In 2018, GLSEN’s national school climate study indicated that 59.5% of LGBTQ students “felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation and 44.6% felt unsafe because of their gender expression.”
This means that we need to be doing more to support our LGBTQ+ students.
In response to this data, some state policymakers are starting to mandate new changes. “New Jersey lawmakers earlier this year passed a law requiring schools to offer instruction that accurately represents the ‘political, economic, and social contributions of persons with disabilities and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.’” California, Colorado, Illinois and Maryland have passed similar legislation, and I hope that more states will follow their lead.
It wasn’t until I taught at an Area Learning Center (i.e., alternative high school) that I realized my curriculum was inadvertently causing educational trauma for some of my students. I was not fully supporting educational equity in all the ways I could have been and some of my students felt left out because they couldn’t see themselves in my curriculum.
As educators, we need to consistently reflect on our practices to ensure that we are supporting students in every way possible and that we are not making choices that would inhibit their success. Inadvertent mistreatment of students can stem from biases (explicit and implicit) and our own unresolved issues and can manifest directly in discriminatory and unsupportive actions toward students.
Students Need to See Themselves
All students benefit when they can learn from a variety of experiences and perspectives. My experiences have taught me that students who can see themselves in both their schools and in their curriculum will find more success.
Working with student populations who have been historically oppressed and marginalized has also taught me that when students do not see themselves in their curriculum, they can feel invisible and like they don’t matter. And since “Neuroscientists believe that emotions are fundamental to learning,” I believe we can safely conclude that students who do not feel like they matter will most likely have more difficulty connecting to their “learning brains.”
Every student deserves to feel like they matter and it is up to us to improve our practices in order to help them find success. Making sure that students can see themselves in their curriculum is a critical step toward achieving educational equity. I hope more educators will do this work regardless of whether or not it is mandated by law because our LGBTQ+ students are counting on us.
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