The students who come thru the door of our health class are dealing with a variety of teenage angst:
• constant fear of an inevitable rejection
• not being a part of the in crowd
• the pressure of good grades which satisfy parents, colleges and /or self
• lack of personal success — always second or third
• disappointing self, one’s friend, parents, teachers
• not having the right clothes
• not having the right body type
• wanting to fit in but not knowing how to fit in
• and the list goes on…
This is an opportunity to use your health curriculum, to help students understand why they think the way they do, behave the way they do, and to appreciate who they are. The key to understanding why teens are insecure, and thus more likely to make foolish decisions – is that many don’t fully appreciate how wonderful their uniqueness is. To be unique is to be one of a kind, a better word is rare. To be rare is to be precious, thus having great value. Think of all the things or people that are considered to be one of kind. I’ll give a specific example; an auction house recently sold a putter Arnold Palmer used to win the 1964 Masters for more than $97,000. Tell your students, in the history of the world there is only one person exactly like you. You are unique / rare / precious. There is no one with your exact DNA, with your family history / family tree, your present circumstance and your future hopes and dreams.
This never occurs to most people. There is something within us that makes us desire to submerge ourselves within a group and try to look like, be like, dress like, talk like them. It is false confidence to feel secure because you have a group to hang with. When the group isn’t there, you feel naked without the comfort of group acceptance. Confidence comes with appreciating who you are.
Let me show you how I used the health curriculum so my students could identify their uniqueness. A person’s uniqueness (identity) is not based on another’s opinion, belonging to a certain crowd and / or their grades.
I believe until a person THINKS and FEELS about themselves the way they should, he / she will make poor decisions that may cost them their future. The students will tell you about those poor decisions. They involve what is attached to acceptance, a sense of belonging to. . . which intersects with sex, drugs, and rock and roll.
I use the first several weeks making health class all about them. Their hopes and dreams, their personality style, their self-esteem, their decision making profile, their ability to say NO, their family history, their current circumstances and we spend the rest of class connecting this information to the their future hopes and dreams. So when we get to sex, drugs, and rock and roll, the students view those topics through the lens of their unique cost / benefit analysis which is attached to their future hopes and dreams.
This is how I set up part of my first classes each term:
Family History matters: unconsciously it influences our choices, directing us to or away from pursuing our goals. We chose to repeat our family history, learn from it, or rebel against it.
As a result, the first days of Health class are devoted to:
- A unit on Goals where students choose their goals in 6 different areas of life, state what they will do each day to accomplish their desired future goal and what character traits will be required / strengthened while they walk their path to their desired future.
- The Introduction of the Family Tree (genogram) Project. Everything you know your sense of right / wrong, your ethics, what is / is not permissible, what you can get away with is learned in your family. Students need to be informed that in a few years they will leave their family home and establish their own home. Now is the time to evaluate the rules, ways and habits of their extended family. Look at their family history; appreciate what is good and learn from the examples they don’t wish to continue in their own life.
Personality Style — to know thyself is to appreciate yourself:
Part of insecurity is the question “Who am I?” and the statement “I wish I could be more like _________.” A Personality styles unit helps answer that question. There is the tendency to desire the qualities we see in others, while not appreciating, or even being aware of the great qualities we do possess. Personality Styles help to focus people toward identifying their individual personality / character traits. The personality styles unit helps students:
• explain why we do what we do, like what we like,
• gives reasons to appreciate one’s strengths,
• clarifies why some of our actions may appear as a weaknesses, when compared to another personality type
• gives one an appreciation of themselves.
• guides future career choices that fit their personality
• explains why different personalities listen to and speak to people differently, therefore this is how you grab their attention
Knowing oneself helps with Self-Esteem:
A Personality styles unit transitions perfectly into a how a student will view themselves (Self-Esteem unit). They use the words they self-identify with (positive / negative words). Those words are not just character words they are habits / behaviors people see. For example, if they self-identify with the words disorganized, scheduled, or determined they are to describe how those behaviors reveal themselves in their daily life. After describing each word there is proud ownership, or I got to change that — self-awareness.
If you are serious about goals, you begin to visualize a future which helps you, prioritize your time, your activities and your friends. You get in trouble with your friends because you do what they do. Knowing your personality style helps to inform you what types of personalities you will have difficulty saying No to. Once students know this, they can incorporate skills of saying NO (Techniques of NO) — I messages and the yes-no-yes messages and the 12 was of saying NO. Then there is Decision Making — what is more important, the future I visualize or the temptation of NOW that can turn me away from my future. There are 4 decision making profiles — which one are you?
If you are interested in any of the above subjects here are some blog post references with more information and how to engage your students: