Q. What are you doing to create a safer school community for LGBTQ students?
I talk about it almost everyday. I like to tell stories and then get into really philosophical conversations in the classroom. It’s part of how teach. I find that using this method kids come out and tell you their stories. Kids start to tell you about what happened to what happened to their dad or what happened to their mom and then tears come out and then everyone starts to feel like it’s a home, and not a classroom anymore. I don’t have a full curriculum in the class but when Bridget and I do things together we have presentations on tolerance, reproduction and gender. When I hear students using derogatory, hateful or discriminatory terms in class I always stop teaching to address it right then and there. For example I have a student who comes in with long painted fingernails that look like a full-set of acrylics. Other students question him, asking him “what the f--- is up with you?,” and I interject and ask the other students “Why are his fingernails an issue for you? Why are his personally style choices an issue for anyone?” From that discussion girls will come out and support the boys and say there’s nothing wrong with anyone wearing anything. Right there, there’s no level of silence left, he’s given a voice where he may not have felt comfortable to say anything on his own. I also have lunch with my students in order to get to know them, and not necessarily excelling students but students that I see are reaching out.
Q. How has the school climate changed since the beginning of your LGBTQ work?
I think after being there for 4 years in the last 2 years I feel the kids have become much more tolerant. The school has been much more proactive with LGBT hate. There’s a level of awareness that wasn’t there before. Kids that come from families that don’t accept homosexuals are a little more tolerant than their parents, even though don’t necessarily like gay people they’ve learned not to hate them. One the activities that Bridget and I did, we put a yes and a no side and at the time the activity was very active, there was a lot of participation, and disagreement but the disagreement was positive because it became a conversation. We have some kids who are very religious, but after 5 or 10 minutes the kids led the conversation and you just become a monitor of the class.
Q. What would you like to do better this year?
I think it would be great if we could some tolerance and LGBT videos. If they did interviews, you know like MTV has true life we could do one of our own in our school, like an Everett Middle School True Life and do interviews in the hallways and then show it in an assembly for tolerance week, so all the kids from 6th, 7th and 8th see it. It has to be focused around hate and sexual discrimination. I think it would empower the kids because I think TV teaches kids a lot. Even more than we teach them. If it’s raw footage, it speaks their language they’ll be into it and feel no need to hold back; they can just be themselves. I would like to make the GSA proactive in the school, so it’s not just some club that meets on Tuesday but have the whole school support it. I also think there are teachers who feel they support it but there’s no action behind it so I’d like to get the whole school being more pro-active.