Activity Guide: Addressing "That's So Gay" In Your Classroom
Submitted by erika on
If interested in modeling this dialogue in your own classroom, please use the following guidelines to assist in ensuring a positive and productive discussion.
Age-level: middle and high school students
Prior to the Discussion:
1. Do some personal reflection about your own comfort level in leading this discussion. As the teacher in the video shared, he did not always confront this term in his own life. Decide what you may or may not want to share with your students about your own experiences.
2. Consider how you might respond to queries from students about broader questions around homophobia, attitudes about marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples, repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policies in the military and other topics related to LGBT rights that have been in the media. While these other areas of discussion are very powerful and meaningful, it is also important to be clear of your goal in the discussion.
3. Review and be familiar with your own school’s policies around bullying, harassment and language. It is important for students to understand the “non-negotiables” around hurtful language or harassing behaviors that exist in school as well as to hopefully develop a strong internal understanding of why these policies exist.
4. Plan to establish groundrules with the students to ensure a productive and “safe” conversation.
(See insert on: Establishing Discussion Guidelines)
Establishing Discussion Guidelines
Engaging students is a process of establishing groundrules for dialogue can help to ensure a “safe” and productive environment when discussing potentially controversial topics. Inviting students to develop these through a collaborative process helps to create common ownership of the agreed-upon rules. Additionally, if conflict emerges, the agreements can serve as a reminder of the need for respect and sensitivity.
As easy way to do this is to ask students to share their own ideas of 5-7 communication rules or behaviors that they can all commit to in the dialogue. You can prompt them with 1-2 such as, “We will listen more than we speak” or “Be open to new perspectives.” This can also be done using a key word such as “RESPECT” or “ESCUCHAR” (to listen in Spanish) or “PROCESS” and ask students to come up with key words/concepts for each letter of the word.
Discussion Questions: (to be used after viewing the video)
1. The teacher in the video opens the discussion with his students asking if they feel it is necessary to say something if they hear they term, “That’s so gay.” What do you think?
2. One student justified the use of the expression stating that it was not meant to hurt people who are gay and “everyone says it.” Does it make a difference that the term is so commonly used? Does this make it harder to challenge its use?
3. In the discussion, one student says that there is danger in allowing the “little things” (like biased words) to become acceptable because this can lead to larger and more serious forms of prejudice. This idea can be referred to as a “continuum of hate.” Can you think of examples in your own life or in history where this has been true?
4. It can be really hard to think of what to say in the face of hurtful words. What were the examples that students’ shared that were effective? (“Gay doesn’t mean stupid” and “I have gay friends and that’s offensive.”) Can you think of other responses that could be effective?