Sunday, February 26, 2012


I have been trying to introduce my middle school students into my world of human sexuality.  Since I teach Family and Consumer Sciences, I can do this by including it under the umbrella of personal development lesson plans. This past year I began including sexting as one of my topics. This has been a challenge for numerous reasons.  First off, in my portion of FCS, I am in charge of teaching students how to sew, along with personal development, finance, consumerism, and relationships.  When I finish my sewing lessons, students always say, “why are we doing this? This is sewing”, to which I always respond, “Well this is Family and Consumer Sciences class and the State of Pennsylvania requires that along with sewing and cooking, students should also learn about this.” I’m like a broken record. Then I run into the challenges of having a very quiet class in which no one wants to talk about sexting with their teacher.  Or I have the challenge of having a group of overly sexed middle schools who want to talk about more than sexting and we get off topic.

I like to leave the discussion relaxed and open. If a student does not feel comfortable talking about the subject of sexting, I do not force him/her to. Learning about the sensitive and personal subject of sexuality thrives best in an atmosphere that promotes cooperation and dialogue with peers, consideration of one’s values and attitudes, and practice of new and old skills (Hedepeth & Helmich, 1996). I set up the chairs in a circle so everyone is seen and heard with no problems. It also helps me to see all students and no one can hide behind anyone else.

To help combat against some of these challenges, I established a “script” to help me if I get stuck with silence or we get off topic. This link covers most of the topics I like to discuss with my students.
(Shout out for Ashton and Canada). I like to make the subject of sexting relevant to the students so we discuss recent sexting news reports with celebrities and the average population. It’s important to get the students interested and talking about people they see on TV, it’s how I get their attention and let them know I know what’s going on in their world.

We also discuss the schools rules on sexting, sexual harassment, and technology in the student discipline book. After looking at the school rules, we move into laws in various states. This website has been helpful for me in comparing state

Finally we do scenarios about what the students should do if someone sexts you, how a sexting situation should be handled, and what the students think a possible consequence should be.

In ending the lesson, I ask the students if they have someone at the school they feel comfortable with to go to if a sexting issue were to come up.  Sometimes I have students who feel comfortable going to at least one adult and others who can’t think of one person in the school, but they have people at home. I also like to remind students they can come to me if they want to discuss anything.

I really enjoy teaching this lesson because it gives me a taste of sexuality in a Family and Consumer Sciences environment and it teaches students about technology, privacy, and lasting affects when dealing with sexting.

Hedgepeth, E., & Helmich, J. (1996). Teaching about sexuality and HIV: Principles and methods for effective education. New York, NY: NYU Press.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Co-facilitation Tips

As I begin my journey transforming from a reading teacher to a sexuality educator, I am both excited and terrified.  As part of my practicum experience, I will have the opportunity to receive training through observation and co-facilitation.  I feel an important part of learning is being able to learn from those who have more experience than I do.  Co-facilitation is an excellent way for me to get experience as well as learn the ins and outs of the organization and their goals.  Not only am I building a name for myself as a sexuality educator, I am also representing the organization.  While I want to jump right in and begin teaching on my own, I know that training through co-facilitation is an important step on my journey to becoming a sexuality educator.

Co-facilitating can be a highly effective and advantageous method of delivering instruction.  However, it can also be tricky navigating different teaching/presenting styles, boundaries and planning.  Before my first co-facilitation experience, I checked out several articles and websites about co-facilitating, including an article by Kevin Eikenberry and Everywoman's Center  There are steps that can be taken to help co-facilitating run more smoothly.

I had a great experience co-facilitating recently at a presentation to a small group of college students.  Before we began our lesson, everything had been completely planned and it was clear who was presenting which section.  Going into the presentation, I had a good sense of how my co-facilitator typically presented information.  My style is different than hers, so before introducing a different way of presenting, I shared my ideas about how I wanted to conduct my parts of the lesson.  Good communication is needed for instruction and transitions to go easily.  Not only should communication happen before the presentation, but it should happen during and after as well.  There should be constant communication throughout the presentation.  One recommendation is to create a signal before the presentation designed to get the others' attention.  Sometimes during a presentation, while one facilitator is presenting, the other jumps in to say something, interrupting the flow of instruction.  Another tip is to ask the other person if there is anything to add after completing instruction.  This is essential before beginning co-facilitation because it sets rules and boundaries for each facilitator.  By doing this, presenters can help each other and create a stronger lesson, rather than wok against each other.

Throughout the presentation, I stood to the side so that I was not a distraction to the students.  Since there can be so many different distractions within any presentation, it is important that the co-facilitator does not add to them by rustling papers or standing visually in the way of the other presenter.  I feel it would be unprofessional for me to have a side conversation or be an obvious distraction during my co-facilitator's presentation.  Additionally, I was able to assist her when handouts needed to be distributed, which allowed her to continue teaching and presenting information.  By assisting her, the presentation was able to flow well.

Every teacher has a different teaching personality and persona.  I know that I will not be able to reach every member of the audience because not all personalities relate to one another.  By co-facilitating, there are two personalities and styles that will hopefully reach more students.  Not only that, but there are two "experts" to help answer questions and guide discussions.  While having two different personalities can be difficult to navigate, with good communication, two teaching styles are implemented, which can help reach a variety of learners.

Since I feel as though I am still in the process of training, I found myself looking more to my co-facilitator rather than being certain of myself and my abilities.  As Eikenberry pointed out, there is a higher level of comfort through co-facilitation.  I think that is certainly true for me as a novice within sexuality education.  My co-facilitator was fully supportive and encouraging of my presentation.  When I studied education in undergraduate, there is an opportunity for student teaching; however, the experience felt isolated and not inclusive of the whole teaching experience.  Co-facilitation allows me the opportunity to receive training, support and guidance before being independent in the field.  I will be more fully equipped to handle situations when I am teaching on my own through this organization because of the training through co-facilitation.  Co-facilitation can be a great way to train new employees and interns, as well as provide an effective way to conduct presentations.

Monday, February 13, 2012

How to Teach Your Kids about S-E-X

Parents often have a hard time talking to their children about sex for many reasons. Some parents may, understandably, feel a little embarrassed to talk to their child about sexuality. Other parents might worry that they don’t have all the right answers or that even talking about sex may encourage or promote sexual behavior. To help combat these common issues with discussing sexuality with your children, here are some helpful guidelines.

Since sexual development is something that humans experience across the lifespan, there’s no need to wait until the child is an older teen to have the first "sex talk", which is when many teens may already be sexually active. By having many small conversations about sexuality throughout their childhood, you are not only giving them important factual information, but also helping them to develop their own personal values, and giving them the confidence to make responsible and healthy decisions throughout their adolescence and beyond. This strategy will also make talking about sex much easier as they get older, and you can avoid the often daunting task of having one big "talk" later.

Even young children can learn some of the basics, such as the proper names for their genitals. Using made-up names like “pee pee” might sound cute, but may also reinforce the idea that our genitals are something shameful or "dirty" that we’re not supposed to talk about. As parents, we don’t usually teach our children improper names for other body parts like their knees or elbows, so it just makes sense to teach them the correct terms for their genitals, as well. It is also important for kids to possess the right language to be able to clearly tell an adult if they are experiencing a medical issue, or if they have been sexually abused.

Children are also curious and will discover their own bodies - including their genitals. It may be shocking or make parents a little uncomfortable, but its important not to yell at or punish your child for exploring their own body. This is a totally normal part of childhood development. It is alright, however, to teach your child that this is something that should be done in private.

If your child asks a question about sex, try not to give an answer that’s overly complicated or you might lose them completely. Try to keep your responses simple and age-appropriate. Also, make sure you are answering the question they asked! There’s an old joke where a child comes home from school and says, “Mom, where did I come from?” So the mom launches into a lengthy biological lecture all about sperm, eggs, and fertilization. The confused child says “Oh…Sally said she was from Ohio, so I was just wondering where I came from”. Usually, a very simple answer will satisfy a child’s curiosity. If they want more information, they’ll ask.

Using teachable moments is another helpful strategy. Simply be on the look-out for opportunities in your everyday life to bring up sexuality. Sexuality is everywhere! For example, maybe you see a pregnant woman walking down the street, or perhaps a relative is expecting a baby. You can use this opportunity to ask your child what they might already know about pregnancy, or questions they may have about how a baby develops, where babies come from, or about different types of families. If you are the parent of a teen, take advantage of commercials for contraceptives that come on TV, or even an episode of MTV's "Teen Mom", to talk to your teen about the importance of waiting to have sex until they're ready, or how they can avoid becoming a pregnant teen themselves.

Lastly, try to remain calm and stay positive! It can be intimidating or even a little scary when your child approaches you with questions about sex. Remember that if you become angry or visibly upset by their questions, your child may regret asking you, and probably won’t approach you or trust you with another difficult question again. This reaction will also give them the impression that sex is shameful, wrong, and shouldn’t be talked about. Also remember that if your children aren’t getting this information from you, they will likely look elsewhere, such as from their friends or other sources that might give them inaccurate or even harmful information.

It’s also easy for parents to focus only on the negative consequences of sexuality such as STIs and unplanned pregnancy, but you should also be sure to talk to your son or daughter about the positive aspects of sexuality, such as closeness and intimacy, pleasure, being in love, and even health benefits. Parents may be concerned that by discussing the positives of sex, they may be encouraging their son or daughter to engage in sexual behavior. Research has shown, however, that children whose parents communicate positively with them about sexuality are more likely to delay sexual activity and to make responsible decisions when they do become sexually active(Breuss & Greenberg, 2004). Regular positive communication about sexuality is the key to guiding your children's growth into confident, healthy, and happy sexual beings.

For more information, check out the following resources:

Planned Parenthood

Advocates for Youth

Breuss, C., & Greenberg, J. (2004). Sexualtiy Education: Theory and practice (4th Ed.). Boston: Jones & Bartlett.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Testing the cultural waters before you cannonball into the pool

Recently, I have been very curious and interested in a supermarket called Supermercado Montery close to where I work. Apparently, they have fantastically tasty and cheap homemade tortillas, freshly made churros (a deep fried sugary cinnamony pastry), awesome fajita meat for a fair price and other culinary delights that are absolutely unavailable in the supermarkets I frequently visit. Being a bit of a foodie, this place seems as if it would really strike my fancy. What’s holding me back from charging in there and dropping some dough to get some warm tortillas? Fear. Although I am very familiar with the Texas Hispanic cultural, I’m still scared to walk into this place alone because it would be incredibly obvious that I wasn’t one of them (and most likely the only one in there like this). What if they don’t speak English? What if I offend somebody? How will I get my beloved churros?? If I could just have a Hispanic guide to walk with me the first time it wouldn’t be so daunting thereafter.

These feelings of fear are not unlike those that exist for some Sexuality Educators teaching to cultures not of their own. What if you use unfamiliar terms? What if you accidentally offend somebody? How will you convey the importance of learning about sexuality related topics?? For me, having a cultural “guide” to help me test the waters would greatly increase my confidence and comfort level with the population. So far, this has come in the form of completing a needs assessment. Utilizing the Gateshead Needs Grid has been successful in helping me gather information and applicable knowledge about the potential population. However, being a culturally competent educator is not solely based on the amount of knowledge one has about various cultures. Perez and Luquis (2008) state that the Joint Committee on Health Education and Promotion defines cultural competence as “the ability of an individual to understand and respect values, attitudes, beliefs, and mores that differ across cultures, and to consider and respond appropriately to these differences in planning, implementing, and evaluating health education and promotion programs and interventions” (p. 46).

We (meaning me) get so caught up in our fears of not having enough knowledge that we forget about what’s really important. As long as we keep an open mind, stay prepared, respect others, and remember to ask questions we will be just fine. It’s okay if we look stupid and mess up sometimes. More than likely it is going to happen anyways. Both education and experience are important when teaching sexuality, but for beginners like me the experience part can be a little intimidating, especially if you are in unfamiliar waters. It is important to test the waters, but sooner or later you’re going to have to cannonball in. Even though you may look a little silly it doesn’t take away from the awesomeness that is your cannonball! And, you won’t really know how cool it is until you try it.

Time for some churros!

Perez, M. A., & Luquis, R. R. (2008) Cultural competence in health education and health promotion. New York, NY: Jossey-Bass, Inc.