Keeping it Real

For this weeks blog I have taken inspiration from a conversation that I had with @jennywamsley on Voxer, a slide that I remembered from a summer conference in Kansas City, and a blog post from @teaching_health .

Jenny shared a conversation that she had with some students in which they were giving feedback on the health curriculum and the quality of the guest speakers. One student said that health teachers should “keep it real” when talking to teens, and a conversation ensued on Voxer regarding what exactly did keeping it real mean?

Our PLN came to a consensus that ‘keeping it real’ meant treating our students with respect and engaging in open and honest conversations. With sensitive topics it is easy to hide behind the content of the lesson without addressing the skills and behaviors that we are asking students to develop. It’s possible that a guest speaker might come in to a school to deliver what they believe to be a simple message, perhaps ‘Don’t do drugs’ or ‘Don’t have sex before marriage’ without realizing that telling teens NOT to do something isn’t the best way to influence behavior. And if that message is also paired with scare tactics then that’s a surefire way for students to switch off.

Have You Taken A Risk?

I created this GIF using the GIF Toaster app and it was inspired by a slide from Su & Al Nottingham’s session at the Healthy Teens in Prevention Conference in Kansas City this summer. They asked the attendees to stand up and as they revealed each example of a risky behavior we had to sit down as soon as that was a risk that we had taken in our lives. Their take away from this was that just because you perceive risk, it doesn’t mean that you will avoid that risk and always take the healthy option. I had to sit down as soon as the skydiving image was shown. I jumped out of a plane because I thought it would be fun, it would make for a great story and people might think that I was cool. Did I consider the possibility of death? Possibly for a second or two. Did I consider that the odds of me dying were 1 in 133,000? No. As Su & Al continued through the list of risks I laughed knowingly at some…and hung my head in shame at others. And yet I’m a health teacher. Aren’t I supposed to be the sensible font of all health knowledge? Well, no. But I am expected to be aware of the fact that teenagers are more likely to engage in risk behaviors such as smoking, abusing drugs and having unsafe sex. Of course students are going to take risks – YOU take risks, I take risks. It’s providing students with the appropriate skills related to risk taking that is more important than the “Just Say No” message. Refusal strategies, understanding the influence of others, accessing valid information to enable decision making and advocating for those who aren’t as health literate are all crucial skills that we need to teach our students.

Recently, the awesome addition to any #healthed teachers PLN, Amy Lauren Smith wrote about how her school’s health program follows a model of positive prevention. Their aim is to get students excited about health, not scared of it. Their focus is on what students should do, and not on what they shouldn’t do. This simple and subtle change in approach allows the teacher to highlight the positive and embrace the healthy choice ambassadors that exist within the classroom. That blog post is another great read from Amy and contains some great resources for teachers wishing to follow a model of positive prevention.

So, to those #healthed teachers out there determined to keep it real by avoiding the scare tactics and embracing the positive choices out there for students, I salute you.

This week’s questions:

Q1. A student gives you feedback on your #healthed curriculum & urges you to ‘keep it real’. What are they asking you to do? #slowchathealth

Q2. Check out our GIF. Feel free to share why you have engaged in any of these behaviors. #slowchathealth

Q3. Does your school track the risk behaviors of students? If so, what method do they use? #slowchathealth

Q4. Use the awesome CDC online risk survey tool to compare your State to National scores. Any thoughts? #slowchathealth

Q5. Who “Keeps It Real” in your PLN? #slowchathealth

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