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 pronouns 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 pronouns. You can model this first when introducing yourself: "Hi. My name is Dr. Muñoz and I use she, her and hers pronouns." Some students may catch on to this right away while 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 a place of learning and not a place of assumptions. Each person should have the right to determine how they are referred to by others, and this is true of not only names and pronouns but also of race, (dis)ability, socio-economic status, and more.
- 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 pronouns they would like to use in your class. You can model name and pronouns as described above to provide clarity.
- Before the class first meets, send a preliminary email requesting chosen name and pronouns. See below for a sample template.
Mistakes (yours and others)
If you make a mistake with a student's name or pronouns, 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," then step back. Some students may step up and correct pronoun mistakes. The most important things to remember are these: Always correct mistakes, and do not make mistakes into the topic of discussion.
myName at GVSU
Students, faculty, and staff may designate a name other than their legal name to be used in many areas, systems, and communications in which a legal name is not otherwise required. At GVSU, this is called “myName.” Requesting and receiving a myName is not a legal name change. Once a myName has been submitted and approved, the myName will be used in most university communications. Examples of where myName will appear include Blackboard, mailroom, and GVSU ID. Legal names are still required in certain areas, including financial aid paper work (such as the FAFSA), academic transcripts, payroll, and others. Learn more about myName.
Let students know about the myName process. Please note that not all students who use a name other than their legal name may choose to indicate a myName at GVSU. Adopting the above recommendations for attendance and roll call will continue to benefit students.
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.
- This accessible document, Tips for Creating LGBT-Inclusive Classrooms, was developed by the Milton E. Ford LGBT Resource Center to provide faculty with a brief list of suggested practices.
- 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