Two John C. Birdlebough graduates returned to the Phoenix Central School District as educators this week, promoting healthy relationships and discussing gender stereotypes.
The 2002 graduates, Megan Bittel, an educator with Oswego County Opportunities’ Services to Aid Families program, and Colleen Saxby, community development manager with the Girl Scouts, led discussions with middle school students in Joe Adams’ health classes.
Divided into two groups – one for boys and the other for girls – the educators addressed a variety of social and relationship issues that commonly lead to bullying.
“We are working to identify gender stereotypes and hoping they can break these stereotypes through education,” Bittel said. “We teach acceptance of others, we should be aware of things that affect bullying so we can put an end to it.”
The group of boys talked about the adjectives that describe what society believes a man should be, the misconceptions that still exist in regard to male and female roles, and the judgment that teens often face from their peers if they don’t possess “typical” male traits.
“The reality is that boys and men who don’t fit neatly into these stereotypical categories, they’re called some pretty nasty things … sissy, wuss, wimp, girl. What message are we sending to boys when the worst thing they can be called is a girl?” Bittel asked. “No one deserves to be called names because they don’t fit into this teeny, tiny box society expects them to.”
Both Bittel and Saxby also discussed the importance of healthy relationships, from friendships to dating. Topics included dating violence and age of consent.
“This program teaches students what a healthy relationship looks like,” Saxby said. “It gives them a sense of self.”
The educational initiative spanned several days, with five classes participating in two sessions each.