Every student wins when they’re learning in an inclusive classroom that helps them feel safe and supported. That’s especially true for LGBTQIA+ students: Research shows “that LGBTQ students who attend schools with curriculum that is inclusive of LGBTQ people, history, and events experience a better school climate and improved academic outcomes”.
This Pride Month, we’re showcasing some of the amazing projects and strategies that DonorsChoose teachers are using to ensure their classrooms are safe and inclusive.
Thanks to Mr. Sorak and the donors who funded his project, students in his Connecticut classroom can proudly show off their identity at graduation with rainbow and purple graduation cords and stoles.
Students will be excited to have the opportunity to wear these in graduation pictures and at graduation. Representation is incredibly important for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans students and this will help them know that they are seen and accepted. —Mr. Sorak, "GSA Graduation Representation"
The Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) at Ms. Sullivan’s Massachusetts middle school is growing, but many LGBTQIA+ students aren’t ready to share their identity outside of the safety of the GSA. During remote learning, she encouraged her students to create their own hoodie design as a subtle way to share their identity.
[The hoodies] are a great way that kids are able to express themselves and show their LBGTQ+ pride and identity without having to explicitly share it with their families if they are not ready to do so. —Ms. Sullivan, "Help me give my students LGBTQ+ students and allies hoodies that they designed!"
Creativity and community go hand in hand
When you're a student, school feels like your entire world. By bringing in guest speakers from the LGBTQIA+ community, DonorsChoose teachers are showing their students that school is just one part of life’s journey.
Ms. Hinds’ NYC library welcomes queer activists and authors like Adam Eli and comic book artists like Sophie LaBelle, author of the Serious Trans Vibes/Assigned Male Series. In bringing these guests into her classroom, she isn’t just supporting the LGBTQIA+ youth in her school, she’s building an environment of empathy.
At the Sassafras Lowrey [author] event yesterday, I learned that I should be open-minded and understanding of situations that I could not imagine myself going through. I can comprehend that running away from home at such a young age can be difficult, but doing so while figuring out your identity is even harder. —Ms. Jess Hinds, "Guest Speaker on Homeless LGBTQ Youth and Social Justice Books!"
Students in Ms. Money’s Florida GSA got to commission and work alongside a professional artist group to create a pop-up mural experience that represented them. Once the mural was complete, they invited important members of the LGBTQIA+ community in Miami and organizations who have supported their club to an unveiling.
It's a great way to have fun but also allow the GSA to participate and share with their school and local arts and LGBTQ+ community. —Ms. Money, "Help My GSA Engage the Community With This Interactive Mural"
Learning from history, not simply repeating it
The history of the LGBTQIA+ community has a lot to teach us. From representation in the media to the struggle for civil rights, studying pioneers who have changed the course of history can be empowering.
Mr. Fox created a professional development project, ordering copies of “Safe is Not Enough: Better Schools for LGBTQ Students” by Michael Sadowski to challenge his teacher colleagues to take action.
The intent and focus of this book is to push schools to go beyond simply creating "safe spaces" for LGBT students and to work on creating schools that inform all students of the valuable roles and experiences of Queer individuals throughout history. —Mr. Fox, "Better Schools for LGBTQ Students"
Students come to Ms. A’s gender studies class to learn more about identities that have been erased from the curriculum and in doing so, change the climate of the school. In her project for books exploring gender and LGBTQIA+ identity, history, and issues, she was particularly excited about history books.
I am asking for more books that explore LGBTQA history like 'A Queer History of the United States' to challenge the invisibility of these his/her/they-stories in mainstream Social Studies rooms. —Ms. A, "Gender Studies saved me..."
Celebrating multifaceted identities
When DonorsChoose teachers talk about their students, they talk about the whole person. Sexual orientation and gender identity don’t exist in a vacuum and students can tell when aspects of their identity aren’t being celebrated.
Ms. Jones from New York listens to her students’ ideas and book recommendations to make sure the joy they experience and their cultural backgrounds are also reflected in the stories they encounter in the classroom.
Our goal this year is to stock up on as many books as possible that reflect our beloved community of LGBTQ students of color... [And] after reading so many stories and seeing so many films about tragic LGBTQ characters, students realized that there is not enough recognition out there of the joy they experience in their day to day lives. —Ms. Jones, "Reading, Writing, and Rainbow Flags"
Mr Macintosh’s classroom is a place where they can celebrate their LGBTQIA+ identities as well as the talents, passions and teamwork that makes them so special as individuals.
"She Kills Monsters" is a celebration of strong young women and hilarious young men, of sisterhood, geek culture, LGBTQ identity, the power of the imagination, and the way outsiders can come together to create a community that celebrates their unique identities and gifts. I can't imagine a more perfect production to represent the community here at Repertory. —Mr. Macintosh, "She Kills Monsters - Sisterhood in Dungeons & Dragons"
How are you building inclusive spaces for your students to learn? For more great ideas or to support a teacher, here are some inspiring classroom projects curated by our LGBTQIA+ staff and allies.
¹Advocate for Inclusive & Affirming Curriculum (Glsen.org/inclusive-curriculum)