Tuesday, October 23, 2012

How I Make My $$

I teach middle school health. That is my day job, and it is a job that I love and have dreamed about. Some might use the phrase "livin' the dream."

That "dream" includes teaching 13 and 14 year -olds about the birds and the bees. Before I finish, what the heck does that phrase "birds and the bees" mean? So today I started every 8th graders favorite unit: Human Sexuality.

There are lots of opinions on schools teaching sex education. Let me put it all out there: 8th graders need it. I wish it was a different way, but when I have 8th grade girls getting pregnant telling them to "just say no" doesn't cut it. I teach what is called an "abstinence-based" curriculum. In a nut shell, that means I tell my students that abstinence is the safest, healthiest choice but that there are options out there that can greatly reduce the risk of pregnancy and STD.
Soap box time: Before you get upset about me teaching about condoms and birth control pills, I want to share a little bit of research. Students who are in an abstinence only sex ed class are no less likely to have sex than their peers in an abstinence based curriculum. And students in the "only" group are more likely to have unprotected sex, because they either don't know where to get condoms OR think that they don't work so what's the point.  Research also shows that students need to learn about this information 3 years before they are participating in high risk behaviors. Unfortunately for many of my students, I am a little late.

I try to run my class in a comfortable way. I want to be an adult that my students trust and will turn to when they have questions that need to be answered. I start off this unit with this story. A few years ago I had to use one of the student bathrooms and I over heard some girls talking. One girl was telling her friends that there was no way you could get pregnant the first time you have sex. She made some pretty smart sounding arguments and used phrases about hormones and what not. If I was a middle school kid, I probably would have believed her. When I came out of the stall to wash my hands, the girls looked mortified that a teacher was in there. (I didn't know the girls.) I just told them that they were not in trouble for what they were talking about but what she was saying wasn't true. I point out to my students that conversations like that are super common, and totally normal to have, but it is important to have a place to ask questions where they know they will not be judged for the question, and will get the correct information. That is where my class comes in.
All my students write down a question anonymously, and they are all allowed to ask questions out loud as well. I answer every question out loud (except for personal questions).  I know that sometimes questions are written to see if I will answer them, but the funny usually goes away once they realize that I take every question seriously. (Now if they saw me when I first read through the questions, I am usually laughing and sometimes a little shocked.)

Today I got to talk about: periods, penis length, how twins are developed, how tampons work, hermaphrodites and "what is masturbating." I do this all with a straight face. The hardest are the questions that are asked out loud. I also hate the new slang terms that I haven't learned. Then I have to look it up, and it can be bad. Sometimes I wonder what their parents would say if they knew their kids were asking some of these questions, but the parents are aware that they are in the sex ed unit.  My principal is also well aware of what goes on in my classroom. I always give her a copy of the written down questions and a heads up on any controversial topics that are brought up out loud just in case a parent complains or questions what I am teaching.

Do you remember middle school health class?


Jen said...

I think it's awesome that you teach this! :) I fondly remember my middle school health class, it was very informative.

Kristin said...

I had none of this in school...we had the growth and development lesson in 5thgrade but that was it. How sad is that??
Now, I get to do that same lesson with my 4th grade girls. The school nurse does a chunk of it, but still, it's pretty awful!
Thanks for doing our children such a service! :)

Ashleigh More said...

I remember putting condoms on cucumbers and blowing up all the spare ones. How mature!!

It's so important to teach kids about these things so well done :-)


rebeckann said...

Wow. God bless you. I'm about 99% sure there's no way I could do that! In 5th grade, we learned about growth and development. In high school we did have sex ed. Frankly, I don't remember much about it. I know that we did learn about birth control.....maybe it's a traumatic memory and I blocked it out?? lol

Anna said...

I totally agree with everything you just said. I can think of so many cases of people that went to schools where they were only taught abstinence getting pregnant. Any idiot can have sex, preventing pregnancy and diseases involves a little more work.

Michelle said...

It's good you're setting these kids straight! Young teens have so many misconceptions about sex.

Oh middle school health. I remember sitting in the back and being MORTIFIED. I was just so shy and talking about periods in front of boys made me want to die.

High school was worse! We had to watch a video that showed a woman giving birth. I mean, it showed everything. And some pretty graphic sex stuff. I'm still scarred haha.