How to Teach Sex Ed (Tips for Beginners)

  • When it comes to sex education, you’ve got a big job to do. It goes beyond identifying body parts and defining consent. The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) defines comprehensive sex ed as that which “addresses the socio-cultural, biological, psychological, and spiritual dimension of sexuality […].”

    Luckily, community is important in this field. Colleagues are invaluable for brainstorming, feedback, and support. To get you started, I’ve gathered tips from incredible sex educators via in-person, telephone, and email interviews. You’ll find tools to use, things they wish they had known, and advice for doing the best teaching possible.

    Leslie Kantor, MPH Planned Parenthood Federation of America

    • Facilitate a lesson in front of a few peers who will give you honest feedback about your body language, tone of voice, clarity, and other facilitation skills. Highlight what went well and what needs improvement.
    • Define very clear learning objectives and continually steer the lesson back to these. Choose content and activities that will meet these objectives. In other words – you need to have a roadmap and be a good driver.

    Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States

    • Give your students both information and the “opportunity to explore their own and society’s attitudes and values and to develop or strengthen social skills.”[1]

    Adjoa Tetteh, MA CHES

    • Push yourself to continue learning how to be more engaging, inclusive, affirming, and thoughtful of how social justice issues intersect with people’s ability to express, learn, and explore their sexuality.

    Linda Kirkman, MHS,  La Trobe University

    • Use concepts and language that support sex, gender and sexuality diversity rather than the binary.

    Christopher Hook, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

    • Talk to kids like they are adults […] Play an empowering role by acknowledging the sensitivity and awkwardness that comes with addressing these topics while confidently moving forward and normalizing them.

    Liore Klein, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

    • Answer all questions respectfully, straightforwardly, and factually. The student probably desperately needs the answer. If you don’t know, admit it, find out, and report back.

    Andrea Renae, www.andrearenae.net

    • Provide an easy way for students to apply the information you’ve given them as soon as possible after class. Handout with key points and/or exercised are a great option and can be printed or emailed.

    Bianca Laureano, www.BiancaLaureano.com

    • To have a community member call you out/hold you accountable it is a gift. When you are wrong, and you are held accountable, corrected, and have the opportunity to apologize and learn, take it!
    • Don’t be afraid of the silence. Thinking is hard work especially as it is connected to un/learning! When your students sit quietly in class after you’ve asked a question and you give them time to think, that is ok.

    Kate McCombs, MPH www.katemccombs.com

    • The emotional container you create in a room is more important than knowing all the answers. Focus your energy on creating safe space and finding answers together.

    Perhaps the most important thing you can do is be open to learning new concepts and teaching techniques. The sex ed community is always available for guidance and support so don’t be afraid to reach out. At the end of the day, providing accurate information and a safe space to explore these often still taboo topics is the best thing you can do in your role.

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