That got your attention! Isn’t this fun?
But seriously, sex is the issue at hand – more specifically, sex ed. And this is a bit of a rant, so buckle in.
I’ve been reading some articles on teaching and education in other countries, and I came across this article from Kathmandu, Nepal: “Sex education? Teachers say sorry!” I think that, despite the distance, the issues addressed in this story are very much relevant to teachers in Canada. The article, for those who don’t feel like reading it, is essentially about how both teachers and students in Nepal are so embarrassed by sex ed that it isn’t really being taught. Whether or not the result is directly related, the country is seeing a rather alarming rise in teen pregnancy and related issues.
I find this subject both interesting and disturbing. I find it interesting because I understand entirely how the situation came about. Normally the subject of sex does not particularly embarrass me. However, it’s easy to say that when I have never had to face a class of nervous/giggling/dead-eyed kids, who have prepared for the class either by thinking up the most obnoxious questions imaginable or by trying to spontaneously combust so that they don’t have to endure that class. During my first sex ed experience in the fifth grade I was definitely in the second category. I was ten years old and there were some very awkward diagrams going up on the viewscreen. I would have given anything to burst into flame just then, and I don’t imagine it was much more fun for the poor teachers who had to give the lessons.
The thing is, though, that I can no longer address issues like this from a student’s perspective. From a student’s perspective, I can say that yes, I understand where the teachers in Nepal are coming from – sex is not something that is generally discussed in public, in large groups, and especially not between teachers and students. That has a weird, icky feeling all over it. According to almost every professor I’ve talked to at university, almost every future teacher will eventually be in charge of pretty much every grade and subject imaginable, whether or not they major or minor in them. I understand that in an abstract kind of way (aka I won’t believe it until it actually happens), but I think that unless you actually choose to take training as a health teacher, nobody ever really expects to have to teach sex ed – myself included.
From the perspective of a teacher, however, this is an entirely different issue, and one that I find disturbing in the extreme. I believe that children are more precious than blood or gold or all the power in the world. That doesn’t mean I like them all the time – the really tiny ones make me nervous, and I will never pretend otherwise – but it does mean that I value them very highly, especially as a future teacher.
Teachers have one of the most difficult jobs in the world: caring for the young. Part of that job is giving them the understanding, confidence, and abilities they need in order to direct their own futures. And, whether we like it or not, the darling little children we are teaching today will one day become grown men and women, the majority of whom will at some point engage in sexual activity. That is a part of human existence, and sooner or later it will be a part of their lives. Their futures are in our hands, and if we don’t give them the tools and information they will need as adults, then we have failed miserably in our duty.
All of this comes down to one simple fact: teaching is not an easy profession, but it is one of the most important. Teachers build people, every day, in everything they do and say, and if any part of that makes you so squeamish that you neglect a portion of your construction work, you should not be doing that job. You are not a student anymore. Teachers don’t get to say, “My dog ate my homework.” Teachers don’t get to say, “I was really busy this week, so I didn’t do the assignment.” Most of all, teachers don’t get to say, “But I don’t WANT to!”
I’m not going to pretend that I’m perfect, or that I will be the best teacher ever. I have a long way to go before I can face the stares of a classroom full of children, and without flinching introduce them to a subject they would rather die than learn about. But I can say for sure that when the time comes, even if I do flinch, even if it’s awkward, and even if I feel like I would rather die than teach them that chapter, I will do what needs to be done, because that is what teachers are for.
I’m going to be a teacher someday, and I don’t get to make excuses.