One way that educators can promote mental/ brain wellness in school environments is by developing lessons that avoid bias and that include positive representations of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people, history, and events. For LGBTQ students, attending a school with an inclusive curriculum leads to increased feelings of connectedness to the school community and better brain health. Inclusive curriculum benefits all students by promoting diversity and teaching them about the myriad of identities in their communities.
Educators should spend time identifying the extent to which LGBTQ-related content is present in their current curriculum. Care should be taken to fill gaps while looking for opportunities to deepen student understanding of their world and identities. LGBTQ people, history, and events can be easily inserted into most content areas.
Here are some things to consider when designing an inclusive curriculum:
- Fragmented efforts: Sometimes efforts to be inclusive can lead to “fragmentation,” or disjointed efforts to include certain groups of people. This occurs when topics are taught without context, such as when LGBTQ themes are only introduced during LGBTQ History Month (October) or LGBTQ Pride Month (June). Additional fragmentation occurs when only lesbians or gay men are discussed, excluding bisexual and transgender people, or when discussions fail to represent other forms of diversity too like race and ability.
- Language: Being mindful of language is a great first step in making curriculum more inclusive. By avoiding gendered language, using correct pronouns, and using students' chosen names, the foundation for productive and respectful discussion can be built and easily maintained.
- Limitations: Acknowledge and discuss the potential limitations in representation of any course materials you are providing. This can help students see how and why you chose particular material. For example, if all core readings are produced by white heterosexual male authors, discuss this with your students, explaining the rationale behind your selection.
Teachers can help LGBTQ students feel supported through an inclusive curriculum and classroom, leading to better mental/ brain health outcomes for these students. This work also benefits all students, creating a norm of inclusion, acceptance, and understanding.