Step 1: Train Teachers to Provide Sex Education
Teacher trainings will assist teachers in preparing to teach sex education, including increasing their content/curriculum knowledge, skills, and comfort level. Financial resources should be allocated, as needed, to provide trainings and to facilitate teachers’ attendance and to cover related costs such as transportation and substitute teachers. Training offerings should be ongoing and accessible to new and existing teachers. Teacher training should review relevant state and district policies and emphasize teacher comfort and skills in delivering the curriculum.
Engage teachers as partners.
Teacher trainings are most successful when they are designed using adult learning theory and attend to the comfort, knowledge and skills of the group. Trainings that are highly interactive and increase teachers’ abilities to implement sexuality education by acknowledging the importance of comfort, knowledge and skill will help implementation be more successful which in turn fosters sustainability. Trainers should also keep in mind that teachers bring a rich skillset with them – they’re accustomed to adopting and implementing new curriculum and getting up to speed on new content. They often need the most support in the development of core skills (how to answer difficult questions; how to comfortably discuss sex education; how to teach lessons in a way that is inclusive of diverse students; etc.) Outstanding advice on how to best develop effective professional development is provided by Deb Christopher, Director of Professional Learning Systems at ETR can be found here.
Make a plan for training new teachers. Teacher turnover or shifts of assignment are quite common. Sex education training needs to plan for both the current and future needs of teachers. This means planning to train the current cohort of teachers, as well as anticipating the training needs of future teachers who will be new to sex education or existing teachers who may need supplemental training. Solutions to the ongoing training needs of sex education teachers include: 1) creating a cadre of expert teachers who can “train up” new staff; 2) using on-line resources that cover the basic sex education information so that new teachers can access training resources as-needed; and 3) finding a local organization that can provide core skills teacher training on an as-needed basis. Don’t assume that “if you build it, they will come.” Recruitment of teachers for participation in training and professional development opportunities may require ongoing efforts and visible support of key district leaders. Create a smooth experience for attendees by making sure teachers understand the purpose and rationale for the training ahead of time so that there aren’t any surprises on the day of the training. School districts also may need to plan for teacher time out of the class, including lining up substitute teachers.