Tessa is a second grade teacher from California. We asked her a few questions about how she started a Rainbow Club at her school.
Katy: How was your school's first meeting?
Tessa: Our first meeting of the Rainbow Club went really well! A ton of families attended — our school library was packed!!
We had a lot of LGBTQIA+ kids books out on tables, both from my personal collection and from our school library, and so people looked at those as other people arrived, and a family from my class had surprised me by baking two rainbow cakes that the kids (and adults!) snacked on for awhile and chatted.
We did a musical ice breaker where we stopped the music and people chose a new partner and answered a question — favorite color, ice cream flavor, and lastly why they came to rainbow club.
We had a short discussion about what people wanted to get out of the club, and everyone had a ton of ideas ranging from weekend park play dates, attending Pride together as a contingent, to family workshops and more facilitated “lesson-like” meetups.
Then we did a read aloud of “What Riley Wore” and made posters that said “Anyone can...” (wear party shoes, wear a dress, play soccer, etc). I had done this with my second graders last week so the kids from my class who attended were able to help introduce it which was cute.
Everyone was smiling and chatting the whole time. Many families said they didn’t know there were so many other queer families at our school, and were exchanging phone numbers with other people with kids in different grade levels. It was really sweet. I’m so glad we did it and can’t wait for the next meeting!!
Katy: What inspired you to start one?
Tessa: This is my second year at the school that I currently teach at. I figured based on the neighborhood and student population, there would be many LGBTQIA+ families and as a teacher, I've been aware of a few families at the school but was surprised during my first year that these families didn't really know about each other. I introduce myself each school year by sending home a letter with all my students explaining about my teaching background and specialties, my personal interests, and my family. I am married to another woman and we have twin four year olds. I talk about them all the time in class, especially during writing workshop and when we discuss what we did over the weekend. This year, I got some push back from one student's family, asking why I felt entitled to share that I was "gay" with my class of second graders on the first day of school. In fact, I had just shown my writing notebook when explaining about their first week's homework to collect pictures of their family and interests to collage on the cover of their notebooks later in the week. It was overwhelming and insulting, and my principal was very supportive of me and took over the parent communication making it very clear that what I said and did was appropriate and also totally legal and allowed. This, in part, inspired me to start the rainbow club because I don't want any of the kids at my school to feel othered for having different families or for being themselves. I want who I am to be public, accepted, valued, and seen as supportive for kids and families.
Katy: What was the first step you took to start the club?
Tessa: I used your blog post about starting the club as a starting point; I asked my partner teacher if she wanted to start it with me and she was really excited about it, so we emailed our principal who was also excited about the idea. We emailed the families that we knew might be interested in attending, to find a time that they could for sure attend, and then invited the whole school to attend at that time. We made it clear it was for LGBTQIA+ students, families, and allies.
Katy: How have you decided to structure the meetings?
Our first meeting was outlined above -- other meetings will likely look different and might be less formal. Many families wanted to get together on a weekend at a park, just to hang out, and loved the social aspect of the club. We would also like to do more meetups like the one we had, maybe with a parent to help plan and lead it.
Katy: How did you get the word out?
We sent emails to the school, and some of my second grade students decided to make posters to hang around our school the week before the first meeting. Katy: Have you gotten any pushback or hesitation?
Tessa: Not about the club itself!
Katy: What advice would you give to those who have?
Tessa: The participants loved the meeting so much! Everyone was exchanging phone numbers and smiling the whole time.
Thank you for speaking with us Tessa! You can follow her on Instagram at @tessarebecca. If you have a Rainbow Club success story you would like to share, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org