Setting the Stage: Classroom Best Practices
As you will see, many of these tips require minor adjustments to your teaching style and habits but can have a hugely positive impact. It is our experience that respecting students' self-determination is integral to successful learning. The inclusion of these respectful behaviors benefit all students, not just transgender students.
Introductions: On or before the first day of class, ask students what name and pronoun they would like to be used. This can be done in any number of ways, but here are three strategies faculty at GVSU employ.
- Call out the students' last names from the class roster derived from Banner and ask students to respond with name and pronoun. You can model this first when introducing yourself. "Hi. My name is Dr. Muñoz and I use she, her and hers pronouns." In our experience at GVSU, some students catch on to this right away and others may need a brief explanation. You can explain verbally or with a simple visual chart of pronouns including traditional masculine (he, him, his), traditional feminine (she, her hers) as well as gender-neutral (they, them, theirs). One way to explain this practice to students is to say that your classroom is to be a place of learning and not a place of assumptions. Each person should have the right to determine the ways they are referred to, in this case it is names and pronouns but this is also true of race, (dis)ability, socio-economic status, and other ways we categorize people.
- Pass around cards with only last names from the Banner-issued roster printed/written on one side. Ask students to take the card with their last name and write the name and pronoun they would like to go by in the classroom. You can model name and pronouns as described above to provide clarity.
- Send a preliminary email requesting preferred name and pronouns. See below for a sample template.
Mistakes (yours and others)
If you make a mistake with a student's name or pronoun, correct yourself and return to the topic at hand. In general, we recommend no more than a simple "sorry," as way of apology. Apologizing or explaining can actually draw unwanted attention and make the situation more uncomfortable. Similarly, if another student mistakenly addresses a peer, interject with a simple correction, "she uses 'she/her' pronouns," and then step back. Some students may step up and correct pronoun mistakes. The most important things to remember are: always correct mistakes and do not make mistakes into the topic of discussion.
Sample Email Templates
Email from Faculty to Class
Welcome to (Class Title). I'm (name you would like students to call you) and I use (ex: he, him, his) pronouns. In our upcoming semester together, I want to address you correctly. Please respond to this email answering the following:
- What name would you like me to use for you?
- What pronouns would you like me to use for you? (Hint: pronouns are the words we use to stand-in for a person's name when we are speaking about that person, ex: she/her/hers, he/him/his, they/them/theirs)
If you have additional questions or concerns, please (whatever you prefer they do, ex: email you or call you).
Training and Professional Development for Faculty and Staff
Training at GVSU
- The Milton E. Ford LGBT Resource Center provides ongoing training and online resources for faculty and staff at GVSU. Check www.gvsu.edu/sprout to register for a training.
- The Faculty Teaching Learning Center offers ongoing programs and learning communities to support the creation of more inclusive classrooms.
- This short article provides a list of simple ways to make classrooms and campuses more accessible to trans and gender nonconforming students: Some very basic tips for making higher education more accessible to trans students and rethinking how we talk about gendered bodies by Dean Spade
- This is a quick overview of transgender and gender non-conforming experience: Trans 101 by Sylvia Rivera Law Project