Photo by Heather Middleton
By Curt Yeomans
Eighty-five Clayton County teachers are spending this week at the S. Truett Cathy Professional Learning Center, in Jonesboro, learning the standards and practices of Clayton County Public Schools.
These educators are new teachers, who are coming into the school system, from other school districts, fresh out of college, or as former Clayton County, long-term substitute teachers who have gotten certification to become full-time educators.
The School System's Coordinator of Professional Learning Bobbi Ford, said the county's newest educators are undergoing training in areas including ethics, classroom management, 21st Century technology, evaluation systems, standards-based classrooms, collaborative teaching, and working with diverse student populations.
"We want them to know the Clayton County Way, so they will have a clear understanding of the expectations of the school system," said Ford.
Ford said the number of new teachers is smaller this year, than in years past, when she, sometimes, had 400, or more, new teachers to train. School systems have been tightening their belts in the last year to accommodate budget cuts, in a tough economic climate.
While there are fewer new teachers to train this year, Ford said, this year's crop represents content areas that are considered high priorities for the school system.
"They're mostly math and science, foreign language and, of course, special education, which are considered the critical need areas," the professional learning coordinator said. "But, we also have a surprising amount of CTAE [Career, Technical and Agricultural Education], and fine arts teachers, too."
On Tuesday morning, teachers were learning about the ethnic diversity of the school system, during a presentation given by school system teacher development specialists, Jaunessa Jackson and Catherine Johnson.
Among the things the new teachers learned was the fact that the system's student population went from being 82.98 percent Caucasian, and 13.64 percent African American, during the 1985-1986 school year, to being 73.2 percent African American, 12.7 percent Hispanic, 6 percent Caucasian, and 4.2 percent Asian, during the 2006-2007 school year.
The teachers also learned there are 66 languages, other than English, that are spoken by students in the school system. "You will be teaching a diverse group of students in Clayton County," Jackson said.
Several teachers undergoing the training said, on Tuesday, they are beginning to realize that they are going to have to change their game a little bit to teach in the county. Tara Davison, a new eighth-grade math teacher at M.D. Roberts Middle School, is one of those teachers. Davison said she spent the last six years teaching at schools in Fairfax, Va., which, she said, was more diverse, and affluent than Clayton County.
"A lot of the information I've received has really opened my eyes," she said. "It's going to be different from what I'm used to. I'm going to have to go into this with a different perspective, and use different strategies to teach my students."
But, even Tiffany Moody, who spent the last seven years as a long-term substitute teacher in Clayton County, said she was learning something new about how to teach students in the county. Moody is now a second-grade teacher at Kilpatrick Elementary School.
"It gives me different views on how to teach these children," she said. "I may have been teaching in this county before, but they are teaching me different strategies I can use in my classroom."