Educators, regardless of position, are role models.
“I think LGBTQ students especially need someone who they can attach to,” says Kyle Schultz, a Penn GSE lecturer and licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in working with the queer community.
In the best scenarios, life at home is a safe space for kids who identify somewhere along the queer spectrum. Teachers, school counselors, and administrators owe it to their LGBTQ+ students, along with the rest of the student body, to provide an inclusive environment where everyone feels comfortable. “I often ask students, why do you remember a teacher or school counselor?” says Schultz. “They tell me it’s because that person made them feel good about themselves.”
While the premise of creating a supportive LGBTQ+ educational environment is simple, many factors need to be realized. One of those elements is increasing cultural competence in schools. knowing our own values and biases around queer identities and experiences, developing a deep knowledge and empathic understanding of queer identities and experiences, and integrating these things into culturally informed educational practices.
“This starts with a genuine and honest examination of your own thoughts and feelings about queer identities, particularly those that are negative,” says Schultz.
As educators reflect on these thoughts and feelings, they can make more intentional choices to become more culturally informed about queer identities and experiences.
Schultz recommends cultural immersion through three main outlets: reading, engaging, and absorbing trusted media sources.
“When we learn about other cultures and acquire knowledge beyond what we see on TV, we become more open-minded,” says Schultz.
Culturally competent educators set the tone for positive learning environments, which creates space for all people, regardless of how they identify—or don’t.
This story is by Kyle Schultz. Read more at Penn GSE.