Schools are all about designing an atmosphere that promotes student learning. Any teacher would vouch that there needs to be a comfortable relationship between the student and the teacher as well as their peers. To create a “safe space”, the classroom needs to value every student’s beliefs and background. In the modern society we live in, a classroom’s safe space is becoming dangerous because the LGBT community is not exactly being welcomed into classrooms.
LGBT youth has a hard time feeling comfortable in their classrooms because not many of their peers have been exposed to homosexuality. Their parents may not have talked about the different types of families and their teachers are not quite sure how to go about explaining it to them. It doesn’t mean they don’t support homosexuality- they are just unsure of how to go about it. Teachers have been trained to “ teach their students the status quo; they shrink from challenging dominant social patterns and expectations, especially in relation to sexual orientation or gender identity.” (85).
I have experienced situations like this many times at the school I work at. One afternoon the kids were eating their lunches and I was going around helping kids open their lunches. While I was helping a little one open their applesauce, I overheard the end of a conversation at another table regarding their parents. One of the girls was talking about what she did with her moms last night and one of the boys was so confused that she said “moms”. The boy kept saying, “So you have two moms? But I have a mom and a dad.” One of the teachers I work with said she just changed the subject because she knew that he would be stuck on the topic and wouldn’t understand it. When I think back on it now, she could have simply explained that there are all different types of families. But instead she decided to move away from the topic all together. Although the boy was only four years old, I think he was capable of understanding it in simple terms. I think she felt uncomfortable introducing him to information that his parents had not yet discussed. And maybe since the boy was not making fun of his classmate, their was no need to press the issue any further.
I don't necessarily think my co-worker was wrong in denying the boy of this information but I definitely think it could have been a teachable moment. Teachers silence the issue because they struggle with ways to expose LGBT youth to their students. "Safe spaces" discusses that avoiding the issue all together is not the way to go about it, you will not be teaching your students to accept it. "You can't validate an experience you never talk about" (98). We need to integrate sexuality and gender roles into the class curriculum in order to better represent the LGBT community and inform other students. The kindergartner Zeke introduced homosexuality by reading books about different types of family units. He made sure to express that "positive values of love and caring were well associated with same-sex couples and their families" (90). My co-worker could have used a similar approach of integration and interpretation to teach the boy about the girl's family. If you imply that her family has the same positive values and morals as his family, he will not think that they are so different.