Every time I think I’ve heard it all and there is nothing any student could say that would shock me, I am proven wrong. A student will say something that will bring me to my knees, as I ask God to help this generation of youth. I recently had one of those experiences when a young man shared the following with me after a class:
I don’t have to worry about a baby changing my life. When my grandmother found out that I was sexually active, she set up an abortion fund. So if I get a girl pregnant, there is already money in the bank to pay for the abortion.
Yes, you read that correctly: not a college fund, an abortion fund!
Are you as dumbfounded as I was?
Apparently, grandmothers aren’t what grandmothers used to be. But then again, grandmothers are a LOT younger than grandmothers used to be.
Fortunately, I had a two-hour break before my next class, which gave me time to try to process what I had just heard (if it’s even possible to process something so sad). So, I decided to grab a bite to eat at a nearby Chick-fil-A restaurant.
The manager happened to be the person taking my order. He asked me how I was doing and before I had a chance to think about my answer, I said, “traumatized!” He looked shocked by my response and asked me why. For the next ten minutes we had a conversation about my work with teens in the schools: the good, the bad and the ugly. I bet he’ll think twice before asking another customer THAT question.
When people hear some of my stories, they often ask me how I do it—continue to remain positive in the face of so many heart-wrenching and sometimes crazy stories from the students. I always tell them that for every sad, depressing or disheartening story that I hear, I have ten positive, encouraging or uplifting stories to keep me hopeful. Fortunately, it doesn’t take long after hearing a negative story for me to hear one of the positive stories, as was the case this day.
After finishing my lunch at Chick-fil-A, I returned to the school to teach my final class of the day. Throughout the class I noticed a young man who appeared to be really struggling with the information that I shared. When I noticed that he didn’t laugh at any of my jokes when everyone else in the class laughed, I knew something had to be wrong. I mean, WHO wouldn’t think MY jokes are funny, right?!?!?!
When class ended, he took his time packing up his belongings. After everyone left, he asked if he could speak with me and said:
I just wanted to tell you THANK YOU! I had planned to go to a girl’s house after school today to have sex. I have the condoms in my wallet. But I can’t do it now after hearing you speak.
YES!!!!! These are the conversations every sex education teacher lives for!
He said the point that really got to him was when I talked about them risking their entire future for something that is only temporary. I tell the students that I am amazed that teenagers are so willing to allow one part of their body, their genitals, to potentially change/control their entire lives. And I ask them to consider whether it is worth the risk.
He told me that his dream was to attend Georgia Tech and hearing me speak made him realize how dumb it would be to risk that dream by having sex with a girl, and especially one who wasn’t even his girlfriend.
As you can imagine, I was elated to receive this positive response just hours after being so disheartened by the conversation with the other young man earlier in the day.
It’s as if God knows what it takes to keep me from getting discouraged and I LOVE how fast He sends another student to show me that it IS worth it. My work is not in vain!
The students have an assignment after I leave to write an anonymous letter telling me what impact the classes will have on their future decisions. When I picked up the letters from the school the next week, I had this letter from the young man who spoke with me after my final class of the day:
Dear Ms. Jackie, Again thank you for changing my aspect on my sexually active life. I, now more than ever, feel the need to do other things in life that have nothing to do with “gambling my future.” I spoke to you after class on Friday. I know you probably forgot about me but I could never be able to forget you. Thank you for opening my eyes. I think what you do is great and I encourage you to speak to other students as well. TEENS NEED TO HEAR YOU!
Thank you, the Guy No Longer “Risking Georgia Tech”
As you can see, the day in the life of a sex education teacher can come with extreme lows and extreme highs. I liken it to being on an emotional roller coaster.
If you are in the position of working with and influencing teens whether as a parent, teacher, coach, etc., I’m sure you can relate to being on that roller coaster. You may get negative responses that send you plummeting down the tracks, but don't despair. You will end up back at the top of the roller coaster and sometimes it doesn’t take long for that to happen.
Has there been a time with your children or students where you’ve experienced moments of hopefulness and discouragement in the same day? How did it make you feel and how did you handle it?