Middle School Teachers – They May Be More Influential Than You Think

By the time most kids are in Junior High, they’re navigating a world that’s hard for most of us to even imagine. There’s bath salts and spice, fruit flavored cigars, cotton candy flavored vodka and much more, all sold at neighborhood gas station convenience stores. Some of these items are on the counter as you pay, so you can’t miss them. Are these purposely marketed to children or does it just seem that way? I don’t know. That’s a subject for another article, but here is the reality: Surveys of Kenton County youth show that youth who use tobacco begin smoking at the average age of 12 years and on average, youth alcohol or marijuana use begins by age 13. Twelve and thirteen years old – that’s Middle School!

A recent study of middle school students in Seattle reveals some interesting information. “Emotional support from middle school teachers may reduce the risk their students will engage in early use of alcohol and other illicit substances…”(1) “The students defined teacher support as feeling close to a teacher, or being able to talk about their problems with a teacher.”(2) All teachers are influential and very important in a child’s life, but this is the first study to show that “teacher support is associated with lower levels of early alcohol use.” (3)

What does this mean? Besides that teachers are even more important than we thought, it means that all of us influential adults have a responsibility to “tune into” kids and offer them support. We might be parents, neighbors, fellow church members, or school personnel. I bet we all know a teen and we probably know a teen who would like to feel accepted and valued by adults.

How you can connect to and support teens(4)
• Find out what interests them
• Encourage teens to pursue their interests
• Volunteer to mentor a teen
• Dwell on what they do right – not what they do wrong
• Let them know you are proud of them
• Listen to them

Written by Diane Rumer and Kathy Nafus for Kenton County Alliance, 859-760-2051.
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1) http://www.drugfree.org/join-together/alcohol/support-from-middle-school-teachers-may-reduce-early-use-of-alcohol-study-suggests

2) Ibid.
3) Ibid.
4) These are some of the 40 Developmental Assets. More information about them can be found at www.search-institute.org