Change the Classroom
To deliver truly effective Sex and Relationships Education we must change the power relationships within a classroom. I started Teaching 'The Talk' with the eye to changing the accepted forms of teaching Relationships and Sex Education for many in the UK. To understand why it must be change we should look at how an 'average' lesson is conducted.
In the typical classroom it is assumed that the teacher is the most superior figure in the room with the most knowledge and authority to speak on any experience. The teacher is in charge of the discipline and dynamic in the classroom, they alone are responsible for the education that everyone receives in the room. There is little discussion in an average lesson as it is assumed that the students who are learning will have no experience of the topics they are learning and therefore they have little to add through discussion with teachers.
The topics discussed and explored within RSE are things that everyone has their own experience of whether they are aware of it or not. Everyone, for example, has an understanding of sex, they may not be able to label it or talk openly about it but they have an image or a concept in their head. The world we live in today makes it almost impossible not to have an image of sex so it is ignorant to assume that young people do not have their own ideas of what sex is. In recognising that we have all had some form of sex education we should also recognise that the teacher is no longer the assumed authority to the speak on and understand concepts such sex.
The dynamic of the classroom during an RSE lesson should be changed and different so that teachers or leaders of these sessions remove the authoritarian personality that they have assumed for their teaching of average lessons to create a space where experiences are shared not taught. This is still a form of learning and the young people receiving the education will still gain an understanding but it will be delivered in such a way that they have been respected as already having knowledge. For too long the understanding has been to treat RSE like other lessons. Instead of assuming that young people are totally clueless in their knowledge on the subject teachers should be encouraging them to share their knowledge as peer to peer learning is usually how information is best transferred. If in the classroom young people were able to talk about topics like they do in the right private space then teachers could monitor and highlight issues, keeping young people safe. They should not use their assumed disciplinary position which makes comfortable discussions around RSE hard to deliver in a classroom. By approaching SRE in this way teachers are more likely to hear the voice of young people than impose their thoughts on those young people. Young people are more empowered through this approach to their sex education as by listening to their experience teachers validate their power to tell it.