Tween Tuesday: Giving thanks to Maryland's sex-ed teachers

May 29, 2012|By Liz Atwood | Special to The Baltimore Sun

When you think of superheroes, you might imagine those fellows in tights flying and leaping through the air. Or maybe you think of police officers, firefighters and servicemen and women who risk their lives to protect us.

But I'd like to nominate another group of people -- those brave men and women who teach Maryland tweens about human sexuality.

In Baltimore County, the fifth-grade teachers spend the last couple of weeks of the school year teaching kids about sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS and basic information about how to care for their changing bodies. I’m fairly comfortable talking to my boys about the facts of life, but I don't think I would be brave enough to have this conversation with a class of giggling and red-faced 11-year-olds.

My son's teacher has been doing this for years. She tells the class that it's OK if they laugh once, but that they need to take the lesson seriously. So the woman who has taught them about the Declaration of Independence and three branches of government starts talking to the students about penises and vaginas. That is bravery.

The students in her class are just starting to become aware of their own sexuality. All year I’ve listened to my son describe who likes whom. He's had at least three "girlfriends" this year. When I volunteered to help with field day, I thought I was in Peyton Place with all the talk of breakups and romance. The kids gossip about their "boyfriends" and "girlfriends" and a few of the boldest have ventured a kiss on the playground. Now they sit together and learn about the health implications of these feelings they are having.

I don't know what you think of the state's sex ed curriculum, but I'm glad these lessons start early. And for those brave men and women who are on the front lines in the classroom, I salute you.

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