I am thankful for…

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The first workshop in our middle school sex ed curriculum is a meeting with parents and staff.  Never, ever skip this in middle school.   It is critical for the involvement of parents in the sex education of their children.  Middle school parents often have questions about whether the material is age-appropriate, high school parents never do.   Middle school parents wonder if their children are ready for sex education.  High school parents assume, often erroneously, that their children are getting some sort of sex ed in school.  Middle school parents are perfectly situated to have these conversations.

Two weeks ago I held the parent education meeting for 7th grade parents at a Montessori School.  One of the parents was particularly anxious about how her child would react to the material.  Their family is middle-eastern, from a traditional Muslim background, and very socially conservative.  I have so much respect for this mom, to be so open and honest about her fears – her culture shock.  It’s not easy to admit that you are profoundly uncomfortable with something when everyone else seems to think that it’s no big deal.  She said that she had never known anything about sex until she was married.  She said that the expectation in her family was that her children would not have any sexual contact until marriage, and while many parents profess this, the way she talked about it, it was clearly a deeply held family value. In these meetings, we talk about respecting different family’s values.  I am big on this- I’m careful to respect the values of my students’ families – after all, I don’t want my children’s school making assumptions about our values either!   The way I present it to parents is that kids will hear about sex whether we address it or not.  I believe it is more beneficial for them to get the facts in the safe and respectful environment of my class.  In the end, she chose to keep her child in the class, and to see how it went, with an option to opt out later.  I admire that she could see the value in our class even while being very concerned about it.

Yesterday I ran into that mom in the parking lot.  She was so happy, and she thanked me because her child has come home every day with stories from our class, and shares what she’s learned, and that it has inspired wonderful conversations between her and her daughter.  Nothing could make me happier today than hearing this! It’s always satisfying to hear when parents appreciate our work, but when someone whose background is so different from mine can feel comfortable trusting me with such a personal topic, I feel blessed by that trust. To know that the class is an opportunity for healthy trusting communication at home brings me the joy of making a positive difference.  The facts that they may learn from my class are not nearly as important as the increase in parent-child communication and trust.

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