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November 16, 2008 at 10:58 am #8112Brian SilveiraMember
I am an out, male preschool teacher in San Francisco.
I have the privilege to give workshops through out the country on creating safe and welcoming schools for LGBT teachers, parents and children. There is no doubt in my mind that LGBT teachers encounter discrimination in the field. Yet closeted or not, LGBT teachers are everywhere, making a difference in the field. We continue to work in the field because the calling to serve children and families is greater than the cost. We bring a unique commitment to the field and as a result, the field is changing to accomodate us. Policy leaders like the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) now use language inclusive of LGBT staff and families in their ethical codes and policy. Local and national workshops are being conducted in schools and at conferences that are helping teachers understand our joys and challenges as LGBT educators.
We live in a homophobic society. When a proposition came before the voters to eliminate gay marriage in California, it passed. We now have a state constitution that discriminates against a group of people. The ads for this campaign focused on the fact that we would be forced to teach about homosexualiy in schools and read books featuring lesbian and gay parents in schools.
There are a few schools that welcome LGBT staff and value the role we play in the lives of children, but many and most are still either struggling with how to be more welcoming or they are holding on to homophobic values.
December 8, 2008 at 1:42 pm #8110matthewhartley86Member
My name is Matt. I live in Benton, Arkansas and I am currently working on my degree in Early Childhood at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. When I saw this forum, I had to read it. I am gay and have been working in pre k for 3 years. First of all, I don’t understand why anyone sexuality should have anything to do with the classroom. I hesitate in saying that, because I can understand why it would. Not in this case though. I think that there will always be people out there that think ridiculously, but it is our job to change the minds of the parents whose children are in our classrooms. I have had these experiences and the parents always regret whatever they have said. Anyway, I didn’t know there was such a thing as schools welcoming LGBT staff. What do I know though; I live in the bible belt of Arkansas. Hope this helps!
January 7, 2009 at 1:02 pm #8114DougMember
Hey guys. I am straight and who cares? I read the posts and think about these issues a lot when considering my path and how it is changed simply by being a man. I am now 40, but when I was 24 I taught Pre k in CA. Its so hard to break into those roles as a man. Yes, I was thought to be close to that of a circus carny really. Who is this guy? Why is he working with 4 year old children? I found myself magnifying my masculinity within dramatic play that was specific to camping, construction etc. Even though I was straight, I found myself underscoring my masculinity to show everybody I was not gay. I believe, in a strange way, we do connect in this posture. It was as if not being gay made it “passable” to teach. Ok, so by not being gay it made it more curious really. Fact is, we cant win either way until more men have positions of “power” within the field. I dont get the whole issue because who you have sex with makes no bearing on how you care for children! I will go one step further on my soapbox…. I have found that many environments in ECE are packed with women who have developed a stereotype of how we men should be as caregivers. You could get the Panama Canal back faster than a qualified man can teach in settings with children under the age of 6. Im just venting but wanted to say that although my “ball and chain” is a bit different, I feel your pain. I send to you both an excited cheer of support to keep fighting the good fight. Its a hope that we men can grow in numbers a caregivers with young children.
January 11, 2009 at 9:40 am #8104Matt JMember
Thanks for your fascinating reflections and suggestions! These posts have made me think of very specific follow up questions, mostly for the K – 3 crowd. I’m curious how people have handled some of the following questions…
1) How early in the year do the students know that you have a husband and not a wife or a boyfriend instead of a girlfriend? How do they find out? How have they responded? Did it continue to be an issue, or did it become a non-issue?
2) How aware are your students of your boyfriend/partner/husband? Does they attend school events (choir concerts, fundraisers, etc.) with you? Do you keep a family photo at your desk?
3) Have you ever experienced a negative reaction from a parent about being gay? How was it resolved? Did it affect how you interacted with that student?
Thanks in advance for sharing your stories and experiences!
January 19, 2009 at 10:09 pm #8106matthewhartley86Member
I want to start by saying this: This should NEVER come up in the classroom! Why should it? A person’s sexuality should have NOTHING to do with the classroom. Parents might ask, but this is none of their business and one should let them know that! This goes for anyone you work with as well! What happens in your bedroom should never be talked about at work.
I have had parents assume and say something to co-workers and directors. You have to pick your battles wisely. Remember, as a teacher, you are an advocate to everyone!
I am still in school. I will have my degree in about one year (which I am so excited about). I think that having a picture of my partner will be on my desk, but so will other people of my family (brother, sisters…etc). My partner does show up to some events however we don’t make this a big deal when he does. We act like every other couple there.
I hope this helps and makes since!
March 29, 2009 at 7:05 pm #8108Brian SilveiraMember
I agree that what happens in the bedroom has no place in a classroom. But if you have the support of your director, you can make a profound impact on the children and families you serve by being an out role model. Children are naturally curious about relationships and early childhood is the perfect place to include gay and lesbian relationships in your curriculum as children are not yet fettered with homophobia. The children in my class see a picture of me and my partner on our family tree. When one the the children ask me if I am going to marry a female teacher in the school, another child will often pipe up with, “No, Brian is married to Jay.” I love the simple and genuine questions having an out gay teacher provokes.
October 28, 2009 at 7:13 am #8057Matt JGuest
Hello! After several years of being a theatre artist and teaching artist, I’m going back to school to become an elementary school teacher. Most of what I’ve seen for research talks about men being afraid of being perceived as homosexuals or pedophiles. What if I AM gay (but not a pedophile)? How much homophobia should I expect? I’d love to hear from others how open they have been able to be with students, parents, staff, administration, etc.
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