Meyer says students’ feedback has made all the time invested worth every minute
Two years ago, the whole notion was still ostensibly an idea, albeit that the course had been completed by the Prairie South School Division in close partnership with Moose Jaw Pride.
Lori Meyer, superintendent of learning in the division, was integrally involved in developing the Gender and Sexual Diversity Studies course for high school students, along with learning consultant Jenn Chan and Joe Wickenhauser, executive director of Moose Jaw Pride.
As one of the presenters at this year’s Saskatchewan Principals’ Short Course, Meyer had a chance to reflect on the inroads made in two of Moose Jaw’s high schools in particular since the course was introduced.
“In conversation with some of the kids who have enrolled [in the elective course], they
have told us how much more confident and valued they feel. I think the biggest benefit is the connections our LGBTQ kids have been able to make with each other and build their own bridges. This has opened up a whole new dialogue for our kids and it’s been incredible to see,” Meyer added.
From the outset the hope was for the course to have relevance for every student with the intention that through education it would help others better understand some of the challenges gender and sexually diverse students face on a daily basis.
Meyer outlined the importance of the division also providing extra professional development for those teachers who signed up to teach the course in order that they can be more comfortable. That included attending a conference in Edmonton where there were educators from across Canada, which further expanded everyone’s horizon while also providing invaluable networking opportunities.
Not one given to hyperbole, Meyer rather opted for the phrase, “This is like a pebble that creates a ripple effect and you hope to reach the shore.”
She was quick to point out the importance of the partnership with Moose Jaw Pride throughout. “We simply couldn’t have done this without their guidance and expertise regarding the history of gender and sexually diverse people in Canada. They have been such a huge contributor.”
Meyer also lauded the support of Prairie South School Division Director of Education Tony Baldwin, as well as her colleagues in ventures such as this.
“The support and leadership we have received from our division is just another example of how they support what might be considered risk-taking, but he [Baldwin] is always very supportive when it comes to trying to meet the needs of our kids. This is not a random example, but it’s part of the ongoing conversations we have. It’s basically a matter of let’s figure out a way to do what is required,” Meyer offered.
Meyer and her colleagues are already contemplating the next step in the journey in terms of trying to add an online component to better support LGBTQ students in the rural schools within the division.
“This requires funding and resources, but we realize that currently there is a gap and we need to build a bridge for those students. We’re not there yet but we need to make sure we have the right people in place to lead it and to make sure all the pieces fit.”
As a precursor to any widespread expansion of the project in the future, Meyer acknowledged she has personally been around to every bathroom within the school division in an ongoing effort to make sure there are gender-neutral washrooms available so all students feel a sense of safety and security.
Conceding that this has meant the investment of a lot of time for all involved, Meyer said at the same time “It’s been super exciting to be involved and we all know how important the work is, and when you have kids come and tell you what a difference it has made for them, that makes it all worth it.
“This is who we are now in society, and we’re just trying to keep up. It goes back to the pebble. We have all learned so much during this process, and I continue to do so. As we go forward, our responsibility is to listen to the students because ultimately they will be the ones who drive this. We’re not perfect but we continue to work on this because it is so important,” Meyer said.