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. In the video JVN talks about his own experiences with mental health as an young queer person. He talks about how isolating it can be for LGBTQ+ youth to receive messaging from people close to them that feels like it condemns the way that they just exist in the world. Being able to have access to resources like the Trevor Project and other mental health resources can be life saving to young people who often see negative messaging about themselves in the media and in their own homes.
    2. Andi was able to document the sound that existed around her as she experienced her life, in this way she added another layer to a narrative composition. Sound was able to transcend text and give a fuller account of what Andi experienced. Andi’s documentation of her experience reflected the way that she was able to engage with literacy both in the school setting (where literacy is more commonly thought to be learned) and in her daily life as she walked through her city. The article described misogyny, homophobia and racism as types of ambient sound that were almost ever-present as she moved through her life. Some stood out to her- but it seemed like a lot of the time the injustices that she faced were just a part of the fabric of her life.
    3. The resources available on this website come in different forms, including articles, books, videos, etc. Making these types of resources easily accessible and diverse in format is super helpful for distribution and educational purposes. In addition to being diverse in format the resources are also diverse in content, they range from gender to sexuality to social justice. Online resources such as this one can provide invaluable help to teachers and students that need information regarding LGBTQ+ identity. Often times LGBTQ+ students may look for information online on their own, but this website could be easily referred to by a teacher or peer.

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    • One question I have as i look at the resources available to the students is how can we best get them to consider using the many resources available? I know that i hear teachers talk about mental health and help they can relate to the student, but sometimes its hard to consider doing anything about it. I know for me, i didn’t know when to talk to the teacher about it because i was nervous someone would overhear me talking to the teacher. It was also embarrassing, especially at a high school age, to admit that i wasn’t okay. Because of that i didn’t want anyone to know what i was going through. So now that I’m a teacher i wonder how i can help that. Would an email once a month work? where i share resources? Could I anonymously have students message me and i can help them out and send them to helpful resources? Or would that not be good because what if it was an emergency but i didn’t know their name? I want to be as helpful and understanding as i can towards my students, especially their mental health but seeing as how i have zero training on how to help students who are self-harming, depressed, etc., I don’t know what the best policy in my own classroom would be.

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      • Thank you for your honest opinion and for being venerable with your position.

        I have found in teaching music for 13 years (getting my credential in science currently) that if the students know you care about them they will come to you with problems big and small. I tell my students explicitly that if they have a problem I am here to listen to them and help them get the help they need. By creating an open dialogue you invite them to come to you when they are truly struggling. I work at a Title I school in an area I grew up in, a lot of the students I teach do not have a single adult in their lives they feel like they can open up to and ask for help. This policy of open invitation has lead to some tense situations where I had to alert authorities because of mandated reporting, but I have had students come back years later and thank me for the help even though it was hard for them to take at the time.

        Personally I stay away from phrases that students have heard a million times like “I know how you feel,” you’ll understand when you are older,” or “those aren’t problems, you are just too sensitive.” I engage my students at their level and let them know that what they are going through sucks and I will do my best to understand, but the truth is in most scenarios I don’t know what it is like to deal with what they are going through.

        In terms of actual classroom policy I have found that greeting students at the door and genuinely inquiring about their life is a great way to get them to open up and have a low stakes environment to get things off their chest. When students see that you care, outwardly, unashamedly, and unconditionally they will turn to you in times of crisis, … and always remind them you are there for them, they are young and forget easily in the moment, but will remember that you were there for them for their entire life.

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  2. Jonathan Van Ness highlights the isolation and discrimination that too many LBGTQ + Youth experience. The confusion and fear that JVN reveals feeling from an early age by the negative reactions of his family, is both frightening and enlightening, and his struggles with depression and mental health is something future teachers must remain privy to. The experiences of JVN, and of Andi from Wargo’s article, shine a spotlight on how essential the need for safe spaces are to the mental health of LBGTQ students. I was especially moved by JVN’s thoughts on the role of passion in life, and how important it is to chase what inspires you. I firmly believe that having goals can help anyone better navigate the world. As a youth, I personally can attest to a large reliance on passion to negotiate my negative feelings. And my experience was much different than that of an LGBTQ + youth. I find it difficult to imagine facing and combatting the negative reactions and discrimination JVN and Andi have had to. I did appreciate how Andi was able to repurpose uncomfortable spaces as learning experiences for others by documenting the discrimination, misogyny, and isolation she encounters daily walking through the city. The use of social media enabled her to connect with others and share her story and struggle in a multimodal format. As JVN eloquently noted, knowing that you are not alone is a critical part of feeling safe; a priceless observation. JVN also expresses the need for support of LGBTQ + Youth, because sometimes that support is not found at home or elsewhere in their communities, and the importance of communication to reduce shame. This is foundational to building strong and confident students, capable of facing the social challenges of the world. As future teachers and role models, we have a responsibility to interrupt those feelings of shame, and create safe spaces for the betterment and emotional health of our students.

    I found the resources from “It’s Pronounced Metrosexual” to be incredibly helpful. I have to admit that I am somewhat ignorant to the nuances of gender and sexuality. The articles and edugraphics provide a wealth of knowledge for anyone interested in supporting the LGBTQ + community. I was especially impressed with The Gingerbread Person edugraphic. It is simple, and an effective way to understand and teacher gender differences to children and adults. I came across articles explaining the use of pronouns, and addressing what to say (and not say) when someone comes out to you. I find these resources to be indispensable in fostering safe spaces for students to learn and be their authentic selves. The more teachers learn about the lived realities of their students, the easier it will be to create connections. These connections will place teachers in a better position to help and inspire.

    Equity is fundamental to an inclusive classroom, and resources like these provide teachers with tools to ensure this. Providing true equity means a teacher must consistently work to recognize the experiences of all students, and support their individual needs.

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    • Hello!

      Jonathan Van Ness does do a great job at highlighting the discrimination he felt because of being a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. I am currently a pre-service teacher in Michigan. I work with ninth graders and in the unit I was co-teaching, Intercultural Race Dialogues, many students shared that the phrase, “That’s gay” is thrown around the school like no other. I have to believe that students who are part of the LGBT community who hear this feel so uncomfortable and isolated. After students shared this, we discussed ways in which they can confront individuals who throw around these slurs. We had a really great conversation and I hope that students will now feel empowered to confront this hate talk, or at least feel the need to change the way they think or how their friends or family think. This, in turn, will make the school a safer place for all students.

      I also enjoyed how JVN used his passions and goals to focus on, rather than focusing on “the haters.” This is something that is so crucial for all students. As a future teacher, I want to take time in class to have students write out their goals for the year, for their life, for larger projects we have, etc. I truly believe that if one has a goal in mind, they will feel more determined to accomplish it.

      The resources from “It’s Pronounced Metrosexual” were really great. Gender expression/identity, sexual expression, and sex can be very confusing for people. However, this site makes it so accessible for anyone to understand. If a teacher uses these resources to teach their students, students in the LGBT community will feel more welcomed in the classroom, while other students will be able to learn about the community more – everyone wins!

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    • Hey Boris!

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts, I 100% agree with everything you had to say. I was also moved by JVN’s thoughts on chasing your passions in life and chasing what inspires you which as you also mentioned does align with goal setting. As a pre-service science teacher I don’t expect my students to be completely immersed in my discipline, but I do hope that after a few inquiry based lessons they find interest and meaning in science. I think that in order for students be become interested or to become/stay engaged, the teacher must convey a passion for the subject they teach. The must teach why the learning is so important, present real-life application and make learning fun. This is turn, may lead students to keep exploring the world and working hard to find what it is they are passionate about.

      Speaking of setting goals, I definitely want to incorporate that into my future classroom. I think it’s important for us as teachers to set goals for all of our students but not just any randoms goals. They must be realistic performance goals and help students achieve them. I had a teacher once that encouraged her students to set our own reasonable goals. At the beginning of the year, we had this assignment where we had to write down some goals for ourselves, they could be academic goals related to her class, other classes or even outside of school. We had to write brief explanations on why we chose these specific goals, why are they important to us and to write down several ways we plan on reaching our goals. I also thought to myself, what a good way to get to know your students a little more too.

      Lucy G

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    • Hi Boris,

      I loved how you put yourself into the shoes of both Jonathan Van Ness and Andi. It is nice to see you, a straight-identified person, empathizing with their stories and beliefs. I think that empathy is the main ingredient for establishing a “safe space”. Empathy ensures the consideration of all voices, so I really appreciated yours. Being apart of the LGBTQ+ community does have its own set of difficulties and obstacles that may differ from those of a straight-identified person. No one wants to feel ostracized, especially in high school. This is why I agree with your statement “we have a responsibility to interrupt those feelings of shame and create safe spaces for the betterment and emotional health of our students”. I 1000% agree, the confidence we instill in our kids as a youth will follow them and hopefully amplify as they grow older.

      Well done Boris, I really enjoyed this!!

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  3. Hi everyone,

    My name is Kristin. I’m currently a practicum student at Westfield State University (a mid-sized college in Western Massachusetts). Since January, I have been student-teaching ninth-grade standard and honors English at Holyoke High School. The city of Holyoke has a large demographic of Latinx and low-income individuals, and the demographics of Holyoke High School aptly reflect this data.

    Johnathan Van Ness, in his video for the Trevor Project, discusses his tumultuous childhood in trying to navigate gender expression, sexual orientation, as well as orient himself alongside his classmates. One of Van Ness’s most crucial points within the video is his message that youth, in particular LGBTQIA+ youth, have access to spaces that are deemed “safe.” Similarly, in Jon M. Wargo’s “#SoundingOutMySilence,” Andi uses sonic cartography to narrate the hate she hears within her school. Within the sonic cartography, one can visually see which areas of Andi’s school represent spaces of solidarity (GSA and classrooms), while others revealed hostility (gym locker rooms). Further, as Andi creates her soundwalk, she is able to show and allow others to hear her voice. Johnathan Van Ness advocates for a commitment towards locating safe spaces of solidarity for LGTBQIA+ youth, in which individuals can join in unity with others to share their stories and ultimately reduce shame. For Andi, the soundwalk enabled her to share her story with others, as well as educate others by highlighting the homophobia and misogyny present within her life within and outside of school.

    When considering my current and future students, it’s important to ensure that they have spaces of solidarity, not only within my own classroom, but also within other areas in the school. In other words, there needs to be attention drawn to how we as educators can provide school-wide spaces of solidarity. Johnathan Van Ness points out the necessity in locating inspiration and passions in order to continue moving forward. In order to cultivate these passions, especially for students undergoing negative internal dialogues, it’s crucial that individuals have spaces of solidarity in which they can disassociate from their internal dialogues. As a pre-service teacher of English who hopes to teach in an urban school, I can see myself using sonic cartography to help my students create a visual narrative of their experiences in a diverse environment. In order to move towards equity, it’s crucial that my students are able to truly see how inequity functions in the setting of a public school.

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    • Hi Kristin!

      I think it is important that you brought up how educators can work together to create safe spaces in solidarity around their schools. There is no reason that students like Andi should feel unsafe anywhere on campus; yet her sonic cartography of her school indicates the presence of many hostile locations. As educators, we hold the power to steer conversations towards tolerance and acceptance, and I think it is great that you have intent for creating this safe space not only in your classroom, but around your school as well. This will be challenging, as there are several zones in school that you mentioned (gym, boys locker room, etc.) that produce ideas of toxic masculinity and misogyny. How would you go about working with other teachers in order to change the dialogue in these areas? It would be especially difficult trying to work with a conservative P.E. teacher who have a more fixated mindset on gender norms, and I am curious as to how you would approach talking to him/her. Luckily we are living in an era of education where culturally responsive pedagogy is strongly advocated, and future teachers like you and I can hopefully make a difference. Thank you for sharing your insightful post, and best of luck in your teaching career!

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    • I like that you are looking to pushing your students to recognize how inequity is a part of the public school system. I think something like this would open the eyes of all students in the hopes of making them more educated individuals. I think creating a project like the one Andi did would also work towards this goal. If we as teachers create assignments where students are pushed to open up about themselves and to think reflectively and critically it will help to create that safe space that Van Ness talked about in his video. I think along with having students complete these kinds of assignments we need to be aware of how we respond to them. It is within this space that we can build a sense of trust and vulnerability with out students so that we can be those safe spaces for them.

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  4. What I took away from both Jonathan Van Ness’s video and “#SoundingOutMySilence” is that teachers today need to be more proactive and receptive to their students. We need to do more than create a “safe space” in our classrooms, we need to be out there promoting love, equality, acceptance in the entire school and community. Andi felt decently safe in her GSA classroom and other classrooms, but just walking into the halls led to a feeling of danger and being unsafe. And it resulted in her dropping out of high school. This is not okay. Students, and especially LGBTQIA+ youth, are always on the alert and take in “real and perceived homophobia and mysogony” wherever they go. Being aware of this as teachers, even more so for cisgendered, straight white teachers, mean we can help be a champion for change and a sounding board for what our students truly need.

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    • Hi Becky,

      The point that you drew from Wargo’s article #SoundingOutMySilence about how LGBTQIA+ youth “take in ‘real and perceived homophobia and misogyny'” connects very well to an article entitled “Why Your Intentions Don’t Really Matter, but Outcomes Do” on http://www.itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/. The article discusses how regardless of our intentions, we are responsible for taking ownership of both the “real and perceived” prejudice directed at LGBTQIA+ and other marginalized groups in society. For example, in the article the author describes a scenario where a well-intentioned person calls his gay friend homosexual accidentally offending him leading to “perceived” homophobia. However, it is important to note here that although the homophobia was “perceived” as the friend was “well-intentioned,” perception is just a offensive and harmful as reality and the friend still has an obligation to take ownership of his choice to use homophobia which often has a more negative connotation than gay.

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  5. Hello! My name is Julianna Campbell and I am a pre-service teacher currently doing my student teaching at Holyoke High School in Holyoke, MA. I attend Westfield State University in Westfield, MA and will be graduating this May. At Holyoke High School, most of the students are Latinx or Hispanic (more than 90%). Many of my students experience triple segregation, in terms of racial, linguistic and class discrimination and prejudice. Additionally, many of my students come from high-trauma backgrounds. Thus, teaching at Holyoke High School requires a comprehensive and culturally relevant approach to pedagogy. The resources provided will help to guide my work at Holyoke High School because many of my students are a part of the LGBTQIA community. At the start of my student teaching, there was an incident where a slur was written in Spanish on one of the posters in school about the LGBTQIA safe spaces in the community. This really bothered me and other teachers, as well as students, because the school has worked so hard to promote social justice and become a better learning space for disenfranchised communities. In response to this, I would be interested in creating a unit about the injustices faced by the LGBTQIA community to foster awareness and tolerance in the wake of such injustice and intolerance.

    The resources provided above will allow me to better meet the needs of my students given the school context and climate as of late. The “#SoundingOutMySilence” article is especially interesting because it is such a new and refreshing way to interrupt binaries and homophobia. The student featured in the article, Andi, was able to voice her experiences with hate and homophobia and reclaim her experiences. I think that the concept of sound as a text to both analyze and create is vital to the future of ELA. As Critical Media Literacy emerges in a world that becomes more and more technologically dependent, it becomes more important for teachers to consider other ways of knowing and expressing knowledge.

    I think that the #SoundingOutMySilence project could be easily replicated to address different kinds of discrimination and prejudice (i.e. xenophobia, racism, sexism). As we are in the midst of the COVID-19, I find that many of my students hold some xenophobic and racist beliefs about China and Chinese people in connection with the emerging pandemic. I am a firm believer in addressing concerns as they emerge in school and community contexts. Many of my students are of color and many of them as also immigrants or their parents are immigrants. Thus, many of my students have experienced racism and xenophobia, and yet many of them are racist and xenophobic toward China and Chinese people given the climate of misinformation and hysteria sweeping the nation. Wargo’s article could help me to address homophobia at Holyoke High School as well as emerging xenophobia and racism in reaction to COVID-19.

    One of the other resources, “It’s Pronounced Metrosexual” (IPM) provides so many resources and infographics to aid explicit instruction about homophobia and injustice. This website contains so many resources that I think my students would enjoy—from the genderbread infographic to the articles about injustice and social activism. I can imagine having my students peruse the website and create their own blog post or infographic that could be “published” on the website during our unit on genre conventions. I imagine that everyone will find a way to use these resources differently and I think that is the beauty of teaching, and especially teaching about social justice. While some might argue that teaching about social justice is nonessential or cannot be embedded in the common core curriculum, it is resources like the Trevor Project, #SoundingOutMySilence and IPM that prove that social justice learning can and should be taught in ELA classrooms. Furthermore, social justice learning can and will lead to rich and nuanced ELA learning and understanding.

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    • Hi Juliana,

      I’m glad you brought up the xenophobic and racist reaction to COVID-19. I too have heard a lot of students indeed have negative responses in regards to the Chinese. The pandemic seems to have opened up the entire culture for an onslaught of undeserving criticism; much of it played out over social media. And unfortunately, for many an adolescent social media is the dominant source of information. I am also a firm believer in addressing concerns. Personally, I have used these moments to educate students on the need for tolerance, respect, and kindness. Many of the students (if not all) were students of color, so I spent some time highlighting the hypocrisy of their cultural sentiments and evaluations. The students responded well, I was actually proud that I could make a small difference. I wish I could more. Being culturally responsive is always important, but at times like these it is imperative. Much like the spread of Islamophobia after the events of 9/11, Asian communities could be targets of racism and injustice if we don’t act now to curb the anxieties, ignorance, and misinformation.

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  6. I believe it is important to understand both the physical and mental challenges that our LGBTQ+ youth undergo on a daily basis, and these resources do an excellent job of spreading awareness. It is easy for many teachers to say they support these students; however it requires active listening, and constant reflection on how their struggles differ from ours, in order to effectively create a safe space for them. When students such as Andi from “Sounding Out my Silence” create narratives through media or text about the injustices they experience, they are helping others comprehend what they are feeling. It is critical that we, as educators, acknowledge these media outlets and share them with those who are less informed. I am particularly a huge fan of Jonathan Van Ness from the Netflix show Queer Eye, and watching him speak in the Trevor Project video inspired me to work towards further supporting our LGBTQ+ youth. His stories of being bullied or feeling oppressed growing up likely resonates with many students today, however not all of them have the voice or power to speak up on their situations. I highly recommend watching a particular episode of Queer Eye, where Jonathan Van Ness returns to his old high school to give a “life makeover” to a well-deserving former teacher of his, as her class was known to many as a safe space for all. The main idea I took away from this discussion is that before any learning could happen in our classrooms, we make sure that our students feel loved and safe to be who they are. As future teachers, we hold a great amount of power in our classrooms, and we should use it to make sure our underrepresented students feel secure and empowered. We can draw upon resources such as The Trevor Project and IPM to shed light on the inequalities present in our schools, as well as open up discussions on how teachers and students can form a more accepting climate.

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  7. Hello, I am currently completing the practicum at Westfield State.

    I find that these sources are both applicable to all groups of oppressed people, as well as specific to the LGBTQA community.

    In the classroom, it is imperative to create a safe and welcoming culture for students. As society moves to a more progressive and accepting place, educating those in education becomes necessary. I think professional development might be of great use in these areas. Many educators are not educated in different areas of discrimination or privilege. We need to teach teachers.

    Educators can be well meaning and unintentionally harmful when proper language and boundaries in the classroom aren’t used. Simple acts like modeling pronouns are helpful or revisiting tension filled moments in class.

    Not only do we need to teach teachers about the issues and cultural progress, but we also must teach teachers how to handle tense situations. Having a safe climate in the classroom may even be lfe saving for LGBTQ youth. Engaging teachers in the “how” is important as well.

    I think sources like “The Trevor Project” and “It’s Pronounced Metrosexual” are a good starting place. But a movement in education is needed (and I think is here) in creating safe spaces for all students.

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    • Hey Shawna!

      I love that you wrote “We need to teach teachers”. I couldn’t agree with your statement more. Before I took this class that I’m in now which has been allowing me to reflect on myself, my past, my privileges, etc, it’s funny that I thought I was informed but what I’m starting to realize is that I’m still growing and learning everyday. And I hope to keep growing and learning for and about myself throughout my years so as to stay reflective and reflexive in my teaching so that I can be the best teacher I can possibly be.

      Another point that I love that you brought up is “Educators can be well meaning and unintentionally harmful…”. This is true in so many ways which is why I hope to keep being a reflective teacher but more specifically referring to the use of proper language and pronouns, I realized that I need to familiarize myself with the Gingerbread Person and other resources for my LGBTQ students. One of my teachers this semester shared with my class a Student Survey that teachers can pass out to their students at the beginning of the year to get to know their students a little more and I really liked it so I’m sharing it with you (and everyone else here in the conversation). It’s a brief half sheet and here’s it reads:

      Name: ________________
      Name you want me to call you in class: ________________
      Pronouns (ex: He/him/his, She/her/hers, They/them/theirs): ________________
      May I use these pronouns in front of the class? YES or NO
      May I use these pronouns when I contact home? YES or NO
      May I use these pronouns in front of other teachers? YES or NO
      Would you like to follow up with me (in a private conversation) about your pronouns? YES or NO
      Tell me three things about yourself. This could be interesting facts, hobbies, or just things you want me to know about you.

      Of course, this can be modified in whichever way you want but it’s nice to pass out to each student individually so that if a student does want to share things about them with you they can through this more discreetly. Anyway, I thought I’d share it just in case you or anyone else finds it useful. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on here Shawna

      Lucy G

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      • Hi Lucy,

        Thank you so much for sharing the student survey related to pronouns!! In my own post, I discussed how much I really liked the article about pronouns on the “It’s Pronounced Metrosexual” website. I’m also a preservice teacher and trying to determine the best way I can respect my students’ identities; I’ve been looking for a good way to create a student survey like this for my own future classroom –– so thank you! I especially like that the survey asks who the pronouns should be used in front of, rather than simply asking “what are your pronouns.”

        I’m wondering if the above survey can just be a part of a bigger survey for students to answer at the beginning of the year, though. For some reason, only asking those questions and not others doesn’t seem comprehensive enough. I would want to extend it to ask about other parts of their identities and ask students more about other aspects of their interests / lives (similar to the “three things about yourself” question). But overall, I love this as a place to start, so thanks again!

        -Kara D.

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  8. Jonathan Van Ness speaks about the struggles that the LGBTQ+ community have, including himself as a queer man. He speaks of his experience and the way he had to cope with the way people judged him. His father disagreed with Jonathan wanting to play with make up and wear dresses, and so he felt he had to hide that part of himself. The bullying he dealt with was violently verbal, which is why he believes safe spaces are so important. The experiences he had, had an effect on his mental well-being. Jonathan underwent depression and it was due to the negativity in his life due to his sexuality and his identity.

    Learning how to create safe spaces for the LGBTQ+ community is vital to the success of many students. Students must feel free to express themselves and not feel isolated or alone. In the classroom, we as teachers can create a safe space, but we need to know how to. We must include everyone, and in order to do that we must understand what groups are being marginalized.

    Bullying can happen in the classroom, but it is mainly happening when adults aren’t around. As teachers, this makes it difficult for us to really know who is being affected because the students will not always do the bullying right in front of you. We need to get to know our students and build relationships in order to see if we need to help someone.

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    • Casey,

      I agree with your thoughts on bullying; however, I will say that oftentimes I have found adults and teachers rather dismissive of bullying, attributing it to “something kids do”, therefore not looking at it from the perspective of how dangerous and detrimental it can be for students. You are right, it is hard for teachers to always see it because kids are smart enough not to be seen when they are committing acts of bullying, but it is important as teachers we listen to children and be quick to deal with it when we see it.

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    • Casey I agree we have to know our students, the relationship we build with them make a difference in their life they will feel that they have someone who is willing to hear them out to stand by when the might feel lost. I do agree that students need to be in a environment where they feel that they can be themselves to show their true side. By doing so they can feel more relaxed and more engaged in willing to learn.

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  9. Hello! My name is Ashley and I am a pre-service teacher from Western Massachusetts studying at Westfield State University. I am currently in the middle of my practicum, student teaching in a ninth-grade English classroom in Westfield. I found all of these resources to be valuable and informative, however I found Jonathan Van Ness’s video to be particularly powerful. Something that really stood out to me in this video was Jonathan’s comment about how growing up as an LGBTQ+ youth, there were several times in school where he felt “a feeling of having [his] safety stolen” where he constantly felt the need to “look over [his] shoulder” for safety and space. As Jonathan was sharing his experiences, it was difficult for me to imagine any child feeling this lack of safety and comfort, especially in the academic classroom. This comment also made me think about the conversations that were taking place in the GSA program in Wargo’s article, when Paris, an African American genderqueer youth stated, “if I don’t feel safe, I’ll just throw on my earbuds.” As an educator, this made me think of the various coping mechanisms that our students may be using in our classrooms when they feel unsafe that we may be completely unaware of.
    Ultimately, Jonathan’s video provided me with insight as to what I can do as an educator to help support my students. Jonathan talked about how critical it is for kids to feel like they are not alone, to feel heard, seen, and safe. I think that as teachers, not only is it critical that we are creating a safe and positive environment in the classroom for our students, but it is also important that we are actively involved and attuned to what is taking place outside of the classroom. Students need to feel safe in the hallways, on the buses, and in all other spaces that extend beyond the academic classroom. I think that sharing resources such as The Trevor Project, “#SoundingOutMySilence”, and It’s Pronounced Metrosexual with other educators as well as our students may be a start to improving the climates of our school systems.

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    • Hi Ashely!

      I agree it was very interesting and informative to listen to Jonathan Van Ness talk about his experience of feeling unsafe as a queer student in the secondary education space. When listening to others talk about experiences that are different than my own, I feel that it can be difficult to conceptualize how it was/is possible for that kind of thing to happen. I feel that as educators it is our responsibility to make ourselves more aware of the range of experiences that students have as they move through their lives and our classrooms. I liked the point that you made about being aware of and gaining an understanding of the coping mechanisms that our students may be engaging with as they navigate feeling unsafe or feeling other things that may come along with being an adolescent. I am a queer person that can definitely attest to the importance and necessity for having space to feel seen and heard in the classroom. When we enter the classroom we bring our whole selves in with us and it is important not to discount the experience that accompanies many of our students, as you describe above.

      Like

  10. In the video, Jonathan Van Ness brings up some very strong points about gender expression, sexual orientation, and mental health. In the video Mr. Van Ness makes a powerful point: “the thing that really reduces shame is sharing your story.” As a connection point between The Trevor Project video and Andi’s experiences under sonic duress is having a safe space where one can share their story and FEEL heard. It is our responsibility as future educators to open ourselves up to the experience that students will share their story and look to us to be heard. As creators these individuals chose to share their life story in ways that will help to feel heard and understood while empowering others to share their story as well.

    Most of the concepts in class at Cal State University Long Beach are about self-introspection and reflection. The main way to achieve actual and realized reflection is to understand the struggle of others and those around us. The only way we can achieve this lofty goal is by seeking and listening to the story of others. In my personal life my friends are a very diverse group of individuals who hang out because of a common passion that crosses racial boundaries, so I felt particularly emboldened by this coursework to ask them how they felt growing up in a “white system” and if that affected the way in which they view the world and how they learned. Overwhelmingly those in my very small poll told me that it affected and affects every part of their life and that white privilege is a real thing that should be considered when designing my future plans as an educator. In his 2003 work How Does Your Positionality Bias Your Epistemology? Dr. David Takacs writes the following about the importance of listening: “Connecting positionality to epistemology simultaneously empowers and disempowers individual expertise in the classroom. Students are empowered because they recognize that they have unique claims to knowledge that others cannot deny. Only I have lived my life; only you have lived yours. This encourages me to listen to you and you to me, as we each have a unique perspective… if this experience works well, we are led into doubts about the “correctness” of our own position, as we come to learn that our views may be constrained by the limits of our own experiences. Recognizing this, we are more willing, eager, or obliged to talk with others, as we realize we make assumptions based on our own positionality, and that this must bias how we view the world. Only by listening to others can I become aware of the conceptual shackles imposed by my own identity and experiences.” (Takacs 2003).

    This website has some great resources on how to reflect upon our personal experiences and how to utilize this newly gained sense of openness to focus our energies on being available to our students in ways that are not biased by our positionality. I will be using these resources to make sure that I am listening and reflecting upon my own privilege. I will be using these resources to make sure that I am giving my students the best care and education possible so I can empower them to face the world each day, and by giving my students strength and listening to their story I also grow and become a stronger more helpful, and by most accounts, better teacher.

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    • Hello,

      I really appreciate your post. I especially like the idea of introspection as a tool to grow empathy and understanding of systems. You mention that you will be using the resources to make sure that you are reflecting on your privilege, and I was wondering if you had an idea of how you would go about ensuring that you are holding yourself to this promise? Will it just be a method of making sure you are incorporating different topics that highlight various identities and backgrounds and reflecting to make sure you did so in a valuable way for your students? Or do you have some other plan? I am genuinely interested. My teacher prep program has a substantial integration of self-reflection, and one thing I worry about this type of reflection is bias confirmation. In the sense that I will reflect on an instance in the classroom and work to understand my feelings in the moment and how others were impacted. And I would like to say I can catch myself when I am going down a troubling path of being too self-centered and try to redirect and make it about students and doing them justice, but I don’t know if I do that as well as I could all the time. So how would you ensure that your reflection is enabling you to grow?
      Also, do you plan on incorporating self-reflection in your class, so that your students can benefit from it as well? And if you do, will you have it be kind of like the question you posed to your friend group, where you have them reflecting on their interactions with social systems and how they may or may not benefit from them? I honestly think this would be a fantastic way to have students think critically about the world around them; Like a bottom-up approach, where they can figure out their situation first and then work to see how they fit into broader society. It might be a bit challenging at first, especially if students are not used to this type of introspection. Still, it has the potential to have students not only understand themselves better but also how they impact the world(and the world impacts them). You don’t at all have to do any of that, I just read your post and had thoughts, so I felt the need to share.

      Thank you for your post!

      -Trinity

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  11. Focusing on the article about Andi and her spacial learning, it was an eye opener to a new way of being literate and experiencing life in general. Sound was the way that Andi told her story — through every day noises there was a story behind them, it showed listeners the different trials she goes through everyday as a Lesbian, and it acted as a way to bond her experiences with those of others who experience similar things. As an educator, I look at this work and am shocked at the creativeness of this projects. Would I have ever thought to make an assignment that dealt with sound? No, probably not. Would I have ever connected sound with the experience of my LGBTQ plus students? Never. This opened my eyes to understanding that everyone experiences life through their senses and literacy can be experienced through these senses as well. A part of literacy is telling stories, and I think that is exactly what Andi accomplished through this experiment. As I move forward into the sphere of becoming a teacher, I am finishing up my schooling right now, I want to take Andi’s story with me, and remember that my students, including my students who are LGBTQ plus, experience literacy in all different kinds of ways, and I want to open up these ways of literacy learning and engage my students, and encourage them to share their stories.

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    • Hi Taia,

      I really appreciate your perspective on creative approaches to teaching. Like you, I found the “sonic cartography” project to be both a creative and new take on story-telling. I definitely agree with your point regarding how everyone experiences life and the world around them differently, which is a point made in both the article, and the Trevor Project video featuring Jonathan Van Ness. No one has the exact same experiences, and I think that is a lesson that we should remember as we take charge of our own classrooms. It is important to respect all experiences and perspectives, and we can model that respect with what we choose to provide to our students. This can mean providing a variety of texts to read, and as you pointed out, a variety of ways to interact with texts and content. I love the idea of incorporating choice into learning, and embodying a Universal Design for Learning approach in order to help make the classroom a safe space. I think as educators it is important to remember that creating a “safe space” means respecting identities, experiences, choices, and learning styles. I think Andi’s experience of using sound to tell her story highlights that each learner is a unique individual, and if we as educators are to encourage true learning and are to create a safe learning environment, then we should make sure our mindsets reflect flexible, engaging, relevant, and authentic modes of teaching and learning. Like you, I absolutely will carry Andi’s story with me to the classroom, so that I can encourage students to learn in a manner that is individualized and best-suited for their experiences. Particularly during this uncertain time of school closures, I think it is important as educators to encourage students to speak out, connect, and interact with learning in whatever ways are comfortable for them.

      Thanks for sharing!

      Kindly,
      Emily

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  12. As I reflect on the article about Andi and her experiences in school and where she felt safe and where she felt unsafe, I am still shocked that the number of places she felt unsure or unsafe were greater than the number of places she felt 100% safe and secure at her own school. Andi was forced to be hyper sensitive to the conversations happening around her because it was not unusual for her to experience harsh comments and bullying based on her sexual orientation everyday. As and educator I have a few questions, first, how can we create more spaces where students of unique walks of life can feel safe, accepted, and valued? The GSA where Andi and other students found sanctuary was truly amazing to read about and it is my goal to ensure more places like this exist on campuses. Ultimately, I want to make the school I work at a united front where students and staff continuously work together to make sure the classrooms, hallways, and common areas are warm, welcoming, and safe for every student, staff member, and visitor regardless of their sexual orientation, gender orientation, race, culture, and more. Second, how do we teach tolerance so that students who intentionally or unintentionally make others feel less than and unsafe see the consequences of their words and actions? I don’t think it is unreasonable to believe a school can exist where every student feels safe in every space and where students can have different beliefs, but mutual respect is present. My third question is how do we deem a space is safe? As I discussed Andi’s story with my classmates at California State University Long Beach, some of us struggled to conceptualize how a space can be safe for students with different needs and backgrounds at once. furthermore, we discussed how often times teachers or staff members claim a space is safe but the reality is students of specific groups don’t actually feel safe there. So my final question is, how do we recognize safe spaces without diluting the meaning of a safe space?

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    • I feel like the best way to get students to speak up is to give them opportunity and a space that lets them feel like they can speak up against you as a teacher. This means that throughout our time with the students we can’t get mad at them for voicing their opinions even if we do not agree with them. If we put our students in a position where they feel comfortable to tell us they don’t feel safe then they will probably let us know.

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      • Thank you for this sentiment Jake,

        I was taught at a young age to be vocal about my dissenting opinion even when it wasn’t popular to do so. I have found my lifelong friends and best teacher-student relationships this way. Creating an open space for dissent is so important because one way of doing things or thinking will never be the only way something can be done or perceived.

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    • Hannah,
      I think that all of the questions you have posed in your post are extremely important for all educators to consider. I was particularly interested in how you and your peers grappled with the question: how we can deem a space is safe for all students, regardless of race, gender, and so forth? I think that as educators, our first step might be simply asking our students: What makes a space ‘safe’ for you? What makes a space ‘unsafe’ for you? Because I think that one of the most important things we need to do as educators is refrain from assuming what defines a space safe for our students. In addition to this, I could imagine the ways in which we could pair aspects of the sonic cartography with these questions. Students could create visual representations, like the one Andi did, in order to help them grapple with what deems a space safe (and possibly even unsafe) for them. Teachers could use these visuals to engage in a class wide discussion about what defines a space safe for different individuals in the room. Giving students the power to name and define how they deem a space safe and then engage with one another in conversation might be the first steps we can take as educators to ensure we are creating safe spaces in our academic classrooms.

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  13. One of the main things that I took away from both the Trevor project video and #SoundingOutMySilence article is that we need to create a safe place for our students. As a teacher, we need to find ways to further their passions and create a space that allows our students to grow and prosper. It is also crucial to be on the lookout for disassociation in our students. That we need to be there to verify what they are feeling and help them see past the negative things that might be going through their mind and help them see through it.
    Making the commitment to your classroom being a safe space and also trying to be a safe person for your students. I thought it was impressive how Andi associated the sound with safeness. I have to admit that it was hard for me to understand how music can be related to feeling safe, but when I say the map, it helped me better appreciate what Andi goes through throughout her day.

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  14. Comment from Jennie O’Leary, ELA student teacher at Framingham State University in Massachusetts:

    A common thread I noticed in all 3 resources was how Jonathan, Andi, and Sam pursued a dream or passion that allowed them to express themselves and also work towards a larger social goal. It’s our job as teachers to help all students find that dream/passion, even if it’s not in our subject area. It’s also our job to connect them to resources and show them examples of how other people are sharing their passions with the community. The resources in his dialogue are helpful in this regard. It can be really powerful for LGBTQ+ students to see someone who identifies as LGBTQ+ successfully pursuing their dream.

    I thought the concept of sonic cartography was really interesting. Audio texts offer a way for students who struggle with reading to practice analytical skills. I was observing a 7th grade class a few weeks ago and noticed the kids could analyze images really well, and prefacing textual analysis with visual analysis made kids more confident. Using audio analysis might achieve the same end.

    Andi’s Story Map offers us a taste of what it’s like to be Andi, but as Wargo writes, “We do not hear, listen, or even sense speace and the practice of sonic cartography as Andi. This is purposeful.” We can never truly know what it’s like to be another person, but we can experience approximations. Because we can’t experience life as someone else, our own reactions to texts like Andi’s tach us valuable lessons about how we view the world as well. Maybe audio texts could lead to a reader-response type activity? Maybe teachers can ask students questions like, “How do you think the subject feels right now? What are you thinking about as you hear/see what the subject hears/sees?”

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    • Hi there, I thought it was really cool how you emphasized the parallels you saw between each story. I think Andi, Jonathan, and Sam pursuing a dream or a passion made them stronger and helped them stay resilient when facing harsh comments, bullying, and judgment. ultimately, I think the dreams they chased helped them build a community to combat the negative perspectives and hardships they faced. How as teachers and educators do you think we can help build communities that support students and accept individuals for who they are? Furthermore, how, as single subject educators, can we encourage students to dive into their passions and explore their dreams and interests outside of the classroom and our subject matter? I think the stories we have read and studied show how valuable it is to encourage students to have meaning in their life and pursue the things that bring them joy.

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      • Thank you Jennie for a thought provoking commentary.

        I really like the experience you shared about prefacing visual examples before textual content. Many of my students are emerging bilingual and I can see this as being a great tool for them, and the rest of my students as well.

        The issue you raise in perspective of the subject is a powerful one that can change students’ lives, especially at such a formative age. While going through my high school’s band and theatre program when I was high school age they made a huge deal about leadership and service being linked and inseparable. I have found that by attempting to understand someone’s point of view in any given situation has given me incredible insight and helpful paths of thinking that are not available to others who did not receive this training. I think we are able to influence these students uniquely and in ways that will shape the types of adults they are becoming (A great deal of power). Most student’s I teach are not naturally empathetic or service oriented individuals, but after being taught the fundamentals of self reflection I find student’s attitudes towards others become much more considerate.

        Accidentally wrote this in Hannah’s space, whoops, I hope everyone understands the embarrassment of my position by thinking about what it would be like to have made this mistake 😀

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      • Hi Hannah,

        Great questions. I like to think that even though we are – as you state it – “single subject educators” – you can absolutely still encourage students to explore what they’re passionate about inside and outside of the classroom. It’s crucial that we really know our students and form relationships with them. Once relationships are established, it may be easier for us to learn what our students our interested in to bring into the classroom; whether it be through music, art, sports, and more. Further, we can encourage student exploration around passions through standard-based research assignments, inquiry papers, and more. Additionally, we can support our students in extracurricular activities if we choose to do so, or even start a club (if there isn’t already one) for all student interests.

        On another note, it’s important to foster an environment in which students’ feel comfortable sharing their interests and struggles with us. As educators, I think it’s crucial that we advocate for our students and what they feel is a space of solidarity. Like Andi, having all students create a sonic cartography project can help determine what our students deem as spaces of solidarity, then work collaboratively with our students to designate ‘classroom norms’ to help ensure our classrooms are spaces of solidarity. This would hopefully open the doors to students feeling secure in our classrooms.

        –Kristin

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    • Thank you Jennie for a thought provoking commentary.

      I really like the experience you shared about prefacing visual examples before textual content. Many of my students are emerging bilingual and I can see this as being a great tool for them, and the rest of my students as well.

      The issue you raise in perspective of the subject is a powerful one that can change students’ lives, especially at such a formative age. While going through my high school’s band and theatre program when I was high school age they made a huge deal about leadership and service being linked and inseparable. I have found that by attempting to understand someone’s point of view in any given situation has given me incredible insight and helpful paths of thinking that are not available to others who did not receive this training. I think we are able to influence these students uniquely and in ways that will shape the types of adults they are becoming (A great deal of power). Most student’s I teach are not naturally empathetic or service oriented individuals, but after being taught the fundamentals of self reflection I find student’s attitudes towards others become much more considerate.

      Like

  15. In the Trevor Project video, Jonathan Van Ness shares his experience with exploring his gender expression, sexuality, and dealing with the lack of support from the people around him. By opening up about how real these hardships are and giving personal advice about how/why you can overcome them, the LGBTQ+ youth have someone they can look up to and are motivated to address their mental health. Speaking to the 71% of youth that were sad or hopeless at one point, showing them the importance of finding your voice and reaching out to someone you trust is an important step in tackling that depression.

    The resources from the IPM website I believe do a great job at using an educator’s approach to relaying important content to the public. It has a lot of background information for beginners who need to build a foundation as well as extensions that you can use to dive into its various connections to other subjects. It also presents it using various mediums (e.g. articles, edugraphics, videos) like we would for the different styles of learning. The website itself is easy to navigate, interactive, colorful, and written in a personable manner.

    As teachers, we will be interacting with all kinds of people. By learning from these resources ourselves, we can learn how to approach different situations with LGBTQ+ youth and try to understand their experience. We can also share these resources with LGBTQ+ youth for them to explore and connect with the stories of others. In the larger scheme, it creates a platform where you can have a conversation about the LGBTQ+ community and how people are impacted by these experiences. Hopefully, we can all learn from each other and build an empathetic and accepting society.

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  16. The video talks about the experiences of LGBTQ+ youths and how it relates to mental health. It was very eye opening to hear Jonathan Van Ness share about his experiences. As a gender minority, there are so many challenges that LGBTQ+ youths have to face and overcome. Gathering from Jonathan’s testimony, from a young age, LGBTQ+ children are prone to confusion and fear because of the negative reactions they receive with their behaviors. They are not easily accepted by their social groups, even their families. The isolation and discrimination that LGBTQ+ youths experience makes them prone to mental health issues such as depression. Jonathan talks about how chasing his passions has helped him manage and overcome his depression. He also talks about how it is important to find safe spaces, supportive communities, for LGBTQ+ youths. This concept of safe spaces is also stressed in Andi’s story in Wargo’s article. Having a safe place to really share stories will reduce shame and bring the individuals out of isolation. Watching the video by Jonathan Van Ness and reading the article by Wargo really opened my eyes to the LGBTQ+ youths’ experiences and the difficulties these youths face. As a future educator, I must always be conscious of the possibilities of mental health struggles that minority students face, particularly the LGBTQ+ youths. The video really made me think about the importance of accepting others that are different from ourselves and how as a future educator, I am responsible for nurturing an environment that values openness, inclusion, and support. I am only beginning to gain understanding of the needs of the LGBTQ+ youths’ needs and I need to continue to be open and honest with myself and my understanding to grow in my capacity to be and create a safe place for my LGBTQ+ students.
    It’s Pronounced Metrosexual is definitely a valuable resource that I plan to refer to during my career as a teacher. I especially found the edugraphics easy to understand for myself and for teaching students about gender and social justice.

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    • Hi Christine,
      I, too, am just beginning to learn about the needs of LGBTQ+ students and all of the terminology surrounding the community. It ‘s a lot to process at times, but I like what you said about focusing on creating a safe space and making students feel valued/less isolated. That’s our goal as teachers for everyone. I also found the infographics on IPM very interesting, especially the gender-bread person.
      Assuming you made this comment for a class, what have you and your classmates discussed as possible responses to parents/staff who are unsupportive of LGBTQ+ students? My class had a presentation from a local activist on this issue, and this person said we can quote parents and other staff members the laws about nondiscrimination in schools. Has you class come up with other helpful suggestions?

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  17. Hello everyone from Norwalk, CA and Cal-State Long Beach. As a candidate in the Teacher Credentialing program at CSULB, it is a pleasure to be working with peers all over the U.S.

    I believe this discussion involving the LGBTQ+ youth, that we will most likely be teaching in the future, benefits us by hosting all these resources we could access as teachers. The first being Jon Van Ness’s video on the Trevor project’s website speaks to the experiences of the LGBTQ+ community as they grapple with trying to express themselves while meeting resistance or disapproval in their communities and closest social circles. JVN’s discussion of identity suppression contributing to depression in youth serves as a reminder to us to be culturally sensitive and responsive, especially as teachers. After watching JVN’s video and digging a little deeper into the Trevor project I watched the short film which inspired the project and thought it was an incredible piece in telling and relating the experiences of LGBTQ+ youth to those less knowledgeable about the subject.
    In Jon Wargo’s piece, we learn about Andi’s experience as a Latina lesbian adolescent. Different from other forms of literacy or ways of relating one’s knowledge to another Andi’s work of human geography maps out how she feels and understands herself around the community she lives in according to sound. I thought it was amazing to see how Andi in a way recreated her experience through a story map and collecting sounds of the places she had visited. One of the takeaways I think will be valuable as a teacher will be to consider how identity is both intersectional and fluid. If we are going to be culturally responsive teachers then we have to recognize that our students are complex and may experience totally different situations to those that they will experience in our classrooms. As effective teachers then we will have to show students not only that we are supportive but that we can give them access to resources like the website its pronounced metrosexual.
    Upon visiting this website and learning about the project started by Sam Killermann, I explored some of the edugraphics and resources offered by IPM. Learning about the social justice compass and the genderbread graphics I thought were great ideas that students should have access to, especially if they are struggling with issues of identity and expression. Along with the edugraphics, loads of articles and videos shared by Sam positively reinforce discussions like the one we are having currently.

    While one post may be too little to talk about everything we can do with these sources, I think the key from at the end of it should be that our students should never feel like they are alone and we can show students that they create change and safe places wherever they go.

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  18. Jonathan Van Ness has success now but he has not always had an easy life, he lived through the same struggles as so many others have living in the LGBTQ+ community. He talks about not being able to play dress up in the ways that he wanted like other females in his family had been playing. I’ve seen fathers in the past worry and not want their young sons play dress up or with dolls, just like how jonathan family didn’t allow him to do.He was not able to fully be himself, so many are scared to allow others in.

    Soundingoutmysilence and Van Ness both show the importance of having teachers who are able accept them for who they are along them to . Able to create an environment that allows them to speak and dress the way they want. We as teachers also need to help create a safe place for anyone within the LGBTQ+ community.

    So many students deal with depression from hiding who they are and from bullying often done at school and often when no one can see it happen. Students spend much of their time in our classrooms. As teachers we can do our part in helping our students to have an understanding of one another by having them read articles hear important talks such as that which we just saw from Jonathan Van Ness and start at a young age getting them to see the importance of accepting another for who we are.Today there are digital formats and social groups that help the LGBTQ+ to come together and accept another and give them a platform to speak.

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    • Melissa,
      I really liked your last comment about making sure we are introducing our students to talks and articles about accepting and loving others no matter their background. I think a lot of educators are scared to discuss LGBTQ topics in class because of the how controversial it can be. You never know which students will resists, and which parents will be upset by discussing such topics. I think if as educators take the opportunity to teach students that bullying is never okay and to love and accept others for who they are no matter what differences there may be between them no one could argue with that logic.

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    • Melissa,

      I agree with your thoughts concerning Jonathan. Although he was upbeat during the interview, it was painful to listen to the internal torment he experienced. He seemingly remained optimistic; however, having to deal with the struggle of not feeling free to live his life as he wanted had to be hard. The fear of the backlash he often thought about dictated his actions and thoughts to a point that obviously led to his depression. There are so many children and adults who struggle with this and as educators/teachers, we must foster a classroom environment that welcomes everyone and promotes the feeling of equality and inclusion for all of our students.

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  19. The video and article are outlets of expression for both Jonathan and Andi that allow them to make sense of themselves and the world around them. These creative ways of sharing their story through video and sound “brings us into the present and orients us to see bodies and perspectives in new ways” (Wargo, 2018, p.15). Not only are they learning how they identify themselves and how to navigate the world around them, they are also sharing their lived experiences and knowledge with their audience. Their freedom of expression through creative outlets is a space they created for themselves to be open and vulnerable. Through this openness and vulnerability, they experience inequality; but by sharing their lived realities, they create awareness and knowledge of their world and perspectives for their audience.

    The website created by Sam is another great outlet of expression. The resources Sam shares on his website are informative and helpful in learning about gender and injustice. This is another example of a space that was created to increase understanding and awareness through openness and vulnerability. Sam’s creativity of Edugraphics are visually appealing and very informative. These can easily be posted in the classroom for students to see and to start a class discussion on. I also like that Sam’s website provides answers to questions that may be difficult to ask and provides a wealth of knowledge that is not easily accessible elsewhere.

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  20. Hello all. I am completing a year-long teaching internship at State College Area School District through Penn State University.

    Jonathan notes that school was especially hard for him as he grew up. I think it is a common narrative for school to be a difficult and even dangerous place for students as they explore and come into their emerging identities. Both the video and article highlight the importance of making school a safer place for LGBTQ+ students, but I’m wondering how we can best accomplish this. I wonder about the variables outside of a teacher’s control (home, neighborhoods, social media, etc) and how we can inspire hope and joy in our students. Sonic cartography is something I hadn’t previously heard about, but it seems like a way to at least recognize students’ lived experiences outside of schools. It reminds me of a community walk, which might be another way to explore the same topics (for more information on community walks: https://www.edutopia.org/blog/community-walks-create-bonds-understanding-shane-safir).

    At the same time, I wonder what we mean when we talk about creating space for LGBTQ+ students. I think this requires a great deal of awareness on the part of teachers to not place these students in even more uncomfortable positions. Sam’s website proves to be an especially helpful resource in better educating oneself and providing positive starting points for social justice work in your own classroom. For those who come into social justice work from more privileged positions, the “Taking Up Space vs. Adding to A Space” edugraphic asks some important questions about what it means to be an advocate.

    As Jonathan says in the video, the internet is a vast resource. I also believe art can be a powerful means of expression and exploration. I’d love to hear if anyone else has come across any other resources/tools to support and uplift LGBTQ+ youth.

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    • Hi, Kelly

      I also wonder how to best create safe spaces with so many variables out of our control. I think the best strategy is to deal with what we have immediate control over first, which to me is our classrooms. It is up to us to establish a positive climate, and foster a sense of belonging. This is fundamental in creating the trust that is needed for students to feel comfortable in reaching out when they are struggling. We have to use the classroom to negotiate and negate the variables that are beyond our control.

      I agree with you that creating a space for LGBTQ+ students requires a great deal of awareness on the part of the teacher. I do have a genuine fear of putting LGBTQ+ students (or any student for that matter) in an even more uncomfortable position. I once spoke to a class about their incessant use of the “n” word. And I recall the only African American student in the class (one of the only students not using the term) saying to the student next to him “Why does he keep looking at me?”. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t, but in hindsight I can’t be sure. Perhaps, it was unconscious. Nevertheless, I never want to bring unwanted attention to anyone. I suppose I could (and maybe should) have spoken to students in private, but I felt compelled to address it immediately. I hope to make better, more informed, decisions in the future. I want to cultivate an inclusive learning environment where students feel comfortable, but not at the expense of anyone else’s comfort.

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    • Hi Kelly,
      I really appreciate your insight on how it is important to not make students feel uncomfortable and draw unwanted attention while creating space for LGBTQ+ students. In all circumstances, we must consider the students’ positions and emotions above all else. In order to support LGBTQ+ students well, we must continually grow in awareness. I found IPM to be such a great resource for educating myself so that I can better serve the LGBTQ+ students. I think it all starts from me. I must first grow in awareness, grow in my capacity to love and care for my LGBTQ+ students. I can then work on creating the environment where students can feel safe. I can’t make the entire world a safe place for my students but I believe that I can be a safe place and my classroom can be a place where students will have a sense of belonging. It would be great if the world was a safe place for all of us but it is not. I believe that students can thrive as long as they have at least one safe place, from where they find acceptance and support.

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  21. Hello, I am Jenni an ELA teacher candidate at Framingham State University.

    Creating a safe space for our LGBTQA+ students is essential in today’s evolving world. Both Johnathan Van Nass’ video and Jon M. Wago’s article put a magnifying glass on the struggles these students face daily. I thought I was particularly candid of Van Ness to speak on his depression and put his feelings into terms that are accessible to high school students. “You are not your depression,” he says proudly, but also remarks on how it isn’t easy to just will his depression away. That voice, the one that continuously puts him down, has been loud in the past. What people do not understand about depression is how powerful the demoralizing voice becomes. This voice is particularly loud in the heads of LGBTQA+ youths, as that voice, at times, comes from the people around them.

    Andi’s story is a distressing reality and showcases how these negative sounds (the homophobia that echoes throughout the walls of her school) have physical effects (self-harm). The fact that she also felt the need to drop out of school in order to escape these sounds shows how unaware (willfully or otherwise) her teacher’s were of her plight. Students are always watching us. If we ignore or treat a student poorly based on their gender identity, that is the loudest message we could send to both that student and her peers. It is our responsibility to create a safe learning environment for our students, all students, but especially those who are more susceptible to bullying or depression.

    While I always held hope that the next generation of students would be kinder and more welcoming, I have seen first hand how closed off they could be. In discussions on gender, frequently students have shut down and refused to speak, or have criticized people for being open with their gender identity. With depression, many students criticized the use of therapists to help people and have openly laughed during discussion on the subject. If schools open again this year, I will do my best to use the resources provided by the Trevor Project, as well as other sites, to help create a warm and welcoming place for my LGBQTA+ students while also attempting to help open the minds of some of the more reluctant students.

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  22. The video gave an insightful personal perspective that I believe many LGTBQ+ youth can relate to and also feel empowered by. His ability to share his own personal experiences so openly provides many opportunities for learning and growth. He talks about how his experiences growing up negatively effected his mental health but also emphasizes the ways he was able to cope with such adversity using tools he has learned along his journey. He emphasizes his passion for many things and how that has empowered him throughout his life. I found his ability to turn such negative experiences into a sort of “growth mindset” admirable and makes him a great role model for LGBTQ+ community and their allies.

    I found “#soundingoutmyslilence” to be very interesting and extremely eye opening to the experiences many LGBTQ+ youth may be experiencing in their daily lives. Using sound cartography, Andi was able to give crucial insight to her own personal life and the adversity she faced throughout her days. Andi was able to use sound to express how she felt in different situations and environments. I found it very sad to see how much homophobia and discrimination she faced at places that are suppose to be “safe spaces,” like school. These experiences have an enormous impact on the mental and emotional health of our LGTBQ+ community and we as educators must be mindful of such adversity so that we can support them in any way possible. I was happy to read that she was able to find a solid community of like minded individuals that she could rely on as a support system when dealing with such hardships and adversity. Andi’s story motivated me to be proactive in creating such communities and safe spaces for the LGBTQ+ youth at my future school. I always want to make it clear that I am an ally they can depend on and trust in their times of need. I want my future classroom to be a safe space for all of my students no matter what their background may be. We discussed how we could create these safe spaces in class last week and came up with some ideas of how that might look. By the end of the discussion we realized how multifaceted such a space has to be but that it is definitely possible with some structure and consistency. “It’s Pronounced metrosexual is a great resource to create such safe spaces and opportunities for learning and growth for both students and faculty alike.

    I found the website “Its Pronounced Metrosexual” to be extremely informative. This site provides a wide variety of resources for the LGBTQ+ community as well as their allies. I found the Edugraphics and videos to be especially helpful. I really appreciated the emphasis on inclusiveness and opportunities for everyone to learn. I found the “genderbread person” edugraphic especially helpful for those who are looking to learn more about people who may be different from them. I believe that forming alliances rather than alienating people who may be naive to certain topics is the best way to create an inclusive environment where everyone feels safe and welcomed. I think its a great site for both me and my students to learn from and grow as individuals and am extremely grateful to be introduced to such a great resource.

    Both individuals where able to utilize different avenues of media to express and empower themselves. These avenues gave them the opportunities to self reflect and grow from their experiences. This self reflection also helped them better understand themselves as individuals, the inequality they faced and gave them tools to be part of the resistance as enlightened and empowered members of the LQTBQ+ community. There is a strong emphasis placed on self reflection in our EDSS 435 class here at California State University Long Beach. Self reflection is crucial to putting our own personal biases in check and examining how our own positionality effects our epistemology as future teachers. I believe it is a great tool for growth for us as individuals personally and professionally.

    I think all three resources are great tools to use with my future students. They provide insight, perspective and knowledge beneficial to the LGBTQ+ community and their allies. I especially liked the website as a resource we are all able to benefit and grow from. I definitely see myself incorporating such resources from the website as in-class activities that are sure to provide opportunities for discussion and growth for everyone in my future classroom.

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    • Ms. Bee,
      I also have a strong desire to create a safe place for my students no matter their backgrounds. I loved your comment about teachers being responsible for fostering an environment where students’ mental and emotional health can be supported and strengthened. I don’t yet have my own classroom, but I hope to one day take time at least a few days a week to let students reset and meditate. I really believe giving students time to unwind every once in while could be so beneficial in a classroom. I have a few ideas on how I would go about this, but I wonder if you have thought of or are already implementing a similar environment in your classroom; if so how would you go about it?

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    • Hello Ms. Bee!
      I agree that the website is incredibly helpful! I often found myself struggling to find good resources to be more informed on subjects I lacked knowledge of and this site is perfect for this! I also really enjoyed the articles that highlighted some of the issues that exist in the social justice atmosphere and the importance of seeking all the information! I will definitely keep this site for my future students and for myself as a good resource for different perspectives and information!

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  23. In both the video from the Trevor Project and the #SoundingOutMySilence article, we hear how an individual adolescent experienced homophobia and injustice at school. Jonathan Van Ness struggled with mental health in adolescence due to homophobia he experienced both directly and indirectly. While JVN speaks of experiencing verbal harassment and violence, he also details a more general “feeling of having your safety stolen, constantly feeling like you have to look over your shoulder”. He explains that he experienced terror as a child because of the discrimination he saw gay men facing in the 80s and 90s.

    Similarly, in #SoundingOutMySilence we see how Andi does not only experience misogyny and homophobia intentionally directed at her. Andi’s sonic cartography also includes “the ambient acoustics of homophobia and misogyny”. Conversations between participants affect everyone within earshot, determining how they experience a certain space. For Andi, sounds of injustice and homophobia impact where she does and does not feel safe at school.

    These stories show us that we cannot assume to know how others experience a space. We do not hear what others hear. Because our perspective is limited, we cannot make our classrooms safe spaces on our own; we must constantly inquire of our students’ experiences, reflect on our practices, and respond accordingly.

    The website It’s Pronounced Metrosexual provides useful resources for teachers doing this work. For example, I really appreciated the “When Someone Comes Out to You” edugraphic. If we are successful in building relationships and making our classrooms safe for all students, students may be comfortable coming out to us before others. When that happens, it’s essential that we check-in before sharing confidential information about a student’s gender/sexuality, so we don’t damage the trust we worked so hard to build. We need to ask how we can best support them– no amount of preparation can replace responsiveness.

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    • Hi Kevin,
      I really appreciated your response and I wholeheartedly agree that creating a safe space is dependent on student input, because as you stated our perspective is limited. I feel as though this relates to the importance of sound to Andi. The project that she completed was a way to document injustices in a unique format, but it also served as a window for others to gain a greater understanding of what she had to go through. Reading about an experience can be informative, but being able to hear what is happening seems to cause a more visceral reaction. As Andi states, we not only listen to it, we “listen through it”.

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  24. The questions about gender, sexuality, and social justice are ongoing topics that are significant to the lives of youth and ultimately our future students as educators. Many young people who are in the minority regards to gender identity have experienced oppression and discrimination by other people and institutions such as schools. Sources like “The Trevor Project” and “It’s Pronounced Metrosexual” are useful for spreading awareness for young people that it is okay to be open and vulnerable about their struggles because other people go through similar pains. Being open about their struggles promotes other students to freely express themselves while not feeling like they are alone. Support for LBTGQ + youth is vital because their voices are not clearly heard in society as described in “The Trevor Project”. Racism, bullying, and cyber bullying are some of the other prevalent forms of discrimination occurring in today’s society and schools. These issues must be addressed, and bringing awareness to the public, especially the future teachers, is the first important step. These articles and videos help the youth feel connected through their various identities and aim to provide a safe place for them.

    As educators, it is important that every student feels understood and appreciated, regardless of their differences in culture, race, class, gender identity, and social justice stance. Students should be able to freely choose the gender pronoun they wish to be addressed, and the teacher has the responsibility of creating a safe classroom environment where the students’ various gender identities are equally respected. An effective learning environment is created when the students value each other’s different upbringings, values, and opinions instead of thinking that their way of thinking is right or superior compared to that of their peers. One practical way that educators can show support is by being active listeners to the stories and experiences told by the students. The educators must continually reflect on their own biases and opinions and make an effort to truly understand their experiences and way of thinking. Building positive and constructive relationships with the students is vital in creating that respectful, learning environment.

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    • I also agree that we need to have good conversation with our classes about these issues and others. I think when we help students open up in the best way for them either in writing, speech, or other ways like Andi’s sound project will make them emboldened to work talk about issues they see in the world. I think it is super important to listen to students and help them know that what they say matters to us. Then we need to help students see that all opinions matter and nobody is better than anyone else. That is why we need students to be uncomfortable sometimes with what we talk about. They need to take the time now to get over their stubborn ways and be open to learn.

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  25. I really liked how he talked about safe spaces where you can be yourself and feel accepted. Feeling safe and accepted for yourself is a challenge for all youth, but especially LGBTQ+ youth. I really like how he said that you need to seek to find those people who will accept you and help you feel safe. As educators, it’s important to do your best to make your classroom an open and safe space for all students. I loved how he talked about depression in detail. I believe it is so important for people to understand what depression is like. As he was describing depression I just kept thinking about how helpful his honesty is for those who are currently dealing with depression. In the article, Andi’s idea to use sound to tell her story is amazing. I had never heard of sonic cartography before. Her map indicating safe or unsafe place to me was alarming. There were so many places that felt unsafe to her. It makes me more determined to make sure my classroom is a safe place for students, because every safe place makes a difference in someone’s life. When I think of incorporating sound in the classroom, I automatically think about listening to music while free writing. The creativity that Andi used to create an experience so that others could understand a little bit more about her was outstanding. It made me self reflect on what my story would be like if I focused on sound. I think this is a good way for students to analyze and express who they are.

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    • I too thought that being open about what depression looks like is so important. The best way to create compassion is by open-mindedness and understanding. I think being open and not letting mental health have such a stigma in the classroom would probably be helpful in the progression of safe spaces. Teaching students how to talk about LGBTQ and metal health in a way that is safe for everyone will not only help those that feel unsafe, but it will also allow for other students to learn. One of the questions i was grappling with is how i can translate this article to something i can do in my classroom. I think kids of all types and ages feel unsafe for different reasons in different spaces. If I had all of my students do this as an assignment, not only would we learn things we didn’t know about other student’s but we would probably learn more about ourselves. This could mean that you have similar worries or problems and seeing other students express their unsafe feelings towards similar situations you won’t feel so alone.

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  26. Jonathan Van Ness speaks about the potential depression, anxieties and feelings of unease LGBTQ+ youth may experience in a school setting and as well as at home. Reading the article following the video, I appreciated the teacher’s experience in showing this to her class. The students’ response and desire to learn more and have conversations on the topic of mental health, further reinforced my own beliefs about the positive benefits of having these discussions in our own classrooms. The Sounding Out My Silence article demonstrates some of the homophobia that JVN and other LGBTQ+ may experience. Andi’s sonic cartography showed the need for a safe space for a young lesbian however, also ways in which she resisted and made her voice heard. “It’s Pronounced Metrosexual” provided several great resources that could be applied in a classroom. While creating a safe space for students is necessary, introducing students to social justice issues on the matter and “allyship” would help inform students on LGBTQ+ experiences within their own communities.

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    • I like what you are discussing. In a class I was in we discussed that we need to make our class a brave space and not safe space. By that we could take the time to allow students to talk and come up with solutions to problems they see in the world. We all are working to make our world the best it can be and when we allow them to talk and get involved with there education they will be brave and emboldened to go out into the word to make it the best place. I also agree on talking about those tough situations will make our students able to talk through situations and not let them fester and get worse instead of tackling them head on.

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  27. In the video, Jonathan Van Ness speaks to his own experience as an LGBTQ+ youth growing up in the South. Knowing the stigma that being in the LGBTQ+ community holds in the South, this can be a large contribution to the state of one’s mental health. However, it is the entire country that is at fault for contributing to the depression and insecurity of these young individuals because youth all over the US are dealing with the same issues. When speaking about depression, Van Ness describes it as being something all-consuming. But, one thing that he said that really stuck with me was that it is important to disassociate from the inner voice that uses negative self-talk. He says that we are not always our inner voices and that is so important because when we cannot separate, then the depression becomes who we are and is increasingly difficult to escape. LGBTQ+ youth are particularly vulnerable to discrimination and bullying because they are so young and during these formative years, this can really affect the way they view themselves. It is important to remember that other people’s experiences are not the same as ours. Although, as an educator, I will not have experienced some of the things that my students have, I can provide them with a safe space and someone to talk to. This goes for all students, but particularly LGBTQ+ youth that don’t always have as many safe spaces. A little support can go a long way.

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    • Hi Catherine! I definitely agree that the state in which are LGBTQ+ youth are forced to deal with mental health is a dire one. As a country, I think we lack the appropriate level of mental health support in many schools that affect the way students deal with these issues. When speaking of mental health issues surrounding the LGBTQ+ community are certainly particular in the situations and experiences they deal with and it takes trained professionals to help overcome these obstacles. There definitely needs to be more support nationwide to support the mental health needs of our students.

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    • Hi Catherine!

      I agree with your statements above and your reflections on the video and JVN’s experiences. I do think there is a strong stigma against LGBTQ+ people in the south, however, we do still experience that same harassment here on the West Coast. I do believe this is a country-wide (if not worldwide) fight that we as future teachers are very much a part of. We even get to pick who we fight for, the voice of the students or the weight of social norms. Safe spaces are important, showing our support is crucial, having uncomfortable conversations are inevitable and picking a side will come whether you choose to take action or not. Being a bystander is the same as saying the social norms are acceptable and valid.

      I’m sure you will be a powerful and supportive ally for your future kiddos. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!!

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  28. First off, my name is Zach I am going to USU right now for history and English secondary education. English is my minor so I see things through a different lens. I wanted to discuss the essay about Andi and her experience. What stands out to me is that sound operates as more then a text for ANDI because she wants us to feel what she goes through by allowing us to “live” her life. I like that what she is telling us through sound in a more personal way then an essay ever could. I learned as a educator in training that Andi’s spacial story can be a great new tool for an class project. A student could use this as a wonderful tool to discuss injustice they see everyday. Or they could use to talk about great things they see everyday. Sound is a powerful tool that I never thought about using before. We see as well that when we apply this as a research project it can be another great resource to share. Sometimes our experience can be the best resource. As well when we take it informally it can lead to more conversations and also more experimentation. My goal as a future teacher is to always allow experimentation on project. I want kids to “…make mistakes and get messy”. Now, when it comes to injustice that I learned from this source, I feel when we take the time to listen to what is around ourselves we can find so many things we can fix. I want to listen more and think about the sounds in my life. I think that when we put ourselves in a new light we see many things to fix. So, I will work to be a better person to understand the sounds in my life.

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  29. Hello all! My name is Kara Duriez, and I am completing a year-long teaching internship with State College Area School District through Penn State University.

    While all of these resources are very helpful, I was really intrigued by a lot of the articles on the It’s Pronounced Metrosexual website because I think they are short, quick reads that students at my levels (Adv 11, CP CW12, Journalism 9-12) could use for a variety of purposes.

    The one that interested be the most, was one article about gender pronouns. Basically, this resource provides a really helpful explanation as to why asking for personal pronouns is important, what are some phrases to do so, what language should be avoided, etc. I appreciated that it is called “promising” practices, as this is familiar lingo to me. I think pronouns is one way my students can support others out in the world and their peers in my current / future classrooms. We brought up the ideas of checking for individuals’ pronouns in all three of my classes for different reasons (it’s a super important life / communication skill to do practice in the world today). I would have really liked to have this resource earlier on to provide as an additional resource if any of my students wanted more support. I also like that my students could easily share this website / link with others, their family members, and anyone else who may question why we focus on pronouns so much.

    Additionally, the Jonathan Van Ness video served as more of a reminder to me about what our LGBTQ+ youth experience (regarding their mental health) on a daily basis. It is a struggle to remember that even when we make our classrooms inclusive, welcoming spaces, the hallways of our schools and the outside world is struggling to catch up. When thinking about pronouns, I believe this is one lesson that needs to become a norm in every classroom / school. Not adhering to personal pronouns is yet another micro-aggression that absolutely would contribute to mental health struggles for our LGBTQ+ youth. It is up to us to stress the importance of addressing all individuals by the pronouns they use.

    As a preservice teacher, these resources will greatly benefit me, my teaching and my future students; I’m grateful to have an opportunity to share these thoughts and connect with you in this way!

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    • Kara,

      I agree with your thoughts on the benefits of having the resources provided, particularly the website, “It’s Pronounced Metrosexual.” I believe the more we as educators educate ourselves on understanding our students and their differences, we are able to provide the necessary tools to make all of our students not only feel important, but appreciated for their individuality.

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  30. As a student at USU studying to become an English teacher, I loved how Andi used multigenre posts to sound out her silence. Sometimes you cannot explain your experiences, and you have to share them in a way that lets others step into your shoes for a moment. This allowed Andi to share her experience in a meaningful and tangible way. It was interesting to see her map of where she felt safe and where she didn’t. It is so vital to create these safe spaces for students so that they don’t feel voiceless. It also opens my eyes to areas where there needs to be a focus on rewriting the sounds to be safer for students. I think that one of the main things needed to make students feel like they have a voice is to listen to them or let them show you their experiences like Andi did in this project. There are so many ways for students to express themselves, but sometimes they need a little guidance or encouragement. It is important to remind them that their experiences and thoughts are wanted, valued, and necessary. Showing them projects such as Andi’s and the Jonathan Van Ness video can give them a jumping-off point where they can start to process how they wish to convey their experiences. It opens a range of multigenre products that students could create to share and open discussions on what they are going through or what is important to them. I love how these reminded me how vital it is to help our students feel empowered and to know that they do have a voice and the importance of listening to them.

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    • I, too, thought that Andi’s project was very creative and it simplified the topic in order to get a better response from its target audience. From this article and the classes that I have taken, I know that it is best to give students options of what activities they would like to do in the classroom because it gives them control of what they are learning and it supports creativity as well. It is sad that some students are not afforded the same security that other students are afforded in an institution that is suppose to nurture every students’ needs. Because of conversations like these, people will be able to accept and understand the struggle of others and react in a positive, discerning manner. Thank you for your post.

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  31. One major takeaway that I found from the Jonathan Van Ness video with the Trevor Project was the immense need for a more understanding response to mental health issues in our schools. As a 7th grade ELA teacher in Springfield, MA, I work primarily with underprivileged demographics, such as Latino and African-American. Not only do my students face challenges because of this, they also do not have the same access or resources regarding their mental health. We do have an adjustment counselor who does a phenomenal job with our students, but many of my students are either unaware of what her role actually is, and they also do not feel comfortable sharing what they are feeling to anyone, regardless of whom they might be. I think the best thing that I can do as my role as an educator is to simply be there for my students. I may not have gone through the same as they have or feel exactly the way they do, but emotion is human; we all know what it feels like to be upset, scared, anxious, depressed, etc. Showing your students that you care for them not just as students but as human beings can go a long way in developing a meaningful relationship with them, and through this, we can show them that they are loved, no matter their circumstance.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree that showing our students we care is very important. One thing I could suggest is working with your school to show students what resources they have, EX adjustment counselors, so they know there is someone other than just the teachers who they can reach out to.

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  32. I really liked reading about Andi’s Soundwalk that she made with Instagram and StoryMapJS. This is a tool that I would definitely recommend to my students o us in my classroom. I would love to create a project around “sound” and what stories and truths can be told through sound. Having a mixture of audio and visual is what will make this a great tool for students to teach each other about themselves. I have heard of sound walks before from theater classes where you walk along the same path that the students went and recorded audio/story. You literally walk in the same place and can echo their footsteps if you’d like. I think it would be cool to have students create their own and then two students switch, and they would have to take the same walk or root and listen to the audio and then share their experiences. I would hope this would get students to experience what it would be like to be someone else. This might cause less animosity towards those who are different than them or people they never fully understood

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    • Hello Cassidy,

      I also think that the Soundwalk would be a great activity for students to share their stories. Students can see what it is like to live in another person’s shoes and see a different perspective that they might not be used to. It can be useful for creating an effective classroom community where students can learn to respect one another, appreciate different cultures, and use technology as a tool for learning.

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  33. Hello! My name is Sarah and I am getting ready to student teach this coming fall. I only have a few experiences inside the classroom as an educator rather than a student, but I already have a strong desire for my classroom to be not only a safe place, but a brave place (an idea I had heard in one of my college classes). Andi’s experience only fuels this desire of mine more. I am sad to understand that school was never a place of refuge or a place to truly find her own identity. I thought the idea of the sound map was both creative and inspiring! Many times, literacy is seen as the ability to read and write, but in reality, literacy is just having an understanding of a certain part of the world around us. Andi’s sound map was a way for her to show how literate she is in the dealings of a LGBTQ individual. As educators I think it is our responsibility to provide students with opportunities to showcase their own literacies in whatever format is best for them. Andi’s sound map was much more empowering and shocking than a paper on her daily life would have ever been. In her literacy Andi was not only able to give examples of her mistreatment but was also able to truly show the reality of what it is like to walk in her shoes.

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    • Hello! My name is Sarah and I am getting ready to student teach this coming fall. I only have a few experiences inside the classroom as an educator rather than a student, but I already have a strong desire for my classroom to be not only a safe place, but a brave place (an idea I had heard in one of my college classes). Andi’s experience only fuels this desire of mine more. I am sad to understand that school was never a place of refuge or a place to truly find her own identity. I thought the idea of the sound map was both creative and inspiring!

      Like

    • Hi Sarah, I think it’s amazing that you are dedicated to making your classroom a brave space for students. You mentioned that you have minimal experience in the classroom as an educator, rather than a student. I think your perspective as a recent student and as an educator entering the classroom with a fresh set of eye can be beneficial and allow you to connect with your students on a meaningful level. How do you plan to use what you have learned from #SoundingOutMySilence in the classroom to better the experience of all students?

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  34. Watching the Trevor Project it showed the mental health side of Jonathan Van Ness’s depression, anxiety, gender expression. The experience of LGBTO plus the youth showed me they have to go through a lot from being bullied at school, families accepting the gender their child chooses, and the depression. The Trevor Project helps those whose voices need to be heard because it is more serious than people who do not think about if someone chooses the opposite sex from their gender. Jonathan is still scarred from all the things happen to him but it seems he found is space and he chases down his passion. This video is a much-needed video to people with the same problem as Jonathan and I think no person should have to go through this adversity to cause them to have mental health issues. I think family needs to be the main supportive of all people to help their children faces the path they chose for their life.

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  35. One thing that really struck me from the video with JVN is when he says he felt like his safety was stolen from him. I feel like this reinforces the issue of making sure that our students feel safe in our classroom. One thing that I think teachers can work on is having zero-tolerance towards hate speech. I can not speak for all high schools but I know that at my high school teachers would never really step in if a student said that something was “gay” or called someone a “fag”. I think that this also ties in well with the #SoundingOutMySilence article. Students are able to pick up on our silence as much as we should on theirs. If the teacher never stands up for LGBQT+ when other students are throwing out homophobic slurs there is no way that they will feel safe to express themselves in the classroom. I feel like we as teachers need to do a better job on picking up on the little things that go on in the classroom to make allow everyone to be themselves.

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    • Hi Jake,

      I agree that teachers need to address hate speech used in their classes and create a safe classroom environment. Whether or not we realize, our students are aware of what we are doing and how we respond to the events taking place in our classes. It is our job to use that responsibility wisely and be a supportive voice for our students.

      You mention instances of students using hate speech in class, and I agree that this is something a teacher must address. At the same time, I wonder what that should look like. If we want our classrooms to be inclusive, safe places, I think this might be an instance where we “call in” vs “call out” this behavior. This is not to say we should take hate speech lightly, but I think the most effective intervention would likely educate students. I think these situations are especially tricky to navigate, and I want to learn more about what ways we can address hate speech in constructive ways. I also am thinking more about hate speech in texts we read. We need to address texts that have instances of hate speech within them and our policies regarding how we read these (and whether or not we read them in class at all). I’m wondering if anyone has any ways we might navigate hate speech in both books and student interactions.

      Thanks Jake!

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  36. The “Trevor Project” interview featuring Jonathan Van Ness was very insightful as it allowed me to listen from a first hand account to the struggles often endured by the LGBTQ community. Oftentimes, as Mr. Van Ness explained, children who realize early in life their same sex attraction, struggle with feelings of inadequacy or complete displacement. Mr. Van Ness explained how he found himself in what he described as “feelings of safety stolen” as he endured bullying much of his young life. He also went on to explain how he never felt he had a “safe space.” The “shame behind how you feel” can take residency in your mind and leads to depression, as explained by Jonathan. While listening to his interview, I was most impressed with how no matter how hard it became (living his life as the person he wanted to be), he always told himself that, “he was not his depression.” More importantly, he had a safe space created for him by his mother who “made him feel like he could express himself.” I am glad he placed emphasis on the importance of providing a safe space for LGBTQ children as this also helps promote good mental health for them.

    The resources provided on the site, “It’s Pronounced Metrosexual” are plentiful and quite insightful. There are multiple books, videos, online courses, and edugraphics provided to assist in helping. I particularly appreciate how the creator of the site, Sam Killerman, has opted to open the site for everyone by stating, “this site belongs to everyone.” This in itself creates and promotes a safe space. He also keeps things very light-hearted and interjects a lot of comedy, which can help put people at ease.

    In “#Sounding Out My Silence,” Andi placed emphasis on the use of pronouns and how beneficial it can be to what pronouns to use and asking a person’s preference in the use of pronouns. I honestly think Andi’s research can cross over and be used in all facets of discrimination. She was also tuned into the talk that went on around her as she, too, suffered from bullying because of how she identified.

    As an educator, I want to ensure my students feel safe and protected in my classroom at all times. I want to foster an environment of inclusion and appreciation for all.

    Like

    • Hi, Onelillily,

      I hear you placing a lot of emphasis on safe spaces in this thoughtful response to the dialogue’s resources. Because this concept is something I personally like in theory but struggle to pin down in practice, I thought I might share one more resource: https://www.tolerance.org/magazine/publications/speak-up-at-school. This booklet walks you through how to address hate speech the moment it occurs. I was introduced to it after I tried (and failed) breaking up a spat between students about the pride flags hung in our school with weak responses more suited to a group of preschoolers than a pack of 11th graders. I was flabbergasted when one of my mentors heard about the situation and was immediately able to rattle off potential responses as if she were there. How was she coming up with all of these articulate options off the top of her head? She had rehearsed–just like this Teaching Tolerance booklet recommends. Reducing the number of red stickers students would have to put on a map like Andi’s that charts the places that don’t sound safe in their school takes brave, well-rehearsed, prepared teachers. I really hope this booklet helps you with your goal. It’s an admirable one.

      –Rachel

      Like

  37. 1. Mental health is a very real crisis in the world in which we live in today, and many folks are brought to a place mentally where they feel that there is no way out. However, Jonathan brought up a great point, that when you are identifying with depression due to the fact of shame, bullying, and lack of support you have to have to relentlessly chase your passion to overcome what you may be feeling. Also, you have to be able to dissociate from your state of depression. Lastly, he spoke of how important it is to have that support group so you have that safe place where there are no secrets about who you really are.
    2. The article informed us that sounds can make a person feel safe or unsafe. I never thought of it that way before reading this article, however, this is very true. Andi’s way of using sound allowed her to create an experience for others to feel what she was going through as a lesbian without giving descriptive text. It informed others that are not a part of the LGBTQ community that places that we inhabit are not always a safe place for all. Through Andi’s literacy of learning, I was astounded how sound can paint a picture of what students feel and go through rather than reading about it or having them verbalize their thoughts.
    3. As a young educator, I saw the resources from the website as a tool to educate generations about the differences we face as people that one may not embark upon when initially meeting another person. Along with the resources, it is important to have groups like GSA and social media avenues (i.e., facebook, Instagram, twitter) where young people can connect with others who may be going through the same shame they are experience. As Jonathan mentioned in the video if you are able to tell your story and gain support then you usually find a safe place which allows you to flourish and live out your life to the fullest.

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    • I think that you are spot on when you mention the importance of finding “a safe place which allows you to flourish and live out your life to the fullest”. As educators it is definitely our job to facilitate that same type of safe space for our students. I know that it is often relatively easy for us to do this within the confines of our own classroom, but it can prove challenging outside the constraints of our walls.
      I also like that you mentioned social media because often we hear about all of the negative and irresponsible ways that young people use social media. Social media is such an influential tool in today’s society that it really is a powerful tool that young people can use to build a support system and community of people who do identify with their struggles

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  38. Both individuals used different platforms in order to help them navigate through their lives. Trevor used videos to help himself by way of helping and informing others. Sharing his story via video allowed him to work through some difficult times while serving as an inspiration or guide to other young people that may be struggling with their identity. Also, Andi used her sonic cartography to help other people understand her day to day struggles. I think that the sharing and educating helped Andi to understand the world around her better and to enlighten those around her about what her world looks and sounds like. Often times teaching others is the best way for us to learn something for ourselves.
    Both Trevor and Andi utilized sound to help them get their point across to others. I believe that this is an important element to helping them make sense of the world around them because it allows others to hear the world exactly how they are hearing it. It is hard to deny that homophobia exists when you hear hurtful words coming directly from someone’s mouth. The rawness of Andi’s sonic cartography left very little room for interpretation, or misinterpretation and instead provided a very clear picture of what her reality looks like. This is essential to fighting against inequality because before we can change an issue, we have to recognize it as an issue. Hearing and seeing it, makes it more difficult for people to ignore.
    I think that having resources for all students is important. Both Andi and Trevor not only spoke of the struggles of LGBTQ students in particular, but I think a lot of the issues they identified are relatable by most young people. The fact that their struggles are so relatable to all teens can help make teens of that minoritized group not seem so different from the rest of their peers. Having resources such as these to share with all of my students can serve as a tool to bring them together and show them that they are alike in more ways than they are different. Also, specifically for my students that do identify as part of the LGBTQ community, it is really important for them to see other young people like themselves going through the same exact struggles that they face on a daily basis. In addition, using resources like these to showcase the general struggles of young people to all students can serve as a really powerful inclusive message for my marginalized LGBTQ students.

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  39. First of all, I love Jonathan Van Ness! I think he is an awesome role model for the LGBTQ community and expresses some of the lifestyle struggles of the community perfectly. Secondly, I believe that his explanation of the effects of depression and the state of self-talk a person experiences while living with depression made the experience more comprehensible and I found myself empathizing more with him than in past dialogues about depression I’ve been apart of. I believe that not feeling free to be one’s self holds dire consequences to both the mind and soul of a human. With those aspects wounded, there is only so much the body can endure.

    I believe this is why Andi fell victim to a broken soul and a fractured mind. She had experienced hurtful and disheartening jabs to her beliefs and life choices to the point that she could no longer continue to torment herself in those toxic spaces meant for growth. It’s scary how the institutions put into place to help can backfire like that. I believe that without Andi taking the time to map out her state of comfort based on the auditory experiences of her surroundings (or lack thereof) we would blame her own lack of motivation for her decision to leave school. The sound and cartography helped fill in missing pieces to her high school experience.

    Lastly, I loved the IPM website and found it to be super insightful and the resources fun, appealing, and easy to read. It made sensitive topics very comfortable and accessible which is important when expanding society’s scope of acceptance. I think this can be useful in my teaching because it can help me set the tone when having to discuss these topics with my own students in the future.

    I love learning about better ways for us to accept and support one another. Especially in times like now, it’s evident that we truly are in this world together and that we need the love of one another for us to thrive as a whole.

    Like

    • Hello Darrell,

      I completely agree with you when you say the institutions that have been placed to help our students are only failing them. There needs to be more done for our LGBTQ+ students if they feel depressed and feel unsafe within our schools. If the strategies and methods we use are not providing a safe space for growth, then what are we doing as educators and what sort of messages are we sending to our students? We should be there to support all students and encourage them to express their identities whenever possible.

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  40. Hi everyone, my name is Melissa Alarcon and I am a student at Utah State University studying English Education and Political Science. As an aspiring teacher listening to the video from Jonathan Van Ness I was extremely moved by the candid experiences he was sharing to provide a perspective on mental health within the LGBTQ community. I think this kind of perspective is incredibly important especially to those who have never lived through such experiences. It creates a dialogue that helps others understand their circumstances and creates a much deeper sense of empathy within those people who don’t know what those experiences are like. I also really enjoyed an article on social justice that was posted on “Its Pronounced Metrosexual”. It talked about the general hatred that exists between those who identify as social warriors or liberals and those who identify as conservative. The author expands on the idea that society doesn’t take enough time to really reflect on the information we are taking in but are quick to absorb and attack others on first impressions we receive. This often leads to narrow-minded and closed off ways of thinking instead of promoting a growth mindset within our society. With our culture nowadays I think it is very reflective of how fast we can take things out of context without taking the time to check the sources this comes across very evidently through social media when we retweet or share posts that are not real or display bias or fake information. It highlights the need we have to take a step back from out bias and reflect on the information in front of us.

    Like

    • Hello Melissa!

      I was also inspired by watching Jonathan Van Ness openly share his experiences and insight on issues regarding the LGBTQ+ community! It is shocking to find out that he also struggled with mental health growing up, considering how confidently he presents himself today. He serves as an iconic inspiration for LGBTQ+ youth who are struggling with their identity or feeling unsafe in their own school/community. I strongly agree with you about the importance in sharing these stories of social silence and insecurity with those who may not have experienced it, because it creates opportunity to spread awareness through empathetic dialogue. As teachers, we should use the authority that we have in order to empower our students who feel underrepresented, such as Andi from the “Sounding Out My Silence” article. You also mentioned a vital point about how fast some people are to adapt to “popular opinion” and media information, even if it is contradictory with our prior beliefs. I think it is essential, especially as future educators, to constantly reflect on our own opinions, as well as carefully evaluate other information/opinions presented by others. We don’t necessarily all have to agree with each other, but by creating that zone for tolerant dialogue would be an ideal goal for our future classrooms. Thank you so much for sharing your insight, and I wish you the best of luck in your studies/career!

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  41. Jonathan Van Ness spoke about his experiences growing up and the struggles he had to endure. He explained how depression was an ongoing problem for him because of the gender expectations of the dominant culture, stereotyping, and self-identity issues. The Trevor Project also explained how LGBTQ+ students are more likely and more frequently depressed. Students should feel safe in our classrooms and our schools. Students should be allowed to express their voice and be proud of their identities. We as educators need to be supportive of all students and make sure that our communities will allow these young students to showcase what they bring to the table.

    Andi used sound as tool to fight social injustice. She used the sounds to provide the world with detailed information on how see experiences the world and how the world treats her. She wanted to show us how the experiences we might have will be completely different from hers, even if we are in the same space. Using sound as medium also showed how powerful it can be in our society. Andi felt powerless in certain situations because of the dominant sounds of the popular culture. She felt voiceless, therefore, powerless in these situations. But being silenced is not a marker of weakness. Andi argues that silence is powerful and is a motivator for instigating her behaviors to leave her school. Her silence leaves a message to the ones in power: the world is socially inequitable, and something must be done to stop it.

    The resources provided in “It’s Pronounced Metrosexual” are incredibly insightful. I am not familiar with LGBTQ+ culture, so these resources will help me make a better understanding of what I can do for my future students. Having these available to me will be vital in maintaining a healthy classroom community and allow students to feel welcomed. Researching and developing an understanding for the culture starts with the teacher.

    Like

  42. When looking into identity and ways in which forms of identity result in privilege for various people, perhaps the most important component of this is for introspection on our own identities. Notice that the resources, like those on It’s Pronounced Metrosexual, particularly the “50+ concrete things you can do today to make for a more socially just tomorrow” (https://www.itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/2012/11/things-you-can-do-today-for-social-justice/) are keen in getting to the root of inequity issues: our own biases that inadvertently favor, subjugate, and discriminate against people different than ourselves. Often adults and adolescents alike shudder when they are forced to confront and recognize their privilege; it is uncomfortable to admit that there are uncontrollable facets of your being that have made your life easier by the sheer absence of certain barriers, like race, gender, or sexuality. Furthermore, people are often wary of talking about things that our heteronormative society has subdued for what seems like the entirety of its existence.

    Yes, apprehensions exists, but that should never stop us as teachers or humans within our respective communities. Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned in my route to becoming a teacher—currently in a student-teaching internship for this ongoing school year—and as an equity-minded learner has been to LEAN INTO awkwardness and the uncomfortable feeling a conversation may cause. This is cognitive dissonance; this is learning. The aforementioned “50+ concrete things…” lists out numerous activities for students and community members to do so. They provide 30+ examples of privilege for those who identify as cisgender, white, heterosexual, Christian, and middle-to-upperclass, respectively. It is these resources through which you are able to outline to students and community members how they might be privileged. I also find it important to address that just because they have identified facets of privilege does not mean that they are a bad person; they are the product of their environment and society, and working towards social justice requires their ability to recognize their privilege. Once they are able to point out instances of privilege, then they are able to apply it in their worlds, as the “50+ concrete things” list addresses.

    This—a community primed to fight, and live, for social justice—cannot be done, however, without LISTENING to the stories of those who have been negatively impacted by our biased society. The JVN video with the Trevor Project is an excellent start. Reading and interacting with other texts by authors of diverse race, religion, class, gender, and sexuality is necessary in developing an open and accepting mindset. Personally, I know that music has opened up avenues of listening. For example, Dorian Electra, who identifies as gender-fluid, released an album “Flamboyant” last year which illuminated the struggle with what it means to have or express gender in a heteronormative world for someone who feels they do not fit in either gender role and instead creates their own on a day-to-day basis. Hopefully, I will be able to reach a point where my own students are finding artists like Dorian Electra so that my classroom is set up as a space where we appreciate any and all artists—not just ones that fit the mold of what our society says an artist should be.

    Like

    • I subscribe to everything that you have written in your response to the video and the articles. It is very important that we, as people, check our biases, or introspect, in order to help our students. I have been told many times that we, as future teachers, will do most of our learning in our internships, so thank you for the advice of leaning into the uncomfortable situations, or topics. And remaining open-minded with the different people within a subject, such as, Dorian Electra, will give some students the ability to face their fears in this heteronormative world. Thank you for your post.

      Like

  43. Raychel Jensen — preservice secondary English teacher

    I personally really appreciated JVN’s video addressing the isolation and self-criticism that comes along with his depression. I have had the experience of being an observer in a 7th-grade class this past semester and along with that observation, I saw many students engaging in vocal self-depreciation. Similar to what was addressed in the article about Andi, these students would also slip on their hoods, plug in the headphones, and sink into that comfort bubble. These comments would go unaddressed and class would continue on as normal. I am curious as to how other teachers have had success in removing these comments from their classrooms and the effective ways in which they approach? I have brought this up to many of my preservice peers, but I would love to hear an opinion from some first-hand experience in their own classrooms. I want to promote a happy and healthy classroom, but I certainly don’t want it to feel like a battle between me and my students.

    My next question is addressing the incredible resources found on the “It’s Pronounced Metrosexual” website. I find the endugraphics incredibly useful. I feel like they put the complexities of LGBTQ+ into a very comprehensive format. My question with using these in the classrooms is about the lashback one my experience from administration or parents? I want to create a safe space for all my students, so how is that approached on your ends? Does anyone have any stories with this experience?

    Like

    • Hi Raychel,

      I do not necessarily have an answer to your questions, but I can say that I have seen similar behaviors in my classes and wonder how to navigate that as a teacher. I’ve noticed for some of my students who use hoods and headphones as a comfort bubble that it is hard to balance intervening to support them and trying not to create more discomfort through excess attention from the teacher. One of the ways I’ve navigated self-deprecation and students tuning out to their own comfort systems is following up with them later on in class when there might be less attention from other students on them. As for comments directed towards other students, I am not sure how best to mitigate this, but I think restorative practices might help. I am not an expert on restorative practice, but this link (https://www.gettingsmart.com/2017/03/implementing-restorative-practices-in-the-classroom/) might help.

      As for potential backlash from administration and parents, I share your concerns. One way to think about this is that all teaching is political. Much of what and who we teach is determined by political figures. Our silences (to return to the resources) have implications. We are taking action both through what we do and do not do. For me at least, thinking about teaching this way makes it feel even more necessary that I take action to support LGBTQ+ and other minoritized students.

      Thanks, Raychel!

      Like

  44. My name is Audrey Cromell. I am currently completing a year long internship at State College Area High School through Penn State’s PDS program. I’d like to take a minute to talk about the sources. The Van Ness video, in my opinion, was a good resource–it features an authentic queer voice at the forefront. The second, features a student who identifies as a queer Latina lesbian, yet the article is written by a white man (who for reference “serve(s) on the nominating committee for ELATE, a branch of the National Council of Teachers of English,” according to his website). The third, article was also written by a white straight man who identifies as “metrosexual” which, if you don’t know, is basically just a straight guy who showers and combs his hair on occasion. The first thing I noticed when looking over these sources is that they are all resoundingly white. Furthermore, even though Wargo wrote about a lesbian POC, he himself is male, making the majority of the source material overwhelmingly male as well.

    You might be wondering why this matters, after all, the sources do offer some good information and resources. The simple answer is this: when different identities intersect, our students are affected. Therefore, just hearing from white and predominantly male authors does a dire and substantial disservice to our students. Scrolling down through the comments, I noticed that most of the people interacting with this thread are pre-service teachers who don’t know very much about LGBTQIA issues and truly want to learn how to better support their students. This selection is inherently flawed because of the lack of queer voices from POC and people of disability status. These articles are undoubtedly meant to be palatable to white, straight educators. I am done with palatable articles. This world is not palatable for our most vulnerable students. Teachers need to know that. They need to know that their LGBTQIA students will not be safe in this world, especially if they have other identities that intersect to make them even more disadvantaged. ELATE is creating a platform that so clearly favors a certain subgroup of the LGBTQIA community (i.e. white and male), and it would be a disservice to my queer students of color to not say anything.

    Where do we go from here? Seek out queer voices telling queer stories. Then, make sure they aren’t all white or all male or really all of any one thing. Think critically about the choices we make, not just as teachers, but as people with power to actively fight for our vulnerable students. It is not enough to be an ally–statistics about LGBTQIA teen suicide will tell us that. It is not enough to think of Pride as a celebration and forget the riot it started as. It is not enough to only listen to white voices when reading and listening about the issues facing our students. It is not enough to be palatable. We must all be accomplices to our students who need us the most. The reality of our world is that students aren’t just being bullied or harassed, they are being made homeless by parents who choose to not accept them, they are being killed by others, by the system, by themselves. A rainbow sticker or a poster or an edu-graphic will not solve this. People who care enough to get loud and forceful and unrelenting until their students are safe are the only ones who can make a change. We can only do that if we are uncomfortable. We can only do that if we are active protectors of our students.

    Like

  45. An old friend recently asked me if I thought a particular YA book would be a good present for their cousin’s 12th birthday.

    “I want to get her something that kind of shows her more about my identity, and I know I used to love it,” they said, “but I can’t remember if there’s anything in there that her mom wouldn’t want her reading. I haven’t read it since I was like… 16. What rating would you give it?”

    They meant what movie rating would I give it. PG-13? M for “mature?” But I suddenly found myself wondering how many stars I would give it instead. The book had been a big deal to a lot of people in the early ’90s; it was one of the first young adult novels in the U.S. to openly and empathetically discuss AIDS. It was the first in a series, and we loved that series when we read it later as teenagers in the mid-aughts for its lyrical language and glamorous, often faintly magical LGBTQIA+ love stories. I got the feeling, however, that the first book– and many of the author’s other works– would not hold up under scrutiny today. We were talking about a straight author who wrote a lot of straight, cisgender main characters and gay best friends. Sometimes the best friends were quirky; sometimes they were tragic (and met tragic ends). But they were always fashionable, and they were rarely the main character. What had once felt groundbreaking in the YA world really didn’t feel very groundbreaking anymore. And I worried: did that mean it should get fewer stars? Should I tell my friend it maybe wasn’t as in line with their beliefs as they remembered?

    I shook the worry off at the time and just told them the book was probably PG-13. Now I kind of wish I hadn’t.

    My name is Rachel Tresnan, and I’m currently taking part in a full-year internship at a high school in Pennsylvania. I just read Sam Killermann’s article, “If You’re Still Doing Social Justice How You Were Then, Reconsider,” from his website, It’s Pronounced Metrosexual, and it’s got me thinking about a lot of things. In the article, Killermann questions the relevancy and efficacy of old social justice lesson plans, materials, conference presentations, and real world strategies when our political landscape changes so quickly and people have divided themselves into camps for or against social justice as a broad, flattened concept. He talks about how easy it is to stay in an echo chamber and then reminds readers that the point of actual social justice has never been doing what is easy. Just because something needed to be said ten years ago–and you’ve gotten pretty good at saying The Thing in those ten years– that doesn’t mean people the people who are actually willing to listen to you in the first place still need to hear it now (they already know). Just because something you did was powerful and worked ONE year ago, that doesn’t mean it works now. If you can do better–and we can ALWAYS strive to do better–you should.

    I see Audrey (in a previous post) asking us to do better when we select texts to represent our *under*represented students. I want to do better. My favorite book in 2005 was considered a classic in queer fiction at the time. It won an award in 2009 for basically being a cult classic. However, it’s 2020 now, and there is better representation out there. There are LGBTQIA+ authors telling their own stories, and there are queer characters who aren’t just the “gay best friend,” and there are love stories and coming out stories that don’t just end in suffering or trauma. Do I still enjoy the author’s wild, poetic writing? Yes. Do I think I should be recommending it as a preteen’s first window or mirror of lived LGBTQIA+ experience? Probably not. She can read the “cult classic” later, if she wants– AFTER she’s read something *not* written by a straight white lady.

    I’m a straight white lady myself; my friend is very into poetry and queer theory and not very into YA.

    But I bet I know who we could ask for better recommendations 🙂

    Like

    • Education is always changing, so we do need to engender new and engaging methods of inclusivity. Moreover, the world is changing with education as well. As future educators, it is our job to render safe environments for all students. I know growing up that I did not even remotely read YA novels concerning the LGBTQIA+ community, yet I think is an improvement that we are conscious, or having a conversation about introducing students to ideologies that may not fit their ideologies. However, if we teach efficiently about relevant topics, then, students will not just negate the information given to them, but learn to appreciate and accept them. Thank you for your post.

      Like

  46. The video talks about how youth in the LGBTQ community suffer from mental health issues such as depression and anxiety mainly because they are forced to be someone they are not mainly around their families. Andi’s purposed of the sound experiment was to show her life as a queer, lesbian girl living in her city. To Andi, these recordings were her survival. Andi talks about how she felt silenced and that she left her high school because she felt they wanted to silence her and the rest of the LGBTQ community. As an educator, I hurt for Andi. I feel that school should be a safe place for students to come and be themselves. It is difficult for them to do that though when the entire school including the faculty, staff and students. Of course, everybody does that have to agree on the same things but we should always respect each other’s space. Andi’s experiences were not new to me. I am from the South, Alabama to be exact. I had friends in high school who were apart of the LGBTQ community and felt how she felt and did the things she did. I had a friend who self-harmed and felt silenced by the school. My friend actually started the Gay Straight Alliance Club in 2014 at our high school. We were juniors in high school at the time. At first, my high school did not want the club to start. The club had a pretty decent turnout and it is still thriving today. My friend really wanted a safe space for people to come to after school.

    The website, “Its Pronounced Metrosexual” had some really good information on it. I learned that there are many dimensions of sexualities. I like that the website has edugraphics about gender, social justice, and relationships. I would definitely show this to a group of middle school or high school students. The resources are very helpful. Each article and video touched on how we can deal with inequalities faced by the LGBTQ communities and it also explains ways we can help these inequalities from happening. The most important take away is that we need to make sure all students no matter age, race, gender, or sexual orientation/sexuality feel important and have a safe space to learn and have fun in.

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  47. “What really reduces shame is sharing your story,” said Jonathan Van Ness. Jonathan shares that he was born in the 80s/ early 90s when the HIV epidemic surfaced in America. This was a time where America ignored the voices of the LGBTQA+ community. The ignorance of the virus scared many people, and out of that fear transmuted hatred toward the LGBTQA+ community due to the misconceptions from the people’s lack of knowledge. The same thing is happening today. People’s lack of knowledge of gender, sex, and sexual orientation has led the LGBTQA+ community to suffer. Because of the people within Jonathan Van Ness’ safe space, he was able to work through his depression and his battle to be accepted. Throughout the video, he stresses the importance of staying mentally healthy and having people that are willing to listen and understand his experiences. Jonathan attributes his mother as someone who really tried to be as non-judgmental as she could and emphasized the importance of surrounding himself with people that supported him; hence, his safe space. Sharing YOUR story, meaning your true, authentic self without anyone else’s idea of you, reduces the shame that society wants you to feel, but be sure that when you do tell your story that it is on your terms. Jonathan Van Ness told his story; it was a bestseller.
    Andi’s Sonic Walk revealed her experience of being a queer lesbian Latina. Walking in school, Andi feels entirely safe when she is at lunch, court, and the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA). As a place where children spend the majority of their time, a child should feel safe in more than just three places at school. Everywhere should feel safe. As an educator, it is important for me to stay conscious of creating a safe environment for all students. Andi takes her sonic walk outside of the school and into her city. She is called derogatory terms just by walking down the street. Andi informs us of how silence can imply complicity in the behavior that makes others feel uncomfortable. Educators cannot change how others perceive Andi outside of the school environment, but we can help students process their emotions and find their voice to advocate for themselves. This project was a great way of “sounding out” injustice because it documented the injustice in an autobiographical sense that cannot be refuted.
    It’s Pronounced Metrosexual (IPM) is a great resource for people of all ages. This website educates people on the concepts of gender and sexuality, and how to organize their feeling on the topics. This is a very creative site that is founded by an equally creative person. Sam Killerman has a plethora of knowledge on these subjects and has contributed to making life easier for people of the LGBTQA+ community, specifically, the all-gender restroom sign. This site can provide educators with the words to help create safe spaces for students struggling with their identities because, not only is he able to discuss these sensitive issues, but he is able to make them fun, engaging, and laughable. This site is for everyone to learn that gender is more than just male and female.

    Like

    • Hello Isaiah,
      I agree with you, it is vital that schools work to provide a safe space for all students across the whole campus, all students should feel safe everywhere at school. It can be uncomfortable to step in and stop hate speech but it is necessary to address it directly because it is not okay in any situation. I like that you mentioned that silence can imply complicity it reminds me of two quotes that have always been around me and part of my life. They are

      1. If you don’t stand for something you will fall for everything.
      2. The Only Thing Necessary for the Triumph of Evil is that Good Men Do Nothing

      I think that these both are very important to me as I work towards becoming a teacher and creating a safe space in my classroom. I believe that students have the right to have a safe school environment, which means that I cannot condone any form of hate speech at any time.
      Also, thank you for sharing the resource It’s Pronounced metrosexual, I look forward to using it to better educate myself so that I can be a better advocate for all of my students in the future.
      Thanks for sharing!

      Like

  48. Watching this video and the article #soundingoutmycilence, made it very clear about the difficulties of growing up as an LGBTQ identified individual. Discriminating against, especially from those who are very close to ourselves, would be very hard to cope with. Those who you would think are there for your support, are rather there to oppress and further the negative judgements. Following the hardship through high school, with excess peer bullying, only furthers the negative atmosphere one might be already heavily encumbered by. Not having a safe place, to get reassurance and confirmation about how you feel and who you really are, can be extremely draining on the human psyche. The combination of everything is simply terribly unhealthy for anyone’s mental health. This can lead to anxiety, depression, and several other mental health issues, which could further be worsen by finding self-destructive coping mechanisms. Understanding the difficulties of individuals who identify as LGBTQ, is the starting point for us as educators to put in the extra effort to create a safe place for people who don’t fit in with the majority of their peers. As Jonathan Van Ness said, by him finding a safe place and finding people who supported and reassure him of himself, was one of the strongest tools he had to helping him through the hoops he had to jump through growing up as gay. I feel that, creating a safe place, is something all teachers should try to do for all of their students no matter their difficulties or disabilities.

    Like

  49. “… you may not get out of it today but it’s important to realize that we are not our depression, we are not our internal critic, we are not always the feelings and the voice in our head”
    – Jonathan Van Ness

    What I like about this quote is Jonathan’s strategy about how he differentiated himself from his thoughts (in a sense). He questioned his thoughts, not easily and not quickly, but it was a journey. While reading and watching different things like Jonathan’s video and Andi’s story, I like to think of how I can incorporate different life-skills into my future classroom to support my LGBTQ+ students (and all students) and so one thing I was thinking is incorporating this life-skill of thought reflection into my lessons. This was one of the tools he talked about that he used to overcome depression by questioning and acknowledging his inner voices and his struggles which is important for everyone’s mental health. Another life-skill that could be emphasized upon in my classroom that Jonathan mentioned is that things don’t always come easily and quickly and people will be at different levels at all points throughout their lives.

    Looking back on my own schooling experiences, I have never had my safety threatened in the way that Jonathan and many other students have so I cannot relate. However, in some way, I think we are all familiar with the feeling of wanting to belong somewhere, to be heard and to be accepted. I can imagine that if I was in a position like Jonathan’s it would mean the world to me to have someone in my corner and someone advocating for me. Jonathan mentions “there were always people that were very committed to me having a safe space and trying to be as non judgmental as humanly possible, I think my mom was first and foremost people in that space”. As teachers, we have to remember the more people you have behind you cheering you on, the better you feel about yourself and the more confident you feel when the world tries to knock you down. Not all of our students will be so lucky to have even one supporting parent. Being a teacher, it’s important to create those bonds early on with our students to create a safe and brave space within our classrooms where we have at least some control of situations and outcomes.

    I think it’s important to bash those negative comments that students say to one another or about themselves because it adds to someone’s negative critic … not only for the person being bullied but it feeds the bullies mind as well. Additionally, it’s crucial for teachers to be the models that present their students with alternative dialogues: positive affirmations and tools to change their inner dialogues. Changing how people talk about others and themselves. And when bullying does occur, I think it’s so important for our bullied students to feel validated. To not only recognize but accept their thoughts and feelings but to create space for communication so that they have someone to talk to.

    Not everyone has the same experiences and what one person feels based on a particular sound they hear, is not the same way another person may feel. I remember when I was younger, I always felt that feeling that I was alone, and no one has ever been through something like me, and no one could possibly understand or could help me. I’m not pretending to have all the answers or know what I’m doing because I have not practiced as a teacher (yet) but one thing I was thinking of was moving away from teacher-centered instruction and having students communicate more in interactive lessons, would be a nice way for students to feel more connected to one another.

    Last point I’d like to make here is the danger of assumption. Assuming is a huge thing that us as teachers or future teachers must be aware of. I’ve never been through Jonathan’s same struggles but I did go through a few home-life issues growing up so for that reason I wanted to bring awareness to silent students, outspoken students (all types of students) because I’ve played all roles throughout the years even when my world was crashing down at home. Even if grade wise and interaction wise things stay the same, we can’t always assume everything is fine. We have to make time to get to know our students and never assume things are okay.

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    • Hey Lucy,
      I really like your idea about incorporating thought reflection into your classroom. I think it is important to acknowledge that we can be our harshest critics and that what other people say to or about us can contribute to that inside voice being harsher, or even just louder. I think it is critical that students are taught to distance themselves from those thoughts and to be able to recognize those thoughts for what they are and to be able to redirect them in a way that helps students to grow. I also love that you addressed the need for teachers to be supportive and cheer on their students. I had an experience in junior high where I was being bullied mercilessly and none of the teachers or administration would do anything about it and I was coming home in tears more often than not. I was lucky enough to have parents that supported me and pulled me out of that school and transferred me to a different school in the district. At this new school, I had multiple experiences where I was being bullied and the teachers stepped in and made sure it stopped and made sure I was okay. It made a huge difference in my ability to feel safe and to function well in school. It is so important to create safe spaces for all of our students. I also agree with you that we need to take the time to get to know our students so that we can have a better understanding of what is going on in their lives, and how that can affect their performance in the classroom.
      Thanks for sharing!

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  50. Within the reading texts and videos, individuals composed projects to help them make sense of themselves and the world around them when it comes to sexuality and gender. Many people who struggle with gender and sexuality usually find themselves hiding it from their families early. The reasoning for hiding it usually revolves around them not knowing if their families will still accept them or not. Many people do not realize their sexuality cannot only cause them to face discrimination within families but also on the job, religion, and many other opportunities. In order to overcome these harsh realities of the world, one must be completely confident and comfortable with who they are no matter the backlash that is received from it. As an educator I understand that I must make respect the number one priority within the classroom. Students should respect all other students despite their cultural background, upbringing, religion, race, gender, or sexuality. I feel that all cultures and lifestyles should be treated and respected as equals no matter the circumstance.

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    • Hi Cameron,

      You make a great point. It takes a lot of courage for anyone to come out and unless they are confident in their sexual identity, they won’t be able to stay strong to withstand the discrimination. It’s unfortunate that those that identify as LGBTQIA+ have to hide it from their families. It saddens me to know that families disown their loved ones rather than accepting them for who they are. As educators we need to work against the discrimination and bring awareness to students that all must be accepted and treated with respect.

      -Charmaine

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    • Hi Cameron,
      I agree that everyone should be treated with respect no matter what. I believe that there is no authority for anyone to treat another human in a disrespectful way whether I agree with their lifestyle and culture or not. As an educator, I want to teach my students to respect one another despite differences. I want to create an environment where students can respect and honor each other as human beings despite differences. As an educator, my job is to make sure all of my students feel safe and welcome in my classroom. I must continue to grow in my understanding of others, including but not limiting to the LGBTQ+ community. I am thankful to learn of websites like IPM where I can educate myself about LGBTQ+ students.

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