mainstream schools, alternative education, equity, inclusive education, gay-straight alliance, curriculum, student body, racialized, poverty, queer, queer studies, men’s studies, women’s studies, Native studies, Black studies, intersectionality
Garrett: Uh, I’ve been teaching in alternative probably fourteen years now out of a twenty-year career, so most of my career has been alternative. I’ve been in this stream for a bit. Um, for me I actually ended up teaching in alternative because I didn’t fit in in the mainstream, and trying to do equity-based work especially through a queer lens twenty years ago in mainstream was not happening, and so – and there were moments when my job was threatened for trying to start gay-straight alliances up in Durham, so I kind of left mainstream by choice and moved to alternative. So, um… So alternative school, we have this one location, we have another location in Pickering.
Garrett: Uh, and so we’re just basically servicing, or trying to service the needs of in-risk throughout the whole board.
Tara: Throughout the whole board. And tell us a little about the students who you’re working with right now. Who comes to this alternative school?
Garrett: Uh, pretty much any – all marginalized, right, all areas of marginalization. So, poverty is huge, a lot of queer students here.
Garrett: A lot of racialized, um, students here. And so my job is actually around equity and inclusive education. I’m responsible for special programs in – at all of our sites. To infuse inclusive practice in all of our classes, and part of that for me is I have developed and created a series of courses specifically targeting marginalised groups. So I teach Black Studies. I’m teaching it right now, this session. I teach Black Studies, I teach a Men’s Studies. We have a Women’s Studies running. I teach Native Studies, uh, Queer Studies. I think we’re the only Queer Studies course being offered.
Tara: In Durham.
Garrett: I think in Ontario at the high school level as an actual credited Queer Studies. We use the Gender Studies curriculum, but teach Queer Studies.
Tara: Fantastic. Why do you think the students in this school have come to this school? What’s not happening in mainstream schools that makes it necessary for them to finish their education here.
Garrett: I think it depends on the students, right, because there’s the intersectionality of their identities as well. Poverty is huge, but I think most of it is just not seeing themselves in mainstream, so mainstream not meeting their needs. Mainstream not meeting racialized queer students. Um, and it kind of makes sense, right? The most disengaged students are the ones we end up with. So for us, all of our students are 18 to 20 years old.
Garrett: So, they’ve all chosen to walk through the front door. So, most of them have been out of school for quite a while. So we’ll get, you know, 18-year-olds with two credits.
Garrett: And the fact that they’ve walked through the door is huge for us. And then we can connect them, because they can see themselves in the curriculum, then they tend to stay.