Another Healing

Another Healing

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Condoms and Glue Sticks

Okay, you have to admit that's a catchy title, don't you?

I work in education.  High school special education, to be specific.  I'm not a teacher, technically, though I could easily be if I wanted to be.  I have a master's degree in English (believe it or not -- my professors would flip if they knew what the shy girl in the back writes now).  I'm a lowly teaching assistant, or paraprofessional, or, as I call myself, a writing tutor.  Which basically means that I work incredibly hard and get paid very little, but I wouldn't trade my school year job for anything.  I actually get to work with kids all day every day, sitting with them in classes, helping them make sense of what their teachers are telling them, then helping them with the homework.  And because I'm sitting with them, on their side of the blackboard, (or smartboard, these days) they come to trust me, and talk to me, and let me into their lives in ways teachers never get to.  Some days I laugh all the way home, and some days I cry, and some days I laugh through my tears.  But every day, I know I've done some good for somebody, and that matters a lot to me. 

And when I get home, I can write instead of grading papers, which leads me to the condom story.

This semester, one of my students in taking a health class, and we're ending the year with the sex unit.  Yesterday was "how to put on a condom day."  No, our school isn't quite liberal enough to do the banana or cucumber thing.  Our teacher designed a project that involved the kids cutting out a list of fourteen steps to putting on a condom, printed in random order.  (I bet you didn't know there were so many steps!)  Then they had to put each step in the correct order and glue it down on another sheet of paper.  The list starts with "talk to your partner" and includes things like "check the expiration date" and then goes through the application process including pinching the air out of the tip of the condom and then the removal steps to avoid anything getting spilled. 

Well, the teacher gave me a handful of glue sticks and asked me to help her circulate through the room.  When each kid got the steps lined up in order, I was to check them and reward the kid with a glue stick if he or she had them right.  I, of course, immediately saw the symbolism of the shape of the stick.  Most of the time I can keep the part of me that writes gay erotica under tight control while I'm at school, but believe me, this was not an easy situation to be in.

So I start circulating the room.  A few boys get the steps right the first try and sit there smirking while I quietly put a stick down on their desks -- lying flat -- I simply cannot let myself put them down standing up and stay in teacher mode.  But some of the boys are just like, "What the heck?" and are, of course, utterly mortified when I have to quietly rearrange things for them.  The girls, on the other hand, always got them right the first try.  (Guys, I hate to say this, but freshmen girls have freshmen boys beat when it comes to school, especially after watching a powerpoint about condoms.  Boy's minds are just too full of other stuff to think logically about anything after that.)

So finally everyone is happily gluing away and I know there are twenty-five more people in the world who know how to protect themselves.  But all I can think about is how I'm going to go home and write a blog post that would shock the heck out of all of them.  If they only knew...

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