Why teacher training is incredibly important when it comes to sex ed.
As a former teacher, I know there’s nothing more surprising than asking your students at the end of the semester, “So what did you learn in this class?”
You learn quickly that oftentimes what you thought would be the takeaway, is not the takeaway. Students instead remember weird stories or the one-crazy-exception-to-the-rule or they remember the unfortunate fashion choice their instructor made (hey, I thought the peplum was coming back in style…).
This being said, I know I can’t give an accurate account of my school-based sex ed in full, but I can report on the first time it was introduced.
It was traumatic. It was embarrassing. It was so middle school.
Given our collective penchant for high drama and hyperbole, we all knew what was about to happen when they separated the boys from the girls, hauled us girls into the cafeteria, and brought in the local doctor.
Responses to our guest speaker ranged from “Oh my god! How embarrassing!” to postures of experience to downward turned eyes hiding behind a wall of long hair.
But one underlying emotion we shared as middle schoolers was curiosity. We thought we knew, but we weren’t sure.
Our speaker began: “So what do you want to know?”
“I can’t answer your questions unless you ask them.”
Our speaker was obviously frustrated and reiterated her question with increasing belligerence for the next hour.
I was disappointed. Was this it? Was this the big talk? I picked up a saucy (more than likely incorrect) detail or two from my fellow classmates, but I was hoping for something a bit more…thorough. How was I supposed to know what I didn’t know?
The hour passed and my takeaway at the end was not to douche.
The lesson here? Teaching sex ed is difficult, it requires training. We shouldn’t assume a specialist in health necessarily knows how to *teach* sex ed. And we shouldn’t assume that teachers already know enough about reproductive health to teach sex ed. We need to prepare teachers for the difficult and necessary task of teaching our children how to prevent pregnancy and protect themselves from STDs.