ABC's of PRIDE: 6 tips to foster an inclusive classroom

By Lindsey Craig
June 29, 2016

Video to help educators, teachers, parents — anyone who works with kids — instill sense of equality and acceptance toward LGBTQ community

The ABC's of PRIDE: Tips for an inclusive classroom (OISETube/YouTube)

To recognize Pride Month in Toronto, OISE is celebrating with six tips to foster equality and acceptance in the classroom and beyond.

From how to intervene if homophobic or transphobic comments are made, to creating a sense of normalcy around same-sex families and gender transitioning, the tips are aimed at helping educators and parents instill respect and an acceptance of diversity in young people.

The video features Jeff Myers, past President of OISE’s Alumni Association and International Education Specialist, and Bhavani Munshi, OISE graduate and teacher with the Toronto District School Board.

For Myers, the opportunity to encourage others to create a safe space hits home.

“I can clearly remember when I was in grade school, in the closet, listening intently for signals of acceptance from adults around me. All too often though, when kids in the classroom were saying, ‘That's so gay,’ or ‘Don't be such a faggot’, there was silence from the teachers. That crushed me, and made me doubt everything about myself, made me feel that being gay was indeed inferior, less-than. Every single time.

"So think about that for a moment - every time you don’t intervene, every time homophobia goes unchallenged, there's a kid, or two or three or more, in your classroom being crushed by your inaction,” he said.

Tips for an Inclusive Classroom

Power of education

While progress with LGBTQ rights has been made, the last year’s gay nightclub shooting in Orlando tragically highlights the ongoing plight of the community. Both Myers and Munshi are firm believers in the power of education to create change.

“The only way for us to live peacefully is to instill the future generation with an education that emphasizes acceptance and a celebrating of differences,” said Munshi.

Boy who wears a dress

To illustrate the impact education can have, Munshi recalls the first time she read a book to Grade 2 students about a boy who wants to wear a dress to school.

“When a few of them saw the cover, they laughed when they saw a boy wearing a dress, but as I began to read the book to them, I saw their faces change. They began to develop a sense of empathy for the boy and were able to see how laughing at him was very similar to what the bully in the book was doing,” she explained.

“Between the beginning and end of this one picture book, many of my students had genuinely reflected on how to react to people who were different from them. As educators, we can never underestimate the power of the conversations that we get to have around embracing differences. If people are never exposed to people that are different from them, they will never know how to accept them, respect them, and love them. Education offers the most excellent opportunities for people to peer into the lives of others and develop a sense of empathy for everyone,” she said.

Tips to help foster empathy

The six tips in the video above will help create that culture of embracing difference and diversity, she continued.

“There are always students in your class who need to feel accepted. These tips will help foster a more empathetic classroom environment.”

'We have not made it…education must be at the forefront’

Myers acknowledges the advances that have been made over the years, and praises the Ontario government for recently revising the sex-ed curriculum. He notes that teaching students about different family structures from a young age will go a long way in creating a more accepting society for LGBTQ communities.

He adds, however, “Now is not the time to sit on our laurels. The anti-homophobia, anti-racism, anti-misogyny, anti-oppression struggle is just as important now as it always was. Events in Orlando, police violence against black bodies, rapists being punished by a slap on the wrist – we have not made it. There is still so much work to be done, and education absolutely must be at the forefront.”

*Story and video originally published by OISE in June 2016

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