Hey, Coach. Teaching Sex Ed? How's That Going for You?

Hey, Coach. Teaching Sex Ed? How's That Going for You?

By John Henry Ledwith | October 8, 2015
Senior Sales Manager, ETR

I was in a room full of coaches the other day. I loved it. These men and women are so dedicated to their art and craft. They’re athletes. They’re achievers. They’re deeply committed to their students.

But this was a training addressing sexuality education. Frankly, not all of these teachers wanted to be there. They’d rather be running with their PE courses, helping students develop physical skills, build teamwork and boost confidence.

Fact: People have different levels of comfort teaching sensitive issues. Fact: Classes on sexual and reproductive health bring up a lot of sensitive issues. 

Let's Go, Professional Development!

While it’s expedient for some schools to ask coaches to double up on health education classes, we must offer these teachers sufficient professional development opportunities to learn how to teach these classes well.

I’m going to be honest here. At the training, I was most inspired by the efforts of coaches who had less comfort with the sexual health material. I watched one big guy who I’m pretty sure had never in his life held up a condom in front of a room full of colleagues. He blushed and stammered, and he stumbled over the steps a bit, but he got through that condom demonstration! Next time he has an opportunity to do the demonstration with his students, I’m certain he’ll do it with more skill and confidence.

Some folks get riled up when PE teachers take on the health curriculum. I absolutely understand the value of having teachers trained in health education carry out this vital work, and I agree that health teachers teaching the health curriclum is the best outcome when schools can make it happen. And let’s remember that a lot of PE instructors are dual-credentialed in health education.

Coaches Offer Different Opportunities

But I want to point out that the coaches in our schools have opportunities to interact with students in completely different ways from their counterparts in more academic subjects. They discover all kinds of things that students may not show in a classroom—different talents and interests, different interactions with peers, special skills in leadership or paralyzing fears of failure.

These are rich avenues into some of the most essential lessons in the health education curriculum.

So what I’d like to see is a lot more support for PE teachers, whether they’re formally teaching health education or not, to participate in professional development that strengthens their skillset in the health education arena.

Here are two steps I’ve thought of that can help advance this agenda.

  1. Let’s have the conversation. Whatever your role in health, physical or academic education, let’s talk about it. How can we create more opportunities for PE teachers—or really, any non-health education specialists—to learn more about addressing critical health issues with students?
  2. Let’s share some resources. For example, ETR offers free downloads of chapters from our Health Facts series. This is some good reading that can be helpful for anyone who wants to explore ways to talk with students about health behaviors.

We’ve also got a fine Professional Development team here at ETR that can help schools and districts arrange tailored trainings designed to meet specific needs.

I’d love to hear more about your own thoughts and solutions. What are your ideas on this issue?


John Henry Ledwith is ETR’s Senior Sales Manager. He can be reached at jhl@etr.org. You can also find him on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter @JohnHenry56.


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