Old teachers, old habits

Seasoned staff members should get with the times

Carrington York, Opinion Columnist

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Do Better.

As ETHS new-hires make impressive strides towards inclusivity and tolerance, seasoned staff members are still stuck in their ways.

Evanston prides itself on being a learning environment that is accepting of everyone’s identity. And for the the most part, we’ve been making big changes to ensure that statement stands true. However, seasoned teachers and staff need to hop on the inclusive bandwagon.

We’re all wildkits so we all deserve equal acknowledgement of our preferences. When students feel that their identity within a classroom is respected, the energy of that space changes. The school environment becomes less intimidating and more inviting all because of inclusive language.

This summer, all new staff members were required to attend one of the various student panel discussions. These panels allowed for new-hires to talk face to face with students from all grades and backgrounds. The goal was to influence their understanding of what we think a healthy inclusive learning environment looks like. New staff got a chance to learn inclusive practices like using gender-neutral language and the importance of preferred gender pronouns, or PGPs. This was a great start to keeping classrooms safe spaces for all.

But, what are we to do with the not-so-new staff members and their problematic ways? It is important that we don’t forget that this kind of inclusive training is important for all staff, not just this incoming generation. It is unacceptable for a teacher to get off the hook simply because these new practices weren’t around when they first began teaching. It’s time to get with the program.

To be inclusive is actually quite simple. It starts with your language. It as easy as saying “Hello, good people!” instead of “Hello, ladies and gentlemen!” when greeting classes of students. Someone is always bound to be left out when you use gender binaries. It’s time to break that habit. You may be uncomfortable at times and there will be times when you make mistakes. Still, students will see the effort and as a result, feel more secure.

Granted, with the many responsibilities teachers have, what they choose to invest their time in may be dictated by what is absolutely required of them. If attending inclusive training is not required, it makes sense that the motive to attend may not be there. Yet, if you’re a teacher or any staff member here at Evanston, this training should be a personal priority. You shouldn’t have to be required to check yourself on practices the spaces you dictate safe one. It is time for every staff member to get on the same page, self-reflect on their actions and how to improve them. That means stepping out of the comfort of your old ways and changing them so that ETHS is a safe space everyone.