Research indicates that trained and supported teachers are in the best position to deliver effective drug education. There are, however, agencies and resource persons in the community that have the expertise and the mandate to augment the junior high school drug education program: e.g., Prevention staff from Addiction Services; RCMP and municipal police officers; Drug Awareness Committee volunteers; Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) volunteers; and volunteers from community recovery groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Al-Anon, Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and Gamblers Anonymous (GA). Teachers are advised to consult their school or board policy and guidelines on the use of a resource person from the community.

In considering use of an external resource person, the teacher should have a clear understanding of the curriculum need and how a resource person will satisfy the need. This means being clear about the desired learning outcomes before deciding who is best able to help achieve them.

As well, resource people need to be clear on their role in supporting your desired curriculum outcomes—this will require discussion and negotiation to ensure a good curricular fit. Equally important is that an external contributor needs to be a competent educator and facilitator, recognizing that effective drug education is activity based, rather than didactic.

If you are unfamiliar with a resource person or agency, you may wish to ask for references from that person or from other educators. It is important that the person not only has a clear understanding of their objectives and role in supporting the Healthy Living curriculum, but they should also be aware of the school’s approach to drug education, the school’s drug policy, and other relevant policies (e.g., confidentiality, disclosure, and child protection). This will help to ensure that the person’s approach is consistent with that of the school and that they avoid delivering incompatible messages. Outside resource people should be free of charge.

It is critically important that resource people be aware of their roles, responsibilities, and their relationship with the teacher while in the classroom. They need to be clear on their area of competency and the professional boundaries, and not overly dramatize substance abuse. Involving individuals in recovery in drug education should be considered very carefully. Without sensitive handling they may arouse interest or glamorize drug use or describe experiences that young people have difficulty relating to. In some instances they may unwittingly imply that their own drug use represents a “safe limit” that can be copied. If they are to be involved, it should be because they are skilled in facilitating student learning and not simply by virtue of their status as a recovering person.

Here are some other ways of maximizing the involvement of a resource person:

  • Consider involving students in the preparatory and follow-up work (e.g., writing invitation and thank you letters).
  • Request a written session plan, outlining planned outcomes, curriculum links, and methods.
  • Assess the value of the external contribution through student feedback and evaluation. This information could be shared and used to inform future work.

Having considered these points, a classroom teacher can ensure that the contribution of an external resource person will be well integrated into the drug education program and will truly augment it, rather than being simply an isolated event with limited value.

United Kingdom. Department for Education and Skills (2004). Drugs: Guidance for schools. London: Department for Education and Skills.

New Zealand. Ministry of Youth Development (2004).
Strengthening drug education in school communities: Best practice handbook for design, delivery, and evaluation, years 7–13. Wellington, NZ: Ministry of Youth Development.