Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Gay Teachers Abroad: What's It Like to Teach in the UK as a Foreign Gay Teacher?

Let's talk about a subject that affects many and is barely discussed in teacher forums for fear of crossing a line.  Should we talk about our personal lives?  Should we say "gay" or "queer" or "lesbian" or "fag"?  Ahhh....the discomfort of many when it comes to this very simple thing.

So, let's open up the discussion here.  We have plenty of gay teachers with Classroom in the UK, whether it be through Classroom Canada, Classroom Australia, Classroom South Africa or Classroom London.  Of course we do!  We also have plenty of staff who are gay.  We won't really talk openly about it, simply because we don't really talk about our personal lives unless we know each other quite well. 

What's it like to be a gay teacher abroad?  Well, it all depends on where you are.  London has Soho - a few blocks in London that are filled with gay bars, gay shops, gay bookstores, gay this & that.  It's where most people (gay or not!) go clubbing in London.  If you like to dance, then Soho is where it's at.  So, that's something for your personal life.

For your professional life - is London a gay-friendly place for teachers?  Sure.  Should you talk openly about this in school?  Tough one to say really.  It's a very grey area.  Most of our schools are incredibly diverse, which means you will be teaching students of all religious backgrounds and cultures.  I personally don't talk about my personal life in school, except in the staff room with my colleagues.  Even then, I don't share all that much.  It just doesn't seem appropriate, whether you're straight, gay, married, or single.  

We all know that one teacher who tells everything and it's all just too much.  You know what I mean. The teacher crying in the corner because her boyfriend didn't call last night.  Stereotype? Sure. I've seen that teacher in a hundred different schools.  So whether you're gay or straight, please keep it together!  Cry about your relationship woes at home, not at school!  That's my two cents anyway.

Here's an amazing resource if you'd like to really learn more about being a gay teacher abroad -Gay Teachers Overseas. It's a website that covers all the discussions points, including whether you should come out at school, or in the staff room, and how to deal with life in general while abroad.  A Canadian teacher friend of mine started it when she realized how little information was out there about this subject.  Whether you're gay or straight, please check it out & have a read.

Anything else you'd like to share? Please share your comments below.

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  1. I'm with you on this one. All personal stuff should be kept out of the classroom. Of course, I have some classes whom I have taught for a few consecutive years and whom I can speak more honestly and openly with than others, but as a general rule I keep my home life away from the kids. If they ask about age, relationships etc I tell them politely that it is my business. Or I make up silly lies about having been divorced four times due to working too hard because I love my job so much!

    As for the staff room, it is not unlike any other place where you are interacting with other adults, some of whom will become friends and some of whom will remain firmly as only colleagues, at best.

    And yes, the whining teacher who says too much, too often and makes everyone feel uncomfortable does exist!

  2. Phew! I was beginning to feel like I'd crossed too big of a line on this blog because of the lack of comments.

    I should also say that many of my students used the word "gay" as a negative, as in "that's so gay!" It happens in Canada as well, although I'm not sure it's as often.

    Anyway, with my year 6 students in a very diverse, very supportive school, when I heard them use gay as a negative, I nipped it in the bud with this statement:

    "You don't know my family. If they heard you say that, they'd be very hurt. Please don't be hurtful towards anyone. You don't know my family."

    Now, this class was very street smart (in Brixton) so they got it right away and the main ringleader apologized with "Aw miss, I'm so sorry miss. I didn't know!" They never used it again, at least in my class. It's a step towards a more inclusive classroom I figure.

    It was by far my favourite teachable moment with what diversity really means. It is personal, but by stating "my family" it leaves them without knowing too much. And hey, everyone has someone gay in their family right?

  3. Hi! I am SO Sorry I left off your post from the Carnival but it has been corrected! For some reason I didn't recieve an email about it. You can find it at:


Thanks for sharing your two pence!


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