Michigan's Department of Education trains teachers how to groom kids starting in elementary school
Inside their teacher training on creating affirming classrooms for LGBTQ+ Students
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Meet Owen Bondono.
Owen was the 2021 Teacher of the Year in Michigan. He is trans, bi-sexual, and uses he/him pronouns.
And when Owen is teaching 9th grade English at Oak Park High School in Michigan, on the first day, he asks his students to fill out a Google form to telling him
Their contact information and how they want to be contacted
If they would like to discuss their pronouns with him (Owen) because it may not be safe for them to discuss their gender identity at home.
“The way that I do it personally in my classroom is that I have a Google form at the start of the year that's got all the what's your preferred method of contacting me or what’s your learning style, all that kind of like beginning of the year stuff…and one of the questions I ask is what pronouns would you like me to use for you and then would you like me to follow up with you about those pronouns that we can have a conversation.
And then it's also important to ask before you contact home, especially for a student that's using one that doesn't necessarily align with their assigned gender at birth…is it safe for me to use these pronouns with your friends, with other people in the school, with your family, etc…because sometimes they may be comfortable with you or with being in school but they don't they would be unsafe for them to be outted at home and our priority always has to be student.”
Last year, Owen partnered with Kim Phillips-Knope of the Michigan Department of Education’s LGBTQ+ Students Project to give a series of trainings in partnership with the Michigan Organization on Adolescent Sexual Health (MOASH). This series is partially funded by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Adolescent and School Health.
The series of trainings include the following:
Laying The Foundation: Understanding the Identities and Experiences of LGBTQ+ Students in Michigan
When Bias Gets in the Way: How to Recognize and Address Barriers to Supporting LGBTQ+ Students and Families
The Power of the GSAs: Getting Your School’s Club Up and Running!
You can view the full list in this document, as well as gain access to the video files to see the trainings for yourself.
Don’t worry - if they pull down the files as a result of this article, I have backups of all of them.
Now, that document does note that they do not want these trainings shared without express permission from the Michigan Department of Education.
But considering these trainings are taxpayer-funded, I believe that to be more of a polite request…a polite request which I shall politely decline.
After all, why wouldn't the Michigan Department of Education want the public to see what they are spending their money on? What are they trying to hide?
In this article, I will walk you through one of the trainings in the series titled Safe, Supportive, Inclusive Classrooms: Practical Strategies for Affirming LGBTQ+ Students.
Coming Out in Elementary School
Erin, who works at the elementary school level, discusses her jealousy that another school had at least two kids come out at the elementary level.
She’s sick and tired of kids waiting until they are in high school to come out.
Another participant, Mary, notes that they’ve had success with students coming out in elementary school because of the counseling the school offers starting in elementary school.
“We had two people in our four-person group that work at the elementary level that have had at least two kids come out, and I find that given the school I work in at the elementary level amazing and hopeful and I want to be in their schools and I want to know how they made that happen because I'm tired of it being pushed off to the high school level I've really had enough”
“A lot of it has begun with the counseling department you know at the elementary level and then you know continuing into the middle school level.”
Reading “I Am Jazz” on Day 1
Another former Michigan Teacher of the Year, Rick Joseph, discussed how he utilizes signs and stickers on his door, and a welcome doormat for all LGBTQ+ students when they enter his room, to indicate his allyship.
Rich also has a pile of LGBTQ+ books set aside in his elementary school classroom for students to access anytime.
He reads from the classic I Am Jazz by Jazz Jennings (an activist was diagnosed with gender dysphoria at 5-years-old, and is one of the youngest people to be identified as transgender on record):
“I teach fifth and sixth grade so these books are many of them are now considered classics…”I Am Jazz” is a book I usually read on the first day of school which creates a safe and inclusive community right off the bat and there's a real power of using read alouds in the classroom for helping to make students aware the fact that these are issues that we can talk about whenever and wherever, but also it's very safe and anonymous.”
Disrupt Gendered Language
Owen discusses that gender bias and gender-based discrimination is the root of LGBTQ+ bias.
He encourages teachers to make things safer for LGBTQ+ students by not grouping students by gender and working to eliminate gendered language. After all, those things encourage students to buy into the gender binary.
He uses a graphic (which he loves) to suggest people use terms like “Folx”, “Dawgs”, “Theydies & Gentlethems” and (my favorite) “Comrades” instead of boys and girls.
Tik Tok Training
Some people argue that Libs of Tik Tok distorts the perspectives of teachers by showing only the most extreme cases.
But if that’s true then we definitely wouldn’t find Tik Tok showing up in a professional teacher training about LGBTQ+ issues, right?
It was fascinating to find this training filled with a dozen Tik Tok videos to illustrate the lived experience of LGBTQ+ students.
My favorite was a student who sang a song calling everyone transphobic (with a stunning voice!)
You can see a full montage of the Tik Tok’s used in the training here:
Practical Strategies for Grooming
Toward the end of the training, Kim and Owen ask the teachers watching to tell them what strategies they would like to implement to make classrooms more inclusive of LGBTQ+ students at all levels.
To make elementary school classrooms more inclusive, the teachers recommend lots of books and signage, changing the curriculum, using gender-neutral language and, of course, asking children for their pronouns:
For middle and high school, they recommended maintaining the same language tactics as in elementary school (kids need consistency!), but had more of an emphasis on pronouns.
This is where Owen shared his strategy for using a Google form to ask kids to share their pronouns with him privately and lets him know if their parents are safe to tell.
Also, Kim discussed how students can draw the LGBTQ+ flag in math class to learn about geometry:
“We heard recently a math teacher talk about using having students as part of a math project, I think, on area or something like that…one of the assignments was that they could create a pride flag where they had to like make sure that all of the different areas were exactly correct measurements and things like that, so there are lots of ways to incorporate content or incorporate LGBTQ+ content regardless of your you know whatever your what you're teaching”
In health, sex ed, and gym class, they encouraged people to stop segregating students by gender and again emphasized eliminating gendered language.
Kim suggested using “people with penises” and “people with vulvas” instead of boys and girls.
Lastly, Kim encouraged the teachers to tell her just one strategy they wanted to implement in their classrooms.
Answers included signage, pronouns, adhering to the language guidelines to not use gendered language, and increased struggle sessions (they call it “calling in”) to hold colleagues accountable.
And, of course, teachers planned to make changes in their curriculum, including emphasizing that Shakespeare had relationships with men when discussing his work:
Coming soon to a school near you…
To close the presentation, Owen and Kim were asked if they could come deliver this training as part of a professional development program in one of the schools in Michigan. They were thrilled at the request and assured the person asking they would!
And guess what? They are repeating the series this year, as well as offering new trainings to the schedule. You can see the Michigan Department of Education’s 2023 offerings in this document.
What do you think?
How would you feel about your kid’s teacher getting this sort of training? Are they training teachers to be groomers?
Leave a comment and let me know! And please share this with your friends and family who need to learn this information.
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