Friday, April 25, 2008

Getting Enough Sleep

So far, today has been a pretty good day in front of the class. I haven't had any issues and the students have been enjoying the work we've done so far. I think part of the reason has to do with the amount of sleep I got last night. I got 7 hours instead of 4 or 5. As much as I hate to admit it, my overall health, both mental and physical affects my teaching. If I'm coming into the classroom shortchanged on sleep then I'm less likely to be patient or thinking in a reflective manner. The problem is I'm an night owl. I hate going to bed before midnight, but I really may have to readjust my lifestyle if I want to continue to be an effective teacher in the classroom. Next year, I'll be teaching at a school which starts even earlier than my current one. In addition, I have to worry about traffic and travel time. So goodbye, midnight chats with friends. Goodnight, late night walks. So long, sleep deprivation.

This is all common sense, but I need the reminder from time to time.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Abstinence Only Education Misses Out

My school recently brought in a public speaker who spoke on the dangers of having sex outside marriage. To illustrate her claim, she described how she contracted HIV the first time she had sex. She didn't find out about this until after her current husband proposed to her. She decided to get tested for STDs just to be sure she was free and clear. As it turns out, she was not. It's an unfortunate story though not an unfamiliar one. The gist of her talk was to not have sex until you're married, because sex should only be shared in a committed (married) relationship.

It's not that I think abstinence education should be disregarded. Rather, abstinence only education is ill advised. I live in a realistic world where my students, some as young as 14, are having sex. You can talk about the dangers of teen pregnancy and STDS till you're blue in the face, but that's not going to stop teenagers from having sex.

Abstinence only education relies on fear and guilt. The message is don't have sex because you might get an STD or get pregnant and that would be shameful. Sex education that acknowledges other options such as condoms and birth control drops the guilt aspect but relies more heavily on fear by explaining in detail all the wonderful conditions your genitalia can experience. Bonus points for any sex ed that uses full color pictures.

I have yet to really see a pragmatic sex education approach that relies on maturity and respect. Ideally sex education should neither vilify or glorify sex. The inherent problem with teaching sex education is that it is tied so heavily into perceived morality that any discussion about consequences and responsibility gets lost in the implicit morass of tongue clucking, head shaking and finger waggling.

Ultimately, I don't think schools have enough leverage with students to influence a their decision to have sex or not.

Humans become sexual mature in the early teens, but only hit emotional maturity later on in life with some never reaching it at all. Until the day our physical maturity slows down or our emotional maturity speeds up, we're still going to be faced with this difficult task of teaching sex education to minors. Not teaching it seems irresponsible, but only teaching a narrow perspective on the issue seems just as bad.

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Good and the Sad

I was recently hired to work in Parkway Northeast Middle School in Creve Coeur, MO near St. Louis. I'm excited about the job and will be teaching 6th grade communication arts. The administration seems really supportive and I'll also be working with a friend I went to college with. We'll be on the same middle school team. Unfortunately, I've had to tell my current students this and it's been rather heartbreaking. They haven't taken the news too well and seem to think I'm abandoning them because I don't like them. Oh that's simply not true at all. I am really going to miss seeing them and I want to know what type of adults they end up growing up to be. The easiest and most honest thing I can tell them is that my current job was a temporary one year thing. But you know, I would have stuck around for a few more years if the school had offered a contract. The pay isn't as high, but it's a great place to work and I am going to miss it.