Building character is Sheridan’s antidrug
Students at Sheridan Elementary School cheer during an Oct. 26 assembly. That Friday was “Wear Red Day” in support of Red Ribbon Week. | Rick Kambic~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 2, 2012 10:42AM
LAKE FOREST — Rather than pushing facts about drugs, Sheridan Elementary School staff members took a new approach to Red Ribbon Week this year by developing happy students who make good decisions.
Throughout the past 10 years, after the school became a kindergarten through fourth-grade facility, the faculty felt information on drugs was too in-depth for elementary students.
“We felt like some of the information on drugs was inappropriate and that students were not absorbing the message,” said fourth-grade teacher Laura Schlemm, the faculty adviser for Sheridan’s 12-student LEAD, or Linking Efforts Against Drugs, Club. “Now, we believe happy children with good self-esteem and positive social habits won’t go anywhere near drugs.”
The club usually meets during recess once every other week for role playing on how to handle uncomfortable situations like being offered cigarettes.
The group spent recess together every day for the past two weeks planning schoolwide Red Ribbon Week activities.
On Oct. 22, students were allowed to wear sunglasses in school because “their futures are bright.” Oct. 23 was sports jersey day, promoting teamwork. Oct. 24 was pajama day because students should “follow their dreams.”
To encourage friendship, students brought their favorite stuffed animals to school on Oct. 25 while Friday was “wear red day” promoting Red Ribbon Week.
“Strong, positive relationships with friends and family defeat drug temptation,” Schlemm said. “Teaching students to include others in their lives is much more effective than explaining drugs.”
During a schoolwide assembly Friday, the LEAD Club presented a “Sheridan Students Make Good Choices” banner signed by every student in the school.
Another club that helps build character is the Playground Pals. In rotating groups of three, 24 fourth-graders eat lunch and have recess with second-graders.
“The fourth-graders are trained to identify second-graders who may be eating by themselves or playing by themselves and engage them,” Schlemm said. “Helping bridge a gap between groups of kids teaches them to be more accepting and hopefully builds a positive social habit that repels drugs and alcohol.”
Results are already visible. On Oct. 24, before getting on her bus, fourth-grader Charlette Hart learned that a kindergartner on the same bus was supposed to stay at school because his mom was going to be late coming home from work.
“The news didn’t get to him in time, and we had a teacher racing to beat the bus to his house,” Schlemm said. “Charlette was getting off at the same stop and decided to stay with him and play in the front yard.”
The boy’s mom got home 15 minutes later, but he never realized what happened.
“Being locked out and not knowing what to do could have been terrifying for him,” Schlemm said. “Charlette, out of the kindness of her heart, made a difference and she did it all on her own. Decisions like that make a difference over time.”