Prejudice and pride in the job;Talkback

28th May 1999 at 01:00
The recent London bombings have shown that racism and homophobia are still clawing at London.

As a gay teacher, I, and many others like me, welcome open discussion and never cease to find reassurance among students who want to look forward, not backwards.

When I qualified, my course leader - a top man who told me to follow my dream - warned me of prejudice in the profession. I spent the next four years battling, when I could have been conducting orchestras and choirs. I once wore a red ribbon to work - my deputy objected saying that I shouldn't display my sexuality. I told him that I wasn't - I was displaying sympathy with Aids sufferers. He then called a meeting with my head of department and head of faculty. They spent two hours behind closed doors discussing my sexuality.

My students accepted me because I worked hard to ensure their achievement - whenever I bump into a former student it is always a great joy; whenever students ask me if I'm gay, I see nothing to be afraid of. The youth of today see beyond barriers of race, sexuality, gender, and class.

Section 28 prevents the promotion of homosexuality. Your average teenager sees right through that; your average teacher is scared to approach the subject. Who wants an average teacher? In my experience, young people want teachers who will show them how to make music, demonstrate science, translate, discuss.

A student of mine was distraught after the Old Compton Street bombing - she thought her brother may have been hit and didn't know for two days if he was all right. She felt she could confide in me and trust me: she felt she could talk about it only to an openly gay teacher.

How does she know I'm gay? Because someone in her class asked if I was and I said "yes".

Being gay is not wrong. Why are so many teachers afraid of confronting the subject when students bring it up?

The writer is a freelance teacher in north London with a background in special needs and music

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