In order to address the ways in which our education system is intrinsically homophonic, transphobic, biphobic and oppressive towards queer and trans people, we must first vocally acknowledge the issues within the system that cause it to be this way. Only then can we begin to make a conscious effort towards changing the ways in which we teach in order to make them more inclusive and representative of all individuals. In Deepening the Discussion: Gender and Sexual Diversity, the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education provides a detailed explanation of many important terms and concepts related to gender and sexual diversity and proposes a number of steps schools and teachers can take to help create a learning environment that is more supportive of gender or sexually diverse students.
The Ministry of Education provides a wide range of ideas to help educators and school systems teach in a way that is more inclusive of gender and sexually diverse students. Seemingly small and simple things, such as using the pronouns they and their instead of he and she, can make a big difference (page 3). They also provide school-wide suggestions, such as encouraging students in forming a gay-straight alliance (GSA) to “support school environments that are safe for, inclusive of, and responsive to gender and sexually diverse people” (page 70). In addition, schools should ensure they have policies in place to properly accommodate transgender students, so they are able to access washrooms, change in locker rooms, and participate in school sports without any kind of embarrassment or discrimination (page 28). It is also important to remember that representation matters. Using resources in the classroom that include genderqueer, sexually diverse, and transgender characters or role models will help gender and sexually diverse students feel accepted and safe in their classroom (page 23).
I think integrating queerness into curriculum and classroom practices is a very important part of supporting your students. To me, integrating queerness means that you are striving to be the best teacher you can be. It means that you refuse to blindly accept the norms our society has surrounding teaching and curriculum. Instead, you are making a conscious effort to teach in a way that is effective and inclusive for all of your students, regardless of whether it is viewed as normal or taboo. I hope to integrate queerness in my classroom by providing students with choices. I want to have flexible seating options and allow my students to choose where they sit each day. I will listen to my students and provide them choices in how and when they are evaluated on their learning. I will also integrate queerness by sharing my pronouns with my students to help them know my classroom is a safe space. I also think that small things, such as showing a funny or interesting daily video that happens to include gender, sexually, and racially diverse people would be a great way to include queerness in my classroom in a way that is enjoyable for everyone.
As mentioned in Queering Classrooms, Curricula, and Care: Stories From Those Who Dare, teachers have a responsibility to care for and support every single one of their students. The article states that “[c]are is considered both a value and obligation of what it means to be a teacher” (page 175). I believe educators should provide their duty of care for all students by encouraging inclusivity and actively dismantling any kind of oppressive behavior. This also means that teachers have a duty to include topics pertaining to sexual and gender minority groups in their classroom materials and discussions, at an age appropriate level of course. In order to succeed in providing their duty of care, teachers must celebrate each of their students. Maintaining a classroom free from any notion of sexuality does not make sexually and gender diverse students feel supported, and it will probably actually make them feel invisible. This is why it is so vital that teachers focus on caring for all their students with an equal amount of support and representation in the classroom.