Sunday, October 17, 2010

"Our Favorite Drugs" Infographic

GOOD Magazine publishes a Transparency every week on their website, which is full of infographics relating to many diverse topics. Since browsing through their website for the first time, I've added a few feeds to my Google Reader account! GOOD also keeps an archive of their transparencies on flickr.

The infographic "Our Favorite Drugs" puts drug use into a visual form, using information from local law enforcement officials who were asked by the Department of Justice which drugs posed the greatest danger to their local communities.

This visual is an easy addition to any drug unit. The sky is the limit to the types of questioning or reasoning the students could use; the teacher could even use this as a type of unit activator by asking students to predict drug use in different parts of the country before showing students the infographic. Students can look at the infographic, attempting to infer why certain drugs are more problematic in some parts of the country as opposed to others; to examine regional, local, and other (cultural, geographic, etc) differences; to predict future trends of drug use.  Note that alcohol is not included in this infographic. The visuals might be a little confusing at first, but it becomes clear once you see how it's set up.

I can't embed the copyrighted image, and if you missed the link above, you can check out "Our Favorite Drugs" in GOOD Magazine's flickr account by clicking here. I've also recently discovered some infographics online from TIME as well; check back in the near future for a post on those infographics.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth

The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (abbreviated CAMY) is a must-know resource for any health educator. Part of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, CAMY "monitors the marketing practices of the alcohol industry to focus attention and action on industry practices that jeopardize the health and safety of America's youth." The CAMY website is an incredible resource for any teacher, whether their goal is to find information for lesson planning, reading advocacy reports, staying on top of political updates and news reports, or the reading latest research on alcohol advertising.

CAMY contains an expansive section of print alcohol advertisements grouped by brand name or product, and a separate section of television commercials that are similarly grouped. CAMY provides these advertisements with the hope that they will "stimulate discussion, comment, criticism, and public concern about alcohol marketing and youth." I've used alcohol advertisements provided by CAMY in my seventh grade health classes when we deconstruct tobacco and alcohol advertisements. In the past, I have selected a handful of advertisements and used them in a carousel activity. Advertisements are hung around the room, and groups of students go to each one and try to deconstruct the advertisements before we discuss them. This is typically after we have examined advertising techniques, and we expand upon this by critiquing advertisements and analyzing how they effect health behavior. This is an important skill for students to learn because it is one of the National Health Education Standards, and the performance indicators under those standards, which are part of any exemplary health education program.

We haven't entered that part of our curriculum yet this year, but when we do I'll write a detailed post about the actual lesson itself.

Some of the information on the CAMY website might be a little too in-depth for middle school students, but the reports and research provided by CAMY are great opportunities to extend a lesson for students able to continue further than their classmates, or to use in high school as an expansion to what was learned in middle school. Some of the summary brochures and fact sheets are dated, so care should be taken when certain statistics are used in the classroom. The organization has received some criticism from a group that has also criticized Mothers Against Drunk Driving, The Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, and The American Medical Association. I'll let the reader make up their own mind about those criticisms. With any topic, it's important to examine information critically, from multiple viewpoints, especially as a teacher. I feel that I don't need a website trying to discredit organizations (especially ones listed above) to make my own judgements based on the information I have available.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

One School; Four Deaths

One school, four bullying related deaths in recent years. Over 10,000 comments on this one news story.

Think bullying isn't an issue to be concerned about? Think kids just need to "grow up" and deal with things on their own? Think people have been overreacting in the last few weeks with the media blitz on bullying?

Think again. I don't even know where to begin...

Friday, October 8, 2010

CNN Bullying Resources

Bullying has taken over many news reports over the last few weeks, and conversations about bullying are happening all across the country. Almost every single news feed I subscribe to via RSS had at least one article relating to bullying in the last two weeks. Many news sources have devoted entire sections to the issue, or are choosing to run a special series of articles, videos, and other resources devoted to the topic in order to cover the recent tragedies involving bullying that have occurred in the United States.

Leading the charge in my RSS feeds have been CNN and the blog of Anderson Cooper 360, the website companion of the nightly news show Anderson Cooper 360, or AC360.

Each website contains video, articles, opinion pieces, and resources relating to general bullying as well as to specific bullying cases. I was originally going to embed each video in this post, but there are simply too many! Please check out these resources! Each part of the website will in turn link you to other parts. This would be a great idea for a webquest in class or a homework assignment where students have to dig through all the current information on bullying.

In the past, I have used clips from AC360 in my health classes. Last year I used a segment about the suicide of Carl Walker-Hoover. I believe I used one on smoking advertisements as well, but that may have been from another news source.

Check out CNN's special section Stop Bullying: Speak Up! as well as posts on the AC 360 Blog relating to bullying.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

No One Should Feel Alone, Part V: The Trevor Project

NOTE: All information used for this post was obtained from The Trevor Project's website.

The Trevor Project is a non-profit organization which was established with the goal to, "promote acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth, and to aid in suicide prevention among that group." The Trevor Project provides a 24 hour, free, nationwide, confidential suicide prevention hotline for young people to call where they can talk with non-judgmental, trained counselors. Call 866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386).

The Trevor Project also provides TrevorChat, an online messaging service that is free, confidential, and secure. TrevorChat is meant for people who are not at risk for suicide, and is only available on Fridays from 4PM Eastern time through 12:00AM Eastern time. Dear Trevor is an online question and answer resource for young people who wish to ask questions relating to sexual orientation and gender identity. A nifty search tool allows user to search through questions and answered that were posted in the past.

Another service provided by The Trevor Project is TrevorSpace. TrevorSpace is a social networking website that is meant for LGBTQ youth, their families and friends, and their allies. According to their website, TrevorSpace can be used to make friends, connect with young people throughout the country, to find support, to get involved in the LGBTQ community around you, and to stay on top of news relating to LGBTQ youth. Unlike other social networking website, TrevorSpace is monitored by site administrators to ensure that user content is appropriate. This provides a safe and appropriate haven for youth on the internet, which is becoming increasing rare these days.

The Trevor Project really covers all angles and conveniently offers varied ways for teenagers to get help. With social media and social networking a large part of any young person's life, it makes sense to have different avenues people can approach in order to get the help they need.

Additionally, The Trevor Project provides an incredible amount of resources for educators and parents. Their entire website is loaded with useful information, and to be honest I haven't gone through it all just yet. Please check it out and forward the information along to those who may need it. I'm very impressed with the organization and everything that it offers. 

Support The Trevor Project by joining their Facebook page, subscribing to their Twitter account, or by checking out their YouTube channel. Also, don't hesitate to call 866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386).

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

No One Should Feel Alone, Part IV: To Write Love on Her Arms

To Write Love on Her Arms is a non-profit organization which is dedicated to "presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide." TWLOHA serves as a bridge for people seeking help, and connects people to various treatment centers, support groups, books, websites, and other such resources relating to a variety of problems.

TWLOHA has a large presence within the music community, and is supported by artists such as Switchfoot, Paramore, Boys Like Girls, and The Rocket Summer. Bands such as these tour in support of TWLOHA and wear TWLOHA merchandise in order to raise awareness and promote discussion about suicide, depression, and other issues that affect young people all across the country. Additionally, they charge people to become "agents of change" in promoting awareness of such issues and adding to the important conversations that need to take place regarding teenagers getting the help they may need. TWLOHA has a substantial website, and is actively involved in social networking to promote their mission and vision. They also appear on musical tours (such as the Warped Tour), college campus visits, and fundraising events. The TWLOHA online store offers a variety of merchandise for sale that also promotes their organization and provides fundraising.

I will say that as a middle school teacher and a high school coach, I do see kids wearing t-shirts or similar merchandise promoting TWLOHA. I think the support various bands provide for the organization have helped increase its visibility among the teenage demographic. This is only a good thing, and hopefully teenagers will continue to spread the word about getting help and letting people know that no one is ever alone. Whenever I see a student wearing something from TWLOHA I try to engage them in conversation about how they found about TWLOHA.

For more information on TWLOHA, check out their Facebook page, MySpace page, YouTube channel, or Twitter account.

TWLOHA was featured this past weekend on CBS Sunday Morning. Check out the video below; TWLOHA is mentioned in the last three minutes:

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

No One Should Feel Alone, Part III: PFLAG

I was first informed about PFLAG (Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays) in my senior year of college when my advisor gave us a bunch of information about the organization. Realizing the need to be aware of a variety of resource groups for teenagers, she thought it would be beneficial for future educators to be aware of PFLAG and what it offers.

PFLAG is, according to their website, "A national non-profit organization with over 200,000 members and supporters and over 500 affiliates in the United States." PFLAG is a grassroots network that receives support via a national office in Washington, D.C. as well as numerous regional boards.

PFLAG sets out to, "Promote the health and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, their family and friends through: support, to cope with an adverse society; education, to enlighten an ill-informed public; and advocacy, to end discrimination and to secure equal civil rights."

A chapter of PFLAG exists in every single state in the United States, totaling 350 chapters all across the country. Finding one is as easy as accessing their website and entering search criteria. Ten such chapters exist in Massachusetts. Additionally, the PFLAG website contains a list of specific issues relating to the LGBT population, and what advocacy efforts individuals can take on to raise awareness of such issues. Information about education programs is also provided on the organization's website. PFLAG has separate sections on their websites for family members and friends of LGBT loved ones, for gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals, and a transgender network as well.

PFLAG is a perfect example of the saying, "You Are Not Alone." Their local chapters provide opportunity for individuals seeking support for themselves or someone they care about. This, combined with PFLAG's online resources and commitment to advocacy, make PFLAG a "must-know" as a teacher working with youth at any level.

Monday, October 4, 2010

No One Should Feel Alone: Ellen's Reaction

Last week, Ellen DeGeneres spoke out about the recent bullying related suicides of gay teenagers. While not a resource (those posts are coming up later), Ellen's message is brief and heartfelt. It can definitely be shown in the classroom to stimulate discussion about all that has gone on in the past few weeks.

Please watch the video below:

Sunday, October 3, 2010

No One Should Feel Alone

I'm a twenty-four year old, straight, white, male teacher. I was raised in a middle class family who lived in a small, rural suburban town with one traffic light that was almost always green. I have a twin sister who I basically always got along with other than typical sibling things, and two loving parents who aren't divorced. Growing up, people joked about making my family's life into a sitcom. I could go on about my life during college and after college, but I want to stay focused on when I was younger.

I write this because I have no experience with my parents getting divorced, or drug addiction within my family, coming out of the closet, or suicidal thoughts. My life has been, for lack of better words, utterly plain and free of emotionally trying events (well, except for one thing I won't mention). Things have always seemed to work out for me in basically every area of my life, and if they haven't worked out the way they were "expected" to work out, they ended up working out better for me in the long run.

So, how the heck can I help a student who is going through something completely different than what I went through growing up? The student who takes care of their younger siblings because mom or dad is working all the time, or because their parents are suffering from addiction...the closeted gay teenager who is trying to find a balance between fitting into the socially accepted mold of heterosexuality while staying true to themselves...the young girl trying to measure up to the expectations of her parents that she act just like her sister...a student who has lost a parent or sibling...

This is a question I often wrestle with. But ultimately, when students approach me to talk, they don't care about my past or what I have or have not been through. They simply want someone to listen with a set of ears and with an open heart. Providing those two things is the first step. I am by no means an expert or a counselor, and refer students appropriately as needed to other resources. While I've never had to deal with anything that is threatening, I think every issue a teenager wants to talk about is of the utmost importance and should be treated as such.

Recently the media has focused on the suicides of gay teenagers over the last week or so. The suicide of Tyler Clementi has brought at least four other suicides, all of gay young people in the last three weeks, to the attention of the major news media. A few years ago, there was a media blitz about shark attacks, even when statistically, the number of attacks was about the same (or less, if I recall) as usually reported. Columbine, 9/11, the Gloucester "Pregnancy Pact"...major events that brought something specific into our consciousness. In this situation, the event happens to be bullying of gay teenagers. I don't know the statistics, but if this event hadn't captured the event of the national media, there will still be teenagers struggling with thoughts of suicide every single day across the country.

It shouldn't take events like this to make us, as a nation, to address issues that affect thousands of people every single day. As a health teacher, I am all about prevention and not reaction. Bullying is already a hot topic in Massachusetts, and after the events of the last few weeks I'm sure there will be a focus on helping teenagers in need. Hopefully, this is not short lived. While I am happy that issues are being addressed, I'm still perplexed that it takes something major to happen for a dialogue to begin.

This week, I'm going to focus on identifying resources teenagers can use to get help with any sort of problem they might be dealing with. As educators, it is our responsibility to take care of our students. Many students come to us because they don't feel comfortable going to anyone else.

The posts that you will see published this week have been written on Sunday, and will be published automatically as the week progresses. Please forward any information as you see appropriate, and pass it along to your students. I may only get approximately fifty views a week, but if anyone of those fifty people can spread along information that can help someone else then I will have considered these posts successful.

Carry on, friends. No one needs to feel alone.
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