January 29, 2024: RISE (Respect, Inclusion, Safety, and Equity) seeks to foreground Indigenous understandings of sexuality and gender.

RISE is a website focused on queering teacher education. It stands for Respect, Inclusion, Safety, and Equity and is intended to signal the variety of approaches and outcomes to 2SLGBTQ+ inclusion often found within Canadian educational contexts. Their primary goal is to assist education professors and instructors in preparing teacher candidates to provide welcoming, respectful, and inclusive learning environments where gender and sexuality are celebrated as naturally diverse and teacher candidates have the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to effectively support 2SLGBTQ+ students and families. This week in the mentoring circle, we visit the Indigiqueer area of the RISE site which seeks to foreground Indigenous knowledges and understandings of sexuality and gender within the context of education.

Over the past several decades, slow and incremental progress has been made in making Canadian schools safer and more inclusive spaces for 2SLGBTQ+ youth and educators. Despite this growing support, 2SLGBTQ+ focused content is seldom or, at best, only partially included in teacher education programs and, as a result, new teachers continue to be certified who are underprepared to address the complex needs and realities of 2SLGBTQ+ youth. The RISE website was developed to address this knowledge-to-practice gap by identifying effective strategies for including 2SLGBTQ+ content in existing teacher education programs. This project represents the results of a SSHRC-funded research to develop 2SLGBTQ+-expansive content and provide strategies for queering teacher education in Canada.

The phrasing 2SLGBTQ+-expansive education was conceived as a way to push beyond mere inclusive or assimilationist approaches and to acknowledge that anti-oppression needs to work to transform education and normative discourses regarding sexuality, gender and other forms of oppression. The 2SLGBTQ+-expansive language RISE employs affirms that there are different approaches that need to be mutually supportive in order to create safer schools for 2SLGBTQ+ students—from anti-homophobia/biphobia/transphobia interventions, to inclusive ones that seek to increase representation and visibility, to queering ones that seek to transform schools and understandings about teaching, learning, and sexual and gender diversity.

2SLGBTQ+ inclusive education efforts too often attempt to simply make schools safer or more tolerable for 2SLGBTQ+ students, without addressing the larger social inequities and structural barriers inherent within the normative systems of education. Focusing only on inclusion or safety, for example, introduces significant limitations to the aims of providing 2SLGBTQ+ responsive education. Instead, RISE engages key principles of queer theory and queer pedagogy designed to disrupt normative systems of disciplinary knowledge and understanding to create spaces where all students and teachers can do more than fit in, assimilate, or be accommodated or tolerated. By queering education, their goal is to envision a more just, equitable, and inclusive educational system where human rights apply to everyone.

The RISE website offers recommended approaches, materials, and activities for doing this work in core teacher education courses in Canadian faculties of education and K-12 schooling institutions. Their digital resources are intended to provide starting points for thinking about ways to queer teacher education and develop queer-expansive educational practices. In their curriculum modules, they offer 2SLGBTQ+-expansive content, core principles, and guidelines related to each of these approaches. The B.Ed. Core Course Modules section offers content related to core teacher education courses, including content areas and methods courses, which are similarly offered in their K-12 Methods Modules section. There is also an Indigiqueer web portal with resources related to Indigiqueering education.

Indigiqueering approaches to education emerged from the work and insights of Dr. Alex Wilson (Opaskwayak Cree Nation). For the RISE Project, Indigiqueering approaches foreground Indigenous knowledges and understandings of sexuality and gender within the context of education and as being related to the traditions of Indigenous cultures, lands, spiritualities, communities and relationships, and the interconnectedness of them. The Indigiqueer web portal intends to amplify the voices, approaches, perspectives, and expertise of Indigenous educators, communities, and 2S and Indigenous LGBTQ+ people. Non-Indigenous educators are also welcome to access this content to develop their understanding, learn from Indigenous peoples and learn more about Indigiqueering education.

The RISE web compendium of resources is simply a beginning place, rather than a definitive statement or final ending point. They believe that curriculum is a process always in the making and hope their website is a meaningful resource designed to stimulate important conversations in teacher education. RISE works to build safer, more inclusive, and equitable schools for all students by providing research-based, theoretically relevant, and anti-oppressive approaches to 2SLGBTQ+ inclusion in schools. A wonderful example of leading academics across Canada collaborating to develop instructional strategies and practical tools to help future teachers create spaces and places where sexual and gender diversity are celebrated and all students can thrive.