Spring 2020 Dialogue

Commission on social justice in teacher education

Pride flags in classroom

Welcome to our Spring 2020 dialogue.

(Video from the Trevor Project) What does the video say about mental health and the experiences of LGBTQ+ youth?
(#Soundingoutmysilence Article) How did sound operate as more than a text for Andi? What did you learn, as an educator, about Andi’s spacial story in both formal and informal spaces of literacy learning? What did you learn about the injustices she experienced?
(Website) What did you learn from the resources in  It’s Pronounced Metrosexual (IPM)? How might these resources be useful to you and your students?
In the video and article, how did individuals compose texts (videos, Instagram, social media projects, etc.) that helped them make sense of themselves and the world around them? In ways did those texts help them navigate and negotiate inequality and mobilize resistance?
Finally, how might you draw on these resources as you reflect on the ways to support your (current/future) students? If you don’t feel these resources are helpful, what resources might you draw on as you work to support your students?

You are invited to respond to one or more of these questions. (To post, please log in using a Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, or WordPress account.) Please feel free to share experiences, dilemmas, questions, or information about particular contexts of teaching and learning (e.g., where you student teach, teach, study, or participant observe) as you explore what issues of equity or justice look like in a particular domain for a particular person or group of people. You may also feel free to recommend or cite texts (e.g., articles, books, films) that may be of interest to others on a thread.

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  1. 1) I absolutely loved Jonathan Van Ness’s video. What stuck with me most was when he mentioned how when living in such a conservative place, “…there were always people that were very committed to me having a safe place and trying to be as non-judgmental as humanly possible” (Van Ness). I currently am a pre-service teacher. When I have a classroom of my own I want more than anything to provide a safe place for all of my students. I want all of my students to feel that they can express themselves within my classroom and to feel comfortable with sharing their own stories with me, whether it be through writing or speaking. I love how 9th grade teacher, Amy Hayes, shared this video with her students and how they were able to have a great conversation about it. 9th grade is not an easy time, but having a conversation about accepting others and empathy can be incredibly powerful. I also love how Hayes mentions that her students have seen her compassion through seeing her cry, being angry, on the top of her game, and by seeing her love them. This is BEAUTIFUL and I would love to emulate this as a teacher someday. Showing this love and compassion will inherently fight against an evils that students my be facing in their lives outside of the classroom.

    2) Its Pronounced Metrosexual was such a great website to peruse. When checking out the edugraphic resources, I found that Sam Killerman was the mastermind behind the Genderbread Person. The Genderbread person was used to discuss and explain gender identity/expression and sexuality in a community meeting for my job as an Intercultural Aide at Michigan State University. This is a such an accessible way to understand the complexities of sex, gender, and sexuality. I could not believe that the Genderbread person originally came from this website! People have many misconceptions when discussing gender, therefore this is an amazing resource! If I ever decide to teach on gender in my future classroom, I will most definitely use this edugraphic to help my students learn.

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    • Hi Maddy,

      I completely agree with you on wanting to create a safe space for the students in my future classroom. I loved that the teacher and class in the article were able to use JVN’s video to foster conversation about such an important topic. Just the discussion would work to show students that they have a space in the classroom; they would be seeing that most, if not all, of their classmates are tolerant, and they would know that the space is lead by someone who is tolerant. I loved the idea of using a video like this in the classroom to share tolerance and hopefully spread empathy and love between all of the students in the class. It may not be an ideal world yet, but every step toward it is an important step to take!

      It’s really cool that you already had experience with the resources on Its Pronounced Metrosexual. It’s a really cool website that I definitely think would come in handy with discussions in the classroom. It really works well to give important resources that everyone can use, which I think can be a barrier sometimes when it comes to this kind of discussion in the classroom.

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    • Hi Maddy,
      I really love your first comment about the JVN video. I think when we take on the role of being an educator we think we have to embody this idea of “perfection” and sometimes that perfection can carry over into showing no emotion. I love that being vulnerable to the class is an easy step we can all take. I love the idea of showing empathy through actions and emotions! Will absolutely be implementing this in my classroom.

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  2. I really enjoyed watching the Jonathan Van Ness video. It was short and simple but so informative and a conversation that is so prevalent in our society today. I myself have never gone through depression or mental health issues, but I am close to countless people who have. When he spoke about how depression and his feelings of unworthiness were not as simple as they seem on the outside, I really agreed with that. Often, mental health is looked at as something that will go away if the person only talks to someone, or exercises, or takes their meds, etc. However, this is not the case. I did love how he talked about doing things you were passionate about and building a community. Support from people that love you or understand you is essential. That is why I hope my future classroom can build a community with each other, and a place of kindness, not hatred.

    He spoke on how now there are more resources for LGBTQ youth to feel like they have support or love or a community coming from somewhere, including the Trevor project which was the platform which he was speaking for. Another great resource is the It’s Pronounced Metrosexual site, which is an unbelievable resource for any person of any age. I think just having the space to learn and grow and have conversations about these topics opens up opportunities in the world for change. I think a lot of times when people struggle with issues like this they most of all feel along, like Jonathan Van Ness was saying, but if they knew about the website, perhaps they could feel that sense of community or belonging that they needed at that moment. Overall, I learned that there are resources for these conversations and no matter what you are going through you are never alone.

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    • Hi Megan! I also liked Johnathan’s video a lot. What he said about his feelings of unworthiness not being as simple as they seem on the outside also stood out to me as well. I think it was really important that he talked about that and just spoke up about his experiences in general as such a major public figure. I thought that this part specifically was important though because, as you said, mental illness and feeling any progress is a process that does not just happen when you decide to work out, talk to someone, or take medication. Jonathan is constantly in the public eye and has a very energetic and positive presence, so it could be easy for people to not even think about his life with mental illness and how he works toward progress in himself. I liked that he mentioned how he’s always striving toward a goal that he’s passionate about and learning new things. I think that a lot of young people look up to him, so I think that it was great that he talked about this because so many people in media now are portrayed as a sort of mythical goal, but he works through a realistic lens versus an idealized version of himself which I think is very admirable.

      I like how both you and Jonathan also highlight community because I also think that this is very important and can seem daunting at times in the context of school and teaching. I think that the resources from the “It’s Pronounced Metrosexual” site can help form/ solidify a classroom community from a place of understanding and kindness too. I think that a lot of hatred comes from not trying to learn about perspectives other than your own, so these resources seem like a really great place to help remedy misunderstandings that cause so much conflict and damage.

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    • I also really enjoyed the video with Jonathan Van Ness. Something I found that is going to stick with me from going through all these resources is that as teachers it is important to know about resources like these for our students. Like you said, maybe if a student was aware of this website, or the Trevor Project, they wouldn’t feel as isolated as they do. If we are able to create a safe environment within our classrooms, we might be able to point our students in the direction of some of these resources — we could even be resources of comfort and understanding. I think as I continue in my education, and as I enter the teaching world, I will want to have a library of resources for LGBTQ+ students, for students from diverse backgrounds, for low income students — really just for all my students so that if they are struggling I can do that one thing to try and help them.

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    • Hi Megan! I really liked how the video contextualized the need for support within the actual symptoms of depression and other mental health struggles. I think that a lot of resources simply give people a list of things to do when they are feeling depressed without taking into account the fact that depression makes it incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to do those things. Jonathan did a great job of telling viewers that it is okay to have days where you can’t find something you are passionate about, while at the same time advising that people try to embrace their passions and creativity when they can.

      I think as teachers it is absolutely essential that we allow students to have bad days. Part of supporting mental health in students is helping them understand that they do not have to be perfect all the time and that they are allowed to struggle. We need to value them at their best and at their worst.

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    • I too have never gone through depression or metal health issues and it was very helpful for me to hear how depression feels. I agree that depression is often looked at as an easy fix with meds, but that’s not always true. I have some family members that meds have helped quite a bit, but they aren’t a fix all thing. Love and support is so important. Being a positive influence and a support can go a long way for people.

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    • Hi rossmeg12!

      You make some really great points here. I too really liked Jonathan’s video- I felt like his authenticity really shined through which allowed for me to really understand all the more where he is coming from and the story he is sharing. I am appreciative of all the resources and alternatives to combat mental health struggles the provided in this video. It’s important for those within the LGBTQIA+ to know they have places to go and outlets they can engage with to help their mental health, and it’s also just as important for those not within the community (like myself) to know and understand the resources available so we can be a part of the solution in the case someone we know or love is struggling. This conversation about mental health struggles is so important to have, and I think it’s great that this is an open platform where those from all different communities can work together to find solutions regarding mental health issues.

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  3. I found the JVN video to be really informative and insightful. I have always enjoyed his ability to express himself so freely despite the constant critiques of peers and adults alike growing up. Hearing his struggles with mental illness and mental health is both sad but also so refreshing to hear a story of such undeniable perseverance. While not referenced as much in the video, in a clip from Queer Eye he expressed how the actions of just one teacher helped him continue on and keep fighting the fight of being unapologetically himself. With the introduction of social media, the accessibility of information, and the politicizing of gender and sexuality that still takes place today, our problem becomes abundantly clear: and it is most definitely not the members of the LGBTQ community, but rather those who continue to belittle the very real experiences they go through in a single day. With that being said, in the future, I cannot wait to provide an open and accepting community to all who I have the pleasure of teaching.

    I also found the article “Sounding Out My Silence” to be very interesting. Thinking about how sound influences the way we exist or perceive our existence in a space is a very intriguing concept to me. This reminds me of an article I read in one of my classes about how often the “sounds” of racism go unnoticed in predominately white schools. Teachers were either hearing these statements and refusing to acknowledge them, or actually weren’t hearing the things other kids were saying due to willful ignorance. Regardless, the verbal assaults on identity that frequent classrooms and hallways can only be stopped by both hearing and acknowledging them. When Andi tells her story and markings of both safe and unsafe places, it reminded me of my high school experience in some ways. Knowing what I know now as a high school student, I definitely agree that lunchrooms were “unsafe” for groups of people, and other classrooms had teachers who would protect students at all costs and call out any hateful speech or sound they heard. Overall, I found it to be a very interesting read and the connections to mental illness brought forth the importance of looking out for those around you and yourself.

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    • Hi Josh!
      I also thought it was amazing how open and honest JVN was in this video. I think our world needs a lot more of that awareness and pride in who we all are as people. I know it is not easy in the world we live in today especially with people constantly trying to form you to a certain mold or tear you down for being who you are. I am proud that he is able to do so, and I hope that our future students can do so as well, or that we can be resources for them in times of struggle. I haven’t seen the particular Queer Eye clip that you mentioned but it inspires me to be that teacher for a future student. I agree that social media and accessibility have made the struggles of the LBGTQ communities unimaginable and I am glad that we have classes and the space to talk about these issues so that when we are needed in our classrooms we are best equipped to help our students.

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    • I like what you said about how so teachers don’t hear things other kids are saying due to willful ignorance. That is something I have self-reflecting on. Do I willfully ignore comments? As I have learned more about multicultural education I have become a little more aware of my own bias. I hope through self-reflecting on these issues I will be able to be a teacher who will call out any hateful speech wherever I am. Thank you for your insight!

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      • Breanna,
        I really appreciate your insight. I am a preservice teacher myself and this is something that I think about. I am hoping that I don’t become so in tune with what I’m teaching that I end up blocking the hate speech out. Your comment struck me because of course, these moments will happen, but we have the power to evaluate and get back into touch with what occurs in the classroom. I think it is hard to take those critical steps back as a teacher and I really appreciate that the initiative is being taken, and I hope to follow through when I am in that position.
        Thank you.

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    • To Josh,

      I think you brought up an important point about the role teachers play in perpetuating or challenging the “sounds” of bigotry. Teachers often decline to acknowledge hateful speech when they hear it from students, and this refusal to act amounts to a tacit approval of bigotry. On the other hand, teachers often hear students use words that are generally used in hateful contexts to express camaraderie with their friends. I think such cases deserve less of a reprimand or punishment, but the teacher needs to remind the students that the victim in this case may not be anyone specific. Bigoted words and comments, even when stripped of their hateful context, can still be damaging to someone like Andi, whose “sonic cartography” becomes characterized by attacks on her identity. Therefore, the teacher has to be able to convey these nuances to students while actively calling out bigoted language in school.

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  4. As a future educator, a common theme I noticed between these three sources was the creators’ need for expression/education that was not being met through school. Jonathan and Andi especially discuss not feeling that their queer identities were being supported in school, leading to a decline in their mental health. Speaking to the last two prompts, I think it is inspiring to see how queer youth are able to create safe spaces for themselves and others when they are not finding these spaces in their school, work, or home environments. Jonathan focuses on creating a platform for himself and leaning on others in order to fully embrace his identity, Andi focuses on drawing attention to the lack of a platform that most queer-identifying youth have, and sK creates a space for both members of the LGBTQ community and co-conspirators to educate themselves. After experiencing these resources, I realize that my biggest role as an educator will be to ensure that LGBTQ voices are heard in my classroom. As I do not identify with this community, I have no place in speaking to the experiences of members of this community. Instead, in order to support my LGBTQ students, educate my non-queer identifying students, and promote a safe and supportive classroom community, I will be sure to utilize resources such as these, and highlight LGBTQ icons.
    As is apparent through these resources, LGBTQ youth often rely on creativity to work through their feelings and experiences. In addition to exposing students to icons such as Jonathan Van Ness and resources such as IPM, I feel it is equally as important to give students the opportunity to create for themselves. Different forms of art and media such as painting, writing, dance, and social media play an important part in supporting students’ identities in the classroom. I feel it is essential to give students the space to safely work through their identities using whatever medium makes them feel comfortable and heard.

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    • Hi brook,
      I agree that as educators we must be willing to educate our students on the LGBTQ community and help these students feel their voices are being heard. I also do not identify with the LGBTQ community and cannot speak for them which makes platforms like this so important. I feel that this makes it even more important to speak up and educate our students and show our support. I also think that it may be more important to give our students a safe space to express their tru identities and give them the support they need. I also feel that we should help these students start clubs or whatever else they feel would give them the support they want and need. Your post was very insightful. Thanks for sharing!

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    • Brook,
      What stood out to me about your post is that you say the work of queer youth in forging their own spaces is inspirational. While I understand your point, I think it’s important to keep in mind that we should not view these kinds of things as solely something inspirational, but something that brings attention to the inequities in our systems. Queer youth are inventive in their creation of safe spaces not because they particularly want to, but because they need to.
      I really like your point about allowing students to be creative in our classrooms in order to work through certain emotions. Artistic forms of expression offer us so much in exploring things that we might not want to speak about explicitly in words, as can be the case for queer youth in school. When possible, art can be a great alternative for certain assignments, especially those that ask students to explore themselves.

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  5. In the video, Jonathan Van Ness discusses how he took his discomfort and used to to drive his passions. I personally believe that is a strong message for a person at any age. Our struggles in life are the parts that make us who we are. For example, Jonathan’s experiences with depression made him realize he had to disassociate himself from the critic inside his brain. Changing this mindset doesn’t just happen with a flip of a switch, it takes time. I agree with the advice that “a way to reduce shame is to tell your story.” Everyone in life has had a situation where they just need to vent to someone to get it off our chest. We all need that safe space whether that be with an adult, a friend, or a parent. Luckily the Trevor Project is creating that safe space for the LGBTQ+ youth.

    I am a strong believer that every individual in this world should have the right to be who they want to be and love who they want to love. Nothing should hold a person back from themselves, because at the end of the day it is their life. Why go through life as a person that doesn’t make you happy? You are hurting yourself by not showing the world who you truly are. Unfortunately, I know, under certain circumstances that being yourself isn’t possible, because of the backlash people can receive from their loved ones, friends, family, and peers. It can definitely be a hard situation, but with the right support system it can workout. The most complicated part of the LGBTQ+ community is that not one story is completely the same, but it is the similarities that bring the community together. Each person has an individual story that makes them into who they are today. I’ve discussed this before in my education classes, that I was lucky enough to be raised in a community that is accepting. At Huntington Beach High School, we were known for our Academy for the Performing Arts (APA) Program. Being a performing arts school we allowed students to be creative and have options in what they wanted to be and learn. I didn’t witness any type of bullying for someone’s sexual orientation being “different.” A majority of my friends and peers are gay and bisexual. At my school it seemed like everyone was accepting of this idea, but I understand that this is still not accepted around the world. Why should society control our positionality? It amazes me how people can be targeted for being “different.” I always thought being different was an advantage, because you have a story that makes you who you are. I want my future students to know they are not alone and that there are options to any situation in life. No one should have to settle, because you do know what you need and want. It is just about how you are going to go about it that is hard.

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    • I am going to single out your suggestion about students using their creativity and applaud it. During my last in-service day, our school brought in excellent resources—one of which being an Improv activity to talk about racism. In this activity, which was heavily abbreviated due to time constraints, the facilitator worked us quickly through a few warm-ups to get us used to expressing ourselves with acting and improv theatre (things I’m used to as someone with experience in performing and teaching theatre). This all led to us creating a tableaux in groups where we were to be presenting a scene to portray how we see racial injustice throughout the school. I think that this activity can be modified to be looking at gender, specifically open-mindedness towards transgenderism and other expressions of gender, and sexuality in order to provide a space in which students’ creativity can be harnessed and applied towards achieving a more effective, accepting, and SUPPORTIVE community which is able to root out injustices across the board.

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    • Coral, I agree with what you said about the importance of using our discomforts as drive for our passions. I think back to a quote have heard that essentially states how greatness is often on the opposite side of our worst fears. I also agree that this is an important message for all people to hear, especially young people. I really feel like it is a message that resonates with all youth in general and not just LGBTQ youth. Trevor specifically appeals to the LGBTQ community because he too identifies as part of the community. I find it so powerful that his message has the potential to resonate with people outside of his own community. It serves as a reminder that at the end of the day, when we remove all of the labels we are all just humans who feel very human emotions that are not all that different from one another.

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  6. I love that Jonathan discusses the fact that finding yourself is a journey and that it is important to find the pockets of safety that exist because of “people who [are] very committed to creating a safe space…and who worked to be as non-judgmental as possible.” It is important to remember that your journey is your own and that other people’s stories are important learning experiences, but you shouldn’t define yourself by them and what they’ve been through.
    I strive to be one of those people who create a safe space in which my students, and people in general, feel like they can be their true selves. Jonathan and Andi both reveal the adversities they faced in school and how they changed their behaviors (like hiding gender expression) to avoid things like bullying and discrimination. Not only were they having to handle these situations daily, but Jonathan also talks about the rampant discrimination he witnessed against gay men and how he pondered what that meant for him in his future. It is very important that we, as people and future educators, teach our students about the importance of mental health and how to process the things we encounter in life.
    Jonathan talked about using goals that he could look forward to and chase down as an outlet for stress and anxiety. Coping mechanisms like this that provide positive paths are very important when encountering negative situations and feelings. “Depression makes it difficult to locate your passions and joy…[you] need to be able to disassociate from the negative critic in [your] mind.” One important way to creating a safe space for students and help them stay positive is to help them understand that they are not alone and that they do not to be ashamed of who they are. As Jonathan and Andi both discussed, “shame creates isolation.”
    In my observations at different schools and in different classrooms I have witnessed my students bash themselves, mostly about their academic abilities. Every time I make a point of going over and guiding them through the activity that is frustrating them until they have their AHA moment. Often, they’ll make a comment after like “Dang, I’m actually smart.” It breaks my heart that they felt so negatively about themselves but it’s always nice to be able to turn that around. I think that we need to help students realize how amazing they are. Most people like receiving compliments, but telling a student their smart and helping them figure that out for themselves are two very different things. We should focus on uplifting students and helping them achieve their goals and we need to remember that sometimes that involves “facilitate[ing] conversations without inserting [our] thoughts or opinions.”
    I’ve talked a lot about helping my students myself, but I also think it is vital that we create a space in which students feel comfortable with their classmates. One way to initiate this is to incorporate a lot of group or pair discussions so that students learn about each other and ultimately feel more connected and comfortable. Students’ families and/or communities might not provide the support they need so we need to not only be a part of their support system, but also introduce them to resources such as the Trevor Project.
    “We are not unlovable, this doesn’t need to be a huge secret! We can and should be proud of who we are. We have a bright future ahead of us. We deserve love and safety!”

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    • I agree completely. Middle school and high school are such crucial points in developing your personal identity and social identity. It is a time to explore who you are and what you like. Unfortunately, not everyone has the same opportunities. There are many prejudices that are placed on students (especially those who identify as LGBTQ) that make it hard to express themselves honestly. There are many people I know in my life who have felt pressure to hide certain aspects of themselves. This breaks my heart. Every student wants to be accepted fully as they are. I think of students who struggle with friends/peers or those who might not have support from home. If I don’t give them a safe space (or can I insert, a brave space – not only safe but a place they can take risks and prepare to stand up for themselves outside of school) then who will?

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  7. I found all of these texts to be very thought-provoking with really great potential to pull into important conversations in classes. All of these texts made me think about how I as a teacher can create spaces for students to be their most authentic selves. I think that it is often taken for granted that people can be who they truly are in schools or in the world in general, but when we start from a knowledgable perspective that this is not always true, we can do better to intentionally create or expand a space where identities are valued.

    Jonathan Van Ness’s video and the article about Andi’s soundscape project made me think a lot about the roles that silence and sound can play. Silence can either project a message with its weight, make it so that important voices are left unheard, or can even inflict violence itself when something should have been said. It is important to know when silence is powerful in positive or negative ways. It makes me think about the important balance of listening and sharing that teachers need to find. Jonathan forewent silence to share his story in a very vulnerable way that only he could share despite the challenges he faced with people trying to mold him into a different person in his conservative hometown. Through his sharing of his experiences, he was resisting against the injustices that silence can perpetuate. Andi used sounds in silence in a different way though to show her perspective through the sounds that she hears from the world instead of through her perspective as a traditional narrative. This made me think about the way the sounds of our reaction to people or the absence of acknowledgment of a person and their identities can be harmful. I think that these texts could be utilized to open a conversation about the impact of our reactions to people and the way that sounds and silence can create or close space for connection and acceptance.

    I really liked exploring the “It’s Pronounced Metrosexual” website as well. I think these are amazing resources that are very accessible that could help to explain concepts and supplement important conversations. I also thought that it was really cool that the author uncopywrited (uncopywrote?) all of the resources that he created. I thought that it was interesting that some of the classes that I’ve been a student in have actually utilized some of Sam Killerman’s resources, but previously, I had no idea how much he had created that could be used with students of varying ages! I was very happy to have learned more about all of the information of his that I could very easily use with my own students!

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    • I love how you commented on the way people take for granted things like being their authentic self. Adolescence is such a critical time for identity to emerge, but this is not easy for everyone. There is a lot that students feel like they have to hide, especially at school or in front of their peers. I hope to help cultivate a classroom where students can feel accepted and where they can explore the deeper parts of their authentic self. I want students to experiment, to be creative, and to make connections. I love how Andi’s sound project establishes an example of the potential for students to share something about themselves. Both sounds and silence can create injustices in a system, but I love how this conversation can open up opportunities for young people to combat social injustices and inequalities.

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  8. JVN’s video through The Trevor Project was both powerful and motivating. It not only spoke to me personally on many fronts, but also helped me to envision the space that authentic and personal content like this video has in my future classroom space. JVN spoke about gender, mental health and identity as a young person, while also offering solutions and powerful strategies for finding ways to cope and rise above.

    Sharing experiences vulnerably and allowing yourself to be exposed is as JVN described, a way of overcoming the shame that can be associated with identity, especially when you are bullied or looked at as “different.” In JVN’s experience, same sex attraction and depression were and are two elements that seemed to bring about negative, shameful, and pain-inducing voices that attempted to define JVN’s identity. As a response, JVN offers a profound and relevant response to dealing with these voices…

    To overcome these voices, we all need to find our true passion. Something that drives us. Something like in JVN’s case, drives us out of the spaces that would seek to bring us down, that drives us towards supportive people, places, hobbies, projects, and even careers that help us to further identify with who we truly are and develop into the people we are truly meant to be.

    The final piece of JVN’s experience that ties each of the aforementioned points together, especially from an education perspective, is the responsibility we have as humans and teachers to participate in the establishing and maintaining of safe, creative and constructive spaces for all students. These spaces are especially important for our young LGBTQ+ students who may feel alone and given up on. It is essential that students be offered spaces to deal with the voices they are hearing and processing. As teachers, we must always be available to aid and guide our students as they attempt to make sense of their experiences. As JVN shared, there will always be voices, both internal and external that will seek to define who were are; it is critical that we help our students develop for themselves the ability to determine what is true about themselves, especially when it comes to conversations surrounding identity.

    The video’s complementary article ends with Amy Hayes, a 9th grade English teacher sharing her insight on how to accomplish this… “To continue fostering environments that value openness, inclusion, and support, Amy stresses showing students compassion. “My students have seen me cry, they’ve seen me angry, they’ve seen me at the top of my game. But mostly, they’ve seen me love them. The most important part of my classroom is that my students know they are wanted there.”

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    • Hi Cullen!

      I felt the same as you about many aspects of JVN’s video, especially when thinking about how to involve authentic voices in my future classroom when teaching about topics such as LGBTQ+ mental health, as well as other marginalized experiences that often don’t get discussed in the classroom in a meaningful way. I also deeply appreciated the way JVN spoke on working to overcome the struggles that he went through as a child and young adult, and especially as he spoke about dealing with depression. This is a very real challenge that many students face, and it is important to show them how their experiences are valid and that their voices deserve to be heard. This story is so inspiring, and the message of finding joy and passion, especially with the support of a loving community is key when thinking about what sort of space a classroom should be for students. Teachers and classrooms are incredibly important in the lives of students, and I enjoyed reading about how this impacted you. Thanks for sharing!

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  9. I respect Jonathan Van Ness and appreciate all of the points that he brought up in his video with the Trevor Project. JVN discusses a lot in his video, and made me think about myself as a future educator and the role I want to take up in my own classroom. This is the sort of resource that really makes you think and analyze, and I really appreciated that.

    One of my favorite parts of the video was when JVN was discussing how depression becomes personified and is a voice in your head that overrides any positivity that you may have. He discusses finding things that bring joy, and how that can be difficult in the face of mental illness, but eventually it will be okay. This discussion made me think about the ways educators can help foster exploration in the classroom that may help students who are struggling to find something that they love, and I think a lot of it comes down to making the classroom a community and not just focusing on the canon texts but texts that students may enjoy or already be knowledgeable about. Since students spend so much of their time in classrooms and then doing homework when they go home, they need things that can spark their interest and help them get through the stress that inherently comes along with school. Being able to explore new things in classrooms could help them find their passions.

    In the accompanying article discussing the teacher who used the video as a resource in her classroom, she discusses the way the video helped her class feel like the classroom was a safe space for them. I liked her discussion on the way the video allowed a class discussion about accepting others and creating and maintaining safe spaces. She mentioned that it was important for students to see texts like this, in addition to hearing the ideas from her, in order to create those safe spaces. I think those points, and hearing classmates have positive discussions, could really help students feel at ease and like they have a space in the classroom. They hear the affirming talk of their teacher, classmates, and celebrities that they may look up to, and may realize that they could have more allies than they may have previously thought. Her discussion really affirmed to me the importance of representation in the classroom. Not only is representation important for students who need to be able to see themselves in the classroom texts, but it is also important for students who already see themselves in order to help create empathy and safe spaces.

    I also really enjoyed exploring the “It’s Pronounced Metrosexual” website. One of my favorite things to think through is the ways assignments and texts in classrooms do/do not foster empathy development in students. Quite often, for one reason or another, the things students are exposed to in classrooms either do not give opportunities to develop empathy, or the opportunities that are there are not used. This is disappointing, since I think it is so important, but it is what is happening, and I do think it can be changed, especially when there are resources available to help. This website is the sort of resource that would be perfect to help students develop empathy. They would be able to explore different identities and expressions, and could consider the way they appear in the world. This would give students the opportunity to learn about different people in ways they may be unable to in their day to day lives.

    Overall, as a future educator, these resources have made me think of more ways to help students feel included in classrooms. They spend so much of their time in school, they should have the opportunity to feel comfortable there as often as possible.

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    • I really like how you bring up the personification of depression and the need to find joy as an escape. As future teachers, I think we have an amazing opportunity to give students healthy outlets to help cope with their mental health. Journaling is a proven way to help young people cope with emotions. Another step that you talk about is making sure the students feel safe to express themselves in our classrooms. JVN’s video is a great way to begin a discussion in class that individualizes each class and makes the students feel comfortable to express themselves without fear.

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    • Hi, Hannah,

      This post was a delight to read. I love your evaluation of the role empathy is (or–more often–is not) allowed to play in our classroom. However, what I’m really intrigued by is the notion that straying from the canon and varying our source materials could make school less of a burden for students struggling with mental health issues. As schools re-evaluate their book lists, rather than arguing about what has literary merit, teachers should be trying to “find things that bring joy.” I’ve seen the way my students light up and open up if I include a reference to one of their hobbies or a gif from their favorite show in a PowerPoint. I can only begin to imagine what would happen if one of their favorite things was the topic of discussion for the day. I can definitely see your point: I can so easily picture that promoting a student’s mental wellbeing and sense of belonging.

      …Now to figure out how to make this happen… 🙂

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

      –Rachel

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  10. One of the thingOne of the things that stood out most to me in this text is the way that Andi uses sound to create a much more emotional experience for the reader, particularly at the ending. It’s safe to say that any written text can be an emotional experience, often powerfully so. The difference between a normal text and Andi’s work is that of descriptors. As we read something, we essentially take in a description, a fragment of an author’s imagination or lived experiences recreated within words on a page. By creating a text of sounds and images, Andi removes the recreation of words and instead creates an enveloping experience that immerses the audience in her world. Instead of being told what her view of the world looks like, we get to experience it firsthand through the sounds and visuals that she provides for us. As I mentioned above, the most moving portion of Andi’s story was the ending. The silent ending proves to be eerie. There is something uncomfortable with complete silence, especially at the end of a story like Andi’s. As a description of the silence, Andi says, “you.didnt.hear.me.this.is.because.ifeel.voiceless/ listen.mysilence.means.something/” (20). In her school and in her community, Andi feels that she has no voice, that nobody is there to listen. Her silence signifies the oppression that she feels around her. For her, silence is the most powerful statement she can make.
    As an educator, Andi’s experience struck a chord with me because of its power. Andi, who had dropped out of school, found literacy to be something completely different than what might traditionally viewed as literacy. Literacy is no longer reading or writing proficiently. In this new age of technology, it is using the tools at our disposal to tell our story in any way that we can. Andi has found that using images, sounds, and silence can tell a powerful story, one that, for some, may be much more powerful than any amount of words written onto a page. For me as an educator, Andi redefines what it means to literate. Andi’s story is an example of how powerful multigenre texts can be much more moving and inspiring than what we have traditionally learned to be text.
    s that stood out most to me in this text is the way that Andi uses sound to create a much more emotional experience for the reader, particularly at the ending. It’s safe to say that any written text can be an emotional experience, often powerfully so. The difference between a normal text and Andi’s work is that of descriptors. As we read something, we essentially take in a description, a fragment of an author’s imagination or lived experiences recreated within words on a page. By creating a text of sounds and images, Andi removes the recreation of words and instead creates an enveloping experience that immerses the audience in her world. Instead of being told what her view of the world looks like, we get to experience it firsthand through the sounds and visuals that she provides for us. As I mentioned above, the most moving portion of Andi’s story was the ending. The silent ending proves to be eerie. There is something uncomfortable with complete silence, especially at the end of a story like Andi’s. As a description of the silence, Andi says, “you.didnt.hear.me.this.is.because.ifeel.voiceless/ listen.mysilence.means.something/” (20). In her school and in her community, Andi feels that she has no voice, that nobody is there to listen. Her silence signifies the oppression that she feels around her. For her, silence is the most powerful statement she can make.
    As an educator, Andi’s experience struck a chord with me because of its power. Andi, who had dropped out of school, found literacy to be something completely different than what might traditionally viewed as literacy. Literacy is no longer reading or writing proficiently. In this new age of technology, it is using the tools at our disposal to tell our story in any way that we can. Andi has found that using images, sounds, and silence can tell a powerful story, one that, for some, may be much more powerful than any amount of words written onto a page. For me as an educator, Andi redefines what it means to literate. Andi’s story is an example of how powerful multigenre texts can be much more moving and inspiring than what we have traditionally learned to be text.

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    • Hi Derek!
      I agree and love the way you describe Andi’s creation of a more emotional experience for the reader and its reflection a multi modal literacy. It almost adds a cinematic vibe to her story, which draws in a whole new level of emotional understanding for its audience. As a future educator as well, this struck a nerve with me too. She found a unique way to share her story, which is by far one of the most moving stories I have seen in a while. I have to wonder what using a tool such as this in a classroom would do for students struggling with things such as homophobia or depression? And how can we as future educators use this as a tool to help and encourage students to share their experiences in a non-traditional way? In addition to those questions, I wonder how much we can learn about our students if we used this as a tool?

      Anyway, Andi’s story is, as you said it perfectly, moving. This story should be shared beyond and utilized in helping create safe spaces in schools.
      – Erica

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  11. I really enjoyed Jonathan Van Ness’s video about the mental health effects of not being accepted by one’s community and what he does to escape depression. One phrase from the beginning of the video that really stood out to me was the idea of someone having their safety “stolen” from them. First of all, it is absolutely heartbreaking that children all around the world have reason to feel unsafe. Everyone deserves to feel safe and secure. Beyond that, I think that the way Van Ness phrases his experience is really indicative of the reasons that LGBTQ youth often feel unsafe. Their lack of safety is not a result of their choices, but rather is the result of the people and the society that take safety away from them. The discrimination and violence that LGBTQ youth face nearly everyday makes them feel unsafe. I think that as teachers, it is really important to understand that the solution to our students feeling unsafe isn’t to teach those students strategies for hiding who they are or for protecting themselves, but instead it is to teach those who cause discrimination and violence to stop doing so. In an ideal world, teachers could simply chance the minds of everyone in their school and community to create an environment in which LGBTQ youth are accepted and celebrated. While there is certainly a lot that a teacher can do to not tolerate bullying and to educate students about gender and sexuality, we have to understand that the world isn’t ideal, and that there will be people and systems that we cannot change. This is where finding ways to support the mental health of LGBTQ youth living in a violent world is essential.

    One trend that I noticed throughout the video and the articles is the importance of self-expression and telling one’s story. Many LGBTQ youth feel ignored or misunderstood, so creating spaces that allow them to share their stories and to feel heard by someone is so important to supporting them. We may be able to get everyone to hear our students, but we can make sure that at least we hear them. The education system has gotten so that it only values analytical writing and completely ignores creative writing, meaning that many students feel as though the stories that want to tell do not matter in school. We need to make a bigger commitment to embracing creativity in our classrooms and to valuing our students as both learners and as people.

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    • Hi Sarah,

      You make some powerful points that I agree with. I especially like your point of the lack of safety of those that identify as LGBTQ is taken away because of society. There is a need for a shift in perspective in society for acceptance and respect towards people that identify as LGBTQ. As educators, hopefully we can begin to shift student’s perspectives and create a domino affect of acceptance and respect for generations to come. But I do agree, that a large challenge is the people and systems in society. We can all work towards creating a classroom where all students feel welcome to express who they are and have students build understanding and acceptance with each other.

      -Charmaine

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    • Hi Sarah,

      Your post gives me a sense of hope for the future. I am glad that you mentioned that it is not enough to address the mental health issues of LGBTQ+ youth, but that it is also critically important for educators to address some of the factors that are causing these mental health issues. I think educators often focus more on supporting their students who are being bullied and harassed rather than simultaneously trying to create a sense of restorative justice for everyone involved. Here is a good resource, of many, that talks about restorative justice: https://www.edutopia.org/blog/restorative-justice-resources-matt-davis.

      I would also like to add that while it is important for LGBTQ+ students to tell their own stories, it is extremely important for all students to hear stories from LGBTQ+ authors. It is life changing to hear that other people have a similar identity to you, especially when you feel isolated and rejected by others.

      -Audrey Cromell

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    • Hi Sarah! I love how you’ve taken this testament to the importance of supporting LGBTQ youth and turned it into an argument for the importance of creative writing or creative outlets. I completely agree! There is so much value to what we think and feel, and yet we are often not given the chance to express these things without judgement. School should be about each student as an individual learning, growing, and creating. Giving creative writing a place in the classroom can help show students how much we value their individual experiences. In particular when we talk about marginalized groups, such as the LGBTQ+ community, we have to realize the ongoing harm being enacted on these groups. Creative outlets and safe spaces for expression create a break in this violence and harm; they allow for checking in and storytelling and venting and all kinds of expression that can help us move through the difficulties of our day to day lives. This really speaks to what you said about valuing students not only as learner, but also as people. For a truly transformative and impactful educational experience, we need to do both.

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  12. In the video with Jonathan Van Ness having a safe space was talked about a lot. I think this can be achieved in many different ways but ultimately needs to be done on a community level. In today’s society i think schools do a much better job of being transparent and addressing the LGBTQ community than in the past but it could definitely be better. In some of the high schools i have visited their have been many clubs that support the LGBTQ community within the school and teachers give these students a safe place to come and talk. I think this is a great start but this needs to be taken into the community for it to make a bigger impact on the way the community addresses the LGBTQ community as a whole.
    I think that this break in the way people are treated and seen within the school compared to within the community where the school is located can cause students to struggle with their mental health. Especially if a student comes out to their peers but is still afraid to come out to their parents. These different views can be confusing for students and is a huge reason why the community needs to be involved. I think as an educator we should take these clubs that support the LGBTQ community and help them venture out side of the school with different activities. Helping these students feel safe outside the school will not only help them but will help to engage the community as a whole.

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    • Hi Ashley, I agree with what you are saying. Creating that safe place in our classrooms is the least we can do, but in order to create greater change and give further confidence to our students we have to show them how to continue being themselves outside of our rooms. Seen in the sources we observed JVN’s video along with Soundingoutmysilence especially get to the heart of individuals not feeling safe or at ease outside of designated areas they felt comfortable in. As educators we should continue being genuine humans to those in our classes along with sponsoring or informing students about other safe places in the community we teach in. We should share strategies and sources with our students to help them be leaders in the community and rigorously support them so that they can bring about that change and create a better connected and more inclusive society within our communities and elsewhere.

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  13. I wanted to respond to the Trevor Project video with Jonathan Van Ness. There were many different parts of this video that spoke to me, and JVN’s authentic and poignant voice on this complex topic carries a lot of emotion, and is also very thought-provoking. The experiences of LGBTQ+ youth are represented on multiple levels, which is both compelling and powerful. JVN speaks first about the context of where and when he was brought up, which had an effect on his experience, as well as how he felt about expressing himself sartorially, and his feelings of fear around HIV at the time. He also mentions his relationship with his parents, and how his father’s disapproval affected him versus his mother’s support. Feeling the need to hide gender and sexual expression is something that would undoubtedly deeply effect the mental health and experience of LGBTQ+ youth. Open expression is something that I feel passionate about, and as a future teacher it is something I strive to encourage in my classroom. Because LGBTQ+ people often face the threat of physical or mental harm when they express themselves, this is something I will definitely work to keep in mind when creating activities around self-expression.

    JVN also speaks about being “not exactly the same” as his peers, and the bullying that occurred because of this. This is also something that can be incredibly mentally harmful, and occurs so often throughout school without any intervention from figures of authority, who should be working to create a supportive and kind environment both inside and outside of the classroom. It is incredibly unfair that children should be bullied for who they are, and that this apprehensiveness should follow them into adulthood. Luckily, JVN’s story is incredibly inspiring because he was able to find things that brought him joy, and follow his dreams and passions even through mental health struggles such as depression threatened his happiness and safety. He explains the difficulties that come with depression very well, and from an intimate perspective, also mentioning the impact of positive and critical people in his life that kept him safe, and kept him from feeling isolated. I was especially struck by his mention of finding support, communication, and community, and realizing that everyone is deserving of love and access to a bright future. Every experience is different and valid, and JVN illustrates this in a gorgeous way.

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    • Hi Mackelsu, I really enjoyed reading your post. I like how you go in depth into Jonathan Van Ness’s video and how throughout his piece he talked about the experiences growing up LGBTQ. It is unfortunate that not everybody thinks everybody has a right to self-expression, but I am with you in allowing our students to have that basic human necessity in our classrooms. I actually dug a little deeper into the Trevor project and watched the original short film that inspired the project and I saw to what amounts to be the need to be able to be oneself in spite of how someone might identify or what forms or culture they are into. Your final comment on having that support network at the end of your post sticks with me as well as that social and support circle can do wonders in giving that safe place to express one’s thoughts, feeling, and experiences without the unease or fear of not being accepted or targeted. Every experience is valid and your post really resonates with this activity and in this endeavor that is learning how to become a teacher.

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  14. Hello,
    My name is Jayden. I am a student at Utah State University studying English teaching.
    One thing that is important to me as an educator is to be aware of my students diverse backgrounds and perspectives, so I loved reading #soundingoutmysilence and getting to watch Jonathan Van Ness share his perspective.
    The LGBTQ+ community are often overlooked, especially in the area I am from. When reading about Andi’s story, I pictured future students in my own classroom and friends or classmates from when I was in high school. I think it is important to talk about #soundingoutmysilence because it opens up ways for students to express themselves. Students have a right to express themselves how they want in a safe environment. I think it is good to look into new ways to communicate and open up.
    I think we should recognize students’ creative capacities. There are ways sounds, chords, and art can come together to express deeper emotions and connections than typical.
    Overall, I really want my students to feel confident in who they are, to feel safe in my classroom, and to be able to create and think outside of the box when expressing themselves.

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    • Hi Jayden,

      I think the idea of giving your students space to tell their stories is really important. I would like to also suggest giving them a diverse selection of texts that can also reflect back their identities. Many LGBTQ+ students never hear from authors who share their same identities. Hearing that you are not alone is one of the most powerful experiences–there is security in knowing that you are not alone. There are tons of great resources online, but if you don’t know where to start, my personal favorite queer author/storyteller is Ivan Coyte (here’s a link if you want more information http://www.ivancoyote.com/ivan-in-schools/)

      -Audrey Cromell

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    • Hi Jayden,

      Out of all of the posts on this dialogue, yours intrigued me the most because of where you said you’re from! Would you mind sharing a bit more about what your community is like around Utah State University? I’m from Pennsylvania and never lived outside of the east coast, so I’m curious about how other future English teachers across the country are working through ways to support our LGBTQIA youth.

      For example, when I was in high school, we did not have any clubs for students who identified as LGBTQIA. While this didn’t impact me personally, I look back on this time now and worry for my peers who definitely would have liked to have a supportive club they could join. However, my hometown in rural PA was very conservative, so the entire community pretty much refused to accept any sort of club ––– a terrifying reality for many, many school districts in the country. While some districts (usually more urban, I believe) seem to have a lot more resources for our LGBTQIA youth at school, I don’t think that’s always the case.

      I want to find some national statistics on this to compare different locations, but I haven’t been able to find anything like this yet –– so I’m starting here with you! You mentioned that “the LGBTQ+ community are often overlooked, especially in the area I am from.” Do you feel that regionally/culturally in Utah this is especially an issue, or simply more attributed to more conservative areas in general? What was your experience like in high school, and would you say that’s representative of many schools?

      Thanks for your post!

      -Kara D.

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  15. I really enjoyed Jonathan Van Ness’s video. I was listening so intently the entire time and found myself wanting to hear him talk even more once the video was over. Then I read the text below the video where the teacher explained that her class watched the video just as attentively. I think this is because we can all relate to JVN in some form. While we may not identify in the LGBTQ+ community, we have all struggled to feel accepted or comfortable in our own skin or the environment we find ourselves in. I believe it also helps to see someone who we see as super successful and appears to have overcome the challenges he discusses from his past in order to give us hope for ourselves and our peers. I especially appreciated his description of his experience with depression and how it’s not just feeling sad but actually struggling to find joy in things we normally would find joy in. I think it helps those that have not, to quote JVN, “had a relationship with depression” to understand how some experience it.

    JVN also describes his struggle to find support as a child, which can be a message to us as future educators that we have a chance to be that missing support for our future students. We are stepping into a role that comes with so much potential for how much we can really impact our students and their lives outside of the classroom content. Although teaching content is very important, our students need to feel safe and accepted in order to reach their own potential and some of that responsibility is ours. Using this video in class and having an open dialogue along with more private/personal writing time about it can be a great start.

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    • I like how you point out how JVN struggled as a child and our responsibility as teachers. It is both exciting and a bit scary to begin a career that holds so much potential for impact. I also really like the idea of watching the video then giving the students to write about it before talking as a class. Full class dialogues on serious matters can seem daunting to students but allowing them to gather themselves in writing is a great way for them to express themselves fully and confidently.

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    • Hi Jennifer,

      I’m just a preservice teacher, but I really appreciated your observations from the video. I especially loved how Jonathan discussed depression as a relationship that is a part of us, but not the entirety of us. His words really accurately help to depict how it can be an obstacle without making it consume a person’s entire identity which is really important. I also love that you point out a specific struggle of his and how we, as educators can help. I absolutely love the idea of taking responsibility onto ourselves to become the support our kids need in times of crisis. That’s 100% not in the job description, but 1000000% what makes the career that much more significant and rewarding. I discussed in my post a little bit of emotional intelligence. I really do think that’s a life skill that English teachers can build with our students more than any other subject. More than anything I wish for my students to become advocates for themselves and for others. Wonderful thoughts!

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  16. Good afternoon! I hope everyone is staying safe during this tumultuous time and taking advantage of this forcible break to reset and catch up on some much needed rest. I am a pre-service teacher from Western Massachusetts studying English Secondary Education at Westfield State University. I am currently student teaching four 7th grade English classes at Bellamy Middle School in Chicopee, MA and am very fortunate to work with an excellent team of teachers, administrators, and students.

    In his conversation with the Trevor Project, Jonathan Van Ness shares his own experiences growing up as a LGBTQ youth in a conservative, rural town in Illinois highlighting the effects of bullying, judgement, and lack of acceptance on his own mental health, an important experience for all of us to hear as teachers of LGBTQ youth like Jonathan. One common theme that emerged throughout Jonathan’s conversation with the Trevor Project was that sharing personal stories and experiences reduces the shame often associated with overly-stigmatized topics such as gender identification, sexuality, and mental health. In addition, Jonathan pointed out that the most important part of his childhood was the people who were committed to creating safe, nonjudgmental spaces for him to freely express himself without feeling alone or isolated. These points are particularly relatable to us as English teachers because we have the ability to design and tailor our assignments to the particular needs and interests of our students. We can create safe spaces that allow for freedom of expression and exploration through free-writes, narrative writing, persuasive writing, creative writing, etc. as well as through the literature that we select. We have the ability to make careful decisions about whose voices we validate in the classroom by sharing the works of diverse writers in terms of age, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality, etc. In addition, exposing students to these works plays a key role in preventing the spread of misinformation such as the myths that Jonathan was forced to confront growing up during the 80’s and 90’s when people targeted the LGBTQ community, and in particular gay men, for the spread of the AIDS epidemic. I cannot agree more when Jonathan addresses teachers saying that regardless of the school or community culture surrounding where we teach, it is our obligation to make our classroom that safe space for ALL students.

    In Wargo’s article “#SoundingOutMySilence: Reading a LGBTQ Youth’s Sonic Cartography as Multimodal (Counter)Storytelling” sound operated as a “form of composing” for Andi and as a way to share her visual and auditory reality as a “queer Latina lesbian.” Andi herself explains how sonic cartography helps her audience to more fully experience what she experiences as a self-described “lesbian high school dropout.” Similar to Jonathan Van Ness, Andi utilizes sound and silence to say “‘Hey, I am with you, I feel you,’ to other people dealing with it [self-harm]” so that her peers facing similar mental health struggles resulting from hatred toward the LGBTQ community don’t feel alone or unheard. Andi’s sonic cartography challenges what we typically consider to be inequality and to recognize the subtler forms hatred that we may not otherwise be aware of. In addition, Andi’s sonic cartography serves to “deepen our collective sensitivity for how it feels” by forcing us to walk a mile in her shoes per se and experience to a limited extent her everyday reality. Andi’s spacial story makes me more aware of just how prevalent these moments of hatred, prejudice, and injustice are in schools and how important it is to monitor these spaces (hallways, locker rooms, stairwells, etc.) as well as provide a safe space in my classroom through activities such as free-writes.

    In addition, I found the resources on https://www.itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/ very helpful as many of them address specific questions I personally have had as a white, straight, cisgender, female educator such as “How to respond when someone uses non-inclusive (or bigoted) language?” or “How do I deal with pushback from students and families who don’t agree with the place that social justice has in the classroom without letting it take an emotional tool on me?” as discussed in the article “Top Ten Tips on how to Thicken your Skin.” Additionally, resources such as “The Safe Zone Project” information and training on this website and articles such as “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” which provides more tangible examples of how white privilege manifests itself in everyday life, have the potential to be extremely useful to me as an educator, as well as my own students.

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  17. The video brings awareness to the LGBTQ+ community and how growing into yourself in this society is more of a struggle than a heteronormative person experience with their sexuality and gender expression. Jonathan Van Ness opens up about his childhood and how from a young age he felt that his ideal forms of self-expression were not accepted. He found support through close friends and his mom that provided spaces for him to truly be himself. What people can take from his experience is that everyone wants to be able to express themselves in a manner that is true to their inner selves. Rejection is very scary, especially for youth, so providing a space for people to be their authentic selves is crucial for growth, acceptance and promoting positive mental health.

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    • I agree with you. I think it’s almost self torture to constantly feel that you have to be someone that you’re not. It is incredibly important to create spaces where people feel that they can be vulnerable and genuine, but the question is how do we create these spaces and what does a “safe space” even entail? To me it’s about fostering a community that is empathetic and open-minded, one where we confront issues of identity rather than ignore them.

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  18. 1. Jonathan Van Ness’s genuineness, personality, and passion shines in this video. I believe the best way to gain insight into someone’s narrative and positionality is to just listen to their story. An issue the LGBTQ community faces (and many others outside of the dominant culture) is that their narratives are often dismissed or ignored entirely. Jonathan gives me, as a cisgender, heterosexual future teacher, insight into a narrative I will never experience. This is why it is essential for teachers to understand who their students are so that they may better recognize how their students’ identities shape and influence their experiences in the world. His childhood and adult experiences as a gay man allows me to not only better understand the struggles LGBTQ students face, but also gain more awareness to recognize signs of mental health issues. Furthermore, Jonathan’s quote “We need to feel heard we need to feel seen”, demonstrates the responsibility teachers have ensure that their students feel like they have a voice in the classroom and support students emotionally and mentally as they potentially experience mental illness and/or navigate within society.

    2. It’s Pronounced Metrosexual is a great website that provides resources and information on gender, sexuality,
    I especially enjoyed reading “50+ concrete things you can do today to make for a more socially just tomorrow”, which suggests ideas and resources for people to utilize to, as the title explains “make for a more socially just tomorrow”. The title and contents of the article demonstrate that every individual does have the power to make a difference. One thing many people struggle with (including myself) is feeling powerless. The article combats this feeling of uselessness by illustrating through various resources that I do have the opportunity to promote social justice within my own life. In particular, the resources specifically emphasize the relationship between educating oneself and promoting social justice. By learning about subjects related to LGBTQ, gender, sexuality, ect., we are then able to better understand narratives such as Jonathan Van Ness’s and learn how we can promote inclusivity, diversity, understanding while combating intolerance, ignorance and inequity.

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    • Hi Amanda!

      I resonated with your bringing up of the “50+ concrete things you can do today to make for a more socially just tomorrow” piece. I think that it can be very daunting to engage in topics having to do with social justice, sometimes, and it was very helpful to get some practical advice from people about how one could engage in ways that are specific and are positively effective. I know that I can definitely get intimidated by engaging with social justice. Sometimes, I will shirk my responsibility as an educator to promote social justice in the classroom by justifying my disengagement with big events that have occurred. For instance, a person could think that they may not need anymore education about LGBTQIA+ topics because marriage equality passed in 2015. But as educators I feel that it is our duty to constantly educate ourselves and advocate for our students so that we can make a ‘more socially just tomorrow’.

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  19. One common theme I found in both the Trevor Noah video and the “Sounding Out My Silence” article was the notion of unsafety that both people felt as a result of their identity. In Sounding Out My Silence, Andi uses colors to represent the different feelings she experienced on her campus and red indicated the spaces where they felt nervous because those around them were being homophobic or misogynistic. Jonathan also describes how school felt unsafe and he was able to identify this at an early age because of the differences he noted between himself and boys who had a different gender expression. Another common theme was how both of these individuals used their interests and passions in order to make sense of the world around them and find a way to channel themselves creatively despite the challenges they faced at school.

    As future educators, it’s important to reflect on how we can support our students, particularly those whose identities differ from our own. As a straight female, I can’t wholeheartedly identify with the challenges that LGBTQ+ students face, but that isn’t an excuse to not do anything. We must build relationships with our students so that they know they can come to us with any challenges they may face. It’s also important to set up our classes as spaces where they won’t be any tolerance for making other students feel unsafe. Even though there are systemic challenges that we need to address in order to make schools a place where everyone can come to learn and feels comfortable doing so, the first step we can do is to build this culture in our classroom. I hope to learn from and work with my LGBTQ+ coworkers who can help me learn how best to support students as well as educate myself by reading articles such as these and watching videos that shed light on the diverse experiences that students have in schools.

    Like

    • Antoinette,

      I think that you hit the nail on the head when you said “We must build relationships with our students so that they know they can come to us with any challenges they may face”. Even with students as young as elementary age, it is so important to make them feel as if they are important to you and valued in the classroom space. The best way to do this is to invest time and energy in getting to know them and building strong relationships. When students feel safe, and valued they are more likely to perform well in class and be successful. I also think it is important to remember that we never truly know what a student encounters when they walk outside of our classroom doors. We cannot control what they may encounter, but we do have the power to let them know that they have at least one space where they know they are safe and feel valued and important.

      Like

  20. My name is Erica. I am currently a practicum student at Westfield State University, student-teaching 10th regular/ honors and 11th grade AP English at Agawam High School.

    While I was a para for 7th and 8th graders last year, I had a student invite me into a crash course for disrupting homophobic language, a presentation put on by the schools LGTBQIA+ advocacy club. At the beginning of this presentation, we were all handed a packet which listed: the homophobic comment, what student had made the comment, what class room the comment was made in and whether or not someone spoke up to intervene into the conversation, which sadly, was little to no one. All of the teachers, myself included (being relatively new to the team) were shocked. This particular presentation really resonated with me and opened up my eyes to a world I had yet to see. From that moment on, we all asked that these students shared the document with us and the team would add comments as we heard them and would confront the students behavior too. But it felt like there was more we could have done as a team to disrupt this…
    Jon M. Wargo’s “#SoundingOutMySilence,” brought me back to that moment in time. Reading about Andi’s experience sounded all too familiar. Andi uses sonic cartography to narrate the hate she hears within her school, much like my student did by sharing his chart with teachers. Within Andi’s sonic cartography, there is a visual component where we can see the space of solidarity and hostility. As she creates her soundwalk, she allows her audience to see and hear her voice.
    Jonathan Van Ness’s exposure of his own negative experiences through depression is illuminated by his answer to reach out for a passion. By the way he shares his personal experiences about abuse and depression really brings to light a new topic of conversation that should be shared within all schools. This video would be an amazing resource for a homeroom activity in a classroom or even for the beginning of a PD for teachers to begin to understand the realities of our students within the LGTBQIA+ community.

    I believe a good place to start, in schools, is to create professional development to help teachers learn more about the community and how to handle these situations. In addition to that, I believe every school should have a safe space for students to unwind and feel comfortable in their own skin. Whether it’s an advocate club, writing club, or anything- students voices need to be heard. They are the ones we are fighting for after all- they deserve to have all the resources they need, but so do teachers.
    I have since reached out to my student and have shared all of these sources with him, hoping he uses them for their club’s next presentation.

    Like

    • Erica,

      You posed the solution of various clubs as being the safe spaces that students can go to really be themselves in school. While I am in full support of this idea because I think they should absolutely have that, every student deserves the right to find where they fit in, to find their people. I don’t know if it will help the issue the student highlighted in the presentation you mentioned in your post. In the instance that you talked about in your post, the issue of homophobic language didn’t just exist in those clubs; it existed all over the school. So creating safe spaces within clubs and after school programs is a great idea, but it isn’t enough.

      In your student’s presentation, they handed you a packet of (what sounded like) a significant number of comments made by different students in various situations across the school, not just in clubs. Your description made it seem that the student was focused on other students speaking up to this type of language(I could be wrong here, how often are students in a class without a teacher/admin/staff present? Why weren’t they the ones to speak up and say that what students were saying is wrong? I understand not being able to hear every comment students make, but I would wager they heard a good number of them and left them unaddressed. Why was it up to a student to educated the teachers that this is a problem, why aren’t teachers the ones to educate students about the harm their language can cause?

      This is why I like really liked your suggestion of creating PD for teachers about the issue and hopefully have them work to make the entire school a welcoming place for students no matter their identity labels. But because I currently work in a school where they have this type of PD available teachers/staff, but there are still issues of hate speech, I don’t think it will be a real solution. So many teachers are aware of the problem in our school and do nothing. Nothing is done unless it becomes so visible that they can’t ignore it because of optics. Which makes me think education about the issue is enough. Making people aware of the problem is effective when trying to generate empathy and support for the cause, but I don’t know if this type of education alone can help. We can tell faculty and staff about the issues going on in school and give them the skills to address the problems as much as we want, but at the end of the day, it is up to the individual teacher/staff member to utilize those tools and knowledge. And there currently isn’t a reason for faculty and staff to care outside of their own moral code so if a teacher isn’t under the impression that lgbtq+ students deserve to be protected, deserve a safe space, what is to stop them from turning a blind eye? Even if they were given the PD credit for attending a session specifically about creating space for lgbtq+ student voices.

      I completely understand if the questions I asked are not things you can answer(as you were new to the team and currently a student-teacher), I can barely answer them myself. I am more putting them out there so that they can start to be answered)

      -Trinity

      Like

  21. Hello all. My name is Trinity, and I am currently in month 7 of a year-long teaching internship with the State College Area School District through Penn State University.

    For the most part, I feel these resources(the video and sounding out my silence article) are more for teachers to have a better understanding of the LGBTQ+ community and what it is like to inhabit public spaces and also fit under the rainbow umbrella rather than students. They do not seem to be student-friendly resources. From my interactions with students, I don’t really feel like a scholarly article, video, and one website are really helpful. If my students were asking for information about the LGBTQ+ community, these resources would provide an understanding that is too contextualized or too broad and leave them with more questions than answers. These aren’t the resources for students first becoming interested in learning more about the topics relating to what is going on in the U.S. surrounding LGBTQ+ rights/issues. These are the resources for students who already have a base understanding of what is going and would like to know more. I feel that a student would either get bored, overwhelmed, or even left wanting for answers if I was only to provide them with theses resources. This is not to say that these resources are not at all helpful to students; they are. They are safe, informed places to go and learn about a community when you may feel uncomfortable talking to others to learn more. It is safe to not know something on the internet; you can become an “expert” on something from the comfort of your own room, where they aren’t ears and eyes judging you for your ignorance or curiosity about something.

    It is because of this that I feel that these resources are more for teachers. For teachers to learn why it is essential to make space in their classrooms/schools/communities so that their students feel that they not only have a place to exist and thrive but that they are no less deserving of that space than any other student. Theses resources provide current updated information about understanding/teaching about LGBTQ+ youth, so I have supported information that I can reference if I need and help facilitate an understanding with my students though lessons or modified versions of the resources. And maybe if they were really intreated, I could pass along to students to learn more.

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  22. Hello, I am currently a PDS Intern at Penn State, and I help to teach 9th grade classes at State College Area High School.

    I personally feel that the “It’s Pronounced Metrosexual” website serves as a nice resource for my students who are looking for a springboard into discussions about gender, sexuality and privilege. In my classroom, we do open forums where I have students request to talk about the subjects they feel are most important. Gender and sexuality have come up a lot frequently, so during this time of optional online enrichment activities, I created a module with “It’s Pronounced Metrosexual” as a resource and invited students to respond. I gave students the option for this as an inquiry as well as two other student suggested topics. In my one response so far, a student chose to pursue an inquiry about another topic, but I am looking forward to seeing what the students think of this resource.

    In the future, I hope to find more student friendly resources about gender and sexuality. I invited my students to find more of their own, and I am looking forward to what they discover. They impress me every day.

    Like

  23. I think that that Johnathan Van Ness’s video was incredibly important. Too often, children and teens are left alone or feel alone in their sexuality, identity, and expression. Having a reality like that leads to harboring feelings of shame and possibly symptoms of depression. Although it is by no means a cure for depression, I loved what Van Ness said about knowing that joy can, and will return to lives that have suffered. Additionally, I agree with the importance of a community. We have a tendency to feel like we are the only ones who are having difficult experiences, but this is not true. There are so many people from all walks of life that have felt isolated because of who they are, and it is important to be in contact with these people to try and eliminate those feelings of isolation.

    From IPM, I learned a lot in a rather short amount of time. In less than a minute, I found out the differences between sex, sexuality, gender, and expression through a graphic. This simplicity of these graphics could be incredibly useful in a classroom setting, especially for students who may not have access to diverse perspectives. A lot of what’s available on the website can be used as tools of self reflection in efforts to help students grow. Also, depending on what texts we are working with, some of the lessons available on the site can be used in conjunction with themes of those texts.

    Like

    • Hi Autumn, I too found the point made about the importance of community. I’ve lived in areas that have a tight-knit sense of community and mutual responsibility. One area in particular had a lot of poverty and elderly people, making it difficult for some to get the food or supplies that they needed to survive or live a secure life. When the needs of individuals weren’t met within this neighborhood, others would band together and make sure that those who struggled got what they needed. Those who had enough to be fine and give a little took turns helping others around them. The thanks that they received was payment enough for them, and those who were served shared a genuine sense of gratitude to the benefactors. In a holistic view, all in the community were benefitted; those who served felt happy for serving and those who were served had a sense of security thanks to their neighbors. As you pointed out, this sense of community is important, vital even, for those who might be struggling with identity or sexuality. Every classroom is its own community and has its own unique culture. As I soon become an educator, I plan on applying what I experienced in that one neighborhood community. Building trust among students and with myself as the teacher will be key. Creating a learning environment that is open for talking freely is one of the main objectives that I have. Building a trusting relationship with students is also a goal that I have made for myself. Enabling students to talk with each other (and with the teacher) and build a sense of security and community can benefit everybody, not just those who seek to identify their sexuality and identity.

      Like

    • Hi Autumn,

      I also found a lot of solace in his statement that there’s never a time when you can’t find joy in something. I think its very telling of his growth as an individual. It will definitely reach someone who will benefit from this mindset of growth and perseverance. I appreciate how you pointed this out and emphasized community as well. His shout out to his mom creating a safe space for him inspired me to think about the ways that I can create safe spaces for others around me and what that would even look like.

      Like

  24. I really love how honest Jonathan Van Ness was about his experience. I think that what is not talked about enough is finding a safe space and always carrying the anxiety about “having your safety stolen”. I think this is so powerfully described because you can feel how Jonathan Van Ness’ paranoia stems from certain people’s inability to accept him as he is. I think that developing this protective layer from years of bullying and torment speak volumes to what is wrong in the system. How can you worry about your mental health and your ability to find yourself if you are worried about your safety? From the video it seemed like a lot of his bullying happened at school and so then the question arises, what can we do in our classrooms to alleviate the stress of finding safety and reducing bullying? I think that a start can be establishing acceptable behavior in the classroom at the beginning of the year. I think that there should also be lessons on acceptance and the value of every individual student inside and outside of school. I think that English classes can also involve more texts with LGBT+ individuals at the center so that we can learn from their experiences and learn to show empathy towards others.

    Like

    • I really love your idea of incorporating more LGBTQ+ literature into our classrooms. When we share stories with our students about people who are different from them, when students can see the struggles and hardships they have to face they can better understand and accept the individual. It’s also important because LGBTQ+ literature may bring up new thoughts and engaging ideas to spark classroom discussion. Again this discussion can help students who may be struggling to accept the complexities of gender to better understand their fellow students. Finally, LGBTQ+ stories can show that those with different gender identities or sexual orientations are just like everybody else. Just because they may look different, or act outside our idea of what’s “normal,” doesn’t mean they aren’t human beings worthy of dignity and respect.

      Like

  25. In Jon Wargo’s “#SoundingOutMySilence,” sound operated as more than a text for Andi because it was a reflection of herself and her struggle. When Wargo asks Andi why she layered her #Sound#Walk video over with ambient noise of her walking on the street, she answers, “I guess I wanted people to hear me. Like, you can hear what I heard, but it’s different because it is you experiencing it, not me walking it.” The title of the project, “Songs.and.stories.of.a.lesbian.highsschool.dropout” is meant to help “people hear that this is what it sounds like to walk and write as a high school dropout … and I’m a lesbian” (Wargo 6). In these comments, Andi seems to imply that the listener will have difficulty in sharing her experience because they are two different people. Mainly, listeners might not be able to detect the “real and perceived moments of homophobia and misogyny” the way Andi can (Wargo 7). Objectively, the sound is the same for Andi and the listener. But the experience of the sound depends on one’s identity.

    The fact that Wargo includes “perceived” in his description of these moments of homophobia and misogyny is, I think, significant. As someone with a disability, I can assure you that I “hear” way more spiteful and derisive remarks than are actually made about me. This, I think, is the power of hateful language. For every one or two offhand bits of homophobia that Andi hears in her day, she will hear ten more that are not actually said. It’s sort of like how we sometimes hear someone say our name when no one did. Our ears become hypersensitive to words and sounds that provoke strong psychological reactions. Hence, teachers have a responsibility to make the sonic landscape of their schools as free from bigotry as possible.

    Like

  26. Wargo’s piece on sonic composition and contemporary sound systems of injustices really spoke out to me. I feel that in order to really foster a community that is truly understanding and empathetic, we need to encourage students to think outside of themselves. What I particularly love about Wargo’s studies is that she allowed Andi to express herself in a manner that was very personal and intimate. She states how “It’s me. It helps people hear that this is what it sounds like to walk and write as a high school dropout…and I’m a lesbian. So, there’s that. I just wanted it to be, like, sound, story, space.” We get to see her life through what she hears and sees on a daily basis rather than through our own lens which often times misses a great deal of what others may be going through. There are so many stigmas and stereotypes that society has attached to certain groups and identities and it can be incredibly difficult to push one another to deconstruct and see just how wrong these can be. Seeing what Andi has to hear everyday and how it influences the way she interacts with her environment was very humanizing and prevents people from perceiving her on a superficial level.

    Like

    • Hey Ailia,
      I also thought Wargo wrote a great article that let Andi speak her story and her truth. It’s like Andi is able to use sound as an immersive experience for others to step in her shoes. Those that know how she feels feel heard, and she educates those that don’t face similar injustice. She is providing a lens that is rarely given in high school literature. She is creating her own text. I think one of the best ways to fight stigma and injustice is by giving voices to people who face it every day. Give them a platform and an audience will come.

      Like

  27. The environment of school as a student is so different from the environment of the “real world.” High school is an environment that breeds a lot of judgement, social pressure, and anxiety. This is especially true for our queer students. In the description of the video from the Trevor Project, the statistic from their National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health struck me: “71% of LGBTQ youth reported feeling sad or hopeless for at least two weeks in the past year” (2019). I think it’s easy to forget what it feels like to be a teenager. Being a person who is queer, I remember those feelings of hopelessness in a high school environment; it feels like you’ll always be labelled as “the gay kid” in whatever social sphere you’re in, because of that judgmental environment of high school. Our students have never been outside the environment of school, it’s hard to imagine the fact that the world beyond high school doesn’t really operate in the same way.
    To this point, I think it’s important that we make sure our students are being exposed to visible queer role models. We need something substantial, like JVN’s video, things that clearly show students examples of queer adults leading fulfilling lives outside of the environment of school.
    And on this topic of the environment of school, it’s our responsibility as educators to change that environment. In high school, I remember a lot of teachers who put “safe space” stickers on their doors, but whose rooms I never really felt safe in. This kind of passive activism for our students isn’t enough. We need to actively engage with and stand up for our students to make them truly feel safe in the classroom. In our classrooms, we hear what our students say and see how they treat one another. It’s easier for us to let things slide, but when we do we are complicit in actions are making those 71% of queer youth feel sad and hopeless.

    Like

  28. Sound in fact did operate as so much more than a text for Andi in #Soundingoutmysilence. One way sound acted was as a compass. She was able to navigate environments and use sound to figure out where she felt safe, and where she felt threatened. This gave us a look at injustices she faced such as hate speech. She describes being called names such as “dyke” and “fag”. Silence also acted as a sound for her to decide whether or not she felt safe somewhere. Other people’s silence could indicate she was being judged. Sound also acted as a tool to combat such hate and injustice. She created her sound story to show the world what injustices she faced in her daily life. Those that could relate to her felt empowered and validated, and those that didn’t experience such hate were getting a wake-up call. Andi was able to bring to light how hard it can be to go through life when your identity doesn’t perfectly align with societal norms. She used sound to convey this. She also used her sound story to show how loud silence can be. Being a self-harm survivor, she expressed how silence can indicate something is wrong; silence is something you have to listen for just as much as sound. Through Andi’s sound story, she not only helps others but gains a better understanding of herself. Andi uses sound to tell her story and show who she truly is. She does this with music, city sounds, conversations, noises she faces daily. Sound surrounds daily life for Andi, and she inspires others to listen to her sounds and their own.

    Like

  29. I really enjoyed watching JVN’s video. I originally knew him from Queer Eye, and in that show he almost always has this bright, bubbly personality. So it was incredibly moving to see him open up about his struggles, ones that I never even would have considered. And I think that’s a big point he tries to make; Social media can be an powerful, welcoming, and safe space for LGBTQ+ students who have few other places to turn to. It can be a place to share stories so that you don’t feel so alone in your struggles. At one point JVN mentioned that in school he often felt that his safety was stolen solely because of his identity, so being able to have an outlet, or a community of support online was life-changing. I think showing this in our own classrooms to students who are at an age where they’re still trying to figure out their own identity can be incredibly powerful. Sparking these tough discussions of sex, gender, and sexuality can bring students closer to understanding and accepting one another, and it can help reduce the violence and the hate that we too often see today.

    Like

  30. I am in love with Jonathan’s admirable sense of belonging that he seems to ooze out in his positive energy. I think that is most important when discussing the struggles of LGBTQ+ youth and their relationships with mental health. In the video, that’s exactly how it’s described, as a relationship. I am an aspiring teacher at the University of Connecticut and projects like these really hit home for me because I never opened myself up to learning the emotional intelligence these projects are promoting in schools. Instead, I shut everything out. I think I suffered from depression long before I was diagnosed. I’ve just always been so high functioning because it was normalized to me. I grew accustomed to thought patterns of self-loathing from a very early age and I told myself that I just have to work harder because others around me were happier and they had REAL problems going on in their life. My issue was the constant invalidation of myself and my only relief was an escape in books. Reading was the only time I allowed myself to feel emotions that I otherwise deemed ‘unproductive’ and it was ok because they weren’t really my feelings (jokes on me, they were). Now nearly 5 years later I can confidently say that I was denying myself mental growth.

    The discoveries I’ve made about myself within the last year are usually developed earlier on. Even as I was making these discoveries like learning I’m bisexual, I still invalidated myself. That’s why I started this post discussing the sense of belonging. I am a female who has only ever had one partner who happened to be male. I am straight-passing so no one ever bullied or mistreated me the way that I know others have. I don’t express my gender or sexuality the same way that Jonathon does which made me feel like I wasn’t doing it right. This is such a silly notion, but it is how I’ve truly thought in the past. Now I can confidently say that I am a bisexual female getting stronger by the day and I want to bring emotional intelligence to the forefront of my future classes.

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  31. The Jonathan Van Ness video is such an important and thoughtful piece to consider when approaching the pervasive issues of mental health amongst LGBTQ+ youth in the classroom. Children growing up questioning their sexuality or gender expression need a lot of support to prevent serious damage to their mental wellbeing. There is so much fear and anxiety that comes from knowing you exist outside of the confines of heteronormativity, and schools are a place that can really impact a young person’s mental health because of the aspects of socialization and discovering identity or self-image that come from education. One of the most important things we can do as educators is listen to the perspectives and experiences of people who did experience marginalization or feelings of isolation in some of their most formative years. If people are willing to share their experiences we should be more than willing to listen with open hearts and open minds and seek to understand how we can do better. For JVN in particular, I think one of the most crucial takeaways is the importance of the creation of safe space. They describe growing up and experiencing bullying and a lot of judgement in a small and conservative community, but something that provided respite was their mother allowing the space for expression.
    I think that this speaks to the power of personal relationships. The world isn’t going to change overnight. The world won’t suddenly be full of acceptance and empathy. But, we can always be people full of acceptance and empathy regardless of what the world around us is like. By living by the rules of kindness and compassion and putting these values at the center of our teaching philosophies, we can support all children, including LGBTQ+ youth struggling with mental health. We can pass these values along to our students and truly be models of treating others with compassion, and that’s how support grows and change begins. Hopefully every day is a little better because we try and try and try again to make it better.

    Like

  32. After having watched JVN’s video, I definitely resonated with the message shown as I battled depression too in high school. I wasn’t able to find my safe spaces through my family since talking about and treating mental illnesses were considered taboo in my family culture. As a result, I ended up finding my own space spaces through my close friends and using sites such as Tumblr or Twitter and enveloping myself in communities that radiated positivity and kindness that I needed. However, not only did those communities serve to help me with my depression, but it also served as a gateway that allowed me to explore my identity in the LGBTQ+ community. I found resources and support through other blogs that I would not have been able to find if I hadn’t made the journey into such a space. Hopefully, by sharing JVN’s video, it might be able to serve as a message for other LGBTQ+ youth students that I teach in my classrooms and I will strive to make my classroom a safe space for others.

    When I looked at the story of Aldi, I couldn’t help but feel distraught and upset that these painful experiences are still happening to this day. It reminds me that educators have influence over the environment and through our actions, the results can be either beneficial or harmful for students. Her map of listening highlights how cruel and harmful words take place throughout the schools, making the school uninviting and difficult for students to feel safe. I was impressed with the usage of sound as I continued to read the paper as it not only empowered her, but it also served as a statement for LGBTQ+ youth. Their silence speaks volumes and as a future educator, I want them to be heard and after hearing Aldi’s story, I realize it doesn’t have to be through only literature, there are many more options out there to explore.

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  33. In the #SoundingOutMySilence article and the Trevor Project video featuring Jonathan Van Ness, the issue of what it means to create and maintain a safe space for LGBTQ+ students is brought to light. This is an important issue to speak on as educators, as we have a responsibility to create a safe learning environment for all students of all identities. I thought it was extremely powerful and enlightening to think about safe spaces and what they sound like, as well as what message silence carries with it.

    I felt that both the article and the video show the importance of putting a “sound” to social injustice issues, and that breaking the silence and having these conversations will help to create safer spaces in schools and in the larger community. I thought it was so interesting how Andi was able to use sound to highlight her lived experience as a queer woman, and similarly, Jonathan Van Ness used his video to sound out his lived experiences of growing up as a gay man who felt ashamed of his gender expression. These two texts helped provide both Andi and Jonathan Van Ness with a platform with which to share their experiences and talk through their struggles, which up until that point they might have dealt with in silence or alone. More than anything, I think these texts show that the first step with combating and resisting injustice is to put a voice to it. It is important for people experiencing injustice to find a safe place to discuss what is going on and ask for help. It is then even further important to share those stories, so that others experiencing similar injustices know that they are not alone, and feel encouraged to break their own silence. Only by bringing injustice to the conversation are we able, as educators and people, to do anything about it. We first have to break the silence and discuss the issue together.

    I also thought it was interesting how both Andi and Jonathan Van Ness purposefully and clearly stated that just because they are putting a voice or sound to these issues, does not mean they are explaining everyone’s experience. Andi states that “you can hear what I heard, but it’s different because it is you experiencing it, not me walking it,” (18) and similarly Van Ness states “other people’s experiences are not your experiences.” These two statements echo one another and inform viewers that it is important to continue these conversations and continue breaking the silence, because one story and one person is going to have a different journey and experience from another. It is important as educators to be informed and promote many perspectives and act as allies, not as experts, so that all stories and all truths feel validated and heard. As educators, we need to encourage breaking the silence on injustice by reading books about various identities, acknowledging new perspectives, creating safe environments where students are encouraged to discuss real issues in respectful ways, and give students a voice in writing and discussions so they feel heard. We need to focus not just on teaching content, but on teaching students to be empathetic, informed and conscientious learners and human beings.

    I was reminded of the GSA club at my school when I interacted with these texts. Our club meets every week, and the biggest even we put on is called the Day of Silence. This is a nationally recognized day, in which students and teachers can choose to remain silent for the day to demonstrate and protest the harmful behaviors and effects of discrimination against the LGBTQ community. In our school, students and faculty have the choice of being silent or being an ally, and wear tags indicating what they choose. This day is always a very powerful experience, as it demonstrates the effect of discrimination and injustice, and how powerful silence can be. We must continuously encourage students and fellow educators to speak out against injustice, and to speak up for what is right.

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  34. It was incredible to see Jonathan in a different space speaking to a subject he knows and cares about so personally. I sincerely appreciated his willingness to be vulnerable with his audience, and to share his truth to others. Like he said, it really does allow for more sincere conversations to be had. While watching the video, something stuck out to me that I feel the need to discuss briefly. Jonathan commented on how to this day he has to worry about violence, no matter where he is. All because the way he chooses to express himself has the potential to cause violence. This to me was just something I never really thought about. Perhaps it’s naïve of me to confess that, but it’s important to me that I am speaking truly too, as that’s the only way I think real conversations can be had. Being a cis gendered female, I have never called my safety into question. What I identify as was always and after thought to me- I would never in a million years think that my identity could cause violence, and I guess because of that I’ve assumed that’s how other people felt too. To hear Jonathan make that statement really just made me feel a lot of things. It was just upsetting to think that your personal expression, your most authentic self, could get you hurt. Everyone in this community is so brave, really.

    With this being said, I would love to know how I can personally help my peers within the LGBTQIA+ community worry less about their safety so they can focus on just enjoying their lives and being the person they want to be. I would also love to know how I can help LGBTQIA+ youth who may be questioning their identities in the future, as I have plans to become an educator, and I just want to create a safe and inclusive environment. Thank you!

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