Tag Archives: sexual identity development

Feeling pretty lucky to have had a weekend of Our Whole Lives training at @brearleynyc

I’m thrilled to be starting my second year at The Brearley School. It’s a fantastic K-12 girls school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. I gush often about the stellar admin team, the incredibly accomplished faculty, and the fabulous students. Everyone is kind, brilliant, and passionate, and I feel very lucky to have joined the community.

An email went out to faculty last spring about joining a cohort to be trained to lead instruction in the Our Whole Lives (OWL) curriculum at the elementary, middle, and upper levels. I jumped at the opportunity to get empowered to further empower our students to make informed, wise, responsible choices. I was a volunteer Sex and Personal Health Educator (SAPHE) while a student at Bryn Mawr College, and I greatly appreciated that Brearley chose to implement OWL this year and offered us this chance to be so involved.

Below is some information copied and pasted from the Wikipedia page about OWL:

Our Whole Lives, or OWL, is a series of six comprehensive sexuality curricula for children, teenagers, young adults and adults published by the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries.[1][2]Publication was the result of seven years of collaborative effort by the two faiths to prepare material which addresses sexuality throughout the lifespan in age appropriate ways.

The Our Whole Lives program operates under the idea that well informed youth and young adults make better, healthier decisions about sexuality than those without complete information. OWL strives to be unbiased and teaches aboutheterosexual, bisexual, homosexual, and transgender sexual health. In addition to information on sex, OWL is intended to help children, youth, and adults to be emotionally healthy and responsible in terms of their sexuality.

This past weekend, following the first week of school, about 25 of us stayed past 9pm on Friday, and returned to school at 7:30am on Saturday and Sunday for the training. It was exhausting, eye-opening, and important. I was skeptical at first, as OWL is published by religious institutions. However, the program is secular, thoughtful, thorough, inclusive, modern, and pretty wonderful. I was in the group of teachers trained to facilitate workshops for Grades 7-12, and remarkably, Pamela Wilson, the author of the Grades 7-9 text, was one of our trainers! Kathleen Baldwin of the University of Indiana was our other trainer, and both women have decades of OWL training and implementing experience under their belt.

  • Here’s a direct link to information and resources about OWL from Unitarian Universalist Association: http://www.uua.org/re/owl
  • Here’s a direct link to information and resources about OWL from United Church of Christ: http://www.uua.org/re/owl

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Notes from Jennifer Bryan’s presentation about Gender and Sexual Diversity Education. #edchat


Jennifer Bryan, Ph.D. presented about Gender and Sexual Diversity today to faculty in grades 5-8.

Jennifer began her presentation with a quote by Erwin Schrödinger:
Thus, the task is, not so much to see what no one has yet seen; but to think what nobody has yet thought, about that which everybody sees.
These are the four questions Jennifer used to guide her presentation:
What does gender identity development (GID) look like in Pre K-12 kids?
What does sexual idendity development (SID) look like in Pre K-12 kids?
How does gender and sexuality manifest every day at school?
What should your educational response be to gender and sexuality diversity (GSD)?
Gender  – does not equal biological sex but does include gender identity, gender expression, gender roles, gender variability, transgender, transsexual, gender queer, transitioning…
Sexuality – sexual orientation/attraction, sexual identity, sexual behavior, queer
Can The School’s educational philosophy support the following premise:
People of all sexualities and gender identities have equal worth and deserve equal status in safety, voice, affimation, and curricular represenation in our school.
Jennifer suggests we need a new diagram of sex and gender which includes scales (like number lines) with the spectrums below. Essentially these can be verbalized as: What I was born with, how I express myself on the inside, how I express myself on the outside, and who I choose to pair with.  Also, the underlying spectrum needs to recognize <– asexual – sexual –> …
Biological Sex (anatomy, choromosomes, hormones)
<– male — intersex — female –>
Gender Identity (physical sense of self)
<– man — two-spirited/bigendered — woman –>
Gender Expression (communication of gender and gendered traits)
<– masculine — androgynous — feminine –>
Attraction/Sexual Orientation (erotic and/or romantic response)
<– attracted to women — attracted to two or more genders — attracted to men –>

We talked about if you had to put a marker on the scales to represent where we stand, some may be very static with the placement of their marker, while others more latitude (or require a very wide marker). We also talked about how until a girl becomes a sexual object, they have a bigger window to explore their sexual identity, while society is quick to respond (often negatively or with concern) to boys exploring their identity.

Heteronormative/Heteronormativity – the expectation that the majority and the ideal is a specific type of male-female pairing…anything else is considered “other.”

Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE): The Sum of Its Parts
Pre K-2: families, friendships, feelings, differences, respect
3-4: individual development, streotypes, diversity
5-6: human anatomy, reproduction, cultures, prejudice
7-8: puberty, emotions, drugs, healthy relationships
9-12: values clarification, birth control, abstinence options, conflict resolution, sexual decision making
We broke up into groups to examine some case scenarios. The first is about an androgynous 6th grade girl, Christy, who is separating herself from her classmates; The rest of the grade is beginning to negotiate the boy/girl social dynamics inside and outside of class, while Christy is socially awkward anyway and not joining in on any conversation about adolescent development. The second is about Liam, a 7th grade boy who is creating a big stir about “coming out” – though in a disruptive way. A parent of another 7th grade boy, Stephen, approaches a teacher and says that she’s upset by the grade being taken over by the Liam’s declaration, especially as Liam is a kind of annoying kid anyway.

My group discussed the second scenario. I personally prefer that my students stay on the asexual side of the spectrum for as long as possible. Yet, clearly kids need a forum to navigate what’s okay and not okay and seek counsel from people they trust. Besides their own internal conflicts, sometimes their questions arise as a result of what they see in the media (movies, ads, TV).

So in this scenario, we have a kid who is out there in a way that his classmates aren’t. What to do? Since we had to role play, I thought it would be funny to write a short script where the parent gets four different reponses based on The Four Sons from the seder: the wise son, the wicked son, the simple son, and the one who cannot ask (though with more gender neutrality):

  1. The Wise One: What exactly do you mean by this Liam’s thing. What are you hearing from your son? We would love to support your son and talk this through.
  2. The Wicked One: What are you doing at home to support your child’s homophobia?
  3. The Simple One: I can’t help you. This is not my area of expertise.
  4. The One Who Cannot Ask: I have no idea what you are talking about. This is the first I’m hearning of it.

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