Today is a day set aside for bloggers to post something that support LGBT families. I have decided to participate as a supporter. I don't usually get involved in what I see as highly controversial subjects, but today I have something to say, and this is the perfect opportunity. Please join me in taking a moment to think about families who may not be traditional but are families (sources of love and support) none the less.
I would like to talk about the word "gay." As a teacher it bothers me when I hear young people saying, "That's so gay" or "You are so gay." It seems we have forgotten that words have power. We throw them around like they mean nothing. The fact is, words can be VERY discouraging.
Think about it. If words have the ability to cheer us up and make us happy, they can most certainly do the opposite. One day I was walking around the classroom, supervising a group of 5th graders working in groups. The children were in a good-natured argument about who's project idea was going to win as the best. One student got frustrated with another and said, "You don't know anything..... You're so weird.... You are so gay!" I turned around and told the student to calm down. Name calling would not be allowed in the classroom when I was in charge. The student who the comments were directed to said, "Oh, it's not a problem, we're just fooling around."
This started a discussion about appropriate joking. I explained that joking should never hurt- anyone. It shouldn't be derogatory (yes, I did make them look this word up in the dictionary), and it should never take a group of people and put a negative label on them. The whole group of students were furious with me for making a big deal out of a little word. I held my ground, though, and explained my expectations one more time to be sure the students understood how I felt. One student said, "But no one cared, Mrs. G. It didn't matter to anyone."
From the quiet sidelines of the group I heard one little voice whisper, "It mattered to me." I registered this voice in my mind, but I didn't want to single this youngster out. I let the comment go, but I knew I had done the right thing in reiterating my feelings several times. Name calling, no matter how innocent it may appear, is simply not acceptable. Period.
To this day I don't know what the boy on the sideline was feeling. I don't know if he has a family member or a friend who is gay. Maybe he is already considering his own sexual orientation. What I do know is that everyone deserves to feel respected and valued. In my classroom that will be true at all times. Words may just be words, it's how we use them that matter.