A teacher in the UK has exposed a wide held belief that schools are silencing gay teachers from being open about their sexuality to students.
In a story, published in The Guardian, where the teacher’s name and school remained a secret, the teacher outlined his experience starting at his first school as a newly qualified teacher.
Within a week of starting at the school, the teacher had been asked about their sexuality three times by various students.
“My responses were always fleeting, “that’s irrelevant right now” or “what has that got to do with Frankenstein?”, wrote the teacher in The Guardian piece.
“I wasn’t worried about them knowing, but I was new to the school and new to teaching. I wanted to be open, but didn’t know how that would be received.”
After requesting some advice from his supervising mentor it was explained there was no school policy about telling students about being gay but that “from a behaviour management perspective, it might not be the smartest move.”
The mentor suggested letting students know that he was gay might put him into a vulnerable position with students, but it was, in fact, his employer that he needed to be more worried about.
Teachers across the world have to deal with this same situation. They re-name their facebook accounts or close them altogether so students can’t find them online and find out about their family life.
This is something both gay and straight teachers deal with, but it seems there is always an unwritten rule that the gay teacher needs to be ever more vigilant and secretive about their home life.
The UK teacher continued explaining that towards the end of the school term a student saw himself and his boyfriend holding hands outside of a shop, outside of school hours.
“It was nothing over the top, we were holding hands outside a shop when I heard the all too familiar: “Hi sir!”
“The next day in school, a student asked if it was my boyfriend who I had been seen with.
“I said yes, and quickly directed the student to the starter activity. Their response? A vague, “alright, let me just find my pen”.
“I was flooded with an awkward feeling of both relief and satisfaction: they didn’t care, but I knew they wouldn’t.”
It was soon apparent to this teacher that the students had little problem with his sexuality becoming known, but the school itself may.
A week later the teacher was asked into a meeting with Senior Management to talk about a “discussion you’ve had with one of your classes.”
They were wanting to know the finer details of when the teacher had revealed to the class that they were gay. But instead of supporting the teacher and ensuring that the teacher had done the right thing, they made comments leading the teacher to think they had done the wrong thing.
The managers said, “They[the students] had no right to ask you that question,” and “you don’t have to tell them”.
A week later the teacher was strongly urged by another senior manager not to discuss his sexuality or any matter of his private life with students.
“I tried to argue my case: many teachers talk about their lives outside of school with students – some form tutors are encouraged to do so to build a relationship with their group,” explained the teacher in The Guardian.
“What’s more, for students questioning their sexuality, it can be reassuring to have an adult sending out the message that it’s OK.
“I began to question whether the issue was that I’d been asked or that I’d answered – and whether a similar meeting would be happening if I’d been seen with a woman.”
The teacher has since left the school involved and moved on but the final straw for the first time employee was when the school newspaper was published before the end of term.
The Headteacher commented in a newsletter piece about how much she was looking forward to a holiday with her husband and children.
“There was a double-standard and it angered me, not just because it had put me in a difficult position professionally – I couldn’t be who I wanted to be in the classroom – but because we, as teachers, should be sending the message to students that being gay doesn’t make you different.”
Is this a similar issue across the world or can gay teachers be open and transparent with their students and actually become role models for those same students still thinking about their own sexuality.
The teacher in question summed it up in the final two paragraphs in The Guardian piece.
“I don’t want my students to think I am ashamed of my sexuality. As a student, I spent every day in school surrounded by lads who threw “gay” around as an insult and mates who talked about which girls they fancied. I couldn’t identify with any of this and it was hard. I was in denial for a long time because I identified “gay” with “wrong”. If there’d been an adult there who was trusted and respected by me and my peers, and who was gay, it would have made all the difference to me.
“As teachers we’re encouraged to tackle homophobia, but how can we do that when schools are so afraid of openness about homosexuality? I couldn’t understand why the leadership in my school was so fearful of students knowing I was gay. The kids didn’t care and, as nobody had called in, it seemed their parents didn’t care either.
“I am an openly gay teacher and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
Last Updated on Jul 17, 2016