The Queering Education Research Institute© (QuERI)

Teach Back Team

Huffington Post: ‘Teaching Back’ In The Trump Years: An Offer Of Support For Teachers

Contact the Teach Back Team: queeringeducation (at) outlook (dot) com

In response to the reports of increased identity-based violence in schools, we have launched the Teacher Teach Back Team.

“Teaching Back” is responding to identity-based violence and harassment through curriculum, pedagogy, and policy that value differences and promote justice. It requires that educators be vigilant in their attention to social dynamics in a classroom, school, and community that contribute to stigma and exclusion then respond quickly through creating learning opportunities that promote equity and justice. Rather than respond to various forms of aggression through disciplinary procedures (which may also be necessary), Teaching Back focuses on creating educational opportunities to learn about others often excluded from curriculum, challenging students to consider their bullying behaviors and why they judge others as acceptable targets, and paying renewed attention to privileged and marginalized voices in the classroom. Additionally, Teaching Back means shaping instruction time so that it not only meets the requirements of the curriculum, but also challenges students to think critically, to expand their awareness of others, and to reflect on their biases. It may also involve supporting targeted students through extra curricular responses, advocating for their greater access to services, or helping targeted students communicate their experiences to administration. This recent bad behavior termed the “Trump effect” has deeper roots than this painful election cycle, roots in cultural prejudice and discrimination. Teaching Back has a greater chance of positively influencing school culture than strategies focused only on bullying intervention and incident reporting.

The Teacher Teach Back Team is a group of experienced K-12 educators from around the country who have volunteered to share their skills and knowledge with other teachers who want to take up this work. QuERI work focuses on gender, sexuality, and LGBTQ issues but the team will address all types of in-school bullying and harassment through the teach back framework. This is not a funded project. We aim to launch the team relatively quickly and begin supporting teachers facing these issues in their schools, so getting the word out to other teachers that we are available as a resource will largely depend on social media and teacher-to-teacher networking.

Educators are invited to send questions about strategies for teaching equity-focused curriculum, resources, and specific situations that arise in the classroom or school. Our team can offer our resources and experience as well as collegial support, and will post selected questions and responses here on Huffington Post. We also invite educators’ stories about experiences of successful “teaching back,” and we will publish a sample of those as well. This is an act of recognition and of solidarity: We wanted to DO something in the face of hateful rhetoric, and we wanted our actions to support teachers and support real change, even a small one. Educators, send questions for us as well as stories of your teaching back successes to queeringeducation (at) outlook (dot) com. The more detail you can give us about the situation/incident calling you to teach back, the better we can respond.


Dr. Elizabeth Bishop is Assistant Professor of English and Education at Ithaca College and founder of the Drop Knowledge Project. Dr. Bishop spent the past decade working in NYC public schools and nonprofit organizations, as well as teaching and conducting research across institutions of higher education. Bishop’s first book, “Becoming Activist: Critical Literacy and Youth Organizing” is now available from Peter Lang Publishing. Dr. Bishop holds a Ph.D. in Language, Literacy and Culture and conducts research at the intersections of critical literacy, cultural theory, and global youth studies. @DrBishopDigital

Molly O’Connell is a middle and high school science teacher and curriculum development specialist. She began her teaching career at the Bronx Academy of Letters in the South Bronx, and then moved to Brooklyn to teach at Brownsville Collegiate middle school. She currently teaches 9th grade Biology at Uncommon Collegiate Charter High School. She also writes and disseminates inquiry-based, social-justice oriented science curriculum to all 6 high schools in the Uncommon network. Molly believes firmly that teaching science through case-based studies and inquiry activities encourages analytical thought in students, and prepares them to be confident, engaged citizens. She also believes that this type of teaching is even more imperative in schools serving low-income neighborhoods because of the drastic under-representation of first-generation college students in STEM fields.

Elizabethe Payne, Ph.D., is director of the Queering Education Research Institute (QuERI) and distinguished lecturer at Hunter College, CUNY. Her research focuses on bullying, teacher professional development in support of LGBTQ students, and queer adolescent girls. She holds a Texas teaching certificate grades 6-12 and taught high school English and Ethics. In her time teaching, she worked with students in a conservative community to create HIV/AIDS education and action initiatives and introduced HIV curriculum into the school.

Jody Polleck, Ph.D., is an associate professor and coordinator for the literacy program at Hunter College–CUNY and a literacy intervention teacher and coach in New York City.  Her research focus is with urban adolescents, focusing on critical, culturally responsive, and differentiated literacy instruction across the curriculum. She has published in such journals as Reading and Writing Quarterly, The Clearinghouse Journal of Educational Strategies, Reading Horizons, ALAN Review, The High School Journal, and The English Journal.

Tyrone Shaw has been a teacher for the past five years at McKinley Technology High School in Washington D.C. He teaches World History I, AP World History, and also teaches an elective focused on Social Justice and Holocaust and Genocide Studies. He has written World History curriculum for the District of Columbia Public Schools. Tyrone is a graduate of Syracuse University with Masters in Cultural Foundations of Education. He has a rich background in Culturally Responsive Pedagogy and Holocaust and Genocide Studies.

Dr. Melissa Smith is an assistant professor and director of English education at University of Central Arkansas. She has been affiliated with QuERI since 2008, and her current position is Assistant Director of Research. She is a co-investigator for research projects on LGBTQ-inclusive education policy and trans-inclusive educational practice in K-12 schools. Her other research focuses include teacher allies and social justice English education. Prior to her doctoral work, she was a high school English teacher in Omaha (Nebraska) Public Schools.

Joyce Suslovic is a high school social studies teacher in Syracuse, NY. (bio forthcoming)

Mica Tuccillo is a Brooklyn based-teacher, student, researcher and organizer. Currently completing her MSW at Silberman School of Social Work, her work focuses on the intersections of race, gender, and queer identities. Mica worked for several years as a teacher at an alternative NYC public high school engaging with students through inquiry-based learning. She helped to develop and teach a series of courses focused on gender and sexuality studies, creative writing and poetry. Mica worked with several other teachers and administrators in the NYC public school system to facilitate several workshops about this curriculum for teachers from other NYC public schools. She has also led groups on identity politics with incredible and creative young people in New York, Philadelphia, and West Virginia. Mica aims to cultivate a world in which people engage critically with intersectional politics in order to better understand themselves and each other.