Representation Matters: The Necessity of LGBTQ+ Content in Schools

GLSEN’s 2019 National School Climate Survey (N=16,636)the most recent for which results are available—provides an alarming overview of the state of LGBTQ+ inclusive education. According to GLSEN, only 16.2% of participants reported engaging with positive representations of LGBTQ+ content, and fewer than 20% stated that LGBTQ+ topics appeared in their textbooks and curricular resources.

Furthermore, GLSEN’s survey results demonstrate a connection between the absence of LGBTQ+ content and the use of harmful language and negative comments (GLSEN, 2020). This report, then, underscores that LGBTQ+ inclusive curricula is insufficient in its current state. We have made sure to integrate LGBTQ+ issues into our classrooms as humanities teachers (Stacie in social studies and Christine in ELA).

Social studies offer multiple entry points to integrate LGBTQ+ history. Among topics that regularly appear in U.S. and world history courses, LGBTQ+ figures and themes are vital to students’ understanding of the Harlem Renaissance, the civil rights era, the Holocaust, and ancient civilizations; omitting LGBTQ+ history in these and other eras conveys incomplete accounts of key historical events. Moreover, teachers who include LGBTQ+ history introduce students to new primary and secondary sources, promote analyzing and synthesizing information, and ask students to apply what they learn in innovative ways. Inclusive social studies classes, therefore, prepare students to engage with issues important to the LGBTQ+ community today.

Discussions of late twentieth century U.S. history, for example, are more resonant when they include the LGBTQ+ community. Stacie experienced this when she taught a unit on the AIDS crisis and ACT UP with high school seniors, many of whom knew little about AIDS and the response to it in the 1980s. Using news reports, activists’ artwork, and videos of protests demanding recognition, students made profound connections between homophobia and inaction in the face of AIDS, the ways in which marginalized groups advocate for themselves, and the impact of conservatism on groups that don’t conform to societal norms.

Our ELA classrooms must be safe spaces for us and our students to bring our most authentic selves. Christine is out and open with all of her students, partly because her own coming out journey was significantly delayed growing up in Texas (a “no promo homo” state, with laws prohibiting the positive portrayal of homosexuality in schools). Rudine Sims Bishop (1990) urges those of us who teach literature to choose our texts carefully, ensuring that they are a mix of “mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors” (p. ix) that reflect our students’ identities, allow them to look out into other worlds, and spur them to important civic action.

The truth is that just about any text can be read through a queer lens (Christine has led high schoolers through queer readings of Homer’s Odyssey and Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, among others), but it is important to introduce and discuss actively queer texts too (such as Walker’s The Color Purple). ELA teachers must be wary of heteronormativity in our curriculum, but also of bisexual and trans erasure; our reading lists should allow students to see characters who don’t necessarily fit in clean boxes.

Teachers seeking to make their content LGBTQ+ inclusive face myriad challenges. Though some — like time management and testing–are typical to educational settings, others — like pushback from parents, administrators, and community members — are more specifically targeted. “Don’t Say Gay” laws and policies banning “divisive concepts” impose further restrictions, creating an atmosphere of fear.

Despite these challenges, it is so important for teachers to do this work anyway. LGBTQ+ inclusive curricula has the power to open students’ eyes to possibilities that they didn’t previously know existed, start students on a path towards questioning what they thought they knew, normalize LGBTQ+ themes and current issues, provide support that LGBTQ+ students might not have at home, and help students identify with different people and experiences.

AACTE’s LGBTQ+ Advocacy and Inclusion in Teacher Education Topical Action Group can serve as a resource for teachers and teacher educators who are concerned about integrating LGBTQ+ issues in their classrooms and/or in search of more resources, curricula, or support. Please reach out to co-chairs William Coghill-Behrends (william-behrends@uiowa.edu) and Christine Gentry (cgentry@nyu.edu) for more information.

Christine Gentry is a clinical assistant professor and residency director in the NYU Teacher Residency, where she leads the data, assessment, and continuous improvement efforts of the program. Before her work in teacher preparation, Gentry taught English, creative writing, and oral storytelling in the public schools of Boston and NYC for 13 years.

 

 

Stacie Brensilver Berman is a visiting assistant professor in NYU’s social studies education program and a residency director and content mentor in the NYU Teacher Residency. She is the author of LGBTQ+ History in High School Classes in the United States since 1990. Berman began her career as a NYC public school teacher.

 

 

References

Bishop, R. S. (1990). Mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors. Perspectives: Choosing and Using Books for the Classroom, 6(3), ix-xi.

GLSEN. (2020). The 2019 National School Climate Survey The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth in Our Nation’s Schools. New York: Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network.

Attend the National Conference on Co-Teaching on Us

AACTE Co-Teaching in Clinical Practice Topical Action Group (TAG) are pleased to announce a new Engagement Award for dynamic co-teachers interested in attending the National Conference on Co-Teaching held in person and virtually October 13-14, 2022. Selected co-teachers/administrators commit to facilitating a Co-Teaching TAG Coffee Conversation in the fall and to attend the fall conference in person or virtually.

Awardees will be granted registration and a stipend for the hotel. Flights are the responsibility of the awardee. Virtual TAG conversations are intended to connect members across the country while advancing co-teaching practices along the education continuum.

Celebrating 50 Years of Title IX

Today marks the 50th anniversary of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 being signed into law. Title IX prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or any other education program that receives funding from the federal government. Specifically, it states: 

No person in the United States shall, based on sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” 

Dept. of Education Sends Aid to Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District

This weekly Washington Update is intended to keep members informed on Capitol Hill activities impacting the educator preparation community. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE.

This week, the House Appropriations Committee has been busy marking up the first 6 of 12 government funding bills for FY2023. The process is expected to be almost, if not completely, partisan. In the upper chamber, the Senate Appropriations has not reached an agreement on how much to spend on defending and non-defense discretionary funding, ultimately delaying forward movement. 

$1.4M Grant for New JMU Upward Bound Program Aims to Help Underrepresented Students Prepare for College

JMU College of Education program will empower first-generation college and at-risk local students to unlock potential

James Madison University’s College of Education will receive $1.4 million over the next five years to help eligible high school students in the Shenandoah Valley overcome social, emotional, and academic barriers to achieve success in education beyond high school.

JMU will receive a total of $1,437,685 to create a JMU Upward Bound Program. The funds will support two programs, one at Harrisonburg High School in Harrisonburg City Public Schools and one at Spotswood High School in Rockingham County Public Schools, supporting a total of approximately 30-35 high school students at each school. 

LGBTQ+ Research in Teacher Education

Pride flags and gag orders, a Queer as Folk reboot and white supremacists at Pride celebrations, My Two Moms and Me and “Don’t Say Gay”: this whiplash of dissonance is the backdrop against which we as LGBTQ+ teacher educators navigate as scholars in 2022. I was asked to write a post on LGBTQ+ research in teacher education — an exceptionally tall order. One post can hardly encapsulate the complexities, tensions, and exceptionality of current work in the field. Research specific to LGBTQ+ topics in teacher education might be broadly organized into a few categories: the lived experiences of Queer1 persons in teacher education, LGBTQ+ issues in curriculum and instruction within teacher preparation, and policies and practices directly impacting LGBTQ+ persons and issues within the realm of P-12 schools. 

Reflecting on an “Inspirational” Washington Week

AACTE’s 2022 Washington Week was by far the most productive, inspirational, and collaborative Washington Week than those I previously attended. The culmination of Holmes Scholars, State Leaders Institute (SLI), and Day on the Hill allowed scholars, deans, faculty, and state affiliate leaders to discuss and gather new perspectives on the three strands:

  • Censorship
  • Educator shortage
  • Educator diversity

A sense of unity and gaiety could be felt as state teams worked together to plan their discussion about legislation priorities and strand topics during congressional visits with senators and congressmen/women.

Civics Secures Democracy Act Reintroduced in the Senate

 

A bipartisan group of senators has reintroduced the Civics Secures Democracy Act of 2021, which would authorize a historic investment to support K–12 civic education and American history.

Over the last several decades, civics education in American schools has seen a significant decline. Given the divisiveness in our politics and the lack of knowledge and understanding of democratic principles, norms, and institutions, a robust investment in civics education is needed.

Future Teachers Begin New Arizona Teach Residency

The Arizona Teacher Residency has accepted its first cohort of 30 future teachers, as well as the 30 supervising teachers who will be working with those teacher residents this next school year.

The Arizona Teacher Residency is a first-of-its-kind graduate program in Arizona modeled after medical residencies to help recruit, prepare, support and retain K-12 teachers, especially those with identities that have been underrepresented in the teaching population. The two-year program provides aspiring teachers with in-classroom experience, a living stipend, a master’s degree and a job at a partnering school district. Residents will receive mentoring and induction from a trained instructional mentor through the Arizona K12 Center in their second year with the support continuing into the third year.

Interactive STEM Camp at MSU offers Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder Chance to Learn Physics, Consider College Options

(Photo by Grace Cockrell)

A group of young people with Autism Spectrum Disorder who are interested in science, technology and related fields are getting a new chance to learn about physics and other topics as part of an innovative camp at Mississippi State, which may be the country’s first of its kind.

MSU Assistant Professor of Physics Ben Crider is using a prestigious $600,000 National Science Foundation 2019 Career Grant to advance his nuclear physics research, which includes a highly interactive summer experience for students with autism that was delayed due to COVID-19.

Governor Lamont and Education Commissioner Russel-Tucker Announce Investments to Support Aspiring Educators

$2 Million Will Be Dispersed to Educator Preparation Programs Over the Next Two Years

Governor Ned Lamont and Connecticut Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker today announced new investments to defray certification-related testing costs for aspiring educators in Connecticut.

A total of $2 million dollars of federal, state-level reserve American Rescue Plan Act, Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP-ESSER) funding is being dedicated over a two-year period, which includes $750,000 in year one and $750,000 in year two. The remaining $500,000 is being set aside for educators of color and other educators who will be completing their student teaching in urban school districts.

Counteracting Censorship: Protecting Academic Freedom through Faculty Senate Resolution Campaigns

A 2022 Washington Week Recap and Reflection

*Slides from this session are provided by Jennifer Ruth, Higher Education Faculty Lead at African American Policy Forum can be found on AACTE Connect360.

COVID-19 has exacerbated a pre-existing education crisis and increased inequalities since its outbreak two years ago. And now, educators around the nation are grappling with yet another challenge. Outside of academia, critics are condemning the fight for intellectual freedom.

In the past couple of months, the attack on academic freedom at K-12 and post-secondary levels have reached new heights. From the fight to remove books affiliated with the history of the United States of America to the “great resignation” being affiliated with teacher shortages directly affecting the sustainability of education. There is a direct assault on education from all areas of social and political streams. For example, some of the significant challenges being faced are critical race theory (CRT) education, academic tenure, educator resources, and the hindering of legislative impediments to the educational curriculum. Below are some of the recent headlines featuring these issues:

AACTE Applauds Secretary Cardona’s Vision to Elevate the Teaching Profession

On June 9, Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona released a vision to support and elevate the teaching profession. AACTE applauds the vision to recruit, develop, and retain future educators in a time when extreme educator shortages are afflicting the country, and looks forward to working with the secretary to realize each strategy. The secretary’s vision, announced during a fireside chat at AACTE member institution, Bank Street College of New York, arrived on the heels of AACTE’s premier advocacy event, Washington Week, as AACTE members and its state affiliates met with their federal legislators to promote comprehensive educator preparation.

What it Means to Be a Queer and Trans Teacher: A Reflection from a Preservice Teacher

Earlier this year, a gay music teacher in Iowa was pressured into resigning from a private school after being outed1. As a queer nonbinary Iowan and a preservice teacher, I am continually reckoning with my place in education. My education has and continues to be engulfed in heteronormativity. Elementary school through college, I have heard about Mrs. Y’s husband. I had Ms. Z as a permanent substitute twice because Mrs. X was having a baby. Mr. W often placed an open call for babysitters because he and his wife were having a date night. The narrative of a happily married husband and wife with children was and is so common it erases other ways of being. Indeed, I was shocked to discover during high school that my Kindergarten teacher was gay. He is one of two LGBTQ+ teachers I have had. I distinctly remember the relief of knowing that queer elementary teachers exist. If Mr. Knoer could be gay in 2006, I can be queer and trans in 2022.

Secretary Cardona Lays Out Vision to Support Teachers, Elevate the Profession

This weekly Washington Update is intended to keep members informed on Capitol Hill activities impacting the educator preparation community. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE.

This week Congress is back in session and we have learned that the House has set the schedule for marking up FY2023 bills this month. Reports signal that on June 22, the House will approve the 12 subcommittee allocations, meaning they will set the mark for the total amount each subcommittee will have to work from. On June 30, starting at 10 a.m. EST the Committee will mark up the Labor-HHS-Education bill. It is sure to be a busy summer as advocates continue to urge Members to make significant investments in education- specifically investments targeted to address the critical shortage of educators and specialized instructional support personnel across the nation.

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