Keeping the calm in the classroom

One thing that I have always worried about as a pre-service teacher is keeping the classroom calm. Now when I say calm I don’t mean keeping the students from rioting; that is a goal however. What I mean is keeping all opinions in the classroom free for expression without the students offending one anther over differences in opinion.

Many topics fit into this situation but the major one in the news lately and being taken to court, school boards and the public opinion is the rights that transgender students have in the school. Should these students be allowed to dress in the clothing fitting their gender identity if the school requires a dress code? Should these students be allowed to use the bathrooms or locker-rooms that they believe best matches them or should they have to use a unisex individual restroom? Should the students be able to speak and act freely about their gender identity? Can the students who don’t believe in transgender issues be allowed to express their dissent even when it is harmful against the student(s)?

This topic seems touchy. Most people don’t want to approach it. Those that do often cite their political and religious beliefs behind their reasoning for or against such changes for the student(s) and school. This topic is even being picked up in the presidential election primaries with the candidates taking one side or another.

In my own personal opinion its the rights of the transgender students to be able to use the facilities and dress in the way in which they feel most comfortable. No student should have to deal with bullying for something that is beyond their control. My own future classroom will be a safe haven for these students who are in such a vulnerable position. This issue however is taking a long time for the schools and courts to decide upon. I think this problem needs to be taken care of in a respectful and fast manner. Students shouldn’t have their learning or their civil rights disrupted. Schools are supposed to be institutions of learning and for many transgender students they don’t feel comfortable learning where such hostility is occurring.

So as a teacher where there could be these tensions occurring how do we keep the calm? Where is the appropriate level of freedom of discussion and debates in the classroom? Should we facilitate such conversations when its related to the topics getting discussed in the classroom or should we sweep it under the rug and not allow the classroom to discuss such topics?

For additional readings on transgender issues in the school read the following articles.

Bathroom access for transgender teens

Oregon schools leading the way in transgender policy

Transgender students in US schools

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