Teaching Sex Ed. to Grade 8 Students

It has begun. Something I never thought I’d do as a teacher: teaching the Growth and Development unit in Health to grade 8 students.

One thing I’ve certainly learned about teaching: if you’ve been in the game long enough, you’ll probably have the chance to teach every grade and every subject. Which I think I have.

In the Ontario, Canada curriculum, the Growth and Development unit involves teaching about healthy sexual relationships, birth control, and STDs, among other topics.
birth control

I have only started the unit but I have had enough time to observe the behaviours of the students. They are street-smart on so many levels; however, they are reduced to a giggling mass, mainly the boys, when I am forthright in my terminology.

When I asked for their definitions of certain vocabulary, one word was “sexy.” In various classes, some boys mentioned “big b**bs” and “big butts.” When I told them to avoid slang, more than one boy was unaware that “b**bs” was slang. One even said, “Well I didn’t use the word, ‘t*ts’” and, after some thought, he finally said, “Oh, I mean ‘breasts.’”

I am intrigued about how what is considered acceptable language has changed since my time in grade 8, over 30 years ago. When I was in grade 8, we would have been sent to the office if we had used the word, “b**bs.” It is still unacceptable to me; however, these days, grade 8 students are probably bombarded by the word in the social media in which they are engaged.

To the boys who said “big b**bs” and “big butts,” I asked, “Do you think this is everyone’s idea of ‘sexy’ or just yours?” Surprisingly, they had to think about that one.

I know I have to be careful about how I teach this subject. There is such a proliferation of bullying these days concerning body image and I know that I have to play an extremely important role in curbing inappropriate comments and beliefs.

My journey continues.


About randycoates

Randy Coates graduated from the University of Waterloo with a bachelor of arts degree and went on to acquire his teacher’s certificate at the University of Western Ontario. He is currently an elementary teacher in the Toronto District Board of Education.
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