Before you teach human sexuality, you need to understand your own values and biases. It’s important because you don’t want to project your personal values upon your students. The way you teach sexual health is as important as the information itself. When students feel like they belong, it encourages them to stay in school to learn and succeed.
Students are better able to succeed and develop a positive sense of self when schools are inclusive, welcoming, caring, respectful and safe. These environments support students in building healthy relationships with others, valuing diversity and showing respect, empathy and compassion.
The statements below will help you assess your values, as they could influence your teaching style. There’s no ‘perfect’ way to approach sexuality education. You won’t know all the answers, but you do need to know where to get the answers. If, after going through these statements, you feel you aren’t able to teach the sexual health education curriculum because of ethical, moral or religious differences, please speak with your school administration.
Think about each statement and how you feel about what it says. Click on the statement to find what the research says.
Parents and guardians are an important source of sexual health education for children and teens. They lay the basis for a child’s attitude, morals and values. However, 72% of boys and 66% of girls say they first learned about sex from someone other than their parents.
Canadian teens stated that friends, siblings and the media are the most common sources of sexual health information. Survey results consistently show that Canadian parents and students want schools to offer sexual health education. Schools can be the main source of ensuring that students have access to consistent, accurate and up-to-date sexual health education as part of a comprehensive sexual health education program.
–+I'm aware of my own sexual attitudes and beliefs when talking about sexual behaviour with my students.+-
Don’t assume that all students:
- would rather learn about sexuality from health professionals
- come from traditional nuclear families
- are heterosexual
- are cisgender
- are sexually active
- are not sexually active
- consent to sexual activity
- who are sexually active, are having intercourse
- have the same knowledge base
- have the same cultural and religious beliefs
- express the sexual behaviour that matches their sexual orientation
- gender expression will match their gender identity
Comprehensive sexual health education is designed to give students the skills to make responsible sexual decisions. Programs that teach about contraception and safer sex don’t make teens have intercourse earlier or more often. In fact, programs that teach about both abstinence and safer sex can help teens postpone intercourse. Evaluations of comprehensive sexual health education programs show that teens had sexual intercourse later, had fewer partners and used condoms much more than teens that weren’t part of a program.
–+I will lose credibility if I don’t know all the answers to questions or if the students sense that I'm uncomfortable with some sexuality issues.+-
Sexual health can be hard to talk about. Let your class know that you’re uncomfortable—it can help everyone feel more comfortable. Knowing where to look for information is an important part of feeling comfortable. If you’re unsure about a question, tell your students this and be sure to find the correct answer and get back to your students. No one knows all the answers. The Responding to Student Questions page has information to help you answer your student’s questions with confidence.
–+Mentioning health risks relating to early sexual activity is a scare tactic and should not be used by educators.+-
Building on the protective factors that make a student more resilient is the best way to ensure sexual health. Scare tactics only draw attention to the issue in the short term. In the long term, healthy sexual behaviour is reached through effective education that focuses on developing skills, taking action, identifying role models and reinforcing positive behaviour.
This is normal and common. Sexual health education must address and acknowledge the diverse needs of all students. It’s important for sexual health educators to provide comprehensive sexual health education that’s both culturally appropriate and reflects different social situations. Talking about facts rather than values helps. The instructional methods section of this website has many learning strategies that you can use to teach the curriculum. Consider taking the “Teaching Sexual Health 101” Workshop to increase your knowledge and confidence.
–+I feel I can make a difference helping my students make responsible choices about their sexuality.+-
Sexual health education can give children of all ages the knowledge and skills they need to make and act upon healthy decisions. Teachers play a key role in teaching comprehensive programs designed to promote sexual health.
Feedback needs to be complete, accurate and appropriate to the age and developmental stage of the students. Every question is a valid question. You can choose to group common questions together, to respectfully acknowledge that a question is confusing or off topic, and to defer questions that relate to future course content. Questions that specifically ask about your personal experiences (e.g. “When was the last time you got/gave a blow job?”) do not need to be answered, but can be an opportunity to discuss privacy or remind students of the ground rules.
–+Community health professionals are better prepared than I am to teach parts of the human sexuality curriculum.+-
It is common for teachers to feel that some of the more ‘clinical’ topics, like birth control and STIs, or more controversial or sensitive topics, would be better handled by a nurse or sexual health educator. However, there are many resources available on this site to help you get comfortable with these topics. In addition, the personal relationships you have developed with your students make you a more effective educator than a guest speaker.
Alberta Education mandates teachers to teach the human sexuality curriculum. It’s the teacher’s responsibility to ensure curriculum learning objectives are met. When involving community resources, a teacher must stay involved in all aspects of the program/presentation, including appropriate pre- and post-session learning activities.
Please note that teachingsexualhealth.ca does not have a list of approved guest speakers for schools. Alberta Health Services defers to each school board/jurisdiction as to whom they choose as their school guest speakers.
One tool teachers and school administration can use to guide their decisions on guest speakers is the Guide for Choosing School Health Resources. This resource will help schools choose high quality health and wellness resources that will meet their needs.
It’s important to have ground rules related to vocabulary at the beginning of the course. Encourage students to phrase questions and comments as best they can. Identify and acknowledge that the word is a slang term and reinforce that in class the proper terminology will be used (e.g., “The scientific term for that word is ____”).