There has been some push back with the Grade 6 Human Development and Sexual Health curriculum. It is assumed that the topic of "masturbation" is discussed explicitly and even encouraged. This is not the case. The curriculum expectation in Grade 6 reads:
"Describe how they can build confidence and lay a foundation for healthy relationships by acquiring a clearer understanding of the physical, social, and emotional changes that occur during adolescence (e.g., physical: voice changes, skin changes, body growth; social: changing social relationships, increasing influence of peers; emotional: increased intensity of feelings, new interest in relationships with boys or girls, confusion and questions about changes)"
However, there is mention of "masturbation" in the teacher prompt, which acts as a guide to help teachers discuss the mandatory curriculum expectation. The prompt reads:
“Things like wet dreams or vaginal lubrication are normal and happen as a result of physical changes with puberty. Exploring one’s body by touching or masturbating is something that many people do and find pleasurable. It is common and is not harmful and is one way of learning about your body.”
I have my own interpretation of this teacher prompt. Puberty is marked by a (difficult and sometimes uncomfortable) time of change. Body pains and aches may begin, and the body undergoes rapid and unexpected changes. A way in which to better understand one's own body is to physically examine what is changing and how it makes them feel. This prompt is by no means encouraging students to engage in sexual behaviour, but rather acknowledges that it is perfectly normal to do so.
We need to start normalizing sexual health as it is a hugely important part of development and identity.
Best Practice Strategy for Teaching Sex Ed Series!
I am going to be posting different best practice strategies for teaching sex ed over the next few weeks.
Best practice strategy 1: Teacher comfort level
When teachers have more content knowledge about a given topic, in this case sex ed, the more comfortable you will be with the content. Let's use math as an example. If you don't know much about trigonometry, you will feel very nervous if you need to teach it, and as a result your teaching will not be as effective compared to a teacher who knows trigonometry and feels comfortable sharing it. The same applies to sex ed.
When teacher comfort level increases, students notice the shift - the class will be more relaxed and open to conversation. You will be less nervous and more prepared to enter topics you may have originally knew little about (and no one likes to feel under prepared!)
Set a goal for yourself to look up a different sexual health resource every week and build a repertoire of resources you can use to support your own sex ed learning, and in turn help your students!
Two of my personal favourite online resources are Planned Parenthood ("Learn" tab - https://www.plannedparenthood.org/) and SexualityandU (http://www.sexualityandu.ca/). Click on a different topic every week and learn something different about human development and sexual health!
Next best practice strategy will be posted this week.