Illustration: Ellie Findell
In high school the idea of ‘different’ is not one that many people are fond of. People who are seen as ‘different’ are immediately singled out and put into a different category, separate from the so called ‘normal’ people. Many students struggle with gender identity and acceptance, whether it’s at school or home, intentional or not. Teachers at Saint Paul Academy and Summit School should be professionally trained to serve as allies to students struggling with the issue of gender identity and acceptance.
Gender Sexuality Alliance is planning on re-instating their GSA Allies Safe Space program, which included teachers placing a sticker on their classroom door which indicated that they were a safe space. However, the program will now use rainbow paper weights instead of stickers to show that teachers are available to talk. GSA decided to use paper weights because they are easier to move around and when teachers leave SPA it can serve as a memento.
Faculty GSA Allies would be beneficial to students struggling with gender identity issues as long as the teacher is trained and realizes how much of an impact the advice or counsel being given can have on the student.
There is a clear difference between someone who wants do good in the community and someone who can actually help. Most teachers aim to help their students become the best person they can be both inside and outside of the classroom. However, the student the teachers help inside the classroom is different from the same student that the teachers are trying to help outside the classroom. Professional training can help teachers differentiate between the two and become reliable allies to the students in need outside the classroom. Students need allies who have had similar experiences or have experience solving such issues as identity acceptance for students.
Although teachers may be interested in helping students, they may say something that’s unintentionally hurtful or invokes more damage. Training for teachers could help prevent this. Such training would include workshops where sample scenarios are shown, then the potential allies-in-training try to find the best way to respond. If not formal teacher training, then allowing people from outside SPA who have struggled with gender identity talk to teachers about what would kind of ally would have been useful to them in their time of need.
SPA teachers should function as allies to students struggling with gender identity and acceptance. As long as the teachers are trained in how to best help the students, and see the student in the classroom and the person in need outside of the classroom as two different people.
Teacher training would help solve the problem of being “different” by having a face in the crowd that students could talk to during times of need. The allies should be equipped with professional training and a rainbow paper weight to help them fulfill the mission of creating a safe space for a student to come and talk.