Journeys to self-knowledge : a participatory study of teachers as sexuality educators.
In the light of the HIV&AIDS epidemic in South Africa, sexuality education has become a vital responsibility for South African teachers. However, in many South African schools, there is a habit of silence where particular issues are off-limits and many teachers concede that they find it difficult to tackle sexuality-related topics. Hence, in this study, I engaged myself and a group of my fellow teachers of the Life Orientation learning area in a collaborative self-study inquiry to review who we are as sexual beings, how we understand sexuality and how this self-knowledge might affect our interaction with learners and our teaching of sexuality education. To take us on this collaborative journey of self-knowledge, we employed qualitative methods of storytelling, audio recording of conversations, reflective journaling, collage-making and letter-writing. This study revealed that although, as teachers, we have been positioned as knowledge bearers and pedagogic expects, who are expected to be capable of making appropriate choices for teaching sexuality education, our own personal relationships with sexuality influence the different positions that we adopt as we interact with the content and the learners. Through our collaborative inquiry process, we began to recognise and shift the various positions that we held on sexuality. We came to appreciate and show that our positions are flexible, as when we were within a safe, interactive environment that both respected the positions we brought into the process and encouraged critical re-thinking of these positions, we began to reposition ourselves. Through the study, we also became more aware of how we were positioning others through our actions and our words. We came to a realisation that learners, colleagues and parents also bring their positions on issues and thus they too need to be understood within their own contexts, for the improvement of sexuality education in schools. The study revealed how the challenging of teacher positioning, when done in a supportive, interactive environment, can result in a repositioning of the self that brings us closer to becoming the teachers we wish to be, as we collectively influence change.