Who am I in this?
Exploring my own values
Teacher awareness about their personal values, beliefs and attitudes.
It is essential that teachers and educators who implement relationship and sexuality education (RSE) take stock of their own values, beliefs and attitudes before embarking on the teaching/learning exchange with students. The question “Who am I in this?” requests educators take the necessary self-examination and locate their personal values relative to the agreement within school and community values1.
Most importantly, the question acknowledges that educators are individuals first with their own set of life experiences, backgrounds, cultures and influencers. “Who am I in this? What do I value? What moves me, stirs my passion, awakens my conscience?” There are no right or wrong answers, of course. However, being unaware of the answers to these reflective questions has the potential to colour how RSE is presented to students. There is a possibility of creating bias and preference, consciously or unconsciously. There is the potential for the classroom values or the values of the educator to be at odds with home values causing discord in an already charged area of learning.
...there is also recognition that teachers may not easily identify some challenges to successful sexuality teaching, especially with regard to their own personal attitudes to diverse sexualities, patriarchy and gender relations and the power relations inherent in both society and the school environment. These issues must be addressed directly in teacher education (Ollis 2005, 2010; Sinkinson 2009; Harrison & Hillier 1999; Mills 2004). Teachers must be ‘comfortable with [their] own sexuality’ (Milton et al. 2001) before addressing the issues which students may be facing and/or want to discuss.2
Schools are places where both students and school staff come together every day in social and educational engagement with one another, and through these interactions - values are promoted, facilitated and transmitted to students every day, often unknowingly. It is therefore useful for teachers to take the time to reflect on how they feel or might react to handling potentially confronting content. Making a list of thoughts to help decide what path and approach to take can be quite helpful. Talking about it with colleagues who are also teaching the material is also a useful preparation and posing hypothetical scenarios can help open up peer dialogue. Further examination and consideration can be achieved by discussions with team teachers about any potential impact of individual and shared values of the teacher on students and how this sits with the role of the teacher in the classroom.
The following seven steps may assist you in determining who you are in this.
Know that educators who are not adequately trained in RSE may have difficulty in dealing with cultural and social attitudes.
Acknowledge the diverse range of influences on human sexuality – family, religious, cultural, community – and the underlying value systems for each.
Invite colleagues and team teachers to examine their own values in order to be aware of them, pose hypothetical questions relevant to the learning activity to open up dialogue and explore personal values.
Respect the educator as an individual with their own values and belief systems (expansion of this concept will include teacher support officer, school nurse, school psychologist, chaplain etc).
Share personal beliefs and values on topics before engaging with students in the classroom, particularly where team teaching is utilised.
Examine the role of the teacher in RSE which includes – “to provide opportunities for students to examine the range of values relating to sexuality issues”3
Resolve any differences between held personal values with the role of educator, avoiding imposition of personal values upon students either implicitly or explicitly when implementing RSE.
- Department of Education, Science and Training. National Framework for Values Education in Australian Schools. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia. 2005.
- Ollis, Debbie, Lyn Harrison and Claire Maharaj. Sexuality Education Matters. Victoria: Deakin University. 2013.
- Family Planning Queensland. Position Statement: Values and Sexuality Education - An Inclusive Approach. http://www.fpq.com.au/pdf/media/Ps_Values_and_sexuality_education.pdf.