Author: Sebastian Sprague
Parental involvement with education is important to a student’s learning. Students learn better and earn better grades when parents are involved in their education (Carjuzaa & Kellough, 2013). Parents are more likely to trust a teacher they have met. To help parents be involved with their child’s education, many schools have “back-to-school” nights and other events so teachers and parents can meet before there are any problems in school. There are teacher conferences, parental email lists, and online learning management software that allows parents to have a daily update of their child’s progress. The need for parental involvement in education becomes even more apparent when it comes to sexuality education.
Parents are a student’s first sexuality educators; from the first time they cuddled them to calm them down as a baby (Hedgepeth & Helmich, 1996). This relationship lasts in to adolescence and adulthood; students learn about their family’s values about relationships and sexual behaviors from their families of origin. When a student comes to school for sexuality education, the relationship with their parents also comes in to the classroom.
This relationship is part of the reason why Hedgepeth & Helmich (1996) recommend full community involvement when forming a new sexuality education curriculum. A transparent process that involves the parents, community leaders, the school board, and teachers helps everyone know that their values will be respected and prevents bad feelings from forming around the process. Recently, a school district in Nevada had a “secret meeting” around implementing a sexuality curriculum, which resulted in parents reacting out of fear to what their child will be exposed. Transparency helps prevent the strongest reactions.
As a sexuality educator for a school, you may want to have training for parents about what is in your lessons. When a sexuality educator holds that training with parents and the community here is what they should have in mind to help manage the atmosphere. 1) Parents are your partners. 2) Be confident in your knowledge. 3) Meet everyone once. 4) Ask them why they are here. 5) Treat them like adult learners.
Parents are your Partners
As already stated, parents are a child’s first sexuality educators, so it is important that parents and educators work together for the best outcomes. The most effective sexuality programs ensure that all possible sources for sexuality education for children cooperate to “provide explicit, coherent, comprehensive, and coordinated messages about sexuality” (Hedgepeth & Helmich, 1996, p. 35). Ensuring that you and their parents are partners in their child’s education is what is best for everyone.
Make sure you go in to the training with this as your mindset and state this as an expectation of your participants. It acknowledges their role as parents and your role as an educator to make sure they have all the facts about sexuality.
Be Confident in Your Knowledge
One of the best attributes of a sexuality educator is their depth of knowledge about sexuality, their curriculum, and the benefits of both. Use your knowledge as a basis for your confidence in yourself and that will show in your interactions. The comfort you demonstrate will pass on to participants.
Meet Everyone Once
Before the training introduce yourself to people and ask names. It establishes rapport that will make you and the participants more comfortable with discussion. Meeting people before class is a chance to do an informal assessment of participants; what experience they bring in the room, who is comfortable, and who is not. (Silberman, 2006) You can use this knowledge in the training to ensure fuller participation
Ask Them Why They Are Here
Participants will have their own reasons for showing up to the training. Asking them why they came will show that you care about their reasons and creates a sense of responsibility for their own training.
Treat Them Like Adult Learners
As educators, we allow adults to have more control over the process of learning than we do children. This means a different set of training techniques and a different learning theory. You need to make sure that participants have some ownership in the lesson, or they will resent being lectured to.
This training is a chance to demonstrate to parents your skills as an educator and for parents to develop a sense of trust in you as an educator of their child. This will benefit both you and the students.
Carjuzaa, J., & Kellough, R.D. (2012). Teaching in the middle and secondary schools (10th Ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson
Hedgepeth, E., & Helmich, J. (1996). Teaching about sexuality and HIV: Principles and methods for effective education. New York, NY: New York University Press.
Milliard, T. (2014). CCSD’s secret sex education talks fuel parent ire. Las Vegas Review Journal, August 21, 2014. http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/las-vegas/ccsd-s-secret-sex-education-talks-fuel-parent-ire.
Silberman, M. L., & Auerbach, C. (2006). Active training: A Handbook of techniques, designs, case examples, and tips (3rd Ed.). San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.