“One of the central tenets of queerness for me is about interrogating power, and insisting on liberation for all identities.”
That is how E4E-New York member and 8th-grade special education teacher Carson Chodos reflected on the importance of representation and liberation for all identities in our schools and communities.
As a member of E4E-New York’s LGBTQ+ Educator Working Group, she said it’s important for her to have opportunities to communicate and collaborate with other queer teachers. “No teacher should ever feel alone in their identity.”
For the same reason, she works to meet students’ needs by integrating queerness in the curriculum at her school, M.S. 447 in Brooklyn. Carson and her co-teachers recently launched a poetry unit in their virtual classroom by examining the work of genderqueer Indian-American poet Alok Vaid-Menon.
“Because we have the freedom to design our curriculum and root it in our identities, when we share it with students they can bring their own identities and beliefs into conversation. Queerness is woven with all the other identities in the room, so that ideally we can all show up as our full selves.”
Five years ago, Carson founded a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) at her school and now serves as one of the teacher advisors for the student-led group. Because the group is reflective of students’ needs each year, its focus has ranged from visual art to restorative justice circles. Since school buildings are closed, two of Carson’s colleagues have been leading virtual GSA meetings with students each week. Students plan to collaborate on a collection of Powerpoint slides to help celebrate Pride Month.
"Queer educators like Carson demonstrate the importance of resources and support for LGBTQ teachers," said Jamie Eckstein, an Outreach Director and founder of E4E New York's LGBTQ+ Educator Working Group. "When schools create inclusive spaces for their students and staff, all identities benefit. During Pride month, a continued focus on how to uplift the voices of queer educators in this new virtual space is vital to the pursuit of equity for all students."
During Pride Month, and every month, it’s clear that the efforts of Carson and her colleagues are vital. In E4E’s national 2020 survey, just 4 in 10 teachers said their schools often provide a welcoming, inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ students. But at M.S. 447, new students have said they applied specifically to transfer to the school due to the accepting and supportive environment.
Carson says representation is a crucial first step in school communities, but freedom for authenticity is also incredibly important.
“Pride Month is so special because it’s about making sure everyone feels empowered in this space.”