Learning to Love The Heat: A Lesson in Flexibility

Even more official - a business card!
Even more official – a business card!

Fact: Newark public school buildings often do not have air conditioning.

Fact: Sometimes schools forget you are running a workshop on a particular day and give you three students when you were expecting 25 (or they cancel the entire workshop – but only after you’ve set up the classroom).

Realization: There is little to nothing I can do about either of the aforementioned facts (except dress lightly and resolve myself to being incredibly sweaty at all times).

Working this summer with the Masakhane Center has been an education – in more ways than one. While, yes, I’ve learned copious amounts of information about STIs and how to talk to a twelve year old about first time sex, I’ve also had to work on being flexible and fluid. Flexibility is key in sexuality education, and not just in the way that I teach. I’ve largely had to adjust my attitude and expectations. You forgot we were coming to teach today? No problem. None of the kids have their permission slips, so we can’t actually talk about anything related to sex? Hay no problema. We just figure it out. When I was so married to the idea of structure, I often had a harder time finding space to teach.

And the kids. The questions they ask are never really what I expect. If you are too stuck on a particular lesson plan, you might miss a golden opportunity to have an honest conversation with your participants. For example, when I was facilitating a workshop on pregnancy with middle school aged girls, when spent a large amount of our time talking about the expenses that accompany a pregnancy. We talked about privilege, about the medicalization of the birthing process, and why abortion might just be a financial decision above all. Not at all what I expected to be talking about. If my partner and I had “stuck to the script” as it were, we wouldn’t have been able to have such an in depth and interesting conversation. Learning to let the participants guide our lessons has made me a much better facilitator.

This attitude of “letting it go,” for lack of a better term, is something I’m trying to apply to my everyday life. More than I realized before, if I just let things happen the way they are going to happen (I still have agency – don’t worry), I often end up feeling happier and less stressed than ever before. Who knew that teaching sex ed could be so darn spiritual?

My official staff photo. Notice: Had not learned the dress lightly rule yet - am very sweaty.
My official staff photo. Notice: Had not learned the dress lightly rule yet – am very sweaty.

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