Addiction Assembly II

As promised, below is a video of the Upper School (and 8th grade) Assembly re: Addiction.

So many of you wrote to me with heart-felt words after my “heads up” letter and after the assembly. I’m sure some parents felt reservations about this heavy topic, but every one of the emails, calls and notes I received applauded St. Luke’s determination to come at this issue head on.

Several parents and colleagues have since told me how addiction has affected their families, with stories running from tragedy to recovery.  Many teachers told me that their discussions in Advisory after the assembly were the most engaged and important Advisory sessions of the school year, with students moved, curious, and hungry for more information and advice.  Several parents told me of their car ride and dinner table conversations about what their kids heard, and that those conversations have continued. I also received some beautiful notes from students, who, in addition to being moved, said they were glad I had raised the topic so it could be discussed openly without fear of sanction or stigma.

And that lesson – that kids should be talking about these issues with the adults in their lives – stands above all, I hope.  More than anything else, I hoped my talk would open the door to more of those conversations – with parents, with teachers, with any trusted adult.  Many, if not most teenagers will engage in risky behavior.  Some percentage, as I said in my talk, will become addicted to substances that could ruin their lives or end them.  All kids need to know they can talk with an adult, to help themselves or to help a friend.

Below are just a few of the responses received, with names removed for family privacy.

“I appreciate you addressing this sensitive subject! Being that I work with families that often have substance abuse I find this topic very important. Thank you so much for always being creative in your teaching and even when needing to discuss “sensitive” topics you make it a point to address it always thinking of our children’s future!”

“Hi Mark – I applaud you for addressing this issue with the students.  I do hope that alcohol is included in this discussion as abuse and addiction to alcohol causes more deaths and accidents than any other drug AND is a gateway for someone prone to addiction towards other substances like heroin.”

“I think this is a GREAT idea.   I speak to [name] about these issues  —  he is always telling me he is not around this and upset that I assume the worst.  He has said to me that he does not have an “addictive” personality — ???? — such a typical statement from a young adult that feels it can never happen to him.  It is a very slippery slope and I thank you for taking the initiative.“

“The conversation I shared with [name] was long and heartfelt. In the end I simply said ” if you want to live the life you want to live never touch or try drugs never. Your life choices will no longer be yours. Thank you for the courage to address a topic that could save [lives].”

“Thank you for this powerful initiative. It is wonderful you are doing it especially with the introduction you wrote and the headlines we do see. Good luck with the presentation tomorrow.  I am sure it will tap into a deep core nerve with Michael’s addictions….and now his health ( some nice sunshine and growth from a dark spot ). Be strong and thank you for doing this for all of our children”

“As a parent at St. Luke’s, I am awed.  As your friend, I am proud and honored to know you.  Thank you for your courage today and for changing our children’s lives.”

“I wanted to thank you for the assembly that you held today with our children.  When we discussed your interest in addressing this topic you mentioned that you had a story that you wanted to share but I did not realize how deeply personal this experience was for you and your family. Your willingness to share this with our students was truly generous.  Thank you for caring so much about (name) and all of the students at St. Luke’s to share something so personal.  I believe being open about the topic of addiction will help our students to make positive choices and more informed decisions and will perhaps allow someone who may be struggling to come forward and ask for help.

Thank you Mark for your kindness and generosity.”

“I wanted to also express my thanks and admiration for your decision to hold an assembly to address the addiction issue.  My kids came home buzzing about it, and were particularly moved when you put your son’s picture up and spoke from the heart about his personal challenge with drugs.  It took a lot of courage to do that, and that is what leadership is all about in my book, so well done. Your comments regarding having some sense of responsibility to others when it comes to this issue also resonated with my kids, and was a critically important message for our tight knit St. Lukes community.  It all led to a family discussion around the dinner table that was necessary, timely and much more meaningful and robust than it would have been otherwise.  I trust the feedback from parents has been overwhelmingly positive,  I surely hope so.”

“I just wanted to let you know that (name) and I spoke at length this afternoon about today’s assembly. She was very moved by your words, as was I as she recounted your speech.  For so many reasons – some of which you highlighted in front of the students – the timing of your talk was perfect. More so, your sharing such a personal story will remain with them forever.  What you did was brave and selfless. I imagine that on some levels it was a difficult day. But know that your words were a gift to all who heard them. And for that – and especially on behalf of my daughter – I am very grateful.”

Lesson learned:  On the issue of drugs and alcohol, talk is never cheap.  In fact, it’s the best investment you can make in your children.

Thank you, to everyone who listened and watched, and to everyone in our school community as we do our best to take care of each other.

Head of School Mark Davis: Special Assembly On Addiction from St. Luke’s School on Vimeo.