Advising a GSA can be a hard job at times. How do you best support the student's efforts? What's your role in the GSA? What's worked for other advisors?
Here are their words when asked, “If you were leaving today, what words of advice would you have for future GSA Advisors?
“Always work those lines of communication with teachers and staff. You will, of course, always find colleagues who are ‘not enlightened’, but I have found wonderful support in the most unlikely people. The Safe Zone Sticker program was the best tool for establishing and maintaining teachers as allies.”
- Denise Johnson, Barrington High School (Rhode Island)
”Keep it simple, fun, and light with an activity at the meetings that makes people feel included and involved. Ice breakers, personal check-ins, etc. It's too easy to get carried away and overwhelmed if at every meeting you're trying to organize a big event.”
- Cassandra Mortier, Casa Grande High School Petaluma (California)
“Build a supportive network of adults at your school so that students have more contacts/places where they feel safe. Allow student members to drive the mission of the group- they may want to be activists, or they may just need to direct their energies at supporting each other. Even if attendance dwindles, keep publicizing the group and its meetings. Just reading about its existence in the bulletin once a week might be enough to let a GLBT youth know there's someone out there who cares.”
- Gayle Brickert-Albrecht, Tucson High Magnet School (Arizona)
“ Have a good booklist available. Post an agenda of what will be discussed during your meeting. As the group gets going you might want to ask one of the students who attend the meetings often if they would like to Chair a meeting. Do something that is community organized, something that will take the group out of the school.
Jean Segaloff, Commonwealth School (Massachusetts)
”Put out a charter or mission statement that says what you're REALLY about (creating safety and tolerance, etc.) and distribute to staff and any parents, media, community members who are interested.”
- Dani Meier, Jackson High School (Michigan)
“Remember that by definition your job is to advise. You are involved with a student organization and the students can run it. You just give them advice on their ideas. Always remain positive, no matter what happens in your school, society, etc. Set a few big goals for both fun and action for the year and work towards them together.
- Sharon Reece Harrell (Massachusetts)
“ Try and be as inclusive as possible. Work with other diversity organizations. Try and keep administration, faculty, staff, and students updated as to your activities. Try to work with all people rather than against. We don't attempt anything without discussion from within and outside. This helps others support us even if they don't agree with our strategies because we have already educated them and worked with them as to the reasons for our actions.”
- Fletcher McNeill, GLOW of Garrison Forest School (Maryland)
“ Make the club's agenda the students' agenda. Providing them with copies of relevant articles and information from GLSEN and other sources is good, but the push for action should come from their energy; this makes the club more vibrant and keeps it club student-centered. A powerful force for change in the school's culture is the faculty. Occasional informational sessions or even formal presentations at a faculty meeting, encouraging teachers to challenge homophobic comments among the students can really help create a more open community.”
- Trevor Drake, Conestoga High School (Pennsylvania)
“ If you have a sympathetic administration, get them to go after staff who use inappropriate language (fag, fairy, geek, or who make critical comments about some students dress, etc.). Just raising the level of consciousness among staff can be very helpful.”
- Janna Bremer, King Philip Regional High School (Massachusetts)
“Elect your GSA leadership at the end of the school year for the next year. Then the co-leaders/presidents can meet over summer and plan some activities. At the end of the year, brainstorm with current members about what worked and what didn't. This has the dual function of improving the future club activities and also allowing members to see how much they accomplished during the year. The most important one though is make sure that each meeting has a planned topic. If you have a topic, then you can make flyers and promote it and draw in new people. For example, the topic of ‘Eminem's music lyrics -- are they homophobic or not’ could attract people who might not normally come to a meeting.”
- Cheri Gaulke, Harvard-Westlake School (California)
“Try to attract a broad spectrum of students by having activities that a lot of people could support, such as painting a diversity mural, holding assemblies that work to improve school climate, anti-harassment campaigns, etc. Collaborate with other school clubs such as art & drama groups, other social action clubs. Go to regional networking meetings, and try to get together with other GSA's.
- Sue Beers, Westford Academy (Massachusetts)
“Invite speakers. Students need role models, since there are so few out adults around here (I live in the south.)”
- LeAnne North, SC Governor's School (South Carolina)
“ Take advantage of things already happening in ‘the community’ and surrounding area. Instead of always starting from scratch - look around for things already happening that you can go to as a group and maybe invite others, i.e. Pride Picnics, Parades, PFLAG Presentations and other special events. This way you have to spend less energy doing things already being done and available – and more energy on things that your GSA needs specifically.”
- Jerry W. Schearer (West Virginia)
Have some tips you'd like to share with fellow student leaders?? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org