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. http://www.canadianteachermagazine.com/ctm_life_skills/nov09_five_lessons.shtml%20
(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 http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/telecom/sexting-legislation-2011.aspx
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.