As an educator who taught at the secondary and university levels, I quickly realized education support personnel (ESP) are the glue to our public schools. ESP are often the first people our students see when they are going to school, and the last people our students see when they get off the school bus. ESP play an integral role to ensure every single student feels safe, secure, respected and accepted for WHO THEY ARE.
An inclusive learning environment for students, particularly our LGBTQ+ students, does not just exist in the classroom. It happens in the hallways, on the school bus, on the sports fields, in the cafeteria, in the nurse’s office, the front office… everywhere. It is ESP who are in all of those places, AND when our students see ESP, they SHOULD see ESP:
- wearing a nametag with their pronouns on it letting students know they respect the use of pronouns.
- wearing a rainbow symbol or flag to show our students that they celebrate LGBTQ+ every day.
- serving as mentors offering advice and guidance to their peers.
- discussing and teaching health education.
- cheering at school sporting events.
- reading and discussing LGBTQ+ books and articles with their teachers.
- serving as advisors for Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) and other inclusive student clubs.
- participating in PRIDE Month activities inside and outside of school.
- raising/hanging the Pride flag on the school’s flagpole or banner.
- in the LGBTQ+ community and at social events.
- addressing mean behavior, so students feel safe.
- using gender neutral bathrooms.
……And the list can go on and on.
When our LGBTQ+ students can SEE our ESP in every aspect of their school, then our LGBTQ+ students no longer just see an ESP, but they now see and know an ally who helps them feel safe, supported and valued. ESP are a wealth of knowledge that our schools and communities need to utilize. The positive impact ESP have on the lives of our students is life changing and life saving. The roles of ESP might vary all over the world, but as long as an ESP continue to be the caring adults our LGBTQ+ students see and interact with every single day, then our LGBTQ+ students will be able to succeed at their full potential.
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect any official policies or positions of Education International.