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Sexual Health Education doesn't stop just because there is a pandemic! 


This week, we wanted to get the inside scoop on what it has been like for our Education Director to be teaching sex ed during the pandemic. Here's what she had to say: 

If you are one of the Dr. Bonnie Henry superfans, you know that she’s a superb communicator: she’s brilliant and capable, warm and empathetic, and skillfully explains complex health information to a wide audience. I can tell you that, as a health educator, it’s like watching a figure skater land a clean, fully-rotated quad jump in competition—it looks so effortless, but you know how much thought, prep, rehearsal, and training went into that moment! When you add sex to any conversation things can get weird (as Dr. Henry knows) and communicating sexual health information in times of COVID-19 has been predictably bumpy.

I wanted to share with you some of the joys, surprises, and challenges that we’ve been managing here at Options, as we continue to deliver comprehensive, sex-positive information about sexual health.

One of the first quick adjustments that we needed to make was to our school-based workshops, which are normally delivered in person throughout BC schools. As sex ed is mandated in British Columbia, schools have come to depend on Options to cover all the expected learning outcomes in our signature style. Communicating complex health information to students of all ages is our specialty, and Options educators combine stories, drawings on the white board, games, and science-based, age-appropriate information to create practical and entertaining lessons. But how can we translate that style into Google Classroom sessions or a zoom meeting over spotty bandwidth?

This is what I’ve learned:

  • Young people know how to learn online, but I needed to figure out how to teach that way

  • A good webcam and a soothing background are crucial

  • A beautifully-designed slide deck goes a long way!

  • Look at the camera when you’re teaching, not your own video feed

But technical issues aside, I need to appreciate that I’m speaking to students about important and intimate things while they are sitting at the kitchen table at home. I must understand that this unique educational environment allows me certain freedoms (I don’t need to manage any classroom laughing fits when I say the word ‘anus’, for example) but also means that demonstrating how a tampon works is a little tricky and that I’m not able to be as responsive to student reactions as I can be in the classroom. Talking about consent, for example, isn’t just about reciting the rules—it’s about connecting with students and noticing their body language and reactions, and encouraging their comments, feedback, and discussion.

I will forever remember the puberty presentation I gave to a Grade 7 class this June when several of the students dragged their laptops under their desks, draped in blankets so they could give themselves a sense of immersion and privacy while at home. We had to figure out new ways for students to submit anonymous questions, and also shift and adapt our expectations for students’ “behaviour” in class (each classroom teacher had different rules about needing the students’ cameras to be on or off, for example). Talking about sexuality in the classroom has always been a joyful and sometimes fraught experience; doing it online has introduced new freedoms and barriers.

We also know that we’re counted on to be up to date and knowledgeable about the most current sexuality topics and sex education during times of COVID-19 has been wild. I never would have predicted that I’d be talking about glory holes on morning radio, for example, and this week I’m fielding questions about the human sexual response cycle, thanks to Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion (and some nonsense from folks like Ben Shapiro). We’ve decided to offer our very first online Sexual Attitudes Reassessment (SAR) workshop! And of course, sexual expression continues despite—and maybe even in response to—global pandemics, so the Education team has worked with everyone at Options (the clinical staff, the Sex Sense operators, reception, management, communications…) to make sure that folks have access to excellent care and information while they celebrate their sexual selves. Even now, people need birth control, they need safer sex supplies, they need gender-affirming care, they need STI testing, prenatal care, birthing support, abortion access, and they need to know that it’s a very human response to seek love, pleasure, comfort, and touch during a global health threat. 

There’s something truly beautiful and extraordinary about our need to be seen and known during these times. Of all the things that I will remember about the last few months, our vulnerability and continued drive to connect will be one of the things that moves me the most. The one permanent change to our Education services that I can attest to is that we’re better—more knowledgeable, nimbler, more skilled—than we were before.

As I write this, debate continues about how schools will look in September. All I know is that—no matter how students will attend in the fall—Options will be there, and we are ready.


Thank you for your ongoing support during this time! 
Kristen
Education Director at Options 
Click for more on our Education Programs
SAVE THE DATE!
We have a few fun events coming up in the Fall! Make sure to note them on your calendar now so you don't miss any of them!
  • September 4th at 7 p.m. World Sexual Health Day Live Stream Panel: Pleasure and the Pandemic. Grab your favourite Friday night beverage and join us as our panel of sexperts talk all things pleasure! Details to follow!
  • September 25th 6 p.m. Annual General Meeting Live Stream.
  • October 25th Heart Your Parts Brunch. Details coming soon!

COVID Comfort Corner
How have you been handling all the time at home since March? Behind the scenes here at Options, we've been experiencing a full range of COVID scenarios, and we've been inviting our staff and Board to share what's going on for them. After working from home since March 16th, our Communications Director Ashleigh shares what has been keeping her entertained lately:

Image of a green knit sweater in progress, on a brown couch.
Although I have been fairly active in the kitchen, I have also been super happy to have my knitting during COVID. I have long joked that if you put me anywhere with enough yarn, I would be happy no matter what. At the beginning of the pandemic, two weeks on the couch with my knitting sounded like a dream come true (horrible pandemic fear aside!). This is my Felix Pullover that I'm knitting and looking forward to wearing in the Fall and Winter! 

Ashleigh, our Comms Director and her son open mouthed with excitementMy small human and I are huge sports fans, and over the past few months, we have both missed playing and watching sports. My kiddo loves all things sports (hockey, soccer, baseball, lacrosse, swimming, badminton, you name it, he loves it!) and even went so far as to watch the old re-runs on NHL Classics! When hockey came back in late July we were both ecstatic and have watched as many games as we have been able to. We are loving the weird summer playoff games we are having and for the first time ever, I will be enjoying a Canucks playoff game ON MY BIRTHDAY!

Card came Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza is displayed on a brown table.With all the time we have been spending as a family unit, we have played a lot of games-- between Uno, Nintendo Switch, and The Floor is Lava, we have kept ourselves very entertained. When a friend suggested a game called "Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza" we ordered it right away. It has quickly become one of our family favourites. If you like having fun, being silly, and a little competition, do not pass go, do not collect $200, order this game immediately


We have been staying safe and healthy while enjoying spending time in our backyard, discovering local bike trails, and doing Pokemon Go walks in the forests close to our home. 
 
Hope you are all staying safe and well!
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