The following conversation took place in the Netherlands. Students in primary school (age 4-12 years old) follow a curriculum, and one of the goals is to learn how to be respectful of sexuality and diversity in the Netherlands. For instance, when students are around seven years old we tell the children that it is all right to fall in love, and the gender of the person they fall in love with doesn’t matter. (More on this—in Dutch—at http://tule.slo.nl/OrientatieOpJezelfEnWereld/F-L38.html.)
It’s up to the teacher to determine how they teach about respect for sexuality and diversity. The story that follows takes place is in a small village school, and the teacher is quite open with the students about all kinds of subjects. This teacher has more than 16 years of experience and is a very skilled teacher. This openness is a feature of the whole school. With 13 years of teaching experience and being an excellent teacher, I was invited to study to become a principal and—to make a long story short—here I am, a principal since last January at a primary school for all genders and with teachers openly discussing all kinds of subjects with their students.
Here’s what happened: A group of eleven-year-old students, their teachers, and I were eating together at school for a special occasion: the night where these students would perform a musical for their families. It was a big night and the energy was electric. During dinner, a few boys were telling the teachers and me something about a movie in which breasts were shown, and the teacher told them that she wasn’t attracted to women. I asked the boys to continue their story because my attractions aren’t about gender. They just didn’t seem to notice. The actual conversation went like this:
Students: “Could we please watch this movie?”
Me: “Why are you so excited?”
Teacher: “They showed a bit of breast.”
Me: “Now I can understand your excitement.”
Students (grinning): “Yes! Can we watch?”
Teacher (joking a bit): “No, it’s not age-appropriate for you, and I didn’t expect… you were so silent,” (she smiles widely) “and you know, guys. … I’m not attracted to breasts. So, no watching….”
Me: “I’ve never cared about gender in my attractions, so tell me more, what did you see?”
The boys started to laugh and described the exact scene (I saw nothing wrong there in that scene at all!).
There was no response to what I’d just said.
It was a small coming out conversation, with me as a role model to students. Probably no one noticed even, because the conversation just went on. I am quite curious about the impact of those small conversations, which can make a big difference. Are those conversations possible where you live?
A school principal, Judith teaches lessons on sexuality to 15-year-olds.