Archive for the ‘Professional Development’ Category

Chasnoff to Address IBPA on Supporting Students in Today’s Political Climate



By | blog, Events, LGBT, Professional Development, Respect For All Project, Straightlaced

GroundSpark’s president and senior producer Debra Chasnoff will be the kickoff speaker at the International Bullying Prevention Association’s upcoming conference in San Diego, Inclusion Through Kindness and Community: One-day summit supporting our LGBTQ youth.

headshot of Debra ChasnoffDebra’s talk, “Culture Change Strategies for Addressing Bias” will focus on how educators can find ways to address the bias issues which have become much more charged for students in today’s political climate.

She’ll be focusing on how we can open up critical discussions about race, immigration status, sexual orientation, gender identity, sexism, ableism, religion and more to protect our students and encourage everyone to be strong allies.

In an interactive session, Debra will use excerpts from our Respect for All documentaries to model strategies educators can use in their schools.

“Debra Chasnoff was the first person we thought of to kick off the event,” says IBPA executive director Lynn Lonsway.” Her message to confront prejudice, discrimination, and bias is powerful and will be more timely and critical than ever to our attendees.”

Lonsway says the conference will sell out soon, so if you are an educator in the area, register now.

Debra is also available to share her presentation at other conferences. Visit our website to learn more.

 

International Bullying Prevention Association logo

 

Meet Rey and Help Resist Trump’s Exec Order



By | blog, LGBT, Professional Development, Respect For All Project, Straightlaced

This is Rey. When we filmed her, she was a high school senior. Watch this clip from our film, Straightlaced—How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up, and try to envision Rey being forced to use the boys’ bathroom.

The Trump administration does not have a clue what it is like for students like Rey to navigate the school day and stay safe.

While we are outraged by the administration’s latest action, we know that we have the ability to support teachers and administrators to do the right thing in their own schools.

When we go into school districts, as we did last year in San Diego, and show this award-winning documentary, we see the light bulbs go on. When caring professionals meet Rey on film, they gain new insights into the challenges their own students must be facing. They think about the youth in their own schools and get passionate about ways they can help protect their transgender students.

Trump can issue all the executive orders he wants, but that is not going to stop GroundSpark from connecting with educators and supporting them to stay strong and keep all of their students safe.

We’ve seen an uptick in distribution of Straightlaced since Trump was elected. We know that means that more schools are trying to grapple with how gender norms affect their students.

Will you help?

Please consider buying a copy of Straightlaced, which comes with a comprehensive teaching guide, and sharing it with a teacher or school administrator you know who may not be aware of this important resource.

Buy Now

And we are also on call, ready to send our education team to provide professional development to school districts that want more training on these issues.

Thank you for standing with us to protect every student’s safety.

GroundSpark to Help Address Students’ Fears in Michigan



By | blog, It's Elementary, Latest News, Let's Get Real, Professional Development, Respect For All Project, Straightlaced, That's A Family!

“Our immigrant students thought they’d need to pack their bags because they would have to leave America.”

That’s just one of the reasons Julie, Mushing, the diversity coordinator for Kent County, Michigan, has decided to have GroundSpark conduct a two-day Respect for All Institute for teachers and staff.

Students come from 89 different countries in this district
Photo courtesy of Kentwood Public Schools

There are 20 public school districts in the county including Kentwood, where there is a significant refugee population, students speak 61 different languages, and come from over 89 different countries.

Ms. Mushing started to field calls throughout the presidential campaign, but once the election happened and after November 8th, the situation has gotten much worse. “There is a huge fear among our Muslim students that there will soon be a national Muslim registry,” she says. “Even our African American students think they are going to be sent back to Africa.”

One of the county’s school districts is in a rural area that has a predominantly white middle-class farming community. In recent years, families of other racial and ethnic identities have moved in, and, of course, their children go to school. “People there have the mindset that these kids are not part of the community,” Mushing says. “I wish we could have this training next week!”

During our Respect for All Institutes, our education team uses our documentaries That’s a Family!, Let’s Get Real, Straightlaced—How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up, and It’s Elementary—Talking About Gay Issues in School to help teachers become more skilled and comfortable creating safe learning environments. All participants are provided with copies of the films and their teaching guides.

“I hope the teachers who attend will take what they learn back to their schools and help others who work in their building support those students who don’t fit some kind of social norm.”

For the Kent County institute, we’ll be focusing on supporting educators to be more inclusive of students from diverse family structures and to address bias-based bullying.

A portion of the expenses for the Institute will be covered by a generous gift from Irene and Regina Dick-Endrizzi.

If your school district is facing an uptick in bias-based bullying connected to the election, please contact us. We’re here to help.

Why We Give



By | blog, It's Elementary, LGBT, Professional Development, Respect For All Project

The following story is shared by GroundSpark supporter Jackie Kurcz Frett:

When Dan and I make decisions about which organizations to support, we think about the importance of the work and whether the work is effective. And GroundSpark definitely fits the bill!

jackie-and-dan

Jackie and Dan have been supporting GroundSpark since 2009!

We have been married 42 years and have two adult children, a son and a daughter, and two grandchildren. Our son came out to us as gay in 2004. This event changed the direction of our lives. Dan started a second career as a counselor specializing in couples therapy and LGBT issues. I remained in my career as a chemist but became deeply involved with PFLAG. LGBT civil rights became our passion.

We first made a gift to GroundSpark because of It’s Elementary. I have been sharing it with school social workers, and teachers since I first found it. The teacher training DVD is short enough that they can work it into a presentation even if they don’t have time for the whole documentary. I have given away many copies of the DVD and manual to schools and libraries here in suburban Illinois.

GroundSpark’s documentaries show people we can talk about LGBT issues, and that we are talking about sexuality, not sex. We should be having this conversation at our kitchen tables and in our schools starting in grammar school. It is so important because our young gay people have no one to turn to. There is so much at stake—especially now—with bullying, suicide rates, kids being kicked out, the list goes on and on. School social workers are looking for movies and documentaries for younger and younger students all the time.

The need is great and the work GroundSpark does is so important!

Sincerely,
Jackie Kurcz Frett

Please join Jackie and Dan on the GroundSpark honor roll! Help sustain GroundSpark’s effective and important work.

How We are Helping Reduce Suicide in Georgia



By | blog, Latest News, LGBT, Professional Development, Respect For All Project, Straightlaced

Did you see the recent New York Times article about how difficult daily life is for students who identify as LGBT? It’s alarming.

The Center for Disease Control finally did a study of high school youth who identify as LGBT.

40 percent of them have considered suicide.

Why?

  • They are three times more likely than straight students to have been raped.
  • They skipped school far more often because they did not feel safe;
  • At least a third had been bullied on school property.
  • They were twice as likely as heterosexual students to have been threatened or injured with a weapon on school property.

That’s why GroundSpark is stepping up our efforts to help prevent suicide among youth and young adults. Our professional development program which is centered around using Straightlaced—How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up is proving to be an excellent way for educators to grasp what they can do to make school safer for all students who don’t conform to the so-called norms of gender and sexuality expression.

Mental health professionals who work in colleges and universities across the state of Georgia recently formed the Georgia’s College Suicide Prevention Coalition.

For their very first event, GroundSpark teamed up with our partner, SOJOURN (the Southern Jewish Resource Network), to provide a three-hour training.

GroundSpark Facilitators Serian Strauss and Eileen Nathanson introduce our Pyramid of Peace

Participants

  • learned the statistics about how heteronormativity increases suicide risks;
  • reflected on the early messages they received about LGBTQ people;
  • practiced responding to LGBTQ issues that commonly arise in their work setting;
  • unpacked stereotypes, assumptions, and concepts related to identity and intersectionality.

Scenes from Straightlaced brought youth perspectives into the room and helped jumpstart the dialogue.

Our lead trainer, Eileen Nathanson, knows that these kinds of exercises help mental health providers to understand what their clients may have experienced as well as increase their own self-awareness. “As a psychotherapist,” Eileen says, “I see the ongoing mental health impact of growing up in a world that largely communicates that we must hide or bury ourselves if we are to be safe and loved. Expanding our thinking about the impact of homophobia and rigid gender stereotypes allows us to better partner with students in all aspects of their healing.”

 

Participants stand back-to-back, waiting for their next prompt in our “pair-share” exercise. In this activity GroundSpark trainers present real life scenarios so participants can practice spontaneous responses to provide support or advocacy involving LGBT students or colleagues.

 

Do you want to bring a GroundSpark training to your university or network? For more info or to schedule a workshop or presentation in your area, please email us at info@groundspark.org and tell us a little bit about what you are looking for.

Victory! It’s Now Elementary in California



By | blog, It's Elementary, It's STILL Elementary, Latest News, LGBT, Professional Development, Respect For All Project
We did it! After years of advocating that our schools adopt LGBT-inclusive curricula, I am thrilled to share news of a great victory that just happened in California.

GroundSpark, through our Respect for All Project, is part of a coalition that has persuaded the California State Board of Education to adopt a new history and social science framework that is inclusive of LGBT people. The FAIR Education Act went into effect in 2012, but many teachers and schools have been waiting to comply until they received guidance from the California Department of Education.

The new History­ Social Science Framework provides the guidance educators have been waiting for and ensures that important contributions by LGBT Americans are no longer excluded from history education. The framework includes LGBT content such as key historical figures and essential moments in the struggle for equality for multiple grade levels throughout elementary, middle, and high school. Lessons about people with disabilities will also now be included in the frameworks as well.

GroundSpark has been calling for LGBT-inclusive curricula since the 1996 release of our landmark documentary, It’s Elementary—Talking About Gay Issues in School. Twenty years later, this is a critical step forward. Now teachers in at least one state will have the official support to teach LGBT history. And we know, as California goes, so goes the nation—eventually!

It’s Elementary is still the go-to resource to inspire educators to address anti-LGBT prejudice with their students. Our pioneering documentary shows that children are eager and able to wrestle with stereotypes and absorb new facts, helping them develop compassion and a foundation for respecting differences of all kinds. Now, thanks to the CA Board of Education, students in California will have the opportunity to do just that.

Watch the It’s Elementary Trailer
Order a DVD and Curriculum Guide for Educational Use
Order a DVD for Personal Use
Watch Now
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What Teachers Really Thought After Our Day With Them



By | Latest News, LGBT, Professional Development, Respect For All Project, Straightlaced

Serian finger up

I am reading the evaluations from the day-long professional development days GroundSpark conducted two weeks ago for the Jefferson Union High School District, which serves the cities of Daly City, Brisbane, Pacifica, and Colma in Northern California. And I’m thinking of you.

Why? Because it’s thanks to the generosity of you and the rest of the GroundSpark community that we are able to provide this kind of in-depth support to teachers, guidance counselors and administrators. Together, we are helping schools to better address gender pressures, support students whose gender idenity is in flux, and prevent homophobic harassment.

I hope you are as proud and moved as I am to read the feedback from these two days!

Jefferson training feedback adjusted

 Because of you, teachers in the district now have enough copies of Straightlaced—How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up to use with all of their students.

But even more importantly, they left the GroundSpark training much better equipped to be better allies to their students, and to support their colleagues to do the same.

I invite you to renew your support of GroundSpark this holiday season with a gift of any amount. Let’s do whatever we can to help make sure teachers in more school districts are able to have this same opportunity

The First Bay Area Respect for All Project Institute!



By | blog, Professional Development, Respect For All Project

eileen-seriancopy.114103

As 2014 came to a close, breaking news heightened many people’s awareness of how important it is for educators to find compelling strategies to address diversity and school safety issues.

Across the country there is a much greater concern about racial stereotyping by police. And tragically we saw the suicide of 12-year old Ronin Shimizu in Folsom, CA, presumably because he couldn’t take the bullying he was targeted with because he was a young male cheerleader.

GroundSpark is kicking off the new year by offering resources and support that can truly make a difference.

Please join us for a special two-day intensive Bay Area Respect For All Project Institute, February 6th and 7th. It’s designed for those who work with youth to become more confident, skilled facilitators of social change dialogue and activism in their schools and communities.

Sign up today, and share with your colleagues or other networks!

 

These Pros Were Happy to Give Up Their Saturday. We would love to make you happy on your day off too!



By | Professional Development, Straightlaced

eileen-and-trainees-webOn a beautiful sunny Saturday, forty professionals showed up to watch Straightlaced—How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up and learn strategies for how to open up conversations about gender and sexuality with their students. They came from 10 counties and wore many different hats: foster care program coordinator, health education specialist, teacher and director of curriculum and culture, nurse practitioner, director of diversity and inclusion, social emotional counselor.  Some came to deepen their expertise; some had never had any professional development before about these topics and many had previously avoided addressing these sensitive issues with youth.

Immediately GroundSpark facilitators Serian Strauss and Eileen Glaser set the tone for the day. This was going to be a safe place to practice talking about tough issues.  Everyone would leave with a concrete action plans. And,  we were going to have fun!

trainee2-dancing-webFor six hours the group examined the messages that young people receive about how to act, think, look, love, and learn—depending on their gender and culture. Using the stories of the real high school students in Straightlaced, they then learned and shared ways to support the youth they work with who are going through the same kinds of things. They practiced how to handle difficult scenarios on the fly—like hearing homophobic language in the hallways or talking with colleagues who are uncomfortable with a transgender student. Finally each person brought all the resources and learning together by sketching out personal action plans that made sense for their workplace…not to mention a great Thai food buffet for lunch!

I showed up at the end to say hello and was heartened to see so many glowing faces.  As we handed out Straightlaced DVDs, curriculum guides, and movie posters to participants on their way out, they were effusive:

” I would love for any day of professional development to be even 50% as enriching as the conversations led today!”

” I so appreciated your care, inclusiveness and organization. You created a safe space that modeled a wonderful example for us as educators.”

“Now I have a structure for how I will start, as well as a deeper understanding of the race/gender expression issue.”

“Serian and Eileen did an amazing job facilitating a multi-layered, sometimes difficult topic.”

GroundSpark was able to provide this free training thanks to generous funding from the San Francisco Foundation. Now we are looking for opportunities to bring this kind of professional development program to other areas in the country. If you are connected to a funder or organization that could host this kind of professional development, please get in touch with our education program coordinator, Eileen Glaser, at eglaser@groundspark.org!

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We would love to make you happy on your day off too!