How do I handle sexual questions asked in classes where I substitute?


I am in my early twenties and currently sub for high school and middle school. The high school students treats me like dirt. They ask me sexual questions, if I'm married, if I have a girlfriend, and if I have sex with a girlfriend. I am getting so tired of being asked about these things. I don't know what to tell them. Anything I tell them is always the wrong words to say according to other people my age. I haven't been taught how to handle these things. These high school students treat me like I'm one of them. One of my former girlfriend's siblings is in one of the classes. They keep bringing up all that happened between she and I, which was several years ago and it does not matter anymore. Give me a break!

What would you suggest that I do? What should I say? How do you get a Bible conversation started? Sometimes, I'm afraid to have Bible discussions due to the law.


One of my general rules when advising young people about careers is to avoid taking a position of authority where the people you are over know you personally. It doesn't matter whether you are a teacher in a school where you grew up or a preacher in a congregation where your family attends. The fact that they remember your past indiscretions as a teenager (and almost everyone has such stories in their past) undermines your ability to speak about what people should do.

But there are far more other dynamics coming into play here than just you.

You are a substitute teacher. That means you have no control over any consequences to students. You can't really effect their grade, you can't give them extra assignments, and they aren't answerable to you because you won't be there tomorrow or the next week. The fact that you come and go also means you have no opportunity to build a relationship with the students, so no respect is gain from the students knowing who you are. Being a substitute teacher is one of the hardest and least appreciated jobs that I know.

You are dealing with adolescents. Of all the age ranges, this is the one where people barely understand themselves, let alone try to understand other people. Adolescents tend to talk first and think later (if at all). They are new to sexual feelings and it dominates their thoughts. Though in bigger bodies, they remain childish in their thoughts and behaviors.

You are teaching students who don't want to be there. These students aren't paying for school. They don't have a vested interest in being there. Most don't see a need for an education. You represent those "making" them be there, so for many it becomes a game to annoy or make the authority figure uncomfortable. They see it as bring the person down to their level. So they ask you sexually charged questions because they know you don't like the subject. And, worse in this modern culture, they know that it could get you into trouble.

I can't give you a one-size-fits-all answer, but I can give you a few guidelines. First, keep in mind that you are there as a professional, not as a friend to the students. Friendships might develop over time, but school isn't the place to express them because it puts you as the teacher in a position of partiality. Therefore, all banter doesn't have to be addressed.

When personal questions are raised, turn the tables so the student understands that politeness requires boundaries. "Mr. Smith, I don't ask you about your sexual exploits, so I will appreciate it that you don't ask about mine." "Ms. Miller, I don't ask about the mistakes you made with your past boyfriends, so I will appreciate that you don't ask about my past girlfriends." In both replies you did not answer the question, the reply is open ended so no conclusion can be drawn, but you also point out that the same questions asked them would embarrass them.

When someone asks if you are married and you think they are trying to annoy you, just ask back, "Why? Are you propositioning me?" This puts the student on "dangerous" grounds. If they say "yes," you objectively send them to the office. If they say "no," then you can point out the question has no value. They will tend to be more careful about what questions they ask in the future.

I taught in a private school for about a year and a half. I taught sexual development, physical education, and math. One student delighted in asking questions about sex in the middle of math class. I would either point out that his question wasn't appropriate for a mixed gender class (thus teaching the rest of the class a lesson about politeness) but I would answer the question at a later time if he reminded me, or at times I would give a short blunt answer (if it would benefit the class as a whole) so that he would realize that he wasn't getting to me. Those answers were always in the generic, I never gave out personal information. "Did you have sex last night?" "It is the duty of a husband to fulfill the sexual desires of his wife." Notice that while the answer is a summary of I Corinthians 7:1-5, I didn't explain where it came from.

I've always had one advantage, I always mention that I'm a preacher when I introduce myself to a class. I do this for several reasons. One, people then realize that my answers will likely be from a biblical perspective. The second is that it tends to cut down on the profanity used in my presence. The third is that it tends to make me look like an authority figure beyond just the classroom.

When you choose to answer a question, there is nothing wrong with explaining the moral implications. After all these are adolescents who are learning how to reason. You can give biblically based answers without having to directly cite the passage. A question like, "What's wrong with having sex when two people love each other?" gives you a large field to talk about what really constitutes love, whether using another person for personal gratification is actually a demonstration of love for another or love for self, and consideration of consequences before doing irrevocable actions.

When you answer a question, one of the things I know young people respect is a person who treats their questions seriously and answers them like they can reason for themselves. No one wants to be talked down to or treated as if they were dumb for even thinking about such a question.