Last week in the 8th grade class, the textbook mentioned the umbilical cord. This seemed to be a new term for all of the students. So I found myself explaining the function of the umbilical cord and the way it is cut after a baby is born. This led to another new term: the belly button. I wished I could just raise my shirt and show mine, as often an image is the quickest way to explain something, but obviously that would be inappropriate, so I settled for describing it in words.
As we were talking, a girl in the class had this look on her face, clearly she had just had some kind of revelation. She raised her hand and when I called on her she said, “Teacher, boys have a belly button too?” At this most of the boys ducked their heads, looking down at their stomachs, thinking about their own belly buttons I guess. Some of the girls quietly snickered, but most politely listened as I assured her that yes, we all have a belly button.
This experience in class really has me curious. How could she not know that boys have belly buttons? Maybe she doesn't have a brother or a father. Maybe she's never watched TV. But really, has she never ever seen a little boy without his shirt? Or, maybe upon learning something new, she forgot something she had once known. Another possibility though is that she does have a father or brother but they all live in extreme modesty. This idea of extreme modesty is very interesting to me.
Perhaps more applicable for me, it reminds me that I can not assume the kids in my classes have knowledge or exposure to things I would have by their age. Also, there are topics where they have seen and understand so much more than I ever will. Part of my job is figuring out these differences. Even though I am the one called “teacher”, on my good days we share and learn from each other.