How Teachers Can Help: Day of Silence

April 13, 2011 § 5 Comments

A thousand mouths not uttering a word yet their message will be heard more loudly than ever…

As Friday approaches, thousands of teens prepare for one of our favorite stands against hate: GLSEN’s Day of Silence! Becoming more common in schools across the nation, the Day of Silence is a planned day of protest against lgbt bullying in order to raise awareness while temporarily limiting conversation. But teens are not the only supporters of DoS, many teachers support the cause too though they aren’t always sure how to help. What follows are a few tips to help you (teachers) use the Day of Silence as a catalyst for conversation and spark change amongst your students, or at least shed light upon the tragedies occurring. If you’re a student, try asking your teachers to do some of the following or comment or tweet me and tell us how you think teachers can help!

Day of Silence 2011 April 15

Day of Silence April 15th, 2011

1. Acknowledge the Silence
By far the easiest way to assist your students is to acknowledge the silence – we WANT you to bring up the Day of Silence as a topic in class so others will be aware of the cause. We WANT you to mention what they can do to help. And we REALLY WANT you to acknowledge it in a positive light, not merely shrug it off while saying: “How quaint…” and awkwardly retuning to teaching. Bringing the topic up in class fortifies our actions as part of a real movement in the eyes of our peers who may never have known about the Day of Silence, allowing them to move beyond the typical first thought: “Weird, why are all these kids so quiet?”

2. Explain the Silence and Use Examples!
This is more an extension of the first tip, but is even more important – after acknowledging the silence explain why we are silent! Thousands of teens are bullied each day and with the recent surge in gay teen suicides which spurred Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” project, you have an abundance of resources to help show your students why we are silent. May I recommend showing your class a brief video pertaining to lgbt bullying? Explaining the silence also allows for students not involved to understand the cause and can spare the participants any bullying outside of the classroom – maybe a few students will even join in!

3. Incorporate LGBT Into Your Curriculum
Even if for only a day, try incorporating LGBT into your curriculum. For language arts teachers, try reading a short story/piece of modern lit with a lgbt character or mentioning all of the famed writers who are known to be or are perceived to be gay – such as Walt Whitman.

Speaking of Walts… if you teach a business class, why not incorporate how companies such as Disney and Google have anti-discrimination policies and how that benefits each of the businesses as well as how businesses can cater to specific niches, a subject expandable to all minorities being targeted by ads. By incorporating LGBT into your curriculum, you are showing your students that you aren’t afraid to talk about homosexuality and that creates a more accepting environment in your classroom.

4. Show Your Support With a Ribbon
This year’s Day of Silence color is red and you can show your support by simply tying a red ribbon around your wrist, arm, or pinky. Wearing a colored shirt or tie can also add to the visibility of the movement and if you feel like taking it a step further – wear your own “Day of Silence.”

5. Reach Out to the Students Involved
The Day of Silence can be cause for celebration for many students and is even exhilarating for many first timers along with the rest of us who help plan Day of Silences. As excited as we are, there are times when remaining silent all day long can be stressful due to other students making rude comments or even the disconcerting looks from other teachers. Telling your student that you appreciate what they are doing, that you’re proud of them for standing up for something they believe in, or that you’re there to support them no matter what can quickly ease a participant’s tension and can allow them to enjoy her day.

6. Stay Silent
While seemingly difficult at first, teachers can stay silent for the Day of Silence! This will need to be approved by the administration and it seems fair to give your class a warning so that they can prepare. But that leaves the question, how can we teach?

Some ideas for giving lessons are:

  • Create a video tutorial before the Day of Silence and use that to instruct your students.
  • Write a task for your class to complete during the Day of Silence and leave it at that – just be sure to have extra material ready in case people finish early.
  • Allow your students to read or work on homework, but this last option seems to leave out any potential to incorporate lgbt into your curriculum. On the flip-side, your students will enjoy this chance to catch up and will be receiving a positive effect from the Day of Silence – making them more likely to participate in the future or refrain from bullying their peers.
  • Instead of asking your students their opinion on the lgbt community, you can also ask them to write out their thoughts on any political movements – pointing out the pros and cons of them and drafting it into an essay. Students are supposed to learn in preparation for their adult lives and civic engagement is an important topic to hit on for them.

These are only 6 of many tips on how you can support your students during the Day of Silence. Do you have any prior experiences with DoS? Comment below and tell us about them! Have a tip or idea which wasn’t shared above – post one below! Or if you have powerful videos, essays, or poems which teachers can use in class please post links to them below!

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§ 5 Responses to How Teachers Can Help: Day of Silence

  • Mike Sarzo says:

    The Day of Silence is so important. I can still remember one year in which I took part. I wrote a column about it for The Diamondback, which is the five-day-a-week newspaper at the University of Maryland.

    Unfortunately, I work at a job where I HAVE to talk, otherwise, I would take part this year.

    • Craig says:

      You wrote a column?! Is there any chance I can find that via google? It would make for some great reading and I’m always curious to see the thoughts of others on the Day of Silence!

      And as far as talking at your job goes, we understand that. Still – do you think you’re up for wearing a red tie/shirt? Many people may not get the message but for those who do it can be a powerful thing or you can tell the others what it means!

      • Mike Sarzo says:

        I just did a quick Google search and, sadly, I wasn’t able to find it. I might try digging around a bit more, and perhaps might search The Diamondback’s paper archives and see if I can get a copy scanned and posted on the Web.

        As far as wearing red is concerned, I’ll see if I have some red I can wear to work that day. If so, I’ll wear it.

  • Zihir Terrence says:

    I’m not a teacher but I am telling a lot of my teachers about this page. Luckily, some of my teachers fully support my silence on Friday. But, as always, there are some who make jokes and say it’s ‘stupid’. Thanks for this anyway 🙂
    -Z

    • Craig says:

      Thanks Z! And that’s great to hear that some of your teachers fully support the DoS. As for the others, I know how you feel – we had a Latin substitute teacher in her 70s who simply couldn’t comprehend what the DoS was all about and she almost forced us to speak! While I doubt most teachers are truly oblivious to DoS, for those that do say it’s stupid, have you thought about asking a “speaking ally” to comment in that teacher’s class about how it isn’t stupid? This may seem conflict oriented, but it isn’t intended to be and sparking a conversation (ironically on the day of silence) could help bring light to lgbt bullying!

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