In the fall of 2013, I submitted a grant proposal to the Melrose Education Foundation, a community organization in Melrose, Massachusetts which funds projects to promote innovation in teaching and learning.
According to the 2011 Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey, about 1 in 10 students identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual or report some same-sex sexual contact. The survey found that students in this group are seven times more likely to have attempted suicide in the past year and twice as likely to skip school due to feeling unsafe than their peers. Findings from the GLSEN 2011 National School Climate Survey also found that Massachusetts schools were not safe for many LGBTQ secondary school students, and that the vast majority students regularly heard homophobic remarks, sexist remarks, and negative remarks about gender expression.
However, studies in California have shown that LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum strategies not only improve school climate and school safety for all students , but can also improve student academic performance (see: California Safe Schools Coalition and GSA Network).
I wanted to develop a project that would begin to develop LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum strategies. The aims of this project were to implement a LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum to ensure that
In December 2013, the Melrose Education Foundation awarded the project partial funding. Originally, I had planned on attending the GLSEN Educator's Retreat with a couple of other teachers and taking an online course. But with the retreat already fully-booked and wait-listed and fewer funds that I had planned, I had to rethink my strategy. I used some of the funds to purchase professional development materials, including Acting Out! Combating homophobia through teacher activism edited by Mollie Blackburn and others, The right to be out: sexual orientation and gender identity in America's public schools by Stuart Biegel, Dignity for all: safeguarding LGBT students by Peter DeWitt, and LGBT youth in America's schools by Jason Cianciotto and Sean Cahill. I also used funding to purchase a selection of biographies, history and other nonfiction books to support LGBTQ curriculum inclusion in the classroom. I also invited speakers from the Greater Boston PFLAG to speak to our freshman class and purchased and printed a variety of resources for our students.
I read through the professional development resources and continued my research by reading Getting ready for Benjamin: preparing teachers for sexual diversity in the classroom, books on LGBTQ history, and articles in academic journals like The English Journal and Radical Teacher. When I felt confident that I had turned a personal interest into an area of professional expertise, I planned a half-day teacher professional development workshop, LGBTQ Inclusion: Strategies and best practices. I was expecting six teachers, but 28 staff showed up, including a few administrators. After the workshop, the Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning asked me to speak to the district department chairs.