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Practically Paradise
Inside Practically Paradise

Guest Counselor Chery Tyler & Literature to Help

Cheryl Tyler blogs in part 3 today:CherylTylersm4blog Guest Counselor Chery Tyler & Literature to Help
Before I focus on literature I wanted to spend a non-academic moment to address the issue of our belief system. Amid our convictions, we possess prejudices—even if it’s prejudice against prejudiced people. It’s easy to vilify people who don’t believe like we do. For example last night someone stomped the Presidential candidate sign we have in our yard. It is all too easy to get into a “we-them” mentality, because what we believe seems so right.

 

Here’s a far out analogy that takes it from the thought into experience: I’m left-handed, and the first leftie born in the 20th century. My grandfather was the only leftie born in the 19th century. When my aunts taught me how to knit, it was difficult because they could only see it from the way they had done it all their life. They couldn’t identify with my “difference”—but for me it wasn’t a handicap because it was me.

 

The issue of protecting gay students might be offensive to you and cut across the core of your fundamental beliefs. Therefore, it is quite okay to tell a student you don’t understand, but you’re there for them if they need you. See this issue through the lens of protecting a child from being harmed physically or emotionally; certainly that’s on the radar of everyone’s value system. Making school safe for everyone is part of the mandate from your school system, and probably in the mission statement for your school.

 

What if someone comes to you for Heather Has Two Mommies? This child will get comfort from the book because there’s at least one other someone out there who has two moms. His situation is normalized as he turns the pages, even though his name is Joe and not Heather. Undoubtedly there’s no difference than when you give a child a book dealing with any other issue you don’t find “in common” in school. Think about those books: the parent in prison, a mom who is bipolar or a dad who is a gambler; in elementary school you don’t read a book to a class about the dad who drinks, but you certainly have the book tucked away for the child who needs it.

 

Gay teens state they live their life wearing a mask, and they’re in need of a caring adult. Students will look to school librarians to help them find answers. Here is a list of websites and literature you might find helpful (there is a range of literature in here, and some schools and school districts may not permit you accessing it):

  • Gay-Straight Alliance Network (www.gsanetwork.org)
  • GLBTQ: The Survival Guide for Queer and Questioning Teens by Kelly Huegel (7th grade and up).
  • Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
  • Rainbow Road by Alex Sanchez, a trilogy for 9th grade up.
  • Gay Christian Network (www.gaychristian.net) is a website for conservative gay Christians. They present both the side for remaining celibate, or to date and find a life partner.
  • For parents who come to you, they may be interested in PFLAG (www.pflag.org). This is a group for families and friends of persons who are gay.
  • GLSEN (www.glsen.org) stands for the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.
  • Exodus International is a group for people who want to live a heterosexual life (www.exodus-international.org). My note: This is a faith-based group and the research that supports their claims of same-gender attraction change has been questioned, however many students will ask about this program. 
  • The Advocate (www.advocate.com) is a national, award-winning gay and lesbian e-zine.
  • Tolerance.org (www.tolerance.org) is a project created by the Southern Poverty Law Center. A free Teaching Tolerance Newsletter that is available to educators who are interested in anti-bias issues and new educational materials.
  • Open Lives: Safe Schools a book published by Phi Delta Kappa and edited by Donovan R. Walling. It addresses gay and lesbian issues in education.

 This week has been prolific with news about gay students. We started the week with the anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s death, then there was the information about the school in Chicago for GLBT teens, and finally actress Hillary Duff has started a new advertising campaign to help stamp out gay slurs. Here’s a link to the CNN video:

http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/living/2008/10/16/phillips.gay.ad.campaign.cnn

 

My book—And You Invited Me In—began fifteen years ago when I saw that my nationally-known conservative church was not available when our landlord, and fellow church member, died of AIDS. While I’m conservative, I also strongly believe that no matter what the issue, the law of grace trumps everything. That’s the kind of love we possess when we shield our students from a shooter. Everyday there are “word shooters” in our classes. The words might be a look or a sound but they all say the same thing. Don’t let that happen. Be the change agent in your school. Make a difference and you’ll save a child.

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Diane’s Note to Readers and Cheryl:
I deeply appreciate the time and research Cheryl devoted to writing this three-part series this week. Having a close relationship with the school counselor is so important and I appreciate Cheryl’s going above and beyond to help extend our study to other readers of this blog. Thank you, Cheryl.