Did you know? Up to 30% of the world’s population belong to the LGBTQ+ community? This means that close to 1/3 of your students in class may as well. It is important to make all of our learners feel like they belong so here are a few tips on how to do this for your LGBTQ+ students. The most important point to remember is to allow for a natural type of inclusion and not portray any kind of ‘otherness’. Too often in an attempt to include LGBTQ+ in our lessons and surroundings, we tend to ‘fragment’ topics and activities. For example, some teachers focus on topics and representation only during the month of June – pride month. This, however, does not foster a sense of inclusion in everyday classrooms but rather serves to highlight an ‘otherness’, fragmenting the curriculum as a result. For real inclusion and a sense of belonging to occur, students in this community need to be represented on the walls of the classroom, in textbooks and materials used in class, and in real life activities.
Take a good look around your classroom. What posters are on the wall? What pictures are on display? Is there any way you can make the visuals more inclusive without creating a sense of ‘otherness’?
Research has shown that very few ELT textbooks include representation of the LGBTQ+ community. This can be remedied by a teacher supplementing with material on topics that relate both to the theme of the unit in the book and the LGBTQ+ community. For example, in the Reading and Writing Q: Skills for Success series there is a unit on colour. A teacher can easily bring in the symbol of the rainbow and what the colours mean to the community. Another unit in the same series focused on festivals in London. Here, the teacher can easily bring in the Pride Festival in London. By carefully examining your materials, you are able to naturally introduce topics related to the LGBTQ+ community without veering from your curriculum.
Classroom activities can also be adapted to better suit the needs of your learners. Activities in lower beginner classes on family, for example, can include pictures of many different kinds of families – the nuclear family, single-mom or dad family, two-dad family, two-mom family, extended family and so on. When students are asked to describe their perfect husband or wife, more neutral words such as ‘life partner’ can be used. The natural inclusion of the pronoun ‘they’ in lessons may also be helpful. When examples are given of people in different professions, try to include some from the LGBTQ+ community. For example, a unit on sports where students describe their favourite sport/athlete can be introduced with an example from the community, such as tennis star Billie Jean King, soccer star Megan Rapinoe, or basketball star Jason Collins. This brings in representation of the LGBTQ+ community in a naturally inclusive way without creating a feeling of ‘otherness’ in the class.
Hilda, like many in ELT, has worked in a variety of contexts. She is currently a tenure-track Assistant Teaching Professor at Thompson Rivers University. She is working in EAP, the TESOL Certificate Program, and the MEd. She previously owned and ran her own private language school. She also has years of overseas experience. Hilda holds a PhD from Rhodes University and has contributed to the BCTEAL Journal as well as numerous other journals. Hilda’s experience in so many areas of EAL make her an excellent addition to the board as the Private Sector Representative (2021-2023).