Local News

August 2, 2013

‘Our economy and democracy depend’ on you

Teachers, staff ready for first year at city schools

First day of school nerves aren’t reserved for students, said Josh Keefe, who begins as a special education teacher at Dalton High School on Thursday.

Teachers can be intimidated too, he said.

“The first day of school is the first impression,” Keefe, who was at Ridgeland High School in Walker County before coming to Dalton, said. “That’s huge. Students will respect you or not on that first impression.”

Keefe, along with more than 75 new Dalton Public Schools employees, attended an employee orientation at First Baptist Church on Thornton Avenue Thursday morning. The event was organized by school administrators to help several new faces ready for their first year in the city school system.

Superintendent Jim Hawkins told staff, especially teachers, they have one of the “most important” jobs in society.

“At one time, a 50 percent dropout rate was OK because there were jobs (for high school dropouts),” Hawkins said. “Not so, today. ... Teaching matters more than ever. Our economy and democracy depend on it.”

Is that task a lot to shoulder? Absolutely, said several teachers.

“It is challenging,” Keefe said, adding that the biggest challenge for several teachers is teaching each student individually, while facing a growing student body, a trend nationwide.

City schools had 5,659 students on the last day of class in 2003, according to the state Department of Education. That number was 7,476 on the last day of class in May of this year.

Schools spokeswoman Pat Holloway said administrators try to keep student-teacher ratios low, only occasionally exceeding a state Department of Education class size suggestion of 20 to 30 students by one or two.

But make no mistake, Keefe said, “schools are in a crunch.”

“It is tough to get to know every kid personally with the way student populations are growing,” he said. “But, then again, you see more kids and can do more, so there is a plus side to it.”

Jessica Ashlock, who will begin teaching eighth grade math at Dalton Middle School, said most teachers rise to the challenge in educating the masses.

“You never have enough time,” she said with a smile. “It’s hard to make sure everything is ready, trying to get your room together, get lessons done and starting a school year. (But) seeing the students who you unexpectedly reach, the ones you didn’t think you would reach, is (very rewarding).”

Sara Hughes, a Nashville, Tenn.,-born student counselor who followed her Dalton-born husband back home, said teachers must treat all kids like individuals.

“It’s a challenge,” she said. “What’s really big in my field right now is the idea of a tier process. That’s where you have a universal setting for all students and a tier two for kids who need some help. Then tier three is for kids who need a lot of attention.

“You do have to have general methods of education to teach to the whole population, but when a kid needs help they need to get it. You teach to the whole and to the individual because you can’t have 20 individualized lessons going on at the same time.”

Which is what counselors like Hughes are for, offering extra individual attention to students who need it. Hughes said the problems distracting students are as broad as the problems in the rest of the world, from poverty to family issues. It’s up to teachers to identify students in need, she added.

“It’s not always obvious either,” she said. “Look closely. Pay attention to your kids. Great teachers are the ones who pay close attention to their kids.”

Treating each student like an individual, among other responsibilities within teaching, “can get really overwhelming,” Hawkins said.

“There is so much to do,” he told the new staff. “I know you guys feel like you’re drinking from the fire hose, just at orientation.”

Keefe’s suggestion to deal with the pressure of teaching students?

“Really try to understand them,” he said. “Take the time to ask them why they’re having problems if they are. Usually, if you find that out, you can meet their needs.”

Which can be “empowering,” Hughes said.

“Let them know there are possibilities out there for their future,” she said. “They have it at their fingertips if they work hard. Their future can be what they want it to be.”

Hawkins agrees.

“If you get to know the child, to know what floats their boat, that sends a message,” he said. “Actions are much louder than words. If I say I’m going to get to know you and care for you and I don’t do anything, that’s just talk.”

If students think a teacher is just talk, they might tune out learning, Hawkins said.

“If they don’t see value in what they’re doing then they probably won’t do it,” he said, adding it’s up to teachers and school staff to make sure that doesn’t happen.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • runner thompson.jpg Taking the race back

    Dean Thompson didn’t go 100 yards in his 26.2 miles through the streets of Boston without seeing people on the side of the road cheering for him.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bobby Lee Dixon mg.jpg Officials: Man jailed for driving toward officer

    A Chatsworth man who officials said accelerated a vehicle toward a law enforcement officer who was approaching on foot remains in the Murray County jail without bond.

    April 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • Standoff 1 mlh.jpg Charges undetermined following standoff (Updated 5:45 p.m.)

    Police have yet to decide whether to press criminal charges against a man they say was armed and intoxicated while barricading himself in his office at a carpet mill in downtown Dalton Tuesday evening.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo 1 Story

  • Man charged for using fraudulent Social Security card

    A man is being held in the Whitfield County Jail on multiple charges for using a fraudulent Social Security card with someone else’s Social Security number to land a job at a rug manufacturer in Dalton and for providing false information to receive workers’ compensation benefits, according to the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation’s Enforcement Division.

    April 23, 2014

  • Standoff 1 mlh.jpg Police: Four-hour standoff ends with peaceful surrender

    A man who was armed with at least one firearm and believed to be under the influence of alcohol surrendered to police Tuesday night after barricading himself for four hours inside a carpet mill in downtown Dalton, officials said.

    April 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • Murray deputy bit by drug dog while taking selfie

    A Murray County Sheriff’s Office deputy is recovering after one of the department’s drug dogs bit him in the face on Monday.

    April 23, 2014

  • Local wrestler ‘made everybody smile’

    Rash Renegade got his wrestling nickname after a motorcycle wreck several years ago left him with a bad case of road burn.

    April 23, 2014

  • Pinwheels in murray '14 1 mlh.jpg Awareness can prevent child abuse

    Three hundred forty-six pinwheels dotted the Murray County Courthouse lawn on Tuesday, representing 346 reported cases of child abuse in the county last year.

    April 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • Murray library, regional system still far apart

    Murray County officials say they will announce soon if they will follow through with their plan to take the Chatsworth-Murray Library out of the Northwest Georgia Regional Library System.

    April 22, 2014

  • Fire believed to have started outside home

    Investigators are still working to learn what sparked a fire that nearly destroyed a house at 602 Top St. in Dalton on Monday.

    April 22, 2014