After last week’s heavy posts, here is something a little light-hearted from my past life as a teacher. Oh, the stories I could tell…
Despite being 23, I looked about 12 when I first started teaching high school. My classes were filled with Latina girls who outlined their lips in black and penciled their eyebrows into the thinnest possible lines. The boys sported homemade tattoos and wore colors, bandanas for the gang of which they were purportedly members. A few students were pregnant, some with their second child. In addition to these kids, the regular lot, my classes always included a large percentage of special needs students. I’d like to think it was my passion for teaching and skill with all learners that got these students into my room, but, honestly, it was because I was a first year teacher and too naïve to know better or demand something different from the administration.
“Today, we will discuss the parts and what they do – using strictly biological terms. Tomorrow, you can ask questions, but you must use the correct, biological terms,” I said as I introduced my first lesson on sex ed.
I was mostly saying this for my own reassurance. While I was fully prepared to answer questions like, “Can you get pregnant if you have sex for the first time?” or “Can you get pregnant if you have sex in a pool?” I thought the students should have some correct information about the parts and process before we engaged in the kinds of questions I anticipated their asking.
The students labeled a worksheet, male and female reproductive anatomy, while I stood at the board and talked. I sensed their growing disinterest. The drawings did not look like what they’d seen in movies, or in person, and the word ‘vagina’ was only funny the first few times I said it.
But I persevered, launching into the comparison of male and female gamete production, where and how eggs and sperm are made.
“In human males, sperm are produced continually from puberty until death. They are made in the seminiferous tubules of the testes and over the course of about 70 days they mature and travel to epididymis, where they are stored until they are ejaculated during orgasm. Males can ejaculate several times a day, each time producing about 150 million sperm.”
“On the other hand, human females are born with all the eggs they will ever have. Then for a defined period in life, typically around 30-40 years, the female body releases 1 egg a month, regardless of an orgasm, which is viable for 36 hours or so. If it isn’t fertilized, that’s the end, no continuation of life. When you think about these numbers, it’s a wonder anyone ever gets pregnant.”
I was feeling pretty confident. No one had interrupted me. However, it wasn’t because the lecture was so engaging. The silence was more likely due to the fact that many students were utterly bored. Some had their heads on their desks, sleeping through the lesson. Others stared at the windows, which looked, rather anti-climactically, onto the dumpsters and the teacher parking lot.
‘Really?’ I thought. ‘I just said the word ‘ejaculate,’ for crying out loud. That didn’t even register a snicker from the class?!’
Sighing silently, I was about to continue when a short, round girl in the 2nd row raised her hand. Apparently someone was paying attention! But before I could call on her, LaQueenta began to speak.
“Mizz Moe-reen,” she said, in her carefully articulated Southern drawl, “I know a man know when he’s havin’ an orgasm. But how do a woman know?”
What?! All those students who had been napping or writing notes to friends or staring off into space suddenly showed an interest in the lesson. Heads snapped to attention. Jaws hung agape, and every face, every eye, was looking to me, waiting for my answer.
Unfortunately, I was totally stymied. I needed to say something, but what? How does a woman know? Is this even appropriate for a group of 14 year olds? (Okay, many were repeat freshmen, so may have been 17, but still.)
As I was composing my thoughts, LaQueenta continued.
“My momma tole me,” she said.
‘Oh, sweet, baby Jesus,’ I thought. ‘Is she going to tell us how her mom knows she’s having an orgasm? Wait, would her mom tell her that? Oh, shit, please, don’t say anything, LaQueenta.’
While I was standing failing to send LaQueenta my telepathic message not to continue, she did just that.
“My momma tole me when she’s having an orgasm she get all cold and shivery. Is that true? And why is that?”
There was about 2 seconds of silence in which I stood dumbstruck, jaw agape like my students. Then their riotous laugher broke the spell. LaQueenta smiled when her classmates started to laugh, but she was earnest. She really wanted to know how a woman knows when she’s having an orgasm, and if her mom was correct in her assessment.
At that moment, every bit of knowledge left my head. I was utterly flustered by the thought of LaQueenta’s mother, a woman I had never even met since she didn’t bother to come to Back to School Night, having her cold and shivery orgasms and then sharing this experience with LaQueenta.
The laughter died down and the students sat silently. They looked at me. They expected an answer. I could read their minds. They were silently screaming, ‘Well, is that true?!’
In a clumsy and hurried voice I blurted out, “You just know, LaQueenta. Believe me, a woman knows when she’s having an orgasm.”
I sat down at my desk and contemplated my career choice.