Curriculum as Narrative and Community

The story of Heather’s Moms Got Married addresses the social justice issue of gay and lesbian rights.  Upon reading the story I began to think about many questions and concerns regarding my past schooling as well as what my future would hold for me as a teacher.

At the University of Regina I have read articles dealing with LBGT issues, but I have not yet seen how to incorporate these issues into the classroom.  Mary Cowhey, the author of Heather’s Moms Got Married gives many resources and ideas to help teach elementary students LGBT issues. One can challenge these issues by incorporating lesbian and gay children books into the classroom to spark discussions.  Although Cowhey does not state using real world situations in her story I believe the children’s learning should be authentic. Therefore, it is important for educators to address the issue of homosexuality because it is a major issue in the current world.

Issues such as the Olympics in Sochi have brought light to the issue of homosexuality and gay and lesbian rights.  In Russia there are no laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination.  Such laws have imposed “harsh fines and jail terms for distribution of homosexual ‘propaganda’ to minors” (Equality Network).  I found this statistic shocking because if I read the book And Tango Makes Three to my class it would be considered illegal and I could be charged $37,000 in Russia.  Issues such as anti-gay thugs have lured LGBT people to meetings where they have been beaten.  Russia has done little to provide support to the victims of the senseless crimes.  Regina and other Canadian cities have put up the gay pride flags in front of their city halls.  Saskatchewan has also put up the gay pride flag in front of the legislative building in protest of Russia’s anti-gay laws.

The winter Olympics in Sochi have brought light to the issue of LGBTQ rights.  Such protests such as the German Olympic team sporting rainbow coloured coats during the opening ceremonies is a subtle protest for gay and lesbian rights.  Although the German team claims that the coats do not deal with the LGBT rights in Russia.   Google also promoted gay rights during the opening day of the Olympics.  “The internet giant transformed its homepage into a show of support for gay rights with a Google Doodle depicting athletes against a rainbow coloured backdrop” (Molloy, 2014).  I think as educators we can use current events such as what is going on in Russia to easily introduce and discuss such issues in an age appropriate manner. Students must think critically when discussing LGBT questions.  It is also important when your students ask questions to answer them “in a straightforward, educational manner” (109).

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Coming into the Faculty of Education I was very timid about learning about gay and lesbian people.  It was something I was nervous about learning.  I did not have an open mind and I thought my stereotypes were true.  As I grew up I was told that people who identified as LBGTQ were different and that there was something wrong with them.  I did not receive any education that regarded LBGTQ issues in a positive light.  Before coming into the faculty and if someone told me I had to teach about LBGTQ people I would feel extremely uncomfortable.  I could not imagine having to teach about such matters.  This is because I did not have the chance to learn about such issues in my schooling.  Now I recognize through many university courses the importance of LGBTQ rights and the discrimination they have faced in the past.  As a future teacher language is very important.  We have to be aware of and change language such as “mom and dad” to “parents and guardians”.  By teaching students at an early age that there is nothing wrong with identifying as LGBTQ the students will become comfortable talking about such issues.

In the story Out Front also addresses LBGTQ issues.  What spoke to me in this story is the adopting the anti-slur policy.  Terms like “gay”, are often used to say something is stupid, or as Annie Johnston says, “really yucky” (117).  The term “queer” or “fag” is tossed around by many calling someone weak.  I believe it is very important as teachers we must follow and adopt the anti-slur policy.  By adopting the policy we can encourage others to take on the anti-slur policy.  As Johnston says, “This is not sufficient to create a classroom that welcomes the existence of a queer population.  To take this further step, teaching must include queers and queer issues in their curriculum” (117)

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I enjoyed the Out Front story because it promotes the use of authentic learning.  It uses real life situation to teach LGBTQ issues.  Johnston focuses on teaching older students in the middle to high school age range.  She states how to include LGBTQ issues in different subject areas.  For example, you can focus on the gay liberation movement and compare it to other civil rights movements in a social studies or history class.  In physical education “teachers can talk openly and respectfully about gay athletes” (119).  Again it is important to develop curricula that students will be willing to talk about and ask questions about.

It was nice to see how schools now establish policies protecting gay and lesbian youth from harassment, violence and discrimination.  Schools also develop support groups for gay-straight alliances (106).  Growing up in Weyburn, I do not recall there being a group such as a gay-straight alliance in our high school.  We also did not have a LBGTQ support group. My question then becomes if you come from a small town what can a person do to help support people who identify as LGBTQ?  Do you need to be in a big city to have a large student body to have a gay-straight alliance group, or LGBTQ support group?  Both Heather’s Moms Got Married and Out Front stress the importance of including LGBTQ issues into the curriculum.  We must educate our students the diversity of families and support LBGTQ people so the students leaving high school do not bring in the criticisms and stereotypes that I came out of high school with.

References

Equality Network. (n.d.). LGBT human rights abuses in Russia. Retrieved from http://www.equality-network.org/our-work/campaigning/lgbt-human-rights-abuses-in-russia/

Cowhey, Mary. (2010) “Heather’s Moms Got Married The New Teacher Book: Finding Purpose, Balance, and Hope During Your First Years in the Classroom. Eds. Terry Burant, Linda Christensen, Kelley Dawson Salas, and Stephanie Walters. Rethinking Schools Ltd. 2010. pp. 111-22.

Johnston, Annie. (2010). “Out Front.” The New Teacher Book: Finding Purpose, Balance, and Hope During Your First Years in the Classroom. Eds. Terry Burant, Linda Christensen, Kelley Dawson Salas, and Stephanie Walters. Rethinking Schools Ltd. 2010. pp. 111-22.

Molloy, M. (2014, February 07). Google doodle goes rainbow for gay rights ahead of Sochi winter Olympics. Metro. Retrieved from http://metro.co.uk/2014/02/07/google-doodle-goes-rainbow-for-gay-rights-ahead-of-sochi-winter-olympics-2014-4294426/

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One thought on “Curriculum as Narrative and Community

  1. Such a powerful, well-researched yet personal piece of writing about a social justice topic that many people would still rather keep it as the ‘elephant in the room’. Good for you for challenging yourself to learn more – Kumashiro would be pleased to see a young preservice teacher willing to “learn through crisis, discomfort”.

    Connecting real-world stories (such as the Olympics) does create authentic, meaningful learning experiences that students will remember (and it’s appalling to think you could be fined from reading the beautiful story, And Tango Makes Three). Talking about different kinds of families provides a safe space for all children to connect. Also, as you wrote, it’s important to create a space where students can talk openly and ask questions.

    The stories that you’ve connected with from The New Teacher Book share their own personal stories of struggles yet also the hope and possibilities of ways to educate all students. You pose the question at the end of your post…”Do you need to be in a big city to have a large student body to have a gay-straight alliance group, or LGBTQ support group?” The answer is NO. The authors stress the need for educators to be allies for their students so we can build such a group or join an existing group anywhere or anytime. Find other like-minded individuals and move forward to make change. This sends a powerful message to all students, gay or straight!

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