Creating a Safe Space with Pronouns
March 10, 2021
Creating a safe space for students is an important part of the college experience. One great option is to allow everyone to share their correct pronouns.
A classroom should always feel like a safe space for any students in it. Teachers always do their best to create a safe environment in which no one feels threatened, disrespected, judged, or unsafe. There are many ways in which this can be done, and every person will have their own method. Some get a feel of the class and the way in which each student works to see how best to approach this. Others create a strategy they present to students from the very beginning. Whatever the case may be, the main goal is to make everyone feel like they belong, and nothing will happen to them there.
LGBTQ+ students are among the group of people who most seek the feeling of safeness in a classroom. They want to know it is okay for them to be themselves and express themselves without being judged. Sometimes it is hard for them to know if it is acceptable for them to speak about their queerness or if no harm will come to them from discussing this topic. It can be hard for teachers to know how to approach this discussion, but one great way to create a safe space for queer folks is to talk about pronouns.
Ask Everyone’s Pronouns
When talking about pronouns, do not target trans people by asking them only. Open a conversation among students in which you ask everyone in class what their correct pronouns are. Try to use the word correct over preferred since it is not about a preference, but about their identity. By allowing everyone to answer this question, you will help trans and non-binary folks feel safe enough to share their identity and what they feel comfortable with.
Add Your Pronouns
As a teacher, it is a great idea to add your correct pronouns in your email signature or the bio you share with your students. Not only will they know exactly how to refer to you, but they will also feel safe enough to do the same. By seeing that an authority figure is giving them the opportunity to express their identity, students will be more prone to share their correct pronouns and let the class know how to communicate with them.
Open the Floor for Expression
Sometimes a student will reach out directly to a teacher to let them know about their name change or the pronouns they go by. This is an amazing act of trust, but also bravery! The student feels safe enough to share it with the teacher, and that is a huge step. What the teacher can do next is offer them the possibility to share this with the class to avoid any discomfort. It could be done through a message sent to the class or an open discussion on pronouns during a lecture. The teacher’s main goal during this discussion should be to continue making the student feel safe and avoid any negative or hateful comments.
At the end of the day, everyone in the classroom wants to feel safe–both teachers and students–and the best way to do this is by creating a hate-less, accepting environment in which everyone can be themselves. By opening the floor to sharing everyone’s pronouns, you are allowing every student to feel comfortable and secure in a place they will have to attend regularly. Even with online classes, it is extremely important to help every individual feel like they belong, and it is okay for them to express themselves. Add your pronouns in your emails and your bios and encourage every student to do the same. We all strive to make the learning experience a safe and enjoyable one.
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