All Arkansas students should graduate with a strong foundation of academic knowledge, experience, and proficiency. To be successful, students also need an equally strong foundation of soft skills – those intangible abilities that help people get along with others, communicate well, and make positive contributions in the workplace and beyond.
The Division of Elementary and Secondary Education has identified five guiding principles that support educators, business leaders, communities, and students in their efforts to help all Arkansans develop these critical skills. The principles represent skills needed to thrive at home, school, on the job, and in the community are: Growth (manage yourself), Understanding (know yourself), Interaction (build relationships), Decisions (make responsible choices), and Empathy (be aware of others).
The G.U.I.D.E. for Life program, with the support of Arkansas counselors and educators, is designed to give K-12 students a plan – a five-step process – that they can follow to achieve personal success. Each principle is summarized in easy-to-understand key words, with three action points to explain the idea. By incorporating the G.U.I.D.E. for Life concepts throughout the school experience, we can help instill these “real-world” skills for success in all Arkansas students. The result? Well-rounded citizens, stronger communities, and more effective employees.
I am a product of the days of only having three television stations to choose from, having to look up information in a card catalog, and having to memorize or look up someone’s phone number in a phone book, and then proceed to dial them up on a rotary phone. Am I dating myself? Don’t answer that. Today, kids live in a microwave society where technology provides instantaneous access to millions of sources of information with the click of a button. With so many options available, choices become more complex and students may often struggle to navigate the decision-making process.
Responsible decision making really is the epitome of every personal competency that we attempt to instill in our students. As we work to equip students with the tools they need to be successful both in and out of the classroom, responsible decision-making is one of the most vital and challenging of all. As educators, there are some simple things that we can do to help students become more confident, responsible decision makers:
- Model: Teachers make hundreds of decisions daily, none without impact. Taking the time to verbalize our thought processes to students during the course of the day, as well as recognizing and celebrating when students make good choices not only reinforces this important skill, but assists in creating a positive classroom culture.
- Embed: Good decision making is a personal competency that can be easily embedded into any lesson plan. By using your content area curriculum to highlight important decisions and how people in the lesson (literature, history, math) reach a conclusion, role-playing, and problem solving/decision making using the scientific method, you are offering relevant, real-world examples of positive decision making.
- Empower: Students generally fall somewhere on the spectrum of not making any decisions at all due to a lack of confidence or fear of making a wrong choice, impulsive decision-making that doesn’t consider consequences or situations, and responsible decision-making that evaluates how actions affect themselves and others. Regardless of where your students fall on the spectrum, remember mistakes are proof that they are trying. Creating an environment where students feel safe enough to fail because failure is how we learn gives your students the gift of confidence they need to become good decision makers.
A Matter of Life and Death
Tragically, America is in the midst of a national crisis with the growing Opioid Epidemic. While some may not see how this relates to school-age children, educators are in the trenches daily and experience the very real and tragic impact the crisis is having on students. “A new study from researchers at the Yale School of Medicine has given insight into the effect of the opioid epidemic on infants and school-aged children. The JAMA Network Open study found that the use of prescription and illicit opioids caused the deaths of almost 9,000 children and adolescents in the United States between 1999 and 2016. During the same time, the pediatric mortality rate from opioid poisoning increased more than twofold”, according to Michael Devitt of the American Association of Family Physicians.
At the same time, Carol Levine of STATnews.com, reports that on any given day teachers encounter students who are “at risk for accidental ingestion of toxic substances at home, living with addicted parents/caregivers and dealing with fear and anxiety, being removed from their homes and placed in foster care due to the ravages of addiction, experiencing the stress of having to become caregivers for siblings or addicted parents, as well as being exposed to toxic levels of stress that can impair brain development.” We must become passionate about equipping our children to make responsible, safe decisions - it truly is becoming more and more an issue of life and death.
Red Ribbon Week 2019: Send a Message. Stay Drug Free.
Red Ribbon Week (October 23-31, 2019) is the perfect opportunity for your school to have fun and emphasize the importance of making responsible choices in order to help Arkansas students to grow up safe, healthy, and drug-free. The theme for this year’s campaign is: Send a Message. Stay Drug Free.
I recently sent out the all-call for schools around our state to fill me in on how they were helping students make good decisions in regard to living a healthy, drug-free life in celebration of this national event. I was so impressed by the responses I received - talk about having a difficult time making a decision!!
Thank goodness there were no wrong choices to be made in this case. Every submission was fantastic - Arkansas teachers and schools are knocking it out of the park in meeting the needs of the whole child through providing student-focused education. Awesome job! Here are just a few of my favorites from the schools who responded to our survey:
The Academies of West Memphis - West Memphis, AR: The Academies of West Memphis Show Choir, under the direction of Amanda Daly, toured elementary schools in the district performing an anti-bullying Broadway-style production. If you haven’t seen the videos of their production numbers on social media, I encourage you to take the time to look them up! Such talented students using their gifts to raise awareness and create positive change - BRAVO!!
Carolyn Lewis Elementary School - Conway, AR: Mentors Empowered : Wampus Cat Leadership Team: High school student leaders will be working with the students in our school to model and encourage making good choices.
Centerpoint Elementary - Amity, AR: We created a community outreach video to promote drug free choices (even the governor participated)! We know that safe, healthy choices lead to a drug free life. Together we are working to make our children aware of the importance of making positive choices and the consequences of using drugs and alcohol. We are also focusing on the importance of choosing good friends and being a good friend.
Huntsville High School - Huntsville, AR: We have a group of students that work to raise community awareness in order to put an end to tobacco use. They are led by a local community group, the Madison County Health Coalition, and meet regularly. We are also putting together an ambassador program of student leaders that is planning Red Ribbon activities for the week of October 28. These activities include guest speakers, assemblies, drug take back day, and other ways of raising awareness of the dangers of drug and alcohol use.
Lake Hamilton School District - Hot Springs, AR: Our district wide Red Ribbon Spirit Week is called "The Greatest Show of Me is Drug Free" (circus theme). Over 2,000 students will take part in this pep rally that is the highlight of the year for most of our students. Our Red Ribbon Week activities make a huge impact because they start the conversation of the importance of being drug free. We publicize our drug free spirit week on a billboard in town, as well as all of our digital outlets (social media, web, school app, etc.). Prevention starts with conversations, and we hope that our drug free spirit week encourages parents to begin having these conversations with their children at home, just like we are having at school, on the reasons a student should choose to be drug free.
Russellville High School - Russellville, AR: Our Interact Club is sponsoring Red Ribbon Week. We will have a banner to sign, red balloons (Think It) to remind students that drugs are scary, wear red clothing, and many other things to promote drug awareness and a drug-free lifestyle.
Looking for a year-round prevention activity?
Plant the Promise is a wonderful way to celebrate Red Ribbon Week while incorporating G.U.I.D.E. for Life personal competencies. Students plant red flower bulbs in the Fall (INTERACTION: Collaboration) which bloom in the Spring, and serve as a reminder of the importance and the beauty of living a drug free life (DECISIONS: Make responsible choices). Additionally, it provides a chance to enjoy the outdoors, connect with nature, take a break from daily stress (UNDERSTANDING: Mindfulness) and see the rewards of something beautiful you’ve nurtured (GROWTH: Persevere). I can’t think of a more beautiful, sustainable way to celebrate and encourage making responsible, healthy choices.
Spotlight on Success - We Want to Hear from YOU!
Want to see YOUR school featured on our G.U.I.D.E. for Life Blog? Fill out the attached survey and let us know the innovative ways you are embedding G.U.I.D.E. for Life principles into your curriculum and school culture!
If you have questions or are in need of assistance regarding G.U.I.D.E. for Life implementation please fill out this form, and I will be happy to contact you. I am honored to provide leadership, support, and service as we work together to facilitate implementation of the G.U.I.D.E. for Life personal competencies that promote learning and success for all students in Arkansas.
For details, refer to G.U.I.D.E. for Life – 5 Skills for Personal Success.