Friday, July 23, 2010

Sex Ed

When I was in high school, seeing a pregnant girl walking around the halls was shocking.  People would avoid making eye contact with her, and there would definitely be whispers.  That reaction makes sense to me--a pregnant teenager SHOULD be a shocking anomaly. 

At the high school I teach at now, it is completely normal to see pregnant students in the hall way.  Last year, I saw a student who must have been seven or eight months along making her way to class.  Another time, I went to the nurse's office to get clinic passes and got to listen to three girls--all under seventeen--compare and contrast their OBGYNs.  One of the girls was also talking about how excited she was that her little boy was going to have a sibling. 

That's right, she was pregnant with her second.  At sixteen.

Babies having babies.  For some reason, it has become socially acceptable.  Hell, look at The Secret Life of the American Teenager!  Supposedly, that show was going to emphasize the hardships of being a teenage parent.  I've seen several episodes, and the hardships are glossed over, accepting friends and peers emphasized, and parents are always on hand to help out (even though they repeatedly tell the teenager that its "her baby and her responsibility").  In other words, it glorifies being a teenage parent. 

It makes my stomach turn.   

As a teacher, I find myself in the awkward position of overhearing students talking about their sex lives.  Sometimes, one of my girls will come to me with some sort of problem or for advice.  In that one-on-one situation, I tell them exactly what I think:

1) Y'all are too young to be having sex.  You don't know who you are OR who you will become, and these boys have no clue who they are.  If you don't know that, you shouldn't be having sex.
2) If you are going to make that decision, be smart and make the boy wear a condom.  If he cares about YOU and not just about the sex, he'll put one on.  Condoms prevent babies AND diseases.

Now, that #2 could get me in trouble if I was actually telling it to groups of students.  You see, I am an employee of a public school district and, due to state funding attached to sex education policies, the official stance is that abstinence is all the kids need to be taught.  Which, obviously, is working wonders for teen pregnancy and STD statistics (note the sarcasm).  

However, when one of my girls comes to me one-on-one and asks me for advice, I am honest with them.  They've trusted me, and I will not betray that with some stupid platitude.  

I hear the objections now:  But it's the parents' jobs to educate them on such matters! 

Hey, I couldn't agree more!  And if the parents of my students were actually INVOLVED and BEING PARENTS, I would agree.  However, at my school, the majority of the time that is not the case--parents are either absent, disengaged or too busy trying to be their kids' friends.

I just hope that for the ones with whom I've had "the conversation", something stuck.  If they decide to wait to have sex, or at least decide to make the boy wear a condom, then I've done some good. 

Once a student is pregnant, I can't advise much.  I can be a sympathetic ear, or a reality check in response to whining.  Because I am a teacher, and thus an authority figure, the only tangible advice I can give on what the student should do about the pregnancy is that she needs to tell her parents AND the school counselor.  The counselor can help the student tell her parents and help them discuss options.  Thank God the counselors at my high school are amazing!

Maybe some day, the legislators in Austin will realize that high schools (and junior highs too!) need a viable sex education program that actually addresses the realities of today's teenagers.  Of course, expecting that is similar to expecting their legislation to actually respect the realities of the classroom--it's a waste of time and energy.  And I am not some crusader, to charge the Capitol and demand change--we need my paycheck too much for the next few years.

So, I will continue to advise those few students who come to me, and hope it makes a difference. 


  1. i completely agree. it's funny because after reading this as well as your post about misquoting the bible, i feel as if I've been reading my own thoughts.

  2. Well, to quote a cliche, great minds think alike! I really do enjoy reading your blog chica. I can't believe all you've been up to and I can't wait to read more!


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