Rethinking Schools book project nears funding goal

Milwaukee-based Rethinking Schools, a national social justice magazine for educators, recently launched an Indiegogo campaign to crowd-fund a new book called “Rethinking Sexism, Gender and Sexuality,” due for 2015 publication.

With five days of the campaign remaining, the project has already raised more than $15,000 of the $20,000 goal.

Through essays from a range of contributors, the book discusses creating safe and nurturing classrooms, coming out at school as a teacher or student, integrating feminist and LGBTQ content into curriculum, moving beyond the classroom to school and community, and teacher education.

According to the project’s Indiegogo page, “‘Rethinking Sexism, Gender and Sexuality’ was born a few summers ago when Jody Sokolower, Rethinking Schools’ managing editor, and RS editor Melissa Bollow Tempel sat down in Jody’s kitchen to discuss an article Melissa was writing. ‘It’s OK to Be Neither’ is the story of Melissa’s growth as a teacher when Allie, a student who is gender non-conforming, joined her class. Until then, Melissa had not realized how customs like lining up by girls and boys could create problems for students who do not fit neatly into the female/male binary.

“‘It’s OK to Be Neither’ really struck a chord. As Melissa tells it, ‘We never dreamed it would be shared more than 45,000 times on one blog alone.’ Allie is not unique. Gender nonconforming kids are in schools everywhere, and teachers want to know how to support them.”

Tempel, who comes from a family of educators and is an MPS teacher, says her experiences demonstrated to her the need for a book like “Rethinking Sexism, Gender and Sexuality,” on which she’s collaborating with UWM Peck School of the Arts associate dean Kim Cosier.

“Through my work in MPS I noticed that there is a big lack of understanding in teachers,” she says. “Many of them don’t agree with ‘that way of life’ and don’t realize that it creates a space that is harmful to students. Kids that don’t feel safe or accepted at school don’t feel like learning. Students who are questioning or insecure don’t feel safe and therefore can’t learn. Just because you don’t support LGBT issues doesn’t mean you can exclude those students from your classroom community and your teaching.”

“Just today I heard that an administrator in a middle school was informed that a girl was being bullied. That girl had a different style of dress and hair. The administrator told the concerned that the student was asking for it by the way she dressed. This is unfortunate but not surprising.”

“On the other hand, many other teachers are supportive of different families and want to be there for the students but don’t know how much they can talk about in school or how they can speak out for their students. These teachers need to know that they can support their students and welcome those families into their schools.”

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