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Making a Safe Space for LGBTQ Texts into Your Classroom

507685599a“How schools consider and respond to learners with diverse backgrounds, languages, abilities, and experiences—are nothing new for language arts teachers.”

For the January 2013 issue of Language Arts, Jill Hermann-Wilmarth and Caitlin L. Ryan recorded an interview about the importance of including LGBT texts in the elementary classroom. The entire interview is available as a podcast and that interview was later excerpted in the print issue of the journal where Jill and Caitlin provided the following list of supports for teachers who want to make a safe space in their classrooms for LGBT texts and conversations about them appeared (I’ve updated this list):

SUPPORT FOR TEACHERS INCORPORATING LGBT-INCLUSIVE BOOKS AND ISSUES
It is one thing to say that teachers should be reading books with LGBT characters or themes with their students, but it can be quite another to actually do it, especially in contexts that might not feel supportive. To assist teachers who are stepping into unfamiliar waters, we recommend:

Knowing your school/district/state policies regarding censorship, bullying, and discrimination.
• If those policies are LGBT-inclusive, they could give you additional, concrete support for why you are addressing these topics in your classroom.
• If the policies are not LGBT-inclusive, think about how the teaching you want to do supports the policies as they are stated, even if in a more general way. Knowing the policies can also help you know what kinds of choices might not be safe or appropriate for you at the present time.
• Don’t forget that making these policies more inclusive in your school or district could be an advocacy starting point for you, colleagues, administrators, and families to work on!

Connecting with NCTE and other organizations whose resources you can draw on for support.
• NCTE’s positions on censorship and Intellectual Freedom Center
• NCTE Position Statements: Resolution on Strengthening Teacher Knowledge of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Issues and Diverse Gender Expression and Gender Non-Conformity Curriculum in English Grades 7-12
ACLU resources regarding regarding creating safe public schools for LGBT youth banned books and anticensorship work
GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network)

Staying up-to-date with LGBT-inclusive resources to choose ones that work best for your classroom.
•  Welcoming Schools
Stonewall Book Awards
LGBT Book Reviews for Children & Young Adult
Safe Schools Coalition

Jill quotes a teacher from her school,

“I used to think it was only about the books, but now I know that it’s about the questions.”