Educators: Sending off your Students Starts Now

Spring Break is a distant, happy memory and we are now in the home stretch of the school year.  Yet there are still important things to learn, tests to take, and field trips to experience. It may be tempting to put ourselves on cruise control and start counting down the days until summer break, but this is a great time to start conversations with students about preparing for their time away from school. You can start by thinking about these questions:

  • What do students plan to do?
  • Where do they plan to go?
  • Whom do they plan to see?
  • What issues might arise?

Over summer break, kids are often given longer leashes. Schoolwork has ended, pools are open, and camps, trips, and activities are underway. This opens the door for teens and tweens to experience new and old friendships and make new memories. All of these things can have such an impact on kids’ social lives and their futures. These experiences can be positive, such as making new friends or reaching new goals, but they can also have negative consequences, such as getting involved with the wrong crowd or giving in to peer pressure. One such peer pressure is that of underage drinking, which is not only against the law, but it can also lead to additional troubles, bad decisions, and risky behaviors.

Before summer break arrives, being mindful and forward thinking about summer can help students plan for making good decisions and develop confidence about the upcoming three months. Here are a few ideas for getting your students involved as the end of the school year approaches and the planning for summer begins.

Kind of like a dream diary, have your students think about what they will do during the summer months. Instead of watching TV every day, have them create a few goals to accomplish—perhaps two goals per month or even one goal per week. These could involve exercise, helping out at home, staying in touch with friends, helping at a community garden, or reading some good books! Having these goals written down increases the probability that they will revisit them and stick to making healthy choices and good decisions over the summer break.

Have your students write a fictional account of what they “did” this summer and present it to the class. Have them pretend it’s the first day of the next school year. How did their summer go? What did they do? What adventures came up? What challenges did they overcome? It’s a creative way for kids to anticipate what will be going on during the weeks when they will be away from the classroom.

In this exercise, kids will imagine a scenario and then express how making one decision will result in a positive outcome, while making another decision may result in a negative outcome. This exercise helps kids take a look at their actions and the possible results of making healthy decisions versus making decisions that may not be ideal. This would be a great time to put the kids in imaginary situations where underage drinking may be an option. Help them make the decision to say NO using these conversation starters or by watching this video!

The end of school is an important time for students to maintain their academic work, and it’s also a good time to engage kids in conversations about how making decisions can affect their future.  Starting these conversations is a great way to segue into choosing right from wrong. Keeping teens and tweens active and mindful about possible challenges such as underage drinking, drugs, and even boredom and laziness, can help them make the best decisions when the time comes.

 

Erin O’Malley is the dean of students services and director of counseling at Bishop O’Connell HS in Arlington, VA.
*The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (Responsibility.org) or any Responsibility.org member.*