I studied Biology and Chemistry at Universiti Pertanian Malaysia and upon completing my studies, I was posted to Sekolah Menengah Abdul Rahman Talib Kuantan (SMART). I requested to be transferred to Kuantan because my husband was based at RMAF Kuantan at that time. However, the Ministry decided to post me to Sekolah Menengah Clifford, Kuala Lipis. I remember crying my eyes out upon receiving the directive. My geography was bad and still is. Datuk Siti Nurhaliza wasn't even born yet, so how was I to know where Kuala Lipis was. Fortunately, my husband managed to convince the top guns at the Ministry to squeeze me into SMART. So, I began my career as a Science teacher.
With all this fuss on whether or not to introduce sex education in schools, I found myself being transported back to the time when I had to teach human reproduction for the first time. I can't exactly recall whether the class was a Form 3 or Form 5, most probably Form 5 because way back in the 70's, human reproduction was incorporated in the Form 5 Science syllabus. I think it was only in the 80's that they brought it down to Form 3.
My first lesson on this particular topic was a complete disaster. I was in my twenties and recently married and my students were only 6 years my junior. I remember introducing the topic cautiously and haltingly to a class of about 40. Of course, attendance was 100% on that day because they knew I had to move on to this chapter whether I liked it or not. I know they were all eagerly waiting for this lesson not because they were completely ignorant (though some pretended complete innocence), but they were waiting to see how I was going to handle this very "sensitive" topic. Everything went on reasonably smooth the first 10 minutes until I started hanging the chart depicting the male reproductive organ. Suddenly, all hell broke loose. There were oohs and aahs all round from my male students amidst giggles from the girls. Of course, they had the same diagram in their textbooks and many a time I caught them ogling at it while I was busy teaching something else, but this was different. This was a huge "replica" openly exhibited for all to see.
I was so embarassed that I stood transfixed facing the chart, giving my back to them. I didn't know how to continue. I longed for the bell to ring but this was a double period and I had about one solid hour more to go. I regretted dabbing the blusher onto my cheeks before leaving the house that morning. I was all red from head to toe. I was still trying to regain my composure when I heard "Cikgu, cepat Cikgu, masa dah nak habis!". I had no choice. There was no way I could wriggle myself out of this so I turned slowly to face them. Forty faces, all with huge grins on them, stared back at me, challenging me to continue. I faltered and flinched as I decided my next course of action.
I decided that I needed a "weapon" to proceed with my explanation of the various parts of the male reproductive system so I took a metre rule to start pointing at the parts. The ruler provided a sort of a buffer between the chart and me. At least that way, I avoided being in "close proximity", I reasoned out. As I traced my way, the oohs and the aahs started all over again, from the boys, of course. I noticed these guys stealing glances at the girls to see how the girls reacted to their male anatomy.
After covering all the parts, I had to explain the functions of these parts. This was even more gruelling for me but the kids seemed to be having a whale of a time. Despite my poor delivery, I was able to hold their attention throughout the entire 80 minutes. By the time the bell rang, I was soaked to the skin with my own perspiration, not because I was exhausted but my sheer inexperience on how to tackle such a delicate topic had me in jitters throughout the entire double period. At an age when I, myself, was still fumbling with these intimate facts of life, I had this formidable task of passing on the facts to others. It was horrifying, terrifying and petrifying all rolled into one but I pulled through, blunders and all.
Subsequently, I was able to cruise through the chapter quite admirably, albeit numerous interruptions in the form of excited laughter, spontaneous exclamations and a continuous barrage of questions. As the years rolled on, I became more and more thick-skinned and the topic was just another topic but to the kids, it was still their favourite topic. I evolved from being a shy and inexperienced young teacher into a bold, no-nonsense Cikgu who was not the slightest bit affected by their cheeky oohs and aahs any more.
Frankly, I think the kids have seen it all but as teachers, our role is to formalise the learning of this interesting facet of the human life, to lay bare all the facts and to dispel all the fallacies.