Teens already are under tremendous pressure with school, their families and the simple fact that adolescent years are a naturally confusing and exciting time for most kids. Enter drugs and alcohol and you see why teens might feel overwhelmed. Educators might feel the same way—after all, part of helping students succeed, aside from academic support, is helping to students make healthy choices and avoiding negative behaviors which can hinder their growth and future success.
As educators, a challenge for you is to promote student achievement and emphasize all that teens can accomplish, while weaving in anti-drug messages that continue to be so important for kids to hear. The two goals can work in tandem and don’t need to be a one-or-the-other proposition. Here are some tips for supporting student achievement with prevention messages:
Students Who Make Smart Choices Do Better in School
Good grades and academic success are important goals for teenagers. Unfortunately, drug and alcohol use can derail students’ studies. One survey discovered that 63 percent of students who were getting Ds and Fs had consumed at least one drink in the previous 30 days, as opposed to 32 percent of “A” students. For marijuana over the same time period, the number is 48 percent for the failing students and 10 percent for the honor roll kids. The message from these stats might be that drug and alcohol use can hurt teens’ grades, but also that making smart choices is a simple step students can take to boost academic achievement.a
Students Respond to Positive Messages
Did you know that alcohol use and tobacco use in all teens has been steadily declining for two decades, as have illicit drug use rates for eighth- and 10th-graders? This is the sort of positive messaging that students respond to, especially when they feel like everyone around them is drinking or using. Yet, many anti-drug efforts focus exclusively upon the bad and ignore the good. For example, in 2015, 23.6 of 12th-graders had used illicit drugs over a previous 30-day period, which may seem like a daunting stat until you consider this: 76.4 percent—more than three-quarters—of high school seniors hadn’t. Reinforcing positive messages such as this often is more effective in promoting student achievement than hardcore, repeated anti-drug strategies intended to frighten, which teens may easily tune out amid peer pressure or the feeling they are being lectured to.
Spread the Message Year-Round
Informed Families recently partnered with Florida middle and high schools on another successful Red Ribbon Week, in which students and educators decorated hallways, wore red ribbons and spread the message of being drug-free. We sponsor other campaigns throughout the year, but as you know, supporting student achievement is a continuous effort. Therefore, prevention messages should be continuous as well. Informed Families offers a wide range of resources for schools to deliver these messages all year. Our ambassador program, for example, includes the four campaigns we offer as well as prevention resources that schools and their ambassadors will find helpful. Delivering positive messages is so important for student achievement, because when a teen must make a decision whether or not to use drugs or alcohol, he or she can fall back on what was learned and shared at school to hopefully choose wisely.
Involve Parents Whenever Possible
The “It Takes a Village” phrase may sound cliché, but the underlying message nonetheless remains powerful: Parents, educators and communities can work together to deliver effective prevention messages and support student achievement. With this in mind, enlist parents’ help in developing and executing an anti-drug strategy for your school. Although you oversee students 30 or so hours a week, parents are tasked with communicating with, managing and teaching teens the rest of the time—and as any parent of a teen knows, the task isn’t easy. Collaboration creates a unified strategy and lets parents know they aren’t in the quest for student achievement and drug-free kids alone. Plus, if everyone is delivering the same message to students, that message will be heard and likely more effective.
How does your school support student achievement through prevention messages?