The students brought life to the main building of Asheboro High School on August 25. Walking the halls in their new threads and fresh hair-do’s, it was easy to see the excitement and optimism they felt about the new school year. As I watched the students go past and took in all the newness around me, I suddenly got nervous. I was looking at the students in the hallways and realized I did not know a number of them. A group of students greeted me excitedly and enthusiastically: “Hey, Mr. Dyson!” I could only respond with generic greetings like, “What’s up, man?” I was at a loss for many of these students’ names! Names were something I struggled with in my first year as an adviser, and I was nervous because I realized that starting my second year meant I would have to re-establish myself with a new graduating class, and relearn the names and stories of almost 500 seniors at two different high schools. As the bell rang to signal the beginning of first block, the hallways began to clear out (with the exception of a few lost freshmen). After helping a freshmen find his class, I returned to my office, ready to set plans into motion for the upcoming year.
After a week of teacher workdays, I was feeling ready to tackle the new school year. I was armed with several event ideas and innovative plans for programming; locations for field trips and a slew of best practices from my fellow advisers. Now, it was time to execute. I thought about all the things I did well in my first year, and tried to think about what I did not do so well in hopes of improving. The most important thing I learned was the critical nature of getting to know the students. So many of our students’ lives are challenging, and it is our job to work with them, to try and understand how we can help them be successful from where they stand. Also, I realized that I cannot be afraid to try new things or to tweak programs to make them work better and surpass barriers. Last year, one of the most moving experiences I had was telling a parent that her child would go to the local community college for free. Seeing the tears well up in her eyes gave me goose bumps. This year, I hope to experience more of those moments. I am looking forward to working with students to find their best match and best fit schools and to ensuring my students are prepared to thrive at college.
Looking ahead, I cannot contain my excitement. There is so much possibility at the start of a school year, and everyone feels ready to take on whatever challenge they may face. After a month of training in Chapel Hill, I am ready to see my students grow and succeed. I have the distinct honor of walking alongside my students as they start their journey to college. This year, I will be with them from the fall, when they are stressed about writing the perfect college essay to the spring, when we triumphantly celebrate their college acceptances and enrollments at Decision Day. I will be able to begin a new College Ambassadors Club in hopes of getting underclassmen to think about college earlier on. This year, I will also be able to spread more information on scholarships and help students get more money to pay for school.
Not only will I be pushing my students to apply to post-secondary institutions, I will be applying right alongside them for graduate programs. I plan to stress to my students that we are in this together: that everything I tell them to do, I will be doing as well. This year will be one of great trials and successes for both my students and myself. Trying new things and really getting students engaged in the college process is going to be challenging, but with a group of 40 other college advisers, 3 staff supporters, and an amazing faculty and staff at both schools, I know it is going to be a year for the books!