Teaching Sexuality Education in High Schools: What Qualities Do Australian Teachers Value?
Faculty of Computing, Health and Science
School of Nursing and Public Health
This article reports on the educator qualities that are valued by Australian teachers involved in sexuality education in high schools. Focus groups were conducted with school sexuality education teachers in 19 high schools in five Australian states. Data indicated that teachers valued being trustworthy, being open and honest, being willing to listen, having a sense of humour, and being able to relate to the students, especially being able to relate in a trustworthy and confidential way. Also valued were being comfortable with one's own sexuality, being approachable and being flexible. These qualities are similar to those recommended in the literature in the 1970s and 1980s and correspond closely to the qualities sought by today's high school students. Australian schoolteachers currently enjoy a positive climate for teaching sexuality education, as do many European schoolteachers. This contrasts with the climate for many American teachers where Abstinence Until Marriage programme requirements place many restrictions on what can be taught and may compromise the expression of teacher qualities such as being non-judgemental, flexible, open and honest. The findings have implications for teacher professional development, pre-service teacher education training, and the selection of teachers to teach sexuality education.