Sex education is an entirely different realm of teaching than reviewing math problems or discovering history.
Students are often uncomfortable about the subject. This means the teacher needs to be patient yet engaging. It takes a certain level of skill to communicate the right information and get students comfortable talking about sex.
The value of this goes beyond a productive conversation. In fact, some may argue it is more important than a letter grade.
Teaching safe sex education gives students the tools to understand their bodies. It takes on deep subjects like sexuality, consent, and the new levels of responsibility sex introduces.
If you are teaching sex education for the first time, expect to have a learning curve.
Here are five things you can do to make the process more comfortable and effective for you and your classroom.
1. Understand Your Students
Talking about safe sex is not cookie cutter.
Think about how old your students are and the maturity level you can expect from them.
If your students are a little on the younger side, you can expect this to be their first encounter with safe sex education. Older students though, like those in high school, may have already had some sex talks.
Understanding your students also means thinking about their religious and cultural backgrounds.
Talking about safe sex education in a private Catholic school will be much different than teaching at a public school. As much as you want to provide the facts, you have to respect certain cultural boundaries.
Be prepared to adapt to different ages and customs. Your flexibility will be appreciated and help you reach your students better.
2. Create a Safe Space
Once you have a grasp of the group you will be working with, create a safe space.
Talking about sex can be seen as a taboo topic, so this will help move the class along through the tough spots.
Show your students it’s normal to have questions about the way everything works. Tell them there is no judgment when it comes to understanding the rights and wrongs of safe sex education.
Establish expectations for the way the conversations will go, too.
Lay down the law from the start about crude jokes. Be sure to let every student know they have a voice and should use it in a respectful, relevant manner.
Remember you have a responsibility to be upfront about certain things as well. Warn students about graphic images as you talk about risks and diseases.
It can be as simple as saying, “the next slides show the consequences of STD statistics that will shock you.” This eases the blow of the visuals. More importantly, it helps make large statistics relevant.
When students see the real-life risks of STDs and unprotected sex, they will become more engaged in the conversation.
3. Provide Understandable Examples
Even though you need to be upfront about the facts, try to be as clear as possible.
Don’t just throw out slideshows and statistics.
Tell students what can happen to them if they aren’t careful.
Remind them it only takes one time to live with permanent consequences for the rest of their life. Yet, do so in a way that makes them ready to take on responsibility, not afraid.
Be prepared to answer questions about getting tested and interacting with new partners. The more time you spend on these topics, the more students will see that sex is not just a fun activity. It’s something to treat with respect for both their body and the other person.
Talk about the warning signs of sexual harassment or abuse. Make sure everyone in the room understands their options when it comes to sexual health.
4. Prepare to Enter the Grey Area
Sometimes, safe sex education can cross into a grey area when talking about sexual health.
Health is not always about disease protection or contraceptives. It can be about sexual identity and abuse, too.
Traditional sex education talks about intercourse between a male and female. The LGBTQ community is not always included in the conversation.
But, their questions and experiences matter. Talking about different situations in a classroom can help raise understanding between different lifestyles. It reminds each student to be comfortable in their own skin, and respect the choices of others as well.
Other grey areas in sex education can be the levels of consent and how to say “no”. Girls and boys alike need guidance in knowing how to respect their own bodies and their partner’s.
Everyone has a role to play in the prevention of transmitted diseases and abuse.
The more you open these topics up for discussion, the better your students will be able to handle making the right choice.
5. Practice Your Lessons
Talking about sex can be uncomfortable for the teacher as well as the students.
You may be nervous about being “cool enough” or at least being able to relate to your class. Calm your nerves by going through your lesson plan thoroughly. Practice how you will deliver some of the lighter and tougher information.
Prepare to answer the tough questions.
Sometimes this might be as simple as referring students to another source that’s more knowledgeable on certain topics. Other times, you may find yourself in a situation of sharing personal stories about sex.
Whatever your nerves are, confront them before meeting your students. You should be confident and ready to talk about the issues. Otherwise, how can you expect your students to be?
Learning is a team effort – and it starts with you.
Safe sex education does not have to be something to shy away from. It can be an empowering experience for everyone in the class when you come prepared. Get ready to deliver the facts as well as the support necessary.
The rest will be up to your students as they make their own decisions when the time comes.
More Tricks for Teaching Safe Sex Education
The last tip to having a successful safe sex education course is to find what teaching style works for you.
Try to have a mix of discussions and lectures. This lets you relay the facts and gives students an opportunity to raise their concerns, too. The more you practice and get confident in your approach, the better the course will go.
To get an idea of where to begin, keep up with our teaching tips and tricks.