How might we create an intentional GSA program that is fully embraced by the larger school community?
With the holidays and my Grade 12 Internal Assessments over the past two months, I have fallen a bit behind with my blog post. That being said I feel like I am still on track for some of how I would like to incorporate and take action on my “How Might We” question. While the Gender and Sexuality Alliance continues to meet on a bi-weekly basis, we have in-depth discussions about current events, issues in our school, and our everyday lives. Part of the realization I have come to is that to create a truly intentional and impactful GSA within our school it goes far beyond our club. Perhaps my question needs some reframing and it should be about supporting the development of a school community that fully embraces and intentionalizes pluralism.
To unpack this thinking I’ve had to break down my vocabulary a bit. Why “intentional”? Personally, this has been a bit of a buzzword for me this year. Ultimately it comes down to not just doing things because I feel like I should, but doing things because I think they are truly meaningful.
After the last F2F in one of our GSA meetings I let the students hold an AMA (Ask Me Anything) with me as the subject. At first, I was a bit hesitant to open myself up to this kind of questioning, but when the meeting came it led to some insightful and profound discussions about my experiences in our school community and larger community. I went away feeling a little vulnerable but I felt that the students not only knew more about me and why I think our club is important but also why I am passionate about this.
The second word I had to examine was “embrace”. What does this look like? I don’t believe you ever need to have 100% support in anything you do I feel like that is a bit of a myth. I do however feel it is of utmost importance to speak your truth and to inform yourself, as well as others, of viewpoints different from their own. It was this examination that led me to the realization that my “How Might We” question goes far beyond the GSA. As a Head of Department, for the past two years, I have examined the curriculum we teach. It has been really important to me that our curriculum reflects not only quality literature but also the same kind of pluralism we see within our school or more. This idea of pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone and learning about things that are far removed from ourselves helps us to embrace others maybe not wholly, but at least to empathetically understand others’ experiences.
Lastly, I believe the final piece of this is visibility. I want students at our school to be able to see themselves everywhere. For our GSA students that doesn’t just mean they have our club where they can feel safe. To me, that means rainbow armbands on sports teams, diverse casting in plays and musicals, as well as the aforementioned reflections within the curriculum. While I understand this will take time.
I think it is important to show that anyone is welcome in any part of our community and that is what we strive for.
So what have I actually done? At times it feels like I haven’t done much, but I recognize each little step is an important one. While I continue to run the GSA, we are currently planning our school’s annual Pride Week, along with our usual current issue/ hot topic discussions. Along with another staff member I have taken charge of our annual Community Read. A project in which the entire school Grade 6 through 12 will participate in a book club on a singular title. This year’s selection is The Magic Fish by Trung le Nguyen. We plan to talk about themes such as Sexuality, Gender, Culture, Language, and the Intersectionality of it all, after all, people do not fall into just one category. We plan to start it during Pride Week and End it to begin AAPI Heritage Month.
Moving forward, I would still like to make a more meaningful GSA program. I have gotten some great ideas from our sessions about student-led workshops and meetings and plan to implement some of these. I don’t think I can or should be a voice for pluralism, but I do want to do my part to make my school a more welcoming place.