social studies, and using books with diverse characters, teaching pronouns.”