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The Increasing Presence of Alcohol in International School Life

By Joy Jameson
The Increasing Presence of Alcohol in International School Life

Have you noticed that alcohol is creeping more and more into international school life? I’m speaking of liquor flowing more frequently at on-campus events, some of which are even held at the end of the school day while students are still on campus waiting to be picked up. In my experience, alcohol was previously served on a limited basis and only at very special school events. Now, it is brought out for almost any celebration, no matter how small. Some schools even work to set up teacher discount deals on drinks at local bars. It’s as if administrators are thinking of alcohol as a way to bring everyone together, sort of like a team-building tactic, especially in times of turmoil within the school.
Let’s face it: most people enjoy parties and celebrations where alcohol is on offer, and in no way am I suggesting that international school staff members become teetotalers. However, it is important to consider what guidelines international schools might wish to adopt. Historically, the unwritten rule of the business world has been that it’s not appropriate for a person to drink in excess at work-sponsored events. Yet these days, some international school staff members imbibe at school events to the point that they need to be helped to their cars or even driven home due to their state of drunkenness. This does not create a very positive professional image, no matter how expert the person might be at teaching. Besides which, driving while intoxicated presents a huge hazard, not only to the driver but also to everyone else on the road.
It is also common at many schools for administrators to party with staff members off-grounds, with alcohol being a key ingredient in this socializing. On a darker note, we have all seen cases of staff members falling into the black hole of alcoholism due to stresses related to the workload and work environment, but also to excessive partying, etc.
Has a study on the role alcohol plays in international school life ever been conducted? Is alcohol consumption still at an acceptable level or is it becoming problematic? Along these same lines, are there ever training sessions at the Principal’s Training Center (PTC), for example, to help guide administrators with respect to responsible alcohol consumption at their schools? Questions about when it’s appropriate to serve alcohol and when it’s not, or how to recognize signs that staff members might need help are important topics for consideration. School counselors could also benefit from similar training to help guide high school students with respect to responsible drinking, since alcohol and parties are a major part of student life at that age. Parents would no doubt be appreciative if counselors could help their children to become responsible drinkers.
Here’s to hoping that administrators and others will think about the alcohol flow issue at their schools and take whatever action might be appropriate to make international school life the best that it can be.

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