Tips on how to answer questions in sex ed!

Below is a handout I did as part of a training a couple of years ago about answering difficult questions.  As this week is sexual health week and FPA have been running their fab- “cringe questions” campaign, then I thought it might be timely to assist those covering sex education in schools with how to answer difficult questions.  Next blog post – sample answers to the hardest questions!

Asking and answering questions.

Although most students will be able to ask questions within lessons some students may feel too shy. Establishing an anonymous question box for use in lessons is very useful.  Ask students to write down questions anonymously and put them into the question box which you agree to answer at the next lesson (This gives you time to work out the answers!). Reassure the class that anonymity will be maintained and no one will be identified from their handwriting etc (you must ensure any other adults in the classroom do not break this commitment).

If there is a question you don’t feel is appropriate to answer in a whole class setting because of age appropriateness or concerns about a child protection issue – then say to the class that if anyone hasn’t had their questions answered they should come and see you after class

It is very important not to make fun of a student’s question, or allow any other students to do so, as that will make the student asking the question feel silly and less likely to ask questions in the future. Even if it is a comedy question (you will get them!) you need to reinforce to the class that there are no silly questions, and since students are all at different stages of development then peoples questions will all be different but all should be answered equally.

Some students may occasionally ask personal questions about your private life – firmly and pleasantly refer them back to the group agreement – that personal lives are not disclosed.

Some students may ask questions deliberately to try to embarrass you – you are likely to be able to tell when this is happening and by mentioning this explicitly that this is unacceptable within the session establishing the group agreement- you could say to students: “please do not ask questions with the aim of embarrassing me, yourself or other members of the class, I can tell when you are doing this and you run the risk of none of your questions being taken seriously in the future, even if they are genuine ones.”  This usually stops questions that are not genuine.


Sample group agreement.

Openness –we will be open and honest but not to disclose our own or others’ personal/private lives.  Discuss general situations as examples but do not use names or identifying descriptions.The classroom is a safe space– we feel safe discussing general issues relating to sex and relationships within this space and know that as long as we are not at risk teachers will maintain a certain level of confidentiality.  Outside of the classroom we are aware that other people may feel uncomfortable with such discussions. Also our friends may sometimes give us misinformation so we are aware of the “safe” sources of information such as Sense DVD, our local young person’s clinic.Non-judgemental approach- It is okay for us to disagree with another person point of view but  we will not  judge, make fun of, or put down anybody

Right to pass- Participation is important, however we have the right to pass on answering a question or participating in an activity.

Make no assumptions– we will not make assumptions about people’s values, attitudes, behaviours, life experiences or feelings.

Listening to others point of view and sharing your own-  we will listen to the other person’s point of view and expect to be listened to

Using language- We will use the correct terms for the things we will be discussing rather than the slang terms as some people can find them offensive. If we are not sure what the correct term is – we will ask our teacher.

Asking questions- we know that there are no stupid questions. We do not ask questions to deliberately try to embarrass anyone else because this means that our questions may not be taken seriously in the future, even if they are genuine ones.  There is a question box available for anonymous questions.

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