There’s been a lot of discussion in political circles about whether teachers ought to use a student’s preferred pronouns. There have also been a number of news articles about teachers refusing to use preferred pronouns, along with proposed legislation that could make it illegal for teachers to use any other identification other than the name and gender on school records.
For my part, I’ve never met an educator who outright refuses to use requested pronouns. I live in a red state and teach with conservative educators. However, I do know students who’ve encountered prejudice from their teachers when coming out, and many will only tell a few teachers while asking that the other teachers are kept in the dark.
I could focus on the dialogue surrounding teaching and the restriction of what we can and can’t teach and what we can and can’t call students. I’m not going to. I’m simply going to offer my opinion on the subject and hope that you’ll agree and/or be swayed.
School is a time that kids explore and define themselves. Home is sometimes unwelcoming to different sexual and gender identities and I believe school shouldn’t feel that way. My job is to be kind and make the students feel welcome. It costs me literally nothing to call someone by a preferred name (mark rather than Michelle) or pronoun (they rather than her).
This trend, to not call students by their preferred name or pronouns, is simply implying that students and children are undeserving of respect. Except- of course they are. They are humans with hopes and dreams, exploring their identity. They spend most of their waking hours in school, and it should be a place where they are respected.
I know many parents and conservative school board members would disagree. However, it will cost you nothing to respect a child. They may drop the pronoun later, or they may carry it with them their whole life. If it’s the later – then they’ll remember that you provided them a safe place by simply calling them “they” rather than “her”. That’s what matters.