We divided our unit into eight separate sessions, each session is devised with class participation in mind. The format is one of informal lecture followed by a question/answer period. The teacher should always allow plenty of time for discussion and student inquiries even when they are not pertinent to the topic of the day, be cause sexuality is such a sensitive subject that it sometimes takes a student a long time to gather enough courage to ask a question; a rebuff under these circumstances could be traumatic.
It has been brought to our attention that in some of these classes or in all the classes, the male and female students should be separated. The reason for this was explained to us as follows: Puerto Ricans tend to be brought up to regard the other sex as sex object rather than friend or comrade, and, confronted with so much explicit sex information, they are likely to become so uncomfortable with each other that learning will not take place. We feel that this decision should be left to the discretion of the teacher.
One should also consider that so much separation between the sexes only perpetuates the lack of communication and does nothing to help young men and women overcome their bashfulness. It might be hard to have a co-ed hygiene class, but it would be beneficial to all to have a co-ed session #1: The positive and negative aspects of being male or female. #4 and #5: Intercourse and Decision-making and even #7 which includes a film on labor and delivery could be handled in a co-ed setting. In all these classes the sharing of feelings, the exchange of opinion and general interaction should give an excellent insight to both young men and women into the other’s state of mind.
Some anxiety on the part of the teacher is to be expected, especially if he/she has not taught this before. Rules have to be discussed beforehand. If personal sexual questions are not to be asked, this must be stated at the beginning. Opinions usually do not cause stress. Both teacher and students can agree to give opinions. Although personal revelations should not be encouraged, when they occur they should be respected and go no further than the classroom.
Of the variety of feelings exhibited, embarrassment seems to be the hardest to deal with. If a teacher can generate a warm, caring, empathetic, non-judgmental,
environment, most of the embarrassment will be absorbed. A student might feel guilt and shame, the topic discussion may be in contradiction with everything he/she was taught at home, some particularly religious student might fear punishment from Heaven. In any case, the students have to be reassured that “it is OK” to talk about these things, it is normal to feel how they do. The teacher might very often find that a certain amount of sharing of his/her personal experience (“yes, my mother said that I would die if I bathed during my period,” etc.) is very helpful in establishing trust in the classroom. Another way to relieve some of the feeling of shame or embarrassment is to introduce a question box. Students need not sign their names and should understand that all questions will be dealt with. Again, we reiterate that honesty, sincerity and openness are some of the teacher’s best means of relating to the students.
The positive and negative aspects of being male or female.
This first class is non-threatening and serves to establish a rapport between the teacher and the students. It also helps the students to start thinking in terms of their sexuality.
Our suggestion for the format of this class would be to ask the question: What are the positive aspects of being a male? A female? List all the answers on the board (in four columns: female+, female-, male+, male-) and start a comparison of the results. The changing roles of each sex can be brought out in the discussion.
The reproductive systems of both sexes
A basic understanding of their own bodies, what they have and how it all works is necessary for any further discussion. Hand-outs should be given to the students, we suggest a chart and a list of all basic reproductive vocabulary.
The teacher then can begin to place words on the board, such as uterus, vagina, testicles, etc . . . and have students give the names that are familiar to them as every student should feel comfortable with and know exactly what the teacher is referring to.
The second part of the class can be devoted to labeling parts of the reproductive system either on the board or on the hand-outs.
Fertilization, the menstrual cycle.
A good way to present the menstrual cycle is to have a chart of or to draw the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries on the board. Show the students how the egg comes into the tube, goes through the tube into the uterus and out with the menstrual flow. Approximately 7 to 14 days later, the cycle begins again. Following through all this a circle is drawn to clarify the concept of cycle.
Fertilization can be drawn next to the menstrual cycle, or on the same chart. Show how the egg and sperm meet and follow the process through to the uterus.
Charts are very helpful and discussion should be opened.
Session #4 and #5
Intercourse and decision-making.
These sessions will consist of the examination of two case studies followed by discussion questions.
We feel that this should accomplish three things:
1. It will allow the students to relax and be able to pass a more objective judgement as they will be “safe” and only the character in the story will be in the spotlight.
2. Having criticized the case study character, and in some cases probably torn them to shreds as only adolescents can, they should be more willing to be directed by the teacher (see questionnaire after each case study) to think in wider terms about the causes of the incidents, to see whether or not they themselves might not be vulnerable to the same “miscalculation.”
3. Hopefully the students will then be able to look at themselves and their expectations in a more realistic manner.