Sunday, December 09, 2007

Middle School / Sex Ed

All I'll say regarding an apology for being quiet so long is that, like so many other teachers, I've just not been making the time to sit down and reflect on what's going on.

But then on Friday I wanted my 7th graders to spend some time reflecting on what I'd taught them in Moral Education about Sex and Relationships. And, the best way to get 18 twelve year-olds to do something quiet like write or read for an extended period of time is for the teacher to do it, too. So, I sat down with them to write out my own reflection on the unit. Here it is.


I learned...
"Normal is different for everyone." That's the main point of a sex-ed video we watched together, and it really is true. Some of these 7th graders are already acting out on their crushes and dating and kissing, but they won't hold hands in school. The 8th graders, well, are some of them experimenting with anything further than that? Probably. 6th, they're really still in primary, still for the most part oblivious to it all.

Another eye opener is how much talking about sex embarrasses them. Can't get through a single lesson without at some point the class dissolving into laughter. I will never forget about the stories they came up with when I introduced our two imaginary classmates, Jimmy Chan and Gloria Ng, so that we could talk about specific situations without putting anyone on the spot. The students decided that they met outside of the restroom. Huh? Then, there was the time I asked them if they thought that Jimmy & Gloria should think about having sex. K__ shouted out at the top of his lungs "YES!", then fell out of his chair because he was laughing so hard.

But they aren't just embarrassed in front of the opposite sex. For about 20 minutes one lesson we split into boys and girls, and the boys went nuts. One of them brought up masturbation - in Canto slang, "shooting the airplane". The whole 20 minutes was spent with them laughing and making "firing" motions from their crotch.

I have to come to the conclusion that with this age group, there's really no possibility of a serious conversation about sex, at least not in a group setting. The point of the unit needs to be to give them answers to the questions they aren't willing to ask in front of their peers, or, as Doc J, my 12th grade religion & moral ed teacher always said, "Give answers to the questions they aren't asking yet".

In their journals, and one on one, they're willing to ask more of the questions that they won't share in front of their peers. We're moving on from sex ed to other topics - right now it's something brief on families - but I'll always let them ask questions about the topics we've already discussed. So I'll wait and see if any of our previous topics, like smoking or drugs or sex ed, come up throughout the rest of the year.


To any readers - what do you think? Does my approach sound right? Do you have any recollections from middle school, that twisted and confusing time, that jibe with what I'm saying here?