for 2SLGBTQ+ Inclusion

This section includes descriptions of what the Best Practices might look like when applied in a variety of contexts.

Vignette 1: Preparing Learners for an Inclusive Workplace

I prepare ESL learners for the workplace. Many of my students are struggling to adjust and adapt to Canadian workplace culture and expectations, and many come from conservative backgrounds with varying cultural differences and religious beliefs. As they prepare for employment readiness, I have noticed their discomfort when building communication and working relationships with co-workers and bosses/managers from the LGBTQ2S+ community. To help my students overcome their discomfort, I do the following:

  • I engage students in discussions about diversity and inclusion at work, and create activities that get students thinking about why they are uncomfortable around certain populations. Are these biases fair or accurate?
  • I introduce information such as the provisions in the Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act and the Alberta Human Rights Act which “prohibits discrimination in employment based on the protected grounds of race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religious beliefs, gender, , , age, physical disability, mental disability, marital status, family status, source of income, and sexual orientation.”
  • I have students role-play workplace scenarios where they apply their communication skills and use inclusive language and expressions. For example, I encourage them to address people as “Hi, everyone” or “Hello, everybody,” instead of the traditional “Ladies and gentlemen” or other expressions that assume binary male/female gender. We also role-play avoiding assumptions and using gender-neutral pronouns/nouns for inquiries or statements about family members, such as “they” instead of “he” or “she” and “spouse” or “partner” instead of “husband” or “wife.”
  • I provide and have learners read free booklets and online materials from ALIS Alberta on what to do if you experience discrimination because of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, etc.
  • I engage students in problem-solving scenarios like confronting bullying and discrimination in the workplace, providing them with helpful tips and phrases to use in addressing these issues, and making them aware of their individual rights as workers and people in Canada.

Vignette 2: The “Family” Theme in LINC

I teach CLB 3–4 learners in LINC, and we often do activities on the theme of family. Before starting learning activities, we chat a bit about family to elicit students’ prior knowledge and their own definition of family. Sometimes students mention that their understanding of family structure has evolved compared to what they had thought back home. To open the discussion to diverse perspectives on family, I do the following:

  • I ask students to give examples of how their ideas of family have changed. I invite students to ask questions and engage with the information shared.
  • We brainstorm for the different types of families that students know about, making sure that same-sex parents are among the many structures included. I use this activity to normalize the many variations of family structures that exist in societies.
  • I give an overview of how family structure has evolved by introducing students to family vocabulary like “nuclear,” “extended,” “common-law,” “single-parent,” “blended,” and “same-sex” families.
  • I show pictures and video clips of a variety of families, including same-sex couples and parents, and individuals whose gender expressions are outside the binaries of male and female to further normalize a variety of genders and family structures. Students then create narratives about the families’ lives based on the scene in the photo or video (e.g., One parent is cooking dinner, while a child is playing with their sibling; One mother is washing dishes, and the other mother is playing with the children).
  • I create an activity for students to share about their own family structures in small groups. I make it clear that students can choose to share as much or as little information about their families as feels comfortable for them.

Vignette 3: Addressing Confusion and Building Empathy

I address the confusion that learners at all levels sometimes express related to LGBTQ2S+ inclusion in Canada. For instance, one of my students told the class that she was uncertain about using a washroom because it was “gender-neutral” and didn’t have a female sign. In order to promote understanding, I do the following:

  • I ask questions and probe to prompt inquiry and reflection: Who is allowed to use this washroom? Who do you think might be afraid to go into a gendered washroom? What are the advantages of a gender-neutral washroom?
  • I use this confusion as an opportunity to introduce relevant vocabulary and language, for instance, around non-binary identities (identifying neither as fully male nor fully female) and transgender identities (identifying as a gender that is different from your biological sex assigned at birth).
  • I encourage perspective taking and the development of empathy, for instance, by brainstorming for challenges non-binary or transgender individuals may face when using the washroom that feels right to them.

Vignette 4: Fielding Questions

I teach intermediate LINC classes, and I find myself fielding all sorts of questions from curious learners. For instance, a young man in my class mentioned that he had seen a Pride parade, and asked about the significance of the rainbow flag and the letters. When these questions arise, I often assign some independent exploration on these topics.

  • I brainstorm with the class about good Google search terms they could use to learn more (e.g., Pride parade; rainbow flag; LGBTQ2S+ meaning). Students take out their phones, do some exploring, and share their findings. I record the information they gathered on the board and welcome additional questions.
  • I remind all learners about our classroom expectations of respect, kindness, and inclusion—everyone belongs. I encourage them to assume that there are people in the room who are LGBTQ2S+ or whose loved ones are LGBTQ2S+ (myself included) and to make sure that what they say conveys respect. If students use inappropriate language, I non-judgmentally help them find the correct terms. I always confront and statements with a reminder that those comments are not permitted in our classroom, and that LGBTQ2S+ equal rights are the law in Canada.

Vignette 5: Teaching Healthcare Professionals

I teach English for healthcare professionals. I want to make sure that any LGBTQ2S+ learners in my class know that they are welcome and safe, and I want any of my learners’ future LGBTQ2S+ patients/clients to receive compassionate and inclusive care. To encourage this, I model inclusive practice through the following actions:

  • My name tag and my email sign-off also includes my pronouns. When I introduce myself to the class, I point that out and ask if they know why this has become a common practice.
  • Students read an article about LGBTQ2S+ seniors going into long-term care. They complete typical vocabulary and comprehension activities, learn appropriate vocabulary to use, and reflect on implications for their future practice. A few mentioned really relating to the article in their concern for their own LGBTQ2S+ loved ones.
  • When I design role-plays, I include scenarios with same-sex spouses, and patients/clients/co-workers with gender-neutral names and they/them/their pronouns.
  • When I teach a grammar lesson on subject-verb agreement, I bring up the use of the singular they/them pronoun to be inclusive and not assume someone’s gender. I have students rewrite paragraphs written in the 3rd person singular (he/him or she/her) to make them both less awkward and more inclusive (using plural nouns and they/them/their).


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ATESL Best Practices for Adult EAL and LINC Programming in Alberta by Alberta Teachers of English as a Second Language (ATESL) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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