Saturday, September 7, 2013

Year Two continued: Teaching "the facts of life"

Last week, while spending time in our district special education in-service, the topic of social skills curriculum was discussed. Central Valley is very proactive in providing social skills curriculum to their teachers with the expectation that they will be intentional in teaching social skills to their students with disabilities. This is fantastic and really one of a very few districts I know of or have worked in that actually provides this. So as part of this in-service, we were reviewing the lists of curriculum provided to the elementary and secondary teachers. Since I work with the elementary teachers and programs, I was unaware of some of the secondary materials, including one called F.L.A.S.H. (Family Life and Sexual Health). I thought to myself, boy I sure could have used that my second year of teaching! And here's the story:

That second year I had about eight students between the ages of 14 and 21. Of the eight, only two were boys. But one boy in particular had definitely hit puberty and had many questions about "the facts of life". He also had issues with personal space, and so when he wanted to ask one of his many questions, he was usually standing about two inches from my face. Now you have to realize, between year one and year two, I got married. So I am a newlywed, and as I told the special ed teachers, I barely knew the facts of life myself at this point! These questions and how to answer them were making me very uneasy, but I wasn't the only one. After a couple of months, this young man's parents came to me and asked me to take on the task of actually explaining the facts of life to him. Yikes! Remember, I am living in Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island, and this is long before we had Amazon or Barnes and Noble or the internet where I could have searched for something appropriate to use for this task. But there was a small bookstore on the island (my husband is an avid reader and knew where to find books) and so I set out to find something I could use.

I did find a great book (see illustration) that is still in print. In 1975, when I was looking for something, it had just been published. This book has great illustrations and the explanations are simple but straightforward. I reviewed the book with the young man's parents, and they gave me the okay. Can I just say this was one of the hardest tasks I've had as a teacher? Sitting down with this boy and reading the book, showing the pictures, and answering his questions was almost more than I could handle at the age of 23! But you know what? It worked! After that this young man stopped asking questions, seemed more relaxed, and his parents were thrilled! Whew!