Questioning and Queering the Classroom
The Question Box. The Love Box. The Sex Box. The Porno Box.
Depending on the school, the hollow rectangle with a slit large enough to slide in folded papers with anonymous questions took on a different name. However, the function remained the same, students wrote down anything that piqued their interests and teachers responded. During one interview, I sat with Rosa as she sorted through the inquires that overflowed from the box.
“What is a good age to start having sex?” she read.
“That is a good question.”
Placing the slip of construction paper to the side, Rosa explained to me that during the unit on reproduction she planned to incorporate all of the inquires and answer them during her lessons.
Another educator explained that many of the classes he teaches on sexuality spiral into full-blown discussions fueled by student curiosity. He intentionally assigns readings and workbook pages that explore the mechanical aspects of reproduction for homework and utilizes class to open up dialogue on the socio-emotional aspects of sex. The shift from a teacher-driven lesson to conversation changes the dynamics of instruction— disrupting the traditional structure and placing students as the drivers of their knowledge. Sears refers to this disruption as queering education. When an educator decides to change the lesson structure from ‘sage-on-the-stage’ lectures to the teacher as a facilitator, they are queering education. However, the evolution of the role does not happen without challenges, and for many the shift seems, well, queer. The teacher I interviewed explained that staying up-to-date with all the terminology about sexual diversity was difficult. When stuck, he asked students to elaborate on what they meant, or looked-up information on Google, while projecting the computer screen on the front board.
When building inclusive classrooms, instructional methods must also adapt. It is necessary for educators to recognize their fear of not being an expert in every topic, and demonstrate how to effectively research. They must teach ways to distinguish what is valid information from a viral Facebook video that might not be credible, and give students agency in the learning process.
These are only two bold examples of not merely including LGBTQ topics, but empowering students by challenging the dominant classroom structure. The question now is: how do we get all teachers to put their hesitations aside and educate queerly?