When I was in middle school, I attended one of those gifted kids summer programs that ran for five weeks. I attended a lot of things like that, and I didn’t realize how important this one could turn out to be at the time. I loved the program as it was that summer, ending in a big presentation at a local television studio, but it was really just groundwork for when we reunited the next summer—this time, for only a chaotic, jam packed two weeks.
This time, we were taking the knowledge we’d gained last summer, doing some more research, and creating something more with it: two curriculum plans, same subject, one for first grade, one for third grade. Complete with writing and illustrating choose your own adventure picture books, writing and recording discs of mnemonic songs to common tunes, creating Jeopardy PowerPoint review games, matching activities to standards and writing lesson plan guides for teachers (the team I was on), and everything else needed that you could think of, we had two weeks to create a ready to go pitch to the local school district to start implementing the curriculum in some local elementary schools (which it eventually was).
While it sounded impressive for those just on the cusp of teenagehood, I did get a few blank looks when I explained what the subject of the curriculum was. People tried to be encouraging, but I could see the pause. Maybe they’d ask a question. The, but isn’t that a little… basic? But isn’t that kind of… universal? But isn’t that, uh… boring? But don’t kids kind of… already know that?
Still, given what we’d learned that first summer, I was ready to brush those looks aside. Had ready answers when someone asked. Still, I wondered.
The subject of the curriculum we designed was the technique and importance of proper handwashing. The first summer was spent studying epidemics and pandemics of the past and present, the dangers of one in the future, and how they could be prevented.
Our choose your own adventure books that I’d been copyediting as our district pitch presentation began split at decisions like disinfecting a surface or not disinfecting it, of washing your hands or not, of sharing items when someone was sick—ending in health or flu. Our songs we sang around the lunch tables because they were permanently embedded in our heads were set to the length of time you should wash your hands for, lyrics like, Around my thumbs and fingers too! to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” (seen anything like that flying around the Internet for adults this year?)
Yeah, it was 2020 when it turned out a large portion of the adult population didn’t know how to wash their hands. Guess that curriculum wasn’t so basic after all, huh? After that, no one was going to tell me a curriculum I created was too simple, too basic, too tedious, too universal, too but people already know that. Blogging was one thing, and I loved the material, but teaching had seemed beyond me before.
But I began teaching kink education webinars about my passions in that arena on Zoom while still in quarantine, separated from my normal kink community experience. I still wanted to create plenty of educational core content that was free, accessible, as high quality as I could manage, unique, and out there in the world, now in class form, no longer discouraged by is this just adulting 101? or am I the only one who thinks this matters?
It’s been better received and grown faster than I ever could have hoped for. I’ve taken inspiration from my own variety of learning experiences (public school, private school, magnet schools, forms of homeschooling, such summer programs) and other educators (from my family of many traditional teachers to other kink educators). You can probably see the touch of the standard classroom when I switch from writing on the physical whiteboard to show something on the document camera, or announce, “Okay, pop quiz time!” with a multiple choice pop up. I like melding those styles a little.
In December, about a year after I began my webinars, I’ll be teaching my class Schizophrenia in the Scene for the first time, also melding mental health advocacy for a group many hear little about with kink education, both near and dear to me, and splitting any donations with NAMI, hopefully making at least a tiny ripple of a difference.
In the end, knowledge itself is power. Just like for the kiddos in the choose your own adventure books who got that handwashing lesson (and the kids who got the curriculum those books were a part of), knowledge is there for you to make a change with. I’d like to put more of that out into the world.