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I've recently seen several TikTok clips of teachers who summarize their own 'coming out' (various orientations represented) conversations with students. What is your position on that educator-to-student conversation platform in the classroom?

likehelpful
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I agree that sharing basic factual information about your family, pets, education, hobbies and interests, especially as part of an introduction, is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. Pets are always an enjoyable topic. I also think it is completely possible to build positive relationships with students without blurring the professional distinction between teacher and friend. I do not, however, believe that sharing personal details about your life is appropriate and certainly not sharing social media with students which is prohibited by school policy and state law in Missouri. I have seen teachers in my district who carry things too far and share things that are not appropriate and a few of them have been accused of inappropriate behavior at some point. I am not in the position to know if they are guilty or innocent of wrongdoing but, regardless, the impact has been career ending. I believe that men have to be especially careful of how we are perceived by parents. I leave specifics about politics, religion, sexual orientation, family problems, etc., out of my classroom. I do not personally feel that sexual orientation is an appropriate topic for a core subject classroom discussion and it is certainly not part of district academic curriculum. I avoid commenting on any school or student situation of which I do not have firsthand knowledge as that is speculative at best. Students are constantly checking to see where your boundaries lie and if they can be breached. You are the only person who is going to protect yourself and it is your professional responsibility to do so. While I have found administrators who push the idea of getting to know students and building relationships, those same administrators offer no help or support when the teacher has allegedly overstepped some boundary or created a misunderstanding with a student or parent. I say that we should protect ourselves in every reasonable way we can because leaving yourself in a vulnerable light almost always leads to your own demise. Our schools are in too great need of teachers to have someone ruined needlessly. I think beginning teachers need to have more training on this topic before they find themselves in a compromised situation.

like

You say its ok to share some information about your family by means of introduction. Do you mean that for straight people only? If you have ever said "my husband" or "my wife", it should be perfectly acceptable for someone in a homosexual marriage to say the same.

like

I agree that sharing your personal information with students is absolutely fine and should be encouraged. However, there should be limits/boundaries to the information. My students all know that I am divorced and every once in a while I will get asked why I got divorced. At this point another student will usually tell them that’s rude to ask. My response is simply that we did not get along well anymore. This always satisfies their curiosity. They also know that I have two grown sons. This year my oldest son and his long time girlfriend had their first child. My students were almost as excited as I was that I was going to be a Nana. As soon as I came back from taking 2 days off when he was born my students immediately asked to see pictures. I very willingly indulged them. The have also seen pictures of my sons and their girlfriends.
I also happen to be in a same sex relationship for the past 11 years. Do my students know this? Absolutely not. This is not something I would share with my 4th grade students for many reasons. We have had discussions about someone being “gay” because every year a group of kids always calls someone gay and they come to me upset. We have a very light conversation about everyone being different and that there is nothing wrong with that. We talk about you could have a person or more out
Of the hundred we have in our grade level be gay and we would never know it because they are just like us. I never go any more in depth than that and it is always as a result of the name calling. The students are satisfied and they do not need to know any more at that age.

As far as social media goes, I only use FB and I do not accept any friend requests from my students. I am friends with a few parents but I can count them on one hand. I do not even accept the parents friend request until the student is beyond my grade level. After the students have gotten through school and graduated I will then add them as a friend if asked.

Teachers and students do need to share their personal “stuff” to help make those all important connection but it has to be limited to what extent.

Sorry if I rambled.

likehelpful

Agree. I teach high school so it’s a bit different in that my students want to know about my wife. I tell them the basics and leave it at that. They are amazed that we have been together 20+ years, and that’s often a question: How do you do it?!?! 😁

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A tik tok coming out video being shared is Not okay, imo. I think over sharing with kids is more about a teacher’s ego. Having personal pictures on your desk, answering personal questions you feel comfortable with because you want to connect and be honest is one thing, and, i think completely appropriate. However, I think elaborating on your personal life as a form influence is wrong. Someone may think he/she is teaching tolerance, but that’s not curriculum or what we are paid to do. It’s unethical to intentionally try to influence children about certain topics that have nothing to do with objective education.

likesmarthelpful

I would be fine saying I am married. Anything beyond that is not a conversation I would have with students. Some of these inappropriate conversations is why new legislation is being introduced.

likeupliftingsmart

There is a fine line between professional behavior and unprofessional. These teachers should not be connected with their students through social media as it can be taken in the wrong way and we don't have the right to politicize our classes, the same way we don't have the right anymore to pray with our students in class as many generations did before us. How can we teach objective truths if we are going to look at them through a more subjective lens? We each have our own biases and if we share them with our students, then we are doing them a disservice because we are not allowing them to think for themselves, but rather influencing their view of the world which is not our job. Parents are supposed to be a child's first teacher. When they don't do their jobs it makes it challenging for us to do ours, but we are not supposed to parent the children in our classes, simply educate them in the objective truths of our subjects. When we allow bias and prejudice to come into play, we set them up for more failure than success. As GK Chesterton said it concerning religion, The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people.” – Illustrated London News, July 16, 1910. We forget that we belong to each other, that we are our brother's keeper. It is our moral responsibility to lead by example and always focus on being honest and truthful with our students, but also with ourselves and each other. My view may not sit well with others and that is fine. I will always focus on speaking objective truths and if someone wants to listen, great. If not, that is their choice. May God forgive our sinfulness and give us the grace to do what is right and good always. Have a blessed day to one and all!

likeupliftinghelpfulsmart

Preschool: I saved you the trouble. Here is a screenshot of what the thread you joined is about. Enjoy your day.

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smart

I think that if it is ok for a straight teacher to have a picture of the spouse and kids or of their boyfriend/girlfriend then it is very wrong to say anyone else has to keep that part of their life private. I’m straight, but I share with my kids that one of my daughters is gay and that I have friends who are members of the lgbtq+ community. I hope by not treating differences as secrets we can help kids learn they are loved and accepted as they are.

likeuplifting

Thank you for this response!

I have never been shy about admitting to being a lesbian and I never will. I don't bring it up all the time, but if it naturally comes up then I say it. Usually this means saying things like "for Christmas I will be spending time with (girlfriend's name)." I don't teach kids what lesbianism means, but they do know I have a girlfriend instead of a boyfriend, and if I get married they will know I have a wife.

There are appropriate ways to have the conversation.

likeupliftingsmarthelpful

I appreciate your candor and responsible way of handling this situation. Too often people are seeming to feel the need to shout from the rooftops any and all of their choices. This is not our job as you so eloquently stated through your post. Thank you.

likeuplifting

Teachers are there to teach academics. Their personal life should not be part of the program. I'm not saying not to answer questions, but why are discussions about a teachers personal life happening?

likehelpful

I would offer that those conversations are happening because teachers are people, and are working with other people (though they be young). It would be unrealistic (and kind of odd) to expect a group of human beings to spend six hours a day together for a year, but not interact on a human level. Of course there should be boundaries around what is and is not appropriate to share (based on grade and developmental level). My preschool students know I have dogs, that purple is my favorite color, and that I have three children. Once in a while my husband comes up (it’s rare, usually in the context of talking about weekends), and I refer to my husband as Mr. __my last name__. In my earlier teacher days, I was much more guarded – – and I found that children, in the absence of me sharing information, would eventually just ask. Are you married? Do you have any pets? Regardless of what we adults want, children naturally want relationships with their teachers. Sharing about ourselves is a normal and natural way to build relationships, and modeling that as a teacher is important. I’m not saying that oversharing doesn’t cause problems, but I don’t know that undersharing is a healthy solution.

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As someone that shares part of my home life with my students in the form of silly dog videos, I think it is important for them to make a connection that you have family and loved ones like they do or their parents do. However, I believe it should be a matter of fact kind of detail. When we share about our weekend, I can say that my husband and I built something and then it is someone else's turn. If you don't present it as a big deal, they won't respond as if it's a big deal. And at the end of the day, your orientation is not and should not be a big deal in your professional life, particularly as an educator of minors.

likehelpfulsmart

You and I have the same style. I LOVE sharing goofy pictures of our 4 cats and one lazy dog with my class! 😆

likeuplifting

I am gay. I am out. I am a high school teacher. I do not share my coming out story with my students.
But every one of my students knows the fight I went through to get legally married to my husband.
I teach it in the context of my government class because it is part of the pursuit of justice in the United States and how government both works and FAILS its citizens.
Now some of you here might disagree with me but I will remind you that before you do that you remember that I am also a citizen who up until 2008 was denied my right to marry because sobecause some of you think I'm degenerate, or worse.

likeuplifting

Completely appropriate and applicable. An even better example because you can flesh out the emotions that go along with being denied natural rights under the Constitution. I’m betting very few people on here think being gay is being a degenerate.

likehelpful

God is not an objective truth.

likefunny

Keep God out of the classroom unless you’re in a religious school. I’m Muslim but I don’t bring up my religion since it goes against separation of church and state. The most I’ve ever brought up my religion at school was during Ramadan last month, when I volunteered to watch the fasting students (my school has a large Muslim population) during lunch when they all went to a separate room while the non Muslim and non fasting students were eating. I was fasting as well so I figured I may as well help.

like

I think teachers need to understand that we are supporting characters in the students’ stories, not the stars.

likeuplifting

I think you underestimate the power of teacher-student relationships. Both good and bad teachers often serve as catalysts for the future of their student's lives. I certainly remember the teachers that inspired me and those that made me feel small. We may be "supporting characters", but we make a BIG impression. I wanted to be a teacher BECAUSE of the good teachers in my life. That's a pretty big impression.

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I think there is a difference between saying “my girlfriend and I went to Disney Land” if you are lesbian and telling the story of how you came out. I also have serious issues with teachers using social media with students. I would never to protect myself, especially in this cancel culture we now live in.

likehelpfulfunny

I don't think you understand how TikTok works. Anyone can look up your account and follow you. You don't accept or send friend requests like on Facebook, so if a kid sees your videos, that's on the parents for allowing them TikTok access. Teachers are allowed to have personal lives.

like

This is a case by case discussion. Not a supporter of having “coming out” discussions with an entire class. But having personal pictures of your SO should not be an issue. Forming personal connections with certain students - why not, at least for HS kids. Using social media - not smart. Who we enter into relationships with is personal and should be kept personal but also doesn’t mean it needs to be hidden. Keep your relationships with your students professional. It’s a simple approach but works.

likesmart

I teach high school and I am completely honest and open about who I am. If you aren’t real with kids - they don’t trust you. Especially, in high school. I also make tik toks with them sometimes. Learn to adjust to their culture and generation or you’ll fail. Oh - and I’m 46 and bisexual.

likehelpfulfunny

You are right about being open and honest, but prudence seems to be the virtue that many are choosing to ignore. We have to keep from crossing the line between professional and unprofessional because therein lies a problem that stems back many years ago and put us, especially us male teachers, in a poor light. Just be careful. I made mistakes earlier in my 20+ year career that haunted me and the irony was that it was all innocent discussions, and communication with parents, and not so much with students. We all need to be careful. It only takes one person rubbed the wrong way by something taken out of context and it can destroy a career and life.

likesmart

They should keep their personal lives and sexual orientation private. School is for academics and that conversation has no place in the classroom. Personal contact with students should be against school policy. It is at my school. There are boundaries and I think this crosses over.

likehelpful

Agreed. The teachers didn’t do that at all.

like

I think we do a disservice to our students if we don’t share who we are as individuals. On the first day of school, my students know who I am as I write them a letter talking about (among other things) that “I’m a short, hairy, middle aged teacher who happens to have big ears, gay, and looks a little like an elf.” I further tell my students that those characteristics are a part of who I am. I don’t push an “agenda,” but I also want to make sure all students are welcome when they are in my classroom.

likeuplifting

At the beginning of each year I tell my students about myself, my family, when I come back from visiting children or grandchildren I share with my class. They seem to feel more comfortable talking about their own lives when I share about mine. They have seen me happy, sad, laughing, and crying. We talk about each of us being unique and that we need to accept, appreciate, respect, and celebrate that we are NOT all the same. I have students return to visit and ask about my family as they remember the stories. I want my students to feel safe and comfortable talking about themselves and their lives IF this is something they wish to do. I do not require them to do so, the choice is their own.

like

There are tons of comments on this so I recognize the likelihood of saying something earth-shattering or opinion shifting is LOW, but I teach partly from the perspective of being the teacher I always needed or had. My high school graphics teacher shaped my life. I had him for 3 years and knew that he was married and had children. More or less that was the end of it (I think we met his sons).
The thing I lacked that I desperately needed then was the knowledge that a teacher of mine was gay and living a perfectly normal life. All of the gay teachers in my school were super closeted (which was a big thing in the late 90s early 00s).
I don't immediately come out to my students but I do tell them if they ask and I'm an advisor for our GSA. If a student asked me about my coming out I would probably give them a succinct story and encourage them to come to GSA if they had any questions. Nothing overly personal, but enough to help continue to normal LGBTQ+ identities.

likeupliftinghelpful

I know that many teachers start the year out by saying things like my family and I... Many teachers have PowerPoints that have pictures of their family, their pets, and photos of themselves doing various hobbies. I see nothing wrong with people including in their introductions information about who they are and who they consider you important people in their lives. Just as if a person is getting married in the middle of a school year they should have no problems with sharing about sharing a photo of their wedding. There is a limit to what you discuss.. but a teacher is a human being and they should be able to acknowledge their humanity and what makes their life special in their classroom.

likesmart

I agree with the Missouri teacher: ¨I do not, however, believe that sharing personal details about your life is appropriate and certainly not sharing social media with students which is prohibited by school policy and state law in Missouri. I have seen teachers in my district who carry things too far and share things that are not appropriate and a few of them have been accused of inappropriate behavior at some point. I am not in the position to know if they are guilty or innocent of wrongdoing but, regardless, the impact has been career-ending.´

As a parent and teacher I do not want my childś teachers to tell them about their sexual orientations. Why do you need to do so? Teachers are hired to teach their academic expertise and give students skills in math, science, english, the arts NOT to teach them issues that are socially and morally personal issues. I don´t think my students care if I am strait or gay (why should they need to know?). They do care about learning the content for their next test or project.
Many years ago I had a principal tell me that if kids asked if I believed in God I was not supposed to answer.. but now we can tell kids about our sexual lives???

likesmart

Illinois HS3, what would you classify as a teacher going out of their way to share their sexuality? If students see them with their partner and learn their sexuality, it's the same information being relayed to the students as if the teacher simply told them they were gay or bisexual.

like

Keep your personal sexual preferences personal. It's unprofessional to introduce children to that type of lifestyle especially if you have religious students in your classroom and have not gotten permission from their parents to influence the LGBTQ+ agenda. If what is being influenced has nothing to do with core and special subjects, keep it out of schools and away from children. If you want to come out that's fine, no judgement here, but do it in your personal life, not in the lives of our students because it's none of their business what you prefer in the bedroom. It's also very inappropriate to to have relationships with students on social media. WE ARE PROFFESIONALS. I'm sure you don't see doctors, lawyers and congress politicians sharing their sexuality with their clients and befriending them on social media. at some point you have to put your ego to the side/urge to let the world know what your bedroom preferences are and behave professionally. Personally, I raise my children in a heterosexual household with husband and wife being the model because of our family belief systems and religion. we teach our children to treat all people with respect, however we also teach our children to be true to their genetics. I would be outraged if my child was exposed or influenced by someone they see 8 hours a day in any way that conflicts with out belief system. This behavior causes a rift between the morals parents instill in their children and what society is trying to impose on them. Some parents don't want their children to be exposed to that type of lifestyle, and have a right to have their child receive an education that doesn't spark curiosity about sexual matters.

likesmart

Minnesota. Simply having a pic of your family isnt pushing a belief or indoctrinating but if you cover your entire classroom in pro lgbtq posters, literature, photos, and are actively teaching and instructing on your sexuality then yes that is indoctrinating. Does that help distinguish the difference?

likehelpful

The post was about sharing a coming out video, not about hiding ones sexual orientation. There is a big difference. There’s a big difference between that and answering personal questions that one feels comfortable sharing. Some people are more private than others. I am not. I’ll answer questions about age and weight—I’m a big girl and older.

I like what you said about Illinois HS 2. I think it’s important to be as honest as you can. I always apologize publicly to the class or to a student in front of the class if I was snippy, for example. I think it’s important to admit I’m wrong when I’m wrong so that they know I was aware of my mistake, that I am sorry, and that it’s not a weakness to admit it.

I think a little shame is good so that we know when we are wrong and can work at doing better and being better people.

I think more than a little shame or misplaced shame is destructive. I think it’s important that kids don’t feel shame for who they are or what they believe. That’s another reason why I think as teachers we should check our biases, be supportive and respectful, and focus on education and positive social interaction and communication.

likesmart

Just to clarify: the post wasn’t about sharing a coming out video, it was about a video highlighting the coming-out conversations teachers had to have with students. I think you nailed it when you wrote about positive social interaction and communication.

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I occasionally mention my wife in class discussions. I do so because it builds connections with students, while illustrating a particular point I'm trying to make.
If, instead, I had a husband, there should no difference in my mentioning him in the same context, and in the same way.

A sensitive reading of several comments here betrays the underlying assumption that just being gay is bad, shameful, political, etc. It is none of those things, and shame on those who try to perpetuate those prejudiced, hurtful ideas.

likeupliftinghelpful

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