By Jamie Zane
According to the theory of Self-Efficacy, if a person perceives that they do not have the ability to do something (and have fears of accomplishment as a result), they will be less likely to participate in the behavior (Bandura, 1983). I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the power of having high self-efficacy – that if I believe that I possess the capabilities of doing something, I have a much stronger chance of accomplishing that goal.
I have spent the last six months working on developing a curriculum for a community nonprofit organization. The primary role of this agency is to advocate for children survivors of sexual abuse. Because I have over six years of experience as a rape crisis counselor and have predominantly worked with adolescents and adults, I was drawn to work with this agency as a way of expanding my knowledge of sexual violence, the impact of sexual abuse on communities and families, and strategies for increasing the effectiveness of prevention education.
And now I have a confession to make. The agency has been working on a pilot prevention education program for third graders in our community since I started working with them in September. Here comes that confession: I am not excited about working with children.
I wondered to myself at the very beginning – how am I going to pull this off? I thought about all of the reasons why children have not been my preferred audience and many of these reasons are quite rational. I don’t have much experience with kids – other than the experience I had as a kid growing up around other kids. I was an only child of a single mom who is also an only child. Most of my friends have either decided not to have kids or have waited until later in life to start a family. I do have three different friends with kids, but I so rarely get to see them that I find myself feeling awkward around their children when I do get the opportunity to spend time with them.
I did babysit for a very brief period of time in high school, but decided that it wasn’t for me and went into the restaurant industry. As a waitress, I’ve worked in many different types of environments that ranged from casual, hip restaurants to extremely attentive fine-dining restaurants. Most places where I’ve worked have not been very kid friendly. In fact, I can’t even remember a time when I’ve worked at a place that offered a special menu just for children.
When I first began the process of assisting with the local community partner agency, I was allowed to participate in assisting with the presenters in the actual third grade classes. I found this to be interesting to be around the kids, but extremely overwhelming. My self-efficacy in regards to teaching children is very low – and simply knowing this about myself hasn’t been a strong enough motivator to create any change.
I do feel that sexual abuse prevention education is very important and should be taught to children in the classroom setting. Although studies have shown that many parents believe that child sexual abuse education should be taught at home, it is also evident in research that most parents are too uncomfortable to discuss sexuality with their children and lack the information or resources to properly conduct these conversations (Kenny, Vjolca, Thakkar-Kolar, Ryan, & Runyon, 2008).
So how did I turn this low self-efficacy around, you may wonder? I realized that for the moment it is more important for me to work with an audience that I feel more comfortable around. Since I have much more experience with adolescents and adults, I focused on building a curriculum that is designed for adult learners. My self-efficacy is much higher in regards to teaching that population and therefore I have much more confidence in my abilities to plan lessons with appropriate rationales for participants who are not children.
According to child abuse prevention organization Stop It Now (2008), adults miss opportunities on a daily basis to prevent child sexual abuse because of stereotypes and misinformation about sexual abuse; therefore it is important for adults to learn to converse with other adults about this topic to better ensure the safety of children (p.2). I decided that I would focus on building a community coalition of adults who work with children in various capacities that could, with proper training, become advocates for children. The rationale is that if adults are working with children as child care providers, teachers, youth-service facilitators, and parents (especially), they have a vested interest in the well-being and protection of children.
There has been research on the topic of teacher self-efficacy, but I have found that most studies on this topic involve the impact of self-efficacy on the stress level and job satisfaction of teachers Klassen, R. M., & Chiu, M. (2010). I would argue that for a teacher to increase effectiveness as an educator, it is important to know oneself first in order to gauge where they are high on the self-efficacy scale and where they may fall short. Gaining teaching experience over time increases self-efficacy in the classroom overall, but it is much easier to start with a population in which one is already comfortable working with in general. It is already nerve-wracking enough to begin a career as a teacher. Why make the job even more difficult?
Bandura, A. (1983). Self-efficacy determinants of anticipated fears and calamities. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 45(2), 464-469.
Kenny, M., Vjolca, C., Thakkar-Kolar, R., Ryan, E., & Runyon, M. (2008). Child sexual abuse: from prevention to self-protection. Child Abuse Review, 17, 36-54.
Klassen, R. M., & Chiu, M. (2010). Effects on Teachers' Self-Efficacy and Job Satisfaction: Teacher Gender, Years of Experience, and Job Stress. Journal of Educational Psychology, 102(3), 741-756. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Stop It Now. (2008). Prevent child sexual abuse: facts about sexual abuse and how to prevent it. The Safer Society Press: Brandon, VT. Retrieved from: www.stopitnow.org/sites/stopitnow...com/files/.../Prevent_CSA.pdf