Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Sexual Identity Disorder, or Sex in the Classroom

The field of teaching English as a second language is fraught with opportunities, opportunities for misunderstanding and confusion.

The other day I was teaching one of my Junior classes (7th and 8th graders). I wanted them to pick a superstar who would eventually become their husband or wife for the activity. I wrote on the board, "Write down the first name of your favorite movie star or superstar of the opposite sex." They were reading along as I wrote and when they got to the word sex there were several gasps from the room. I knew exactly what they were thinking, "Teacher Bob just wrote SEX!" I turned around to explain what I wanted, but one of them beat me to the punch. Little Som piped up, "Teacher, what is opposite sex?" I misunderstood the question, and being tired and not thinking straight, I answered truthfully, "Well kids, the opposite of sex is marriage." A great deal of consternation ensued as they fell to talking with their neighbors and trying to parse the meaning of my words. At this point I realized that I had wandered into a minefield of linguistic and cultural difficulties and I beat a hasty retreat. I explained that I wanted the girls to pick a boy's name, and the boys to pick a girl's name. We went on with the activity, but it reminded me of the first rule of teaching young teens, "Always think twice before you say anything."