I had recently come out as nonbinary when I connected with Ace on Instagram. Teaching in the elementary classroom, I was looking for more ways to support not only my learners but also other nonbinary educators like myself. Ace Schwarz (Mx. Schwarz in their classroom) is a middle school educator on the east coast. This is their fifth year teaching seventh grade science, and outside of class they run STEM Club, Anime Club and Free to Be, their school's Gender and Sexuality Alliance. I'm pleased to share Schwarz's experience and advice in this interview. Before we start, can you tell us who you are, your pronouns and how you identify? My name is Ace Schwarz, and my pronouns are they/them/theirs. I identify as nonbinary. One of the first things I do when school starts is ask for student pronouns. They fill out this information privately on a Get-To-Know-You sheet, and then I make sure I honor their pronouns. I do a mini-lesson on pronouns so students understand what I'm asking because sometimes they've never been asked for their pronouns before. I also stopped using gendered language in my classroom. Instead of saying "ladies and gentlemen," I often say "y'all" or "everyone." I also do not group students by gender when we do collaborative work. Visibility was really important to me as I set up my classroom, so I have two safe space posters hanging up (one outside my room, one inside). I also have a Pride wall above my lockers.
One of my biggest struggles is that I am always educating people.
The county is also working to add more trainings for all teachers. As a nonbinary educator, what struggles have you encountered in the workplace? One of my biggest struggles is that I am always educating people. People tend to be more familiar with L, G and T identities, but nonbinary identities and language are often new for educators. So, I find that I am always explaining what it means to be nonbinary (I even have an elevator speech). This always makes me hesitate, though, because I never want to come across as the spokesperson for all things nonbinary. I always appreciate that people want to know more, but sometimes I wish that responsibility could fall on someone else's shoulders. Another big struggle is that I have to recognize that some things won't change right away. 't be able to convert any bathrooms in the future. This means that I am still using the women's restroom, and it also means my students need to choose between a male or female bathroom.
My county is also working to get more trainings and to develop a comprehensive transition support policy, and it will take time for these to be implemented. So, while I'm over here ready to make big changes, I've had to step back and appreciate the changes that have been made so far and realize that it takes time for larger changes to occur. Have you found support at your current workplace?! I have an incredible group of co-workers who have been supportive of me from the very beginning. My principal, HR and union have also been incredible. We also met twice over the summer to come up with a transition plan with strategies of support if there are ever any issues with staff, parents and students. It's mostly worst-case scenarios, but it makes me feel really comfortable that we're prepared for anything. What could educators do differently to support nonbinary educators in the workplace? Part of the struggles I face is honestly due to a lack of education and understanding. It would also be great if people could use Google or do some reading on their own instead of constantly asking nonbinary educators to be the ones educating them. I think it's also really important that we start normalizing putting our pronouns in our emails and on name tags at professional development days. I am one of the only people who does it right now, and it always makes me feel a bit like the "other. " If everyone does it, it's less of an anomaly. What can educators and people beyond education do to support nonbinary people around them starting today?
Pronouns: A Resource for Educators" explains why asking for pronouns is so important.
Getting rid of gendered language is a great start. When we call people by these gender markers, we are making assumptions about their identities based on how they look. This is definitely a mindset we need to change. Advocate for gender-neutral bathrooms in schools and local businesses. If there are single-user bathrooms, they can very easily be changed to gender-neutral bathrooms (it often just takes adding a sign and a trash can for sanitary products). Finally, it would be awesome if people took the time to read an article or two about nonbinary identities so they could possibly explain it to others who may not understand yet. It takes a massive burden off nonbinary individuals since we're usually the ones doing all the educating. Which articles or resources would you recommend? Gender: Your Guide is a phenomenal introduction. It also asks readers to ponder their own participation in gender. I love it because it provides clear, concrete examples of how to disrupt the gender binary and support people who are transgender, nonbinary and gender nonconforming. A Quick and Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns does a phenomenal job explaining they/them pronouns and how to be an ally for people who use those pronouns. "Pronouns: A Resource for Educators" explains why asking for pronouns is so important. It provides teachers with concrete examples of how to ask students for pronouns and how to introduce themselves with pronouns. "Ms., Mr. or Mx.? Nonbinary Teachers Embrace Gender-Neutral Honorific" explains the title "Mx." and its evolution in education.
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It's almost Halloween, and what better way to spend October than watching psychological thrillers? If you're looking for an anime filled with suspense, amazing storytelling, and dynamic characters, Naoki Urasawa's 2004 anime series Monster gives us all of these things and more. It focuses on the life of Dr. Tenma, a brilliant Japanese brain surgeon working at Eisler Memorial Hospital in West Germany, 1986. He's the hospital's rising star and engaged to the daughter of the hospital's director when he's suddenly faced with a moral dilemma that shakes his core, forcing him to make life -changing decisions. An innocent man dies because Dr. Tenma followed orders to treat a patient of higher social and political status. He is devastated and horrified as the widow confronts him, realizing what following these orders had entailed. This is a huge turning point in his life and the beginning of our story. This moment leads him to make a decision that alters his life in ways he couldn't even begin to imagine. The dilemma Dr. Tenma had to face is one that is brought up throughout the entire series: is every life equal? Obviously, the answer is "yes," and Dr. Tenma tries to convey this time and time again.
Starting because of the innocent man dying because he wasn't deemed as a priority by the hospital, Tenma performs surgery on a boy with a gun shot wound despite receiving orders to treat the major first. When Dr. Tenma decides to help this boy, he's completely unaware that he's reviving a "monster" and the antagonist of this story. Almost immediately, Dr. Tenma is faced with tragedies and mystery at the hands of this ten-year-old boy. Most of Monster takes place 10-12 years after this point, following a string of murders occurring around Germany. It doesn't take long before Dr. Tenma is standing face to face with the murderer, who then reveals that he was the young boy Tenma brought back to life ten years prior: Johan Liebert. He shoots Dr. Tenma's patient right before his eyes and walks away like a true psychopath: cool, calm, and menacingly slow. Thus begins Dr. Tenma's journey to take Johan down, pulling him out of the shadows and into broad daylight to prevent any more murders from happening. This proves to be no easy task, though, and Dr. Tenma soon discovers there is far more than meets the eye in his journey of rectitude. The plot of Monster is imaginative, with a well executed story. The mysteries, plot, and characters are all woven together so seamlessly, and everything made perfect sense as the story progressed, while also managing to surprise at every turn. The plot is beyond compelling and riddled with depth and intrigue.
Every episode brings something new and enthralling.
Urasawa did a great job making the characters three-dimensional and real. These characters weren't good or bad, or cookie-cutter images of other characters. They were each their own person and brought something unique to the story. They made us reflect, they made us cry, and they made us feel. Every episode brings something new and enthralling. The characters are carefully developed along the way-heroes, villains, and everyone in between. There are a lot of different types of villains in Monster (with the big bad boss being Johan Liebert), which is a big part of what makes this series so great. There's not just one bad guy and a bunch of lackeys, but multiple villains of all calibers, with various levels of evil versus humanity, none of which are the same. Even Johan's followers have their own individuality as villains. Each one brings something different to the table, and we tend to hate each of these villains (or love to hate them) for different reasons.
First and foremost, there's Johan. If you like incredibly eerie, disturbing villains-the calm and collected ones that are secretly serial killers-you've come to the right place. Johan's the main antagonist of this story and Dr. Tenma's worst nightmare come to life. He constantly taunts the doctor and murders anyone in his way-sometimes for no reason at all other than he simply can. As the show progresses, secrets are revealed and more tragedies occur. We realize just how bad Johan really is and how much he seems to hustle as a villain (seriously, where does he find the time)? He is easily one of the creepiest villains in all of anime. Everything he does is meticulous, and he can't interact with anyone without ruining their lives or convincing them they're useless and unworthy of love, or even life itself. He's calculated, intelligent, and has no remorse; he knows exactly what he wants to do and will accomplish it at all costs. He isn't predictable either, which gives the story all the twists and turns it needs to be made even more interesting. While Johan is the calm, creepy evil mastermind, there are others walking adjacent paths, such as the recurring villain Roberto. This man is so easy to hate, which makes him a good villain in its own way. In contrast to Johan's insidiousness, Roberto's more of a brute force/macho man villain that you know can beat the life out of you without breaking a sweat. While Johan uses mind games to win his wars, Roberto uses his inhuman strength and size to barrel through obstacles and demolish his enemies.