What can I do to make this experience easier and more enjoyable?
Talking with students about sexuality can be difficult for many teachers. Since sexuality is intimately connected to personal values, family backgrounds and spiritual beliefs, it can be a sensitive issue. The following recommendations will help make the experience more enjoyable for both teachers and students.
Increase Your Comfort Level
Try to develop a healthy attitude towards your own sexuality.
Identify your own values and possible reactions toward different subjects on sexuality.
Read, think, plan and familiarize yourself with the topic. Read through the information provided in Sexuality Information For Teachers. The more you know, the more comfortable you will be.
Prepare yourself for student questions. Practice answering questions before you do so in front of your class.
Spend some time thinking about your feelings, ideas and values regarding sexuality. Think about the messages you want to send to your students and how you will impart this information. Consider which of those are private and personal, and which are appropriate to share with your students.
Be An Open-Minded Facilitator
Acquire a basic knowledge of sexuality so that your class may benefit from your expertise. Yet, remember that your knowledge is less important then your attitude towards sexuality. Creating a classroom in which students feel safe and free to ask questions is crucial.
Be student-centred and address different learning styles.
Be sensitive to non-verbal communication and react positively to questions.
Ask participants about what they would like to learn.
Encourage self-confidence and decision-making skills.
Use humour (when appropriate) to ease embarrassment and create a comfortable environment.
Establish A Healthy Classroom Environment
Create an atmosphere of trust in which all students can be themselves.
Be sensitive towards the attitudes, values and feelings of others.
Respect the values and beliefs of people from all cultural communities.
Communicate with warmth and sincerity. Share positive feedback with students whenever possible.
Be capable of discretion should students decide to confide in you.
Do not be afraid to express discomfort.
Listen carefully to your students' questions, concerns, worries and thoughts.
Value your students' opinions and realise they may change over time. Avoid criticising students' opinions.
Answer questions honestly when you know the correct answer.
When you do not possess accurate information regarding a topic, research the answer and report back to your students at a later date.
The best thing you can do before teaching a sexuality class is to adequately prepare yourself for the task. As with most things, proper preparation makes a big difference. With it, you can make this experience much more enjoyable - for you and for the students. Focus on giving your students the information they need and want to know. Stress the interconnectedness of the physical, emotional and social components of adolescent development.
Ask For Help, If You Need It
There are tremendous resources available for you. For more information on sexuality, please feel free to visit our website at www.peelsexualhealth.ca. For further support, or to have your questions answered, please call Peel Public Health at 905-799-7700 and ask for Sexual Health. A Public Health Nurse will be happy to answer your questions between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
Remember Your Important Role As A Sexuality Educator
Teens are very curious about sexuality - and knowledge satisfies this curiosity. Young people will continue to ask questions as long as they feel they need answers. Teachers are extremely important sexuality educators and can provide relevant and helpful information to students - helping them to grow into confident and sexually healthy adults.