Anitre Bell is a College Success Facilitator and Instructor at Community College of Beaver County
Everyone is different in their own way, and we must embrace those differences. As educators, we meet students from various backgrounds—whether it be race, religion or sexual orientation—and it is our duty to ensure an inclusive and high-quality education for all of them.
Research shows that LGBTQIA+ students face challenges as early as high school that factor into their college enrollment and experiences. And currently there are only around 250 LGBTQIA+ centers on college campuses across the country to offer assistance to these students. So, in honor of Pride Month, here are four tips from fellow faculty that you can use to help support your LGBTQIA+ students all year long.
1. Creating a “Safe Space”
A safe learning environment opens the doors for an optimal learning experience for all students. Whether the gesture is big or small, students should know and feel that your class is a safe place where they are fully supported. Consider placing a “safe space” symbol—such as a self-made or store-bought rainbow ribbon pin—on your person, near your office or in your classroom, to signal that this is an inclusive environment where they are free to be themselves.
2. Choosing Our Words
The language you use sets the tone for your entire class. To create an inclusive classroom, it is crucial to watch your words and pay particular attention to the pronouns your LGBTQIA+ students use. This gives direct insight into who that person is and shows that you acknowledge and respect their identity—and others should as well.
3. Creating an Inclusive Curriculum
Curriculum serves as a mirror when it reflects individuals, so it is important that all your students can see themselves within it—including your LGBTQIA+ students. This sends the message that you want to share and understand the experiences and perspectives of those who possess different identities, as well as create a more positive environment and healthy self-awareness for members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
4. Sharing Resources
Sharing resources and informing your students of what resources are available to them is key. These resources can consist of referral information for on-campus or outside counselors, contact information for local organizations that can provide additional assistance or a list of “safe” staff members that are available to talk to/confide in. Check out this example from UC Davis. The school created an online resource center to compile helpful links to clubs, mentors, a calendar of events and a gender inclusive campus restroom map.
We must all work to create and share resources, tools and outlets for our student population. Support is a key piece in the evolution of a person. When our students walk through our doors, we must help unlock and nurture their potential for learning.