It's Teacher Appreciation Week, so here's an open letter to all of the many LGBTQ-inclusive and welcoming teachers out there.
Dear LGBTQ-Friendly Teachers:
Thank you for making all students feel welcome in your classrooms, regardless of their family structure or their own relationship orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions. Thank you for giving assignments that ask about children's "parents," rather than assuming they all have a "mom" and a "dad." When a boy with two moms reads out loud his essay about his family's summer vacation, thank you for treating it like any other essay — but also for explaining, to any of his peers who may ask questions about a two-mom family, that families come in many forms. Thank you for showcasing many different types of families in your classroom books, posters, and other media. Thank you for making up a word problem for math class that involves a girl and her two dads and how long it takes them to travel to soccer practice. Thank you for asking students to celebrate any mothers or women in their lives on Mother's Day, and any fathers or men on Father's Day. And when they make cards or crafts to take home for each holiday, thank you for letting some take home two or more, if that reflects their families.
Thank you for not assuming all of the students who are designated girls or who are designated boys will behave or dress in the same way. Thank you for stocking books in your classrooms and school libraries that reflect many different ways to be a boy or a girl. And if a student asks to be referred to by a different name or different pronouns, thank you for doing so (especially if you are an English teacher and using they/them as a singular goes against your years of training). The standard you set, and your level of comfort with this, is a lesson of its own to all of your students. Those of you who have gone through your own transitions while teaching: Thank you for your courage and commitment to being yourselves.
Thank you for supporting a health curriculum that is inclusive of all of our students' changing bodies and sexual orientations. Thank you for supporting those who want to take same-sex dates to the prom — and for being brave enough to show up with your own same-sex date, if that's how you roll.
Thank you for not hiding the fact that a writer or historical figure was LGBTQ. Thank you for making sure LGBTQ writers and historical figures make it into the curriculum in the first place. They have specific histories and voices as LGBTQ people as well as contributions that go beyond those aspects of their identities.
Thank you for stepping in when you see a student being bullied because they are, or are perceived to be, LGBTQ or gender nonconforming. Thank you for speaking out when you hear phrases like "That's so gay." Thank you for not treating these only as isolated incidents, but as contributions to a climate — and for working to improve it. Thank you for supporting Gay-Straight Alliance clubs and the need for LGBTQ students and allies to find their own voices.
Thank you for knowing you may not have all the answers. When you are unsure of how to approach a topic or what language to use, thank you for asking your students respectfully or taking the time to seek out those who are knowledgeable, books in the library, or authoritative resources online.
You who have been entrusted with the care of our children's young minds, thank you for seeing both the commonalities and the differences in their many identities and experiences. Thank you for helping all our children learn to be confident in themselves and understanding of others. That's even more important than the ABCs.
Thank you for helping to build a world with a little more kindness in it.
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