1. Sex, Dating, & Relationships, 6. Youth Development & Education

My Work

I currently teach health in a public middle school, and just today spent two classes with seventh graders explaining the anatomy of the male and female reproductive systems. “Why do we need to learn this?” the students often ask. Variations on this question include, “why do we need to learn about both males and females?” and “why do we need to learn this in school?”

I’m hoping to empower them. I explain that this information will help them care for themselves and their relationships — that at some point in the future they will want to be familiar with their friend’s and/or their partner’s reproductive system. I tell them that I want them to discuss it with me, at school, because I want them to have the opportunity to develop a positive attitude towards bodies, to hear from someone who doesn’t consider it weird or gross, and to ask questions of someone who is excited to provide answers.

On www.ratemyteachers.com, one of my students wrote about me, “She is a little weird how she talks about things with both boys and girls together and it looks like she enjoys it but otherwise she is a good friend?” Today, in a similar vein, a student asked me to my face if I enjoy teaching this topic.

“Yes,” I wanted to shout, “this is the best thing ever! I wish I had more time at you so I can teach you in more detail, make up many more activities, and ensure your mastering the information.” I didn’t say all that, but I did clearly affirm that I do enjoy it, and that’s why I teach it.

And why shouldn’t I? Is it weird to enjoy my students’ discomfort — or is it thrilling to open up a conversation with them that they’ve never had before quite this way? Is it wrong to be able to say words like vagina and penis with steady calm, or is it beautiful to make room for young adolescents to air their confusion and concern?

Maybe doing this work is weird in that it’s unusual, but I think that is one of its most important qualities. I believe that it’s thrilling, beautiful and fun. I’m in the zone while I’m doing it. And I’m convinced that most of the time my students are enjoying it, too.

1. Sex, Dating, & Relationships, 6. Youth Development & Education

My Dream

I believe in sexuality education as a site of social transformation. By talking about our bodies, our relationships, our desires, and the restrictions and pressures on all of these, we have the opportunity to develop new ideas and ways of thinking that will change our lives and our society. In order to embark upon this project, we need to transform our conception of sexuality education. We must move beyond the debate between information and abstinence-based curriculum and reach for new paradigms in structure, pedagogy, and content. We will transform sexuality education so that sexuality education can in turn transform us. We will develop and articulate new values to guide us. We can achieve love, freedom, agency, and a system of support for the health and wellbeing of all. I strive for social change. Please strive with me.