Aryeh Eisenberg

Being on the same page with sensitive issues

How an innocent I-Love-You WhatsApp message opened a whole can of worms in an Orthodox 4th-grade classroom

When it comes to raising our children, my wife and I are usually on the same page for most major decisions. We have always provided a united front even when one of us has a different opinion. The one area in which we have never agreed is when is how truthful and honest we should be when asked those awkward “birds and the bees” type questions. It’s not that I would ever lie to our children, but at the same time, I don’t feel that they need to know every biological detail. My wife on the other hand, feels that children should know everything and makes a point of answering their questions as fully as possible. So, as a result, my kids will generally turn to my wife because they know she will give a better answer. After many discussions, I am actually okay with this approach and I applaud my wife for taking on this particular element of parenting. I am sure we are not the only couple to struggle with this topic, and I am also sure that there is no right answer of how to address such uncomfortable and taboo subjects. Well, it would be nice in some ways if these decisions were left solely to the parents, but most schools have other plans.

Yesterday, my son who is in fourth grade came home and explained how his teacher spoke to the class about “improper” relationships between boys and girls. As I was listening to my son’s recount of this conversation, I was shocked that this kind of lesson had to be given to a room of fourth-grade boys. I tried to remember back to my youth and what I was thinking about in fourth grade. From what I can remember, girls were not on the top of the list. We were more concerned with sports, pizza, and The Cosby Show (yes, that show). Has so much changed since I was this age? I asked my son for more details about what his teacher said. He explained that his teacher told the students that they are too young to talk to girls and that interaction with the opposite sex was inappropriate for their ages.

When I heard this, my jaw almost hit the ground! What kind of school am I sending my kids to? This is supposed to be a modern school! Had the teacher talked about respect and how to interact, I would have understood, but to tell the kids that they should never talk to girls??? My son then continued to explain that this whole speech was delivered because someone in the class wrote an “I love you” WhatsApp message to another girl in the school.

Is this a reason to tell a room full of impressionable students that they should never talk to girls? My son then continued and told us about the basic biology lesson that the teacher gave about changes to their bodies and how they all had to be “careful.” This was the last straw for me! Who was this person to tell my kid that he had to be “careful?” What does this even mean? I couldn’t help but think of how many confused kids must have been sitting in that room unable to process this information.

In no way am I suggesting that sex-ed should be skipped. On the contrary, I think it is an essential part of a child’s education. There is however a certain approach that should be taken when discussing these sensitive topics. There are educators who go through years of training so they know how to teach and explain these subjects. Interacting with the opposite sex in fourth grade is already difficult enough. Not to mention the fact, that the parents were not involved in the approach at all, nor were they even informed that this discussion was talking place.

For the record, as the product of a co-ed school, I think that students should learn how to interact with the opposite gender. No, they don’t need to have boyfriends and girlfriends in the fourth grade, but they should also not feel like they have to run away if the opposite sex is approaching.

Each family can choose the method of explaining these types of topics that works best. It is important though that the teachers be on the same page and communicative with their intentions. My son’s teacher clearly meant well, but based on other parent comments, she may have ended up confusing or perhaps even scaring some of the kids. So, my wife and I explained to my son that his teacher “meant” that girls should be treated with respect and that yes, he was too young to have a girlfriend. My son was actually happy to hear this, as he told us that he was too young anyway.

About the Author
Aryeh Eisenberg is the CEO and General Manager of Edu-Together, an online education technology provider for schools and individuals. Based in Israel, Edu-Together works with students all over the world.
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