We were learning about possessive apostrophes in a Year 6 English lesson and I tentatively wrote the following on the board:
Where should we put the apostrophe?
The girls cloakroom
The childrens playground
I stepped back, held my breath and waited for the silly comments, the sniggers and the inevitable disruption, but they never came. Nothing happened. I couldn’t believe it.
At that time, I was new to inclusion work. I had nothing LGBT+ inclusive displayed in the classroom, there had been no inclusive assemblies and we’d only had one PSHE lesson on anything LGBT+. “Surely, they’d never handle this?” I thought.
Much to my surprise, after discussing where the apostrophes should go, the class simply got on with their work. It was fantastic to witness.
For some teachers, cross-curricular LGBT+ inclusion can sound like a daunting prospect. But as is often the case success lies in many small inclusive acts rather than one big one. Below are two little approaches that can have a big impact: drop-ins, and visibility.
Like my example of a question in the English class, ‘drop-ins’ are a great and easy way to spread diverse representation throughout the curriculum and it can be applied to pretty much every subject.
Here are some other examples we can all use across different subjects:
One of the people who really influenced Martin Luther King Jr was Bayard Rustin. He was a black, gay man, inspired by Gandhi to believe in the power of non-violence. Do you think non-violence is a good way to get your point of view across?
Professional Canadian footballer, Quinn said having the support of their teammates was crucial for them when coming out as non-binary. Why do you think this support mattered so much?
Modern Foreign Languages
Marie vit à Paris avec ses deux papas.
It is extremely hard to be what you can’t see. Children spend a long time in school and their environment shapes how they view themselves. By including LGBT+ lives in displays and showing our allyship around school, we show that being LGBT+ is just another way to be a human.
Think beyond a display for Pride or LGBT+ history month. How about other displays? Can you include LGBT+ people in a display about a historical topic (e.g. Alan Turing when talking about the history of computer science)? Can you include LGBT+ sportspeople and their achievements in a sports display (e.g. Jake Daniels, an openly gay footballer)?
A simple act of wearing rainbow lanyards, supportive pin badges or even raising LGBT+ flags around the school (year round) tells everyone in your school community that you and your classroom/school are an LGBT+ safe and inclusive space.
When we include positive references to LGBT+ lives in all aspects of our teaching, we indicate to children that LGBT+ people are a welcome part of society – that LGBT+ lives are just as diverse and varied as everyone else’s.
We also know that representation has a significant mental health impact, not only on LGBT+ children but on all children. For more on the positive mental health impact of visible allyship, see Growing up LGBT+, a 2021 report from LGBT+ young people’s charity Just Like Us. The short version: visibly demonstrating that there are all sorts of different ways to be human and that they are all equally valid makes children feel part of a welcoming and inclusive community.
So this LGBT+ History Month, go ahead and use the time as a launchpad to do some specific LGBT+ lessons and put up some new displays. But don’t stop there. Remember that by scattering references to LGBT+ lives across the curriculum and throughout the year, we can create a more sustained and therefore more effective culture of inclusion and diversity in our schools.
And if you do get the odd snigger, well that’s just a teachable moment. Don’t forget that it’s the small acts that add up to a big win.