Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Como se dice "vulva?"

As many of you know, tomorrow I begin my (hopefully long) career as a sexuality educator. I could barely stand the fact that I was even considered for this position before graduating. As my start date got closer and closer, I started to wonder exactly how affective of an educator can I really be for the Latino community. I am fluent in Spanish, I lived a huge chunk of my childhood in Mexico, and my home was practically a little Mexico! But by all accounts, I am as American as rabid consumerism. I speak English more than anything else, I listen to horrible pop music, and I have Individualistic, American values. Am I trying to help the Latino community...or am I trying to change it? Irregardless, I'm going to take this position head on and provide Norristown with the sexuality education they need. Why? 52% of Latina Adolescents have been pregnant at least once by the time they're 20 years old. (I've never been a gambler, my mom is, and she still can't understand how I missed these odds).

I have other concerns as well.


While I can only speak for my cultural experience, Latinos as a whole are very curious about your background. Are you married? Do you have a boyfriend? Do you have kids? Where are you from? Where are your parents? --For the most part, I've gotten a lot of positive feedback from the Latino community about the work that I do. However, every community is different. And every community is going to react differently to my lack of desire for children or marriage.


I am fluent in Spanish. I was raised speaking the language every day of my life. However, all of my formal schooling and training has been in English. I know a lot of the translation for scientific terms and I'm (in my opinion) rather good at translating the actual meaning vs translating word for word (ala google translate.) But will all of this equal an good Spanish-language sexuality educator? I guess we will see soon enough.

Questions for you:
Are there any populations that you assumed you would be a shoe-in to work with that you may be thinking twice about?

Are there any steps you have taken to overcome this?

If you speak a second language, do you think you could teach affective education in a way that is as meaningful as it would be in your primary language?


  1. HAHA great title! I think you are going to be amazing tomorrow!!! You need to believe in yourself and know that you have what many educators would deem "the best of both worlds." I have been wanting to be bilingual/speak Spanish since I started middle school and many of my friends were Puerto Rican, Mexican and Dominican. I hated feeling left out of the loop :( Even after taking 11 years of "school Spanish" I know that it has gotten me nowhere near where I want to be linguistically. But before I go on too much of a sad tangent - you said it yourself that you have lived in both spaces, learned from both cultural worlds, and it has made you the wonderful Blanca that you are :) I believe the experience you described with the culture clash between American and Latino ideals is not an uncommon experience for Latino teens and thus will connect you to your groups, not separate you from them.

    I used to think I would be great at educating college-aged students, mostly because I was just used to talking to my friends about their sexual health issues/questions, but I have found now that I'm actually better with people older than me - teachers and parents. With the college-aged groups, it just seems too close and I've felt like many of the groups view me as one of them and in turn don't value my knowledge in the field as much. With groups of parents I feel much more comfortable and the information just seems to flow better.

    The only way you're going to know if a population is a good match for you is to try it out and see how it goes. I think you're going to love working with promotores and your groups of teens :) I have full faith in you!!

  2. I agree with Bryce. You are going to be wonderful! In fact, you are probably being wonderful at this very moment.

    I think it is almost to your advantage that you have been a part of both cultures. You can help to bridge gaps while still respecting the differences.

    I can relate to you concerns about your personal life choices possibly having an effect on how you are viewed by the community. Just yesterday, while at work a patient was asking about my love life and did my usual playful question dodging. However, she eventually pointed out that I wasn’t wearing a ring and therefore must not be married. I admitted I was single. The cat was out of the bad. For the rest of the evening she kept trying to convince me that I ought to be married by now and that she had no use for my advice because I wasn’t even married yet.

    I think the trick, in your case, would be to just push through and prove how knowledgeable you are as a sexuality educator. Eventually, some learners will likely forget that you aren’t married or a mother and just take away the valuable information you are providing.

    I think the fact that you are so concerned just shows how aware you are of possible bumps in the road and how much you care about the quality of the education for this specific population. They are lucky to have you and we are all here to support you.

    Keep us posted!

  3. Hayyy, Blanquiiita... ;)

    I think that the concerns that you're having are healthy and normal for someone who is starting a new position and doesn't know what to expect. You may very well find that some of those fears come true, and that you're faced with having to educate yourself as you educate others (but, hey, that's what good teaching is!). But you may also find that it's easier to navigate these concerns than you thought. That's what trying something new is all about! And I know that you'll be amazing at this because you know how to put yourself out there and BE scared. You've got what it takes, for sure!

    I'm with you, though. I don't think that I would be a very good fit for teaching Italian-Americans at all, despite the fact that I was born and raised in a very Italian-American household, family, and neighborhood. My values differ greatly from those of the prototypical Italian-American (both traditionally and pop culturally), aside from valuing pizza, and I don't think that it's a population that I'd be able to get through to as well as I can with other populations. Perhaps I'm selling myself short, though.

    I think that once we find the population that fits (and I think that that population can be a huge surprise for us when we find it), we'll know, and therefore will continue to work with that population -- either out of comfort or genuine interest.


  4. So, Blanca, how did your first day go?! I'm with Melissa that your worries make complete sense the day before starting a new job. And they may not have gone away even after your first day, but I hope actually working with people has shown you that you'll do great!

    So much of our work as educators is about feeling our way through situations and learning from them. You may get some sexuality terminology wrong, and you may even turn some people off to what you're saying if you disclose that you don't want kids or to get married and they don't like that. But I'm willing to bet that A) you'll find a way to learn from those moments to make your education practice even better, and B) those moments won't be as common as you might fear.

    Remember how in HSED 643 we talked a lot about child development resulting in good outcomes as long as there are enough good experiences to outweigh the poor experiences--even "just" enough? I think it's the same with teaching. As long as enough of the language you use is good and you can forge enough of a connection with your audience for them to feel that you're a good source of information, then you're good to go. And I'm willing to bet that "enough" doesn't often require all that much. Because of any number of personal characteristics, abilities, and life experiences, you'll find ways to connect with your audience even if the totality of your identity doesn't perfectly match with theirs. And getting *some* help with terminology from your audience may, in some cases, help to make you more human to your audience and help create that connection.

  5. I'm so happy that you have found your dream job! Just know we are all here for support and encouragement!

    The only piece I can discuss on from your post is that of disclosure. I think when people ask intimate questions, they are just trying to relate with you somehow. The questions they think may be a bridge between you and them are probably close to their value system, especially if you are of the same culture or close in cultures. As we have discussed in a few classes, self-disclosure is not a bad thing. It can be quite beneficial at times.

    Don't underestimate yourself when it comes to judging that time you feel you should self-disclose. As educators, we constantly have the thought "Should I be doing this??" in the back of our minds. If you know there is a segway into a lesson or an actually learning moment in what you have to say about yourself, go for it. Trust that you know exactly what you are talking about and why you are talking about it. This enhances your credibility with students and also enhances the relationship.

  6. Great questions! I have some somewhat related issues with the idea of teaching conservative religious folks. On the one hand, I'm very culturally attuned to them, and I think I'd be able to teach them pretty effectively, and I do think there's a need for good sex education even if it stays within the extremely narrow boundaries of allowable behavior in those groups. Teaching a course for young newlyweds who actually did remain virgins into their 20s? It could help them a lot, and I'd be well-equipped to do it. Except that now I'm a total outsider and would probably have a difficult or impossible time winning trust, due to both my lifestyle and religious beliefs. It's a situation in which I'm culturally competent in terms of being able to fit in, speak the language, grok the values, etc., but not necessarily in terms of having personal attributes which would grant me credibility in that community.

    Anyway, that went fairly far afield of what you were asking about, but I think there are some related issues.

  7. I had a bit of a wake-up call a few weeks back teaching an undergrad population. I sat in and observed on the the GTAs in the Women and Gender Studies dept. give a quick sexual health lecture (condoms, STIs, and sexual health services), and I was very surprised by how much the undergrads already knew. I felt like I had been underestimating their abilities. Perhaps it was because I was not very knowledgeable at that age and neither were my friends.

    So this somewhat relates to your post, Blanca, because I assumed I would be great at working with undergrads, yet I am already feeling more detached from them. My solution is to just ask more questions during my lecture to see where they are at and teach from that point. Every class is different. Despite having taken the same class myself just 3-4 years ago, I cannot assume that their experience is/will be the same as mine.

    1. I guess I should mention that this solution is only for my situation. I am not dealing with a cultural issue like you are. Just asking them more questions isn't going to fix your issues of disclosure and language. But, if it helps, I couldn't imagine a better person to be doing the work your doing than you.