Sex Ed in Higher Ed

College instructor teaching human sexuality rants about the dumbing down of America, the lost art of manners, grammar and (the perfect combination of both) the thank you note. Also includes random rants about life, pet peeves, and sometimes raves about favorite things.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Oh, for the love of gob!

This is not the wedding post Part II, as I promised a few days earlier. This is an Inappropriate Brother and Sister post with the subtitle: "Oh, Teacher Lady, will you never learn?"

So here's what I did: I had the genius idea of bringing in an interesting and unique guest speaker for Chapter 20: Sex for Sale. All about prostitution and pornography. Before the semester even started, I did some research and found that sex workers (the politically correct umbrella term for prostitutes, strippers, call girls, what-have-you) have their own professional organization. I found the local chapter (yes, we have one!) and started e-mailing the woman listed as president. She had moved out of state and hooked me up with this woman named Kiki. Former president said Kiki worked for a non-profit org that worked to prevent the spread of AIDS among prostitutes.

Kiki and I have been e-mailing for months and Tuesday was the day she was going to come and speak to my class. Ironically, Kiki calls me on Tuesday and says she is running late. Since I'll never be the world's best planner, I freaked out because I have NOTHING else planned for class. As I'm frantically paging through the instructor's manual I read, "We do not recommend inviting prostitutes or other sex workers to class. The authors of your textbook have done this while teaching Human Sexuality classes and it does not work well." I pat myself on the back, "Phew. Thank goodness Kiki is some kind of social worker or something. Crisis narrowly averted."

Well, Kiki walks into my classroom 10 minutes late, and guess what? She kicks off her presentation by saying, "That's right. I was a 'ho. A crack 'ho. I was 'hoin' and trickin' for years and years." Approximately 50 jaws fall on the floor. Then 50 heads all turn towards me, like, "Seriously? Seriously. You did NOT invite a 'crack 'ho' to our class." It's a good thing I'm no stranger to community theatre because BOY did I have a chance to practice my "serene and knowing provider of the learning experience" face. All the while I was thinking, "I am so fired. I am so fucking fired. My department chair is going to take me out into the parking lot and beat me senseless."

Let me be clear: I honestly did think it would be a good learning experience for my class. But. Although you'd never guess from reading my blog, I do try to keep my classroom environment academic and I correct my students when they use street terms instead of clinical language (I even list that rule in my syllabus.) And I swear (no pun intended) I don't use profanity in my classroom, even though I have really wanted to - especially this semester. But when one of your students asks, "Did you have kind of a defining moment when you decided you had to get out of the lifestyle?" and Kiki responds, "I was drunk for 6 days, I woke up naked next to this guy and thought 'Who the fuck are you?'" you just start thinking, "I am SO going to be on the news. And not in a good way."

It gets worse. Kiki made the mistake of saying, "I am truly blessed to be alive." Honestly, I couldn't have made it worse if I wanted to. Guess whose wee little mugs lit up like Christmas trees? Sister raises her hand almost immediately. Kiki calls on her, "We are so truly blessed to have you here. I am curious to know about how your spirituality helped you get out of the lifestyle." Then Kiki starts talking about prayer. And God. And Jesus. And as she's speaking, I keep hearing these weird sounds. Since I'm up in front of the classroom (near the vent), I can't really tell where the noise is coming from. The weird sounds continue and then I notice certain students start looking around too. Then whispering. Then rolling their eyes. Then looking at me like, "Do. Something." I keep straining my ears to hear what's going on and then finally my eyes stop and I see where the noises are coming from.

It's Inappropriate Brother and Sister and they have turned my guest speaker's gig into a good-old-fashioned tent revival. They have been saying, "Mmm-hmm." and "Yes, thank you," and "That's right, Lord." and "Thank you, Jesus." Every time Kiki says something about Narcotics Anonymous or praying or the Lord or the church, those two follow with their "Thank you, Jesus!" or "Mmm-hmm, that's right!" and "Yes, Lord, Amen!"

I was clueless. I didn't know what to do. All these options kept running through my head. What I really wanted to do was interrupt Kiki, look at IBAS and say, "Church. State." (frantically wave hands around) "SEPARATE!" I do, after all, teach at a state school, but you never would have guessed that on Tuesday. I asked questions, like, "Tell us where you grew up," - you know, distracting and diverting, and then Sister would raise her hand and ask something about our only true Lord and Savior and in the mean time, every other student was rolling their eyes and glaring at me like, "Do something already, you incompetent nitwit!"

I came home and told J. about the fiasco. Since he taught freshman (college) calculus for fun, for many years, he is usually my first (and best) source for teaching advice. For the first time since I started teaching he was out of suggestions. Well, that's not entirely true. He said, "Gosh. You might want to consider teaching a math class. We don't have these sorts of problems in calculus." No, I can't imagine that you would.


Blogger liberalbanana said...

Oh my GOSH. You're right, it couldn't have gotten any worse.

"I was drunk for 6 days, I woke up naked next to this guy and thought 'Who the fuck are you?'" followed by Jesus talk?

I would have taken out my flask and taken a nice long swig.

April 28, 2006 9:03 AM  
Blogger happychyck said...

I've just finished skimming many posts in your blog, and now I feel worse about the students who are leaving my classroom. In January, you said something about it's like you're teaching junior high school, and from experience, I'd say that it certainly sounds like it. I've taught students from 8th-12th grade for 9 years years. I'm trying to "raise them right", but now I know that they just don't grow up, do they?

I apologize. I've tried. Students are still unbelievably illiterate even in college?

[throwing up hands in the air]

We're all doomed.

Oh, but BTW, I enjoy your writing!

April 28, 2006 8:40 PM  
Blogger Teacher lady said...

Oh, it's not your fault! I think they must lack basic writing skills by the time they get to you and it's sort of like trying to build a house without a foundation. It just won't happen, no matter how good the carpenters are (Not Karen and her brother, the other carpenters). Plus, I teach at a state college that is notorious for being the "back up school for the back up school." So on one hand, I feel like I shouldn't be so shocked that my students can barely write; on the other hand, I think "Well, it might be a B-list college, but it's still college. Oh - and thanks for the compliment!

April 28, 2006 10:49 PM  
Blogger Art Nerd Lauren said...

I like your house-with-foundation analogy. It's so good. And it is all, at least in this area, the fault of integrative language arts. BAD IDEA with the writing before knowing the rules, and spelling creatively- I don't know if the people who thought up this crackpot idea know that english makes close to no sense, but it does (or doesn't- see what I MEAN?!) Now isn't it easier to teach rules than unteach them?

Also, I can picture you sinking into your seat and reaching for a flask. It should probably be required for all professors to have one. Or some hash brownies. word!

April 29, 2006 1:37 PM  
Blogger Teacher lady said...

Back when I was a college lass, we had a professor who wore a kilt (he was an art professor - interesting, huh, Lauren?) and openly smoked a joint while walking across campus. The first time I saw him do it, I almost walked into a tree. Then you sort of got used to it.

April 29, 2006 2:58 PM  
Blogger Stefanie said...

OMG, that is too funny! I would've loved to have been in that class that day. Seriously genius. I wonder if she ever went back to the game? I've seen all the pimps and ho's, Cathouse etc. shows. Love em.

May 26, 2006 4:56 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

Church and state means YOU can't get up there and start talking about Jesus (unless you're doing a history of religion class or something).

Students can do and say whatever they like, subject to ordinary rules of classroom discipline. Shouting "hallelujah!" every ten seconds would certainly be over the line, but murmuring "yes, Jesus" while they hear someone testifying certainly wouldn't be.

December 31, 2006 4:46 AM  
Blogger Lex said...

Great story. I've had 2 trans-sexual former sex workers do diversity trainings for me. They're great.

There's no way to be PC about sex work, and no one can tell their story if they've never been there. No matter how long I've worked with this community, I can never tell their story. Their voices (even their vernacular)are so much more compelling.

I'm sorry your situation was a fiasco (mainly because of IBAS), but I disagree with the author's recommendation.

January 02, 2007 4:29 AM  

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