Name: Lauren Goldman
Born: Montreal, Quebec
Profession: Sexual Health Education
Sex and Sexuality - Maybe you've learned about it from your parents, maybe you read about it in a magazine, or maybe, you got all your knowledge from one of the many sexual health educators that visit local classrooms. We talk to Lauren Goldman about what being a sexual health educator is all about.
What is a Sexual Health Educator?
A Sexual Health Educator is someone who provides accurate and comprehensive information about science and safety, as it relates to sexual health. They share this information in a non-judgmental, culturally and age appropriate manner.
Sexual health educators work with people of all ages and in many different communities: elementary and high school students, parents, teachers, health professionals, seniors, university students, youth groups — the possibilities are endless, since every person needs to learn to care for their sexual health and has an evolving sexuality that they deserve to celebrate.
What is a typical day like for you?
It depends on the day. Typically, a one hour presentation requires half an hour of marketing time, and 1-2 hours of prep work. So some days I am either busy making lesson plans, creating new games and hand outs, or speaking with returning or new clients.
The field of sexual and reproductive health is dynamic, so I spend a fair amount of time reading journal articles, contraception updates, and becoming familiar with any new information. I also make time to connect with other educators to discuss new ways of teaching sensitive information and brainstorming new games.
My favorite days are when I get to walk into a classroom and connect with students. Sex education is very empowering — the participants get to learn about how their bodies work and how to keep them healthy. It is also a time when they get to discuss sexuality in a positive and healthy way. Essentially, the students are developing knowledge, attitudes, skills, and behaviours that will enable them to make informed choices about their health and well-being.
Tell us a funny (but clean) joke related to your profession.
Q: What did the elephant say to the naked man?
A: How do you breathe through that thing?!
Did you always want to be a Sexual Health Educator?
Yes, always. But I never thought that I could teach as a career — it's not exactly a profession that comes up on Career Day!
What courses in high school prepared you for this field?
Quite a few of them actually — to teach effectively you need to incorporate information from several different disciplines. I would say that Biology and Ecology gave me a strong understanding of reproductive anatomy and physiology that I was able to build upon. Also, any class that discussed sociology, gender relationships and media awareness were helpful additions.
What music do you have in your CD player right?
Jeremy Fisher, Tambura Rasa, Shane Koyczan & the Short Story Long and Ivan Coyote.
Where did you go to university?
I am currently a student at the University of British Columbia (UBC). I began my studies in Natural Resource Conservation (like I said, I didn't know that I could teach about sexual health as a career when I first started to think about career choices), and then switched to Human Ecology, where I took lots of Communication and Sexuality classes. I am now applying to the Nursing Program, and really looking forward to continuing my education there.
How did you decide where to go?
I initially chose UBC because of the opportunities I would have to work in the outdoors. However, my choice to switch into the Nursing program is based on my experiences working in the field of sexual health. Most of my colleagues are nurses, and I have learned a great deal from them. I am inspired by the many opportunities to teach about sexual health that Nursing would afford, and I am looking forward to developing practical skills that will allow me to provide health care to even more communities.
Best garage sale find.
A hand knit wool sweater — perfect for finishing up a bike trip through Ontario during October.
Was there extra training required for this career outside of university? If so, what?
Yes, definitely. I volunteered with Options for Sexual Health (OPT) on their 1-800-SEX SENSE phone line and in their clinic, for a combined 2 and half years. This experience provided me with comprehensive training on topics relating to sexual health. I also participated in the first OPTCertification Course for Sexual Health Educators. I have mentored with a sexual health nurse, attended many conferences and participated in online education workshops. Really, I will be continually training for this job because I need to stay up-to-date on sexual and reproductive health information, new teaching styles, and new resources to pass on to my students.
Would you rather smell intensely of raspberries or be blue like a Smurf?
Definitely smell like raspberries.
What is the coolest part of your job?
Tough question! I love games that get students moving around and talking. I learn so much from them during those sessions. Some students that I have been working with for 2 years are set to put on a 'Body Science Fair' based on the information they have learned about their bodies and sexuality — seeing them take ownership of the information is really inspiring and rewarding. I also love teaching about pregnancy to primary students — they have the best questions and facial expressions!
What are some of the funniest questions or comments you've gotten from a primary school student?
All questions are excellent questions, and I am always happy when kids ask about what they have on their mind. Some of my favorite questions have been:
"Why did you choose this gross job?"
Upon learning about the basics of conception: "Ok, so do they have to go to a doctor's office to do that?"
"If a mom is pregnant with twins, does that mean she had sex twice in a row, really fast?"
Meat. Yes or no?
What's the worst part of your job?
I really like all the aspects of my job. I think that sometimes I go a little googely-eyed in front of the computer typing up letters and lesson plans.
Ooooops! Everyone makes mistakes so what was the dumbest thing you've ever done at work?
I was teaching a grade 9 session and we were doing a condom demonstration. I was really tired because I had already taught 4 sessions that day and I said "Pinch the tip of the penis" instead of"Pinch the tip of the condom". It took a little while to get the class back on track after that!
What was the last book you read? Jam it or can it?
Loose End by Ivan E. Coyote. Definitely one of my all time favorites.
Any advice that you would give others seeking a similar career?
I recommend volunteering at a local Options for Sexual Health or Planned Parenthood clinic, and/or with other organizations that work in the field of sexual health in order to learn accurate information about sexual health, sexuality and associated legal and political issues.
Connecting and mentoring with experienced and trained sexual health educators is equally important. There are sensitive subjects that are taught in sexuality education and it is necessary to learn how to teach these topics in an accessible, non-judgmental and age-appropriate way.
What are some great web links or references for someone interesting in reading up more about this career?
Options For Sexual Health
Sex Information and Education Council of Canada
Teaching Sexual Health