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IOE Student Blog


A blog on life at IOE and education affairs written for students by students.


Improving the representation of the queer community through languages teaching in London

By IOE Blog Editor, on 13 June 2024

Hugo Jasniak in front of a tree. Image permission: Hugo Jasniak.

Image permission: Hugo Jasniak.

By Hugo Jasniak, Languages PGCE

Hi everyone! My name is Hugo Jasniak. I am French, currently studying at UCL IOE and about to finish my teacher training to become a teacher of French and Spanish in London from September onwards.

As most of you will know, June marks Pride month, meaning it’s time for the LGBTQIA+ community to shine. I really wanted to convey how important this month is to me, even though I personally believe that representation of the community should be ongoing throughout the year, and not only for a month or during a one-off event when Pride happens.

As I am finishing my degree in teacher training at IOE, I wanted to convey how my passion for the fight towards greater representation for the queer community is reflected in my own studies and professional values at school as a gay man.

To start with, my main focus throughout the year has been around inclusive teaching. Indeed, how do I make sure that as a teacher, everyone and every student’s profile is represented and feels valued within my classroom? No matter their sexuality, social status or race, I really wanted all of my students to feel welcomed and safe, free to express themselves in ways that are respectful and cheerful. This doesn’t have to be an effort for teachers to make – rather, it should be natural. How can we expect every student to achieve their maximum potential if they don’t feel safe being who they are?

The ultimate culmination of this is that I have chosen to write about the queer community for my postgraduate end-of-year essay to raise awareness. The goal here for me was to get inspired from the queer community for educational purposes and give back in return to the community that has given me so much in the recent years. In this effort to make everyone feel welcomed, I have noticed in my practice that despite a greater awareness in schools to acknowledge racial minorities, sexuality tends to be left out by teachers out of personal discomfort and lack of guidance in educational policies. 

The topic of my essay explores how to implement greater representation for the queer community through the focus on neutral pronouns in language teaching. I have thus designed some resources to shift away from what traditional textbooks have to offer, to provide not only he/she pronouns but also they/them ones, with their equivalents in both French and Spanish. I have collaborated with classes to come up with cases where we could use neutral pronouns; reassured students that it was totally fine to use those pronouns for papers and tests (at least in Languages GCSEs); and that they shouldn’t feel like what I had just taught them can never be applied outside of the classroom. What really helped students was to show them that the same exists in English with they/them, which most of them had heard before but had no idea what it stood for except when referring to a group of people.

All in all, what I found out was that students generally were not against knowing more about the queer community and neutral pronouns – they just haven’t had the chance of getting their questions answered, thus creating gaps and voids in their knowledge and creating confusion and hesitation in their mind. I was very pleased with the way my intervention throughout my school placement with UCL went as students were way more engaged on the matter than what I had originally planned!

All in all, my example and personal experience here are only a drop in what could become an ocean in the future. What I am trying to convey here is that no matter your degree or your aspirations, never cease to have these conversations with people around you. Answer those questions about the community, address the misconceptions people might have. Just like me, you could be unexpectedly positively surprised with how things turn out.

Be PROUD for who you are, and never feel like you have to bury what constitutes a part of your identity. Things are shifting. And even if it takes time, we will get there in the end.

3 Responses to “Improving the representation of the queer community through languages teaching in London”

  • 1
    S(ien) G wrote on 14 June 2024:

    Wonderful piece Hugo, thank you for sharing your experiences! Really resonated with your point on full expression being synonmous with students achieving their maximum and your experience of finding students are willing to engage with these topics when they have the right teachers. Amazing work and your students are lucky to have you 🙂

  • 2
    Marco D wrote on 14 June 2024:

    Hi Hugo. I really enjoyed reading your article. I love the clarity and confidence with which you inspire your students and how you engage with the LGBTQ+ community need for representation at all levels.

  • 3
    Simon Liu wrote on 4 July 2024:

    Hi Hugo,

    I was wonderfully surprised to see your blog entry appear, explaining the kind of work that you are doing to encourage LGBTQ+ representation for young people – especially in the languages classroom. It must feel so validating for those students to see this linguistic representation across languages.

    I would’ve loved this in my French classes at school! Luckily, I did study French and Japanese at university – so I was able to explore LGBTQ+ content in other languages e.g. films, but I would’ve loved it from school without me having to do it all myself.

    By the way, I am the IOE’s Faculty LGBTQ+ Equity Lead, and I just wanted to say how proud I am of a training (well, very soon fully trained) teacher promoting the representation of LGBTQ+ people, especially in the much needed classroom!

    Best wishes,


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