Sunday, October 29, 2006

SEX EDUCATION



We are grateful to Madeline for the following thoughts towards designing a coherent curriculum for this aspect of PSHE in Waldorf schools. It is presented here for colleagues to work with, amend, take issue, concur...in the hope that it helps schools & teachers develop a more concsious practice in the teaching of this subject>



Designing a Sex Education Curriculum for a Steiner School
By Madeleine Muller

Introduction – my story
I have been involved with Sex education at Wynstones School since 2003 when the Class 7 Teacher and I decided to do a joint session with his class. We had little guidance to go on and most resources from the State school sector seemed inappropriate in the context of the larger curriculum.

Prior to this time I had worked at a Teenage “Time-4-u” clinic at a High School in Upton-on-Severn where I was struck by difficulties our teenagers were facing in the sexual “playing field”. There was a desperate need for appropriate and accessible information and for new skills for relationships in the 21st century.

The challenge is no longer a lack of information. The Victorian age of ignorance is long over. Now there is too much information and our children have easy access to it. If they do not have computers or televisions themselves their friends certainly do. Billboards, magazines and “well meaning” adults all bombard our young people with conflicting and often worrying and highly inaccurate statements. It is difficult to distinguish fact from fiction.

Over the last 4 years I became increasingly involved and yet I offered only a marginal “education”. Teachers were keen to have me involved and I made time for 1 lesson each with class 6-12 every year. This meant that each class had only 2 hours of Sex education (or better called Life skills) a year, inserted into whatever Main lesson block was able to accommodate it. My greatest satisfaction came from the Class 7 with whom I started in 2003 –over the years we built the trust needed to really meet their questions and needs.

I did create a “sex education” policy for Wynstones based on the recommendations for independent schools but the school was not able to complete and implement it. My greatest help came from Dr Bart Maris and Dr Nicola Fels from Krefeld, Germany, who did a workshop on sex education in 2004. I was also greatly helped by Class 12 – with whom I did a workshop in 2004. We looked at what the total sum of their sex education had been, tested their knowledge and together created a curriculum for the future, based on their needs.

My work up to now is in the “seedling phase” – sessions are too few and too far between.
Ideally it should grow into a proper Main Lesson block that will be carried by teachers and only supported by outside speakers.

Most of my work has been in creating the material for Class 6-9. In Class 10, 11 and 12 (of previous years) I have simply been covering the important aspects of Sexual health to “catch up” as I did not teach them when they were younger. Material is also adapted according to the particular class – especially class 6-8.

Overview of lessons as they looked in 2006

Middle school
Class 6-8 is the great Challenge.
In today’s society puberty usually starts around 11 /12 years old and sometimes even earlier. The child is confronted with dramatic changes in body and physiology.
The soul development (“astral birth”) still only comes around 14 and one can notice the difference in teaching a 15-year old in comparison with a 13 year old. At 15 they start to develop the necessary separation of thinking, feeling and willing to enable them to “think” about what is happening in their “metabolic will” realm.

The teaching of class 6-8 is therefore a delicate and thorny task when it comes to discussing the physical changes of puberty. I find that each class is different and I would usually discuss with the teacher before we decide how detailed we would go – I am also led by the questions of the session itself. Some classes are much “younger” than others. A question asked does not always indicate the need of the class as the child will not always know “what they are asking”. I have been asking for feedback from Class 9 and 10 on how they found the sessions in Class 6 and 7. So far I have only had positive feedback with a need for more rather then less information.

Our greatest hesitation in teaching around sexuality (a concern already raised by Steiner) is that we run the risk of destroying the sacredness of sex. In our society this has already happened. I find that our children, no matter how well “protected”, have had access to much information by the time I speak to them and the session are more about bringing it all into context, destroying myths and trying to create a different picture of sex as part of a loving relationship. It almost feels as if there is a need to restore its sacredness – and the question is how we try and do this.

Class 6
Format:
· I do a small introductory talk to the whole class
· Most of the lesson the class splits into boys and girls.
· I would take the girls (sometimes joined by the female class teacher) and we used the straw bale building or the Eurythmy therapy room. The girls would bring in cushions and we would make ourselves comfortable in an intimate circle on the floor. We would have a candle and sometimes incense. With my last session the teacher brought in herbal teas to drink – which helped create a relaxed atmosphere.
· My husband (the games teacher) usually spoke to the boys – this would be either in a circle but more often as part of a walk e.g. taking them up a nearby hill. Sometimes joined by the class teacher – depending on the class and the teacher.

Content:
· My talk to the whole class focused on changes of puberty – and focusing on the incredible individuation at this age. Menarche can start from 10 –16, growth-spurts can range from 11 – 17. We emphasize the need for respect for each other’s journey and development and accepting one’s own developmental pace. This is an age of much comparison and it is helpful to realise how different adolescence can be for different people.
· Girls – I would usually start with story telling – looking at many different cultures and their relationship to menstruation through the ages. Both of how it was revered but also feared and different rituals around menstruation and menarche. I encourage chatting and discussion of how our perception and celebration of menstruation has changed. Important to bring a picture of its sacredness and its relationship to the cosmos and nature. I will then go on to the menstrual cycle itself but only in terms of phenomena – never biology. I bring an A4 picture format of a circle with different colours on it – we speak of the bleed (how long, how much), mucus showing fertility, possibly pain with the release of the egg and so called “pre-menstrual tension”. Usually about half the girls do not have their periods yet – I do not find this a problem. They are usually very interested and lots of questions and discussion comes up. It is a huge question how much we tell them about the changes the boys go through. As the boys are being told about menstruation it feels only fair to mention some of their struggles – and yet talking about erections and wet dreams is a huge threshold. The last 2 years I have asked the girls if they want to know. One group was a definite no, the other a definite yes. I brought it in such a way that it evoked a lot of sympathy from the girls – which felt healthy but I am still unsure on this one.
· Boys – the focus is on what constitutes puberty for boys. Tom would also start his talk about initiation rituals through the ages and how the entry into manhood used to be celebrated. In a way boys have even less of a “celebration” than girls as their entry into puberty is much more hidden. He speaks to them about erections, wet dreams and penis development and finds that there is hardly any giggling or fooling around. He also speaks to them of the menstrual cycle – in a similar phenomena based way as with the girls. A huge emphasis is placed on respect for the girls and understanding of the changes they go through.

Class 7
Format:
· I do a small introductory talk
· Most of the lesson the class still splits into boys and girls.
· I would take the girls (sometimes joined by the female class teacher) – again we form a circle somewhere intimate.
· Tom would usually speak to the boys – again he might take them on a walk – with or without another male teacher.

Content:
· Fertility and Sexuality – I briefly speak to the class of fertility and its relationship to sexuality in plants, animals and humans (very low-key). More of an explanation of definition. The word sexuality only briefly mentioned.
· Girls: I start our session with “where do we come from” – beginning with the spiritual / cosmic picture and the stories they were told when they were little (e.g. stork). I found this tip in an article written by a teacher (unfortunately my reference is in our house move) and it works very well. This loosens up the session and I then try and build a bridge with the physical picture. I describe the anatomy of female organs in descriptive language – rather than biology – staying on level of what they have heard and questions around ovaries, womb etc. Pictures may be a good idea – but not too “graphic” (this is a question for me). Egg and sperm polarity (again descriptive, rather than biology). Fertilisation described. Brief touching on sexuality. Usually lots of questions come out of these sessions – especially about pregnancy, labour, twins etc. The questions are more emotionally based than physical and I keep answers on that level.
· Boys – very similar to above – more detail on male anatomy and male sperm development (descriptive rather than factual)

Class 8
· I speak to whole group about half of lesson (or even more)
· Rest of the lesson the class still splits into boys and girls.
· I would take the girls (sometimes joined by the female class teacher)
· Tom would usually speak to the boys

Content
With the whole class I now look at an overview of sexual health and the consequences of sex
Discuss emotional consequences, pregnancy and STI
Briefly look at an overview of types of contraception – modifying behaviour and modifying body. I always do a Condom demonstration. It feels like the right age for this.
When we split up it is more to create the possibility for more personal questions. I find the girls especially look forward to having the opportunity and usually have a few pressing things they would like to discuss. I have looked at various ways to break the ice – or you have a quiet start and then a million questions before the session ends. Little scenarios work very well based e.g. pressure to have sex, teenage pregnancy – different scenarios for boys and girls. I may take them through a little story of a girl whose period is late (what do you do), she finds out she is pregnant (what happens next), she decides to have the baby (implications). A lot of discussion happens around whether they would tell parents or not, where to go, rights of the father and the challenges of having a baby at this age. Still very emotional but most of them has thought about this.

Upper school
I found teaching in the upper school much more straightforward. I don’t necessarily split the classes although I did find that my Class 9 and 10 was sometimes keen for some private “question time” – as they were used to that in Class 6-8. Information can be more detailed; one can arrange debates and discuss controversial issues.
Content:
History of contraception and more detail on the contraception controversy. Look in much more detail and condoms, OCP, coil and natural family planning. Lots of questions tend to come up. Because it is the last year that I would speak to them I did bring about termination of pregnancy and the current law – too many emotions made this difficult at this age. Best to leave that for later


Class 9
Content:
History of contraception and more detail on the contraception controversy. Look in much more detail and condoms, OCP, coil and natural family planning. Lots of questions tend to come up. Because it is the last year that I would speak to them I did bring about termination of pregnancy and the current law – too many emotions made this difficult at this age. Best to leave that for later


Class 10-12
I am busy creating the next step for my Class 10 – whom I have been teaching since Class 7 and every year I have created the curriculum with them.

E.g. Topics to cover in Class 10-12
STI in much more detail (class 10)
Pregnancy and delivery (class 10)
TOP, Emergency contraception (debate issues), adoption and in vitro fertilisation (class 11)
Parenting, baby sitting, responsibility and partnerships, relationships (class12)

In 2006 I also covered Sexual communication with Class 10-12. I start with looking at the polarity of sperm and ovum, female and male hormones and the archetypal yin and yang. This gives a basis to look at the many fallacies and miscommunications that tend to happened between the sexes – how does one make a sexual relationship work. The trick is, of course, love – and it is great to see how one can get there through the physiology. I have also spoken a bit about the trends in current “Western” sexuality VS “Eastern” sexuality (e.g. Tantra). These issues come up a lot in my private sessions with the teenagers – many (especially the girls) have already had their fingers burnt and have painful questions around sex and love. I have many questions in this line of teaching.

Future development
Ideally one would love to see a “Life skills curriculum” that is overseen by a teacher that has an enthusiasm for this work.
It could be a Main lesson block that could be a week or more depending on what is needed in which year. It will be carried by a teacher – possibly the class teacher in class 6-8 and by an Upper School teacher with an interest in this field from Class 9-12.
As part of this block outside speakers like doctors, youth workers, nurses, previous addicts, teenage mothers etc can come into to augment the topic discussed. A lot of stories, art work and discussion can then be incorporated which would create a “sheath” for the more physical aspects of the discussion. Skills, not only information, can be better addressed.

Teaching skills needed
It is such a challenge to teach this topic – we want our teenagers to be able to have enough information and skills to make sensible decisions in regards to areas like sex, drugs, smoking etc.

Yet telling the young person what they are to do and how to do it is known to be ineffective and counter productive (smoking is a good example – disapproval from adults has made it a badge of independence to the adolescent).
The UK (state schools) has an extensive and well documented Sex education curriculum and yet we have the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe (83/10 0000 vs. 9/100000 in Holland). Studies has been done showing that we do not have less education than the Netherlands but that the approach is different. In the Netherlands the legal age of consent for boys and girls are 12 and sex education is not fear based – merely information orientated.

If you read the UK curriculum – it is riddled with fear. I felt it even at Wynstones – “Please tell the children not to have sex early”. Of course “telling them” only gets you that far. I found that fear me – looking at these young kids and wanting desperately to tell them to wait, to tell them what to watch out for and list the multitude of reasons to be careful.
And yet that does not empower or help our young people/

I have had to rework my talks many times over the last year. Last year I rewrote them all taking out the word “You”. Even with something as simple as puberty changes “You may notice a growth spurt” I have changed to “young people will notice a growth spurt”. A tone that gives information and yet leaves the young person free seems essential. At my very 1st talk in 2003 with Class 11 a teacher sat in – who interrupted by doing some “telling”. She was literally booed by the class.

Does that mean we give a message that anything goes? I think our moral convictions should stream out of our behaviour – the way the adults behave around young people is the most important part of the message. I found that when I trusted them they have a lot of sense and come up with all the important messages we think we should be imparting – without much prompting. To create a free, confidential and trusting space seems much more important.


Arranging confidential appointments
Whilst at the school (1 morning a week) I created the opportunity for young people (from class 7/8 upwards) to book confidential appointments with me at school. They could come individually or in groups. The longer I stayed at the school the more these appointments were used and as I built relationships with the classes they would book in as small groups to ask “the really personal questions”. I enjoyed these sessions immensely and it felt a privilege to sit in as a group of Class 10 girls discuss all their woes and allowing me as an adult to give an input. It feels important that our young people have access to confidential, non-judgemental meetings with adults they can trust and confide in.


Life skills curriculum
Draft Policy document: Sex and relationship education

Introduction
Wynstones school is an independent school. (needs a short paragraph on aims and objectives)
Over the last years there has been a growing awareness for a need to address issues around sexuality and relationships within the school curriculum.

--------------------has been identified as the key person to liase with other teachers and health professionals to formulate the aims, content and ethos of such a curriculum. She has met with Dr Madeleine Muller and has attended a conference on Sex education led by Dr Bart Morris, a Gynaecologist and Dr Nicola Pels, a Paediatrician. Both have extensive experience of teaching sex education in Steiner schools in Germany and is part of a forum that is formalising a curriculum in Germany. Their expertise and ongoing support will be a valuable recourse in the forming of a curriculum that is appropriate to the needs and goals within a Steiner school.

This is the 1st draft of a Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) policy, which will form part of the Life skills curriculum. It is open to discussion, comment and debate and will be reviewed yearly.

This policy is available to any interested party connected to the school. Forums will be made available to discuss various aspects included.

Aims of SRE
Sex and relationship education should contribute to promoting the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils and school and of society and preparing pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life. (1)

SRE should enable young people to understand human sexuality and to respect themselves and others. It enables young people to mature, to build up their confidence and self-esteem and understand the risks and responsibilities in assuming sexual relationships. (1)

SRE brings the information that pupils gain through friends, media, rumours etc. into a manageable context and gives an opportunity to discuss controversial issues and questions. It promotes better and more appropriate communication in regards to sexuality and relationships. It hopes to empower the individual to make responsible choices – this being particularly important because of the many different and conflicting pressures on young people.

Research demonstrates that good, comprehensive sex and relationship education does not make young people more likely to enter into sexual activity.

What aspects will be addressed
SRE has 3 main elements (1)

Attitudes and values
Learning the importance of values and individual conscience and moral considerations
Learning the value of family life and stable and loving relationships
Learning the value of respect, love and care
Exploring, considering and understanding moral dilemmas
Developing critical thinking as part of decision-making

Personal and social skills
Learning to manage emotions and relationships confidently and sensitively
Developing self-respect and empathy for others
Learning to make choices based on and understanding of difference and with and absence of prejudice
Developing and appreciation of the consequences of choices made
Managing conflict
Learning how to recognise and avoid exploitation and abuse

Knowledge and understanding
Learning and understanding physical development at appropriate ages
Understanding human sexuality, reproduction, sexual health, emotions and relationships
Learning about contraception and the range of local and national sexual health advise, contraception and support services
Learning the risks and responsibilities involved in commencing sexual relationships
The avoidance of unplanned pregnancy

Practical arrangements
SRE will become part of a Life skills curriculum that will be integrated from Class 1 – 12.

· Class 1-4: the focus is on relationships, friendship, respect, playing together and building of self-esteem. This is already an integral part of the School curriculum and teaching will be focused on addressing issues as they arise in the class e.g. name calling or bullying. It will be primarily carried by the class teacher
· Class 5-8: Main lesson time will be set aside – less time in the younger classes – to look specifically at issues such as peer pressure, rights and responsibilities and from Class 6 more formalised teaching regarding the changes of puberty. It will gradually evolve into teaching around specific topics e.g. the menstrual cycle, fertility and later on pregnancy and sexual health. This will be part carried by the Class teacher but external speakers may now be involved e.g. the school doctor or a nurse. The class teacher will be looking at attitudes, values and skills where the doctor will be responsible for more knowledge based teaching.
· Class 9-12: Main lesson blocks that will focus on a more detailed understanding of the biology and other aspects of sexual health. Debates and peer group teaching and own research on relevant topics. Involvement of outside speakers including health professionals.

Details of the topics covered in each year will vary according to teacher and also the needs and nature of the specific class. A curriculum which will give an overview of the areas that need to be covered for different ages is being developed and will act as a guidance to the teacher and health professionals involved.

Parents will be informed on what children will be taught in the different classes once more formalised teaching around sex and puberty is commenced (around class 5/6). This can happen at a parents evening or specific evenings arranged for this purpose.


Meeting needs of individual pupils

It is hoped that time can be made available for pupils who have particular questions to meet with the school doctor for confidential advise and discussion. This will give the opportunity for any underlying concerns that could not be discussed in a class environment to be raised in a safe and open consultation. It will give vulnerable pupils an opportunity to meet with an adult that is not directly involved with their care.

Coordinator and pastoral support
--------------------- will be a contact person in the coordination of SRE.
Class teachers will be responsible for formulating the details of the curriculum for each year in conjunction with the school doctor. They will arrange outside speakers as appropriate and communicate with the parents.
Class 9-12 (?)
Any concerns can be addressed to ------------------ who will coordinate with School doctor and the college of teachers.

Values framework for SRE in school
Teachers and all those contributing to sex and relationship education are expected to work within and agreed values framework as described by the school’s policy, which must be in line with current legislation.

How it links to other policies – bullying/ sexual behaviour in school

When policy will be monitored and reviewed
The policy will be reviewed yearly and more often if indicated in the 1st 2 years of its implementation. The next review will be --------------------.

Parents’ rights to withdrawal.
Parents have the right to withdraw their children form all or part of the sex and relationship educations provided at school.

References:
1 Sex and relationship education guidance; Department of Education and Employment July 2000

2 Sex and relationship education: a guide for independent schools and those working with them; Sex education forum; S Forrest and S Blake 2003

compiled by Dr Madeleine Muller

2 comments:

skorpioni said...

Hello! Not sure if anyone reads this anymore, but if so, I'd love to hear about Steiner pedagogical approach to a particular issue in sex education: homosexuality and other non-heterosexual ways of expressing sexuality. Also how would you deal with a young one who has transgender feelings?

I am studying steiner pedagogy myself in Snellman-korkeakoulu in Finland and I'm trying to find material for a school paper here.

I can be reached via svithrir@gmail.com.

Thanks!

Miracle Arik said...

We have to care about sex education,,, I care about this... Thanks for share this post..

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