Consent is a tough topic for teachers to cover but so important. There are some amazing resources out there for you depending on the age group. Probably the most popular and useful one is the cup of tea analogy, ie if they are too drunk to drink a cup of tea, don’t give them a cup of tea or just because they wanted a cup of tea yesterday doesn’t mean that they will automatically want a cup of tea today or they may have said yes to a cup of tea but after you have made it may change their mind and that’s ok. You get the point and there are poems, YouTube videos that you can look up to help you with this. However I like to follow this up with the hand shake. Some fantastic tweeter gave me this and it really gets the point across. I ask a few people if I can shake their hand. I normally go for someone I know well in the audience and they are happy and smiley. Then I pick someone who doesn’t really know me, who is avoiding my gaze. I offer my hand and they take it and shake it, but you can tell they don’t want to shake my hand, but how can they say no. I am a teacher, someone who is seen in a position of power. Their body language normally tells and explains it better than I do and everyone gets it. Just because they say don’t say no, doesn’t meant that they want to do it. (Even Alfie the cat agrees) Perhaps they love that person and feels that they should consent otherwise ……….. As a group we then look at the issues of domestic abuse and how it could be intertwined.
I then show a few photos or images, showing woman in various clothing. We then discuss what this means. This is the challenging part. As a woman I want to stand up and say to the girls, wear whatever makes you happy. Be confident and comfortable and if that means baggy jumper or a bra top then you go for it. An outfit isn’t consent. Same with the boys, wear what you want and don’t presume that what someone is wearing is an invitation for attention. But then…………the protective nature in me wants to say, be careful. Make sure you are being safe and not putting yourself in a situation that you can’t get out of. I realise this is wrong, so wrong. So I explain my feelings to the group and ask their opinion. Most 16/17 years understand why I am concerned about the confusing messages. How one minute I am saying think about the images that you are posting on media and how this can affect your digital footprint and then in the next topic I am all for empowerment. Sometimes PSHE lessons aren’t all about telling students facts or right and wrongs but allowing them the time to discuss issues and listen to people’s point of view. Often my best PSHE lessons are the ones when I am honest and admit that I don’t know the answers and that I can get things wrong.
I always end my PSHE lessons with list of were to get more info if they want it. Sometimes a talk or presentation can raise some challenging thoughts or problems students are going through and I want to make sure that they know were to get help. After this consent chat last month, I had two disclosures and one student reminded of previous incident. I am hoping that my honest approach means that students are and feel comfortable to disclose but many won’t, hence why I make sure they know we’re to get help. So when they are ready, help will be there. Although I hate the fact that students get upset, it justifies why we need to cover challenging topics and why PSHE is so important. The argument that it isn’t happening to them so shouldn’t be covered couldn’t be further from the truth.