The Birds, The Bees, and Me

I loved teaching fifth grade more than any other grade.  10 and 11 year old children are full of positive energy and unbridled enthusiasm.  They are inquisitive with a refreshing sense of innocence.  They are losing their egocentricity and replacing it with an understanding that there is a giant world around them with so much to offer.

When I taught fifth grade there was one area of the curriculum that scared me to death.  I am talking about teaching “sex education.”  I was very fortunate that the school where I was teaching did not require the teachers to teach this to the students.  Why?  Because I will fully admit that I was not necessarily the most mature young adult.  There was no way I could stand in front of my students and say “penis” and “vagina” with a straight face.  So, instead, we took the students to a local health education center where graduate students taught my students about the human reproductive system through their “Linda” and “Michael” programs.

When I moved into the principalship, I was relieved that I had made it through my  teaching career without having to teach what makes boys and girls different.  I spent nine years as the principal of my first school, and never did I have to speak the P-word or the V-word.  Then I moved to a new school.

During my initial tour of the new school after I was hired, the outgoing principal (who was moving to the middle school and was a friend of mine) casually mentioned that he forgot to tell me one thing during the entire interview process.  “Dave” he said, “I forgot to mention that the male fifth grade teacher and I have been teaching the Human Growth and Development unit for the last seven years.  The expectation is that you would take my place next spring.”

“Excuse me?  Human growth and development?  What exactly is that?” I asked, knowing full well what he was talking about.

“It’s the sex education unit.  I’m so sorry I forgot to mention it earlier,” he said with a sly grin.

Well, I had already signed the contract and had officially resigned from my previous district.  There was no turning back.

I spent most of my first year stressing about the upcoming puberty unit that I was going to teach.  I literally walked around the house practicing saying the words out loud – over and over again.  I needed to desensitize my immature brain and start acting like a grown up.  I read the text book a thousand times.  I knew the material like the back of my hand.  Plus, I had two kids of my own by then, so I really understood the process.

The day came.  All the boys entered the room to join me and Mike, the other male teacher.  I was more nervous than my first day of student teaching.  Luckily, he had taught the unit for a few years, so he took the lead, and I added a comment here and there.  Ironically, here was my chance to teach fifth grade again, and I dreaded every minute of it.

Well, I am now in my fourth year as the principal of this school, and I have survived three years teaching the human growth and development lesson.  Today, I started my fourth year teaching “the changes our bodies go through.”  I can now proudly say that I have grown up.  I can say all the words out loud, and I don’t giggle when the boys start giggling. I am actually enjoying myself teaching fifth graders again.

There is one thing nagging at me, however.  Because we teach about puberty, not about sex, how am I going to answer the inevitable question that some innocent boy is bound to ask: “I don’t get one thing.  How does the sperm actually get to the egg?”



5 thoughts on “The Birds, The Bees, and Me

  1. Pingback: Valuable Internet Information » The Birds, The Bees, and Me

  2. Thank you for sharing your funny thoughts about this topic. As a fifth grade teacher, I HATED this unit every year. My first year, I guess because I was the rookie, I had to take the boys. I swore I would NEVER do it again after the innocent boy in the front raised his hand and asked, “Why do we call it a boner when the film said there is no bone in there????” Oh the horror! I’ll never be the same again!

  3. I know that as teachers, we’d be stomped on for answering “the man and the woman have sex. Make love. Form the beast with two backs. Cuddle. Fu–.” And that somewhere in the middle of that rant, the principal or vice-principal would walk by and we’d get fired.

    The other side of it, though, is that a fifth grader in my school couldn’t get this question answered in class… so he asked it of his tent-mates on a mixed-grade camping trip my school runs, one night. His parents were VERY upset, when they found out what he’d ‘learned’ while camping.

    Should we be the adults, and actually explain despite our fears, or let a pimply eighth-grader do the explaining for us?

  4. Honestly, parents need to realize their kids learn an awful lot about sex just watching prime time TV and listening to rap music. Most kids “know” more about the topic long before they get the 5th grade talk. Granted most of what they know is wrong, but that isn’t the school’s fault!

    Just one more parental duty that parents want to delegate to the school. I had “the talk” with my daughter before she entered 4th grade. She shared with me some of the false information she had heard on the playground already. The whole conversation was really uncomfortable for me, but I’m glad she got the facts.

    Can someone explain to me how it ever became known as “the birds and the bees?” I’ve never understood that.

  5. Traci,
    I completely agree with you. We have tried to teach more about how our bodies change than about sex, but the sex conversations are inevitable. I can’t answer the birds/bees question. I do love the pictures I found for this post!
    Thanks for commenting.

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