3. Strategies to create a safe and inclusive learning and teaching environment.
There are many strategies for teachers to adopt in order to ensure the full participation of learners in teaching and learning contexts to reach their full potential. Below are useful examples of these strategies. Please note they are not complete. Those interested in more information and examples should refer to other resources as well.
a) Prepare yourself
- Assess your educational environment by looking at school policies etc.
- Talk to the School Governing Body (SGB), school principal and colleagues as to whether they have ever encountered LGBTI issues and how they dealt with it.
- Reflect and evaluate your own experiences and see how you can improve on it to be more inclusive and supportive of gender and sexual diversity.
- Find out who and where the LGBTI organisations are in your town. Make contact with them, invite them to your school and use their resources to enhance your knowledge and teaching abilities on the topic.
b) Create a safe environment
Attempt at creating a secure and safe environment for all your learners as this is the first step to reach their full potential. A learner should not feel fearful of being in your classroom as FEAR can be seen as the greater BARRIER TO SUCCESS.
c) Anti-Bullying Policies and training
School should have anti-bullying policies and ensure that it includes issues of transphobic, homophobic and biphobic bullying and address issues of sexual and gender diversity.
This provides a solid basis for effective interventions. In addition, in the classroom context you can implement a “Zero-Tolerance” approach to bullying. To complement this, find out about training opportunities so that you implement a holistic approach to bullying.
d) Anti-bullying information
Find opportunities in which anti-bullying information can be shared with your learners at all times.
This can be done through:
- Campaigns at school or in the classroom where learners are given opportunities to learn their rights and what to do should they become victims;
- Awareness raising initiatives at the start of the school term or year when all staff, learners and parents are present;
- A series of lessons or discussions about bullying; and
- An anti-bullying week culminating in community involvement.
e) Identifying Bullying hot spots
Be aware of places where bullying takes place. Be proactive in making these places safe with the help of colleagues and school management. Bullying out of school should also be discussed and efforts made to ensure the learners arrive safely to and from school.
f) Learners Privacy
Learners privacy should be respected and confidentiality should be practiced at all times. Never dis-close information about the learners gender identity and/or sexuality without their prior consent. NOT EVEN TO THEIR FAMILIES.
g) Creating an inclusive environment
In order to foster an inclusive environment the opinions and diversity of all learners should be taken into account. Teachers should be equipped to steer dialogue away from being marginalising to being inclusive.
h) Inclusive and contextually responsive curricula
- The curriculum must be as inclusive as possible. The curricula should be based on the learners context and experiences as it will allow the learner to feel represented and valued;
- Should your education materials not include topics of gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation you can supplement the set curricula with your own activities and resources;
- Create opportunities in your classroom for learners to learn in an unbiased manner;
- Teach in an informal way to make learners understand;
- Be aware and challenge biased perceptions and conduct as well as homophobic ot transphobic language;
- Invite LGBTI organisations and guest speakers to you classroom; and
- Show appropriate videos and movies about LGBTI issues.
i) Support groups
- Provide a space in your classroom where learners can display their artefact or information posters etc. thus creating an inclusive space for them; and
- Support learners should they wish to start a support group at school. Provide them with a space in which they can hold their meetings and social activities.
j) Language and Self-expression
- Be aware of and respect learners gender identity and gender expression at all time;
- At all times address learners by using their preferred name or gender pronoun;
- Allow learners to dress in the manner in which they feel comfortable and affirmed;
- Provide access to toilets for trans and gender diverse learners according to their needs;
- Encourage and promote an inclusive attitude and environment at all times; and
- Respect everyone’s self-expression as it will provide trans and gender diverse learners a signal that they are valued and accepted.
k) Further Ideas
- Avoid dividing the class according to biological/legal sex/gender. Use alternative inclusive practices e.g. numbers, colours, letters of the alphabet according to names or surnames etc.
- Use inclusive language for example ‘Good morning learners/class/people’. Speak about parents/guardians instead of mother and father. In this way you are able to accommodate diverse families.
- Change your forms or official documents by including a space for gender or a box descriptive of how the person define themselves.
- Instead of sex/gender segregated assembly lines for boys and girls inculcate respect for gen der diversity through integrated lines.
- Do not impose school uniforms according to a learner’s legal sex/gender. Allow learners to dress in a way that express their gender.