5 confidence tips for teaching sex education

Few teachers relish having to explain to a gaggle of giggling teens what a wet dream is, writes Dan Worth
14th February 2020, 12:04am
How To Avoid Embarrassment When Teaching Sex Education


5 confidence tips for teaching sex education


"Vagina". "Penis". "Erection". Saying these words out loud in adult company can be embarrassing enough, but what if you are standing in front of 30 teenagers and you are their teacher? Many of us would be blushing before we hit the second syllable.

Tes spoke to two public-speaking coaches to get their top tips for staving off embarrassment to help you deliver your sex education lessons with confidence and clarity.

1. Say it out loud

Public-speaking coach Matt Matheson says it is understandable that teachers may feel awkward saying certain words or phrases, especially as they are things that rarely come up in everyday conversation.

As such, he advises practising saying certain words out loud to reduce the shock of vocalising them. "If you say something out loud once, it may feel weird but, if you say it 20 times, it won't feel weird any more," he says. "It's about pushing your comfort zone out so these topics and words fall within it."

Be careful who is around you while you are practising, of course: shouting "penis" during a shopping trip to Aldi is not advisable. Instead, practise alone and among groups with whom you feel comfortable.

2. Clarity is best

Public-speaking trainer Georgie Kirk says teachers should avoid trying to hide behind obscure language to spare their blushes: it's likely to cause them more embarrassment in the long run.

"Awkwardness can lead to convoluted sentences and lack of clarity," she says. "If you don't make it clear, some pupils may misunderstand. They will ask you what you mean, which is likely to be more awkward than it would have been if you had made the point clear the first time."

Essentially, save yourself an excruciating explanation as to why you opted for that metaphor and what it actually meant by saying it simply and clearly instead.

3. Practice makes perfect

Honing your sex ed craft is another way to reduce your embarrassment. After testing out your explanations with people you are comfortable with, round up a few colleagues to practise on.

"I always advise people to practise and get feedback in this way," says Matheson. "Because if you don't, then you're only to get that opportunity as you're actually doing it."

Doing some trial runs will enable you to get all the panic, sweating and blushing out of the way before you are stood in front of 30 teenagers: the threat of the act will diminish each time you practise.

Kirk adds that it can be beneficial when doing this to ask your dummy audience to be as difficult as possible: "Put yourself through the worst scenarios. Living through the worst in advance will help you to be - and feel - ready for anything."

4. No one can read your mind

Even if you still suddenly start feeling flustered in a lesson, it is important to acknowledge that no one can actually read your mind. You may feel as if you are about to have a moment, but your students don't know that. Simply rationalising things and taking a deep breath can nudge you back on the right path.

"If you do feel embarrassment creeping up on you, remember: the class doesn't know what you're actually feeling, only what you're showing them," says Kirk. "Take a breath, stay grounded. You're in control."

5. Have a few prepared lines

If the blushing does begin to take over, Kirk advises having a few prepared lines ready to explain it away. She suggests, for example, that if a student suggests you are blushing, to say: "Yes, I was suddenly transported back to my mother/father/teacher telling me the facts of life when I was your age. I hope I'm doing a better job than she/he did!"

Dan Worth is deputy commissioning editor at Tes

This article originally appeared in the 14 February 2020 issue under the headline "Five ways to spare the sex ed blushes"

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