Healthy Relationships--Middle Schoolers Learn Key Elements
Tickled by a family member. Tickled by a stranger. A friend grabbing French fries off your plate. A bully grabbing French fries off your plate. Context matters. Asking matters. How we treat each other matters. Caring about how you feel matters. Caring about how other people feel matters. Using these and other neutral, every-day situations, author and sexuality educator Shafia Zaloom navigated complex, sensitive topics with an assembly hall full of middle-schoolers.
At one point, Shafia asked students to think of a bear. As she called on students, each one described a different bear—a panda, teddy bear, black bear in the tree, polar bear, gummy bear. “Notice how everyone had a different interpretation of the same idea—a bear. This is true of things that lie at the heart of relationships—values such as respect, trust, empathy, compassion, dignity, honesty, and integrity. The quality of your relationships will determine the quality of your life. It is important to establish who you are in relationship.”
“Sexuality is much broader than sex,” Shafia asserted. She walked students through a slide that divided sexuality into five branches: sensuality, intimacy, sexual orientation/identity, sexual reproductive health, and sexual behavior and practices. “You have power and agency in each of these areas. When it comes to sexuality, your feelings in each of these areas matter. Consent is cultivating the ability to educate others about how to treat you and to listen for how others want to be treated.”
Shafia began each session with a compelling assertion. “Practice shapes the brain which shapes reality which shapes who we are for life. Everything is practice, so be careful what you practice because you will get very good at it.” Her presentation then detailed the constituent parts of consent, power, and control. By the end of the assembly, there was no doubt about the value of understanding these elements and about the lifelong benefits of mindfully practicing them.
You can find Shafia's slide deck in the "Useful Downloads" Resource Board on the Parent Portal.