My 6th visit to St. Bede was this last Monday; here is what we talked about:
4th Grade – A Different Slant on Tobacco
I spoke with the 4th graders about the difference between facts and opinions, and the difference between reporting and advertising. We read a couple of stories together as a class; the first was about a new advertising campaign from a tobacco company, and the second was a report from doctors about the negative consequences of using chewing tobacco. We talked about why its important to be able to value opinions differently; is an advertisement telling us the whole truth or just saying the “good stuff”? Why should we value a doctors opinion on health over the opinions of a tobacco advertisement?
Also, as entertainment, advertising and news seem to be merging more and more every year, its important that our kids learn to decipher facts from opinions in all the media they are taking in. Why should we value an experts opinion more than a blog entry? What should hold more weight: the recommendation of your family doctor, or the entry you just read on WebMD? Its great to be informed, but an article we read on the internet probably shouldn’t trump the expertise of someone that has spent years studying the issue in question.
5th Grade – Making the Most of Your Mistakes
The 5th grade class had two messages: (1) If you make a mistake, don’t compound it with another mistake, and (2) if you make an honest mistake, don’t get discouraged and give up.
I told a story to illustrate the first message: a couple of years ago, a young lady chose to cut the drive-thru line at a McDonald’s, and then she refused to leave the line when she was challenged by the staff. Instead of doing the right thing and leaving, she decided to double-down on the dumbness and refuse to leave. She blocked the line until the police arrived, and she refused their orders to leave as well. Net result: the police arrested her for trespassing and her 3 year old daughter (who witnessed the scene from the backseat) was taken into protective custody.
We then read through a list of mistakes that led to breakthrough discoveries, Chocolate chip cookies, silly putty, paper towels and Dr. Pepper all sprung from an original mistake. There’s nothing wrong with adjusting your plans and dreams as you get older, but we shouldn’t let a setback discourage us into giving up either.
6th Grade – Alcohol
The 6th grade class was about alcohol. The first question I asked was how many kids knew that alcohol was a drug. Many of the kids never think of alcohol as a drug because we always use the phrase “drugs and alcohol”. I also asked the kids how many of them had ever seen either of their parents drinking alcohol at least once. Every time I ask that question 95-100% of the class raise their hands. The fact is, most adults that the kids interact with have at least a little experience with alcohol. It is every adult’s duty to make sure they are drinking responsibly (especially in front of their kids), but there’s also no need for a kid to be worried every time they see their mom or dad have a glass of wine, beer or a cocktail.
Next, I told them that alcohol is in the category of drugs called “depressants” and explained how it differs from the drugs we talked about earlier (THC, which is a hallucinogen, and caffeine, which is a stimulant). Then we talked about the types of alcohol that people drink: beer, wine and hard liquor. Serving sizes and potency may vary among the different types of alcohol, but overindulging in any type of alcohol can lead to severe consequences.
I asked the kids if they had ever seen someone that was intoxicated, and then I took a few minutes to compile the symptoms of an intoxicated person. The list included things like slowed heart rate, slurred speech, loud and obnoxious behavior, wonky eyes, passing out, throwing up, all the way to the most severe consequences of overdose (alcohol poisoning) and death.
I finished by talking about the different circumstances in which adults may drink and compared them to the generally more dangerous and irresponsible contexts in which teenagers drink. Some adults drink in a perfectly responsible fashion, but some adults ruin their lives with alcohol. However, when underage people drink (usually in secret and/or away from the prying eyes of adults) it is almost exclusively a dangerous situation that could lead to bad consequences.
7th Grade –
In the 7th grade, we talked about accountability and taking responsibility in an activity called “the Blame Game”.
During the activity, I presented the students with 3 scenarios where a kid makes a bad decision, and we discussed who is to blame for why things went wrong.
The first scenario is about a kid who forgets to dry his soccer uniform and gets held out of his game. Do you blame the dad? The coach? Or is it his responsibility to get his stuff together.
Scenario two is a little more serious. Two boys are stuck at the mall without a ride home and eventually get a lift from an older sibling that has been drinking and driving. There is an accident and one of the boys is paralyzed. Who’s to blame? The driver? The friend that pressured him to get into the car? The mom who didn’t show up? Or it the boys fault for making the decision to get in the car with someone he knew had been drinking?
The last story is about two girls who are supposed to be shopping at the mall, but instead go to a park to meet a boy. One of the girls want to make out with the boy, and she convinces the other girl to go with her. When they get there, the boy offers them marijuana to smoke. One of the girls doesn’t want to smoke with them, but the other two pressure her until she succumbs. When she starts to smoke, the police show up and catch them all in the act. What could the girl have done differently? Should she have called for help or abandoned her friend before the situation got this out of hand?
The point I try to get across to the kids in this lesson is that there are very few times in life when you don’t have a choice. Sometimes the choices may seem awkward or difficult to make, but we are still choosing for ourselves. We are all responsible for the consequences of our decisions, so we might as well try to make the best decision possible instead of going along with someone else’s dumb idea.
We also spent a few minutes practicing a lock down drill, and talking about the importance of practicing and preparing for emergencies seriously. Hopefully, we will never have to put our training into action, but being prepared is all of our responsibility.