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Employers help Chestatee teachers learn how to prepare students for workplace
J.J. Wiley, social studies teacher, and Beth Tallant, science teacher, talk with, from left, Evan Lambert, University of North Georgia biology professor, and Tanya Bennett, interim dean, honors program, UNG. A panel of educators, industry representative and military officials spoke Monday to Chestatee High School teachers as part of the school’s pre-planning days for teachers. - photo by RON BRIDGEMAN

Chestatee High School teachers heard a panel of people talk about “the ‘blank” that follows “what’s next?’” Monday as pre-planning days for the 2016-17 school year started.

A panel of seven people — college professors, a human resources official from industry and military officers — participated in the “postsecondary readiness panel.”

Hall County teachers began their school year Monday. Classes for the county start Friday.

Suzanne Jarrard, Chestatee principal, introduced the panel and told teachers to “keep our purpose in mind.” That purpose, she said, is to “get students ‘life-ready.’”

She asked panel members to talk about students’ strengths and weaknesses when they arrive for college, work or the military.

Major Jace Walden, with the Georgia National Guard, praised students’ “social maturity” and explained today’s graduates have “exposure to a lot of people from different backgrounds pretty early,” but he also said he hears “a lot of whining” and complaints of “it ain’t my job.”

Tanya Bennett, interim dean of the honors program at the University of North Georgia, said the students “are savvy with certain kinds of technology,” have a good work ethic and “are good at memorizing information.”

She also said, “They think they’re better than they are.”

Several of the panel members said students need to be able to communicate better — mostly through writing.

Evan Lambert, biology professor at UNG, said he attributes problems with good writing to students being “used to doing most of their writing with their thumbs.”

Todd Irvine, instructor at Lanier Technical College, said “basic academic” skills are lacking most frequently. He said that comes down to writing and basic math. Students also need to distinguish opinions from facts, he said.

Dustin Chambers, human resources director at IMS Gear, said he needed to mention “attendance” because “we terminate more employees for that reason than any other reason.”

David Roberson, Lanier Tech instructor, asked teachers if 85 percent, or more, of students who fail do so because they miss 10 or more days in a semester. Most of the teachers in the room raised their hands. Roberson said he had been a teacher in Hall County for more than 30 years.

“The No. 1 thing we can do is make sure our students know how important it is to be there,” he said.

Capt. Joshua Patterson, who works in the military science department at UNG, agreed, saying, “We take a hard line” on attendance. “People who are there all the time” are the ones who are successful, Walden added.

Chambers also said IMS Gear has focused — “almost like our mission statement” — on making employees recognize it is OK to make mistakes.

“You always want the leaders who you’ve got to rein in,” Patterson said. “You want them to make mistakes because that’s how they’re going to learn.”

Bennett added, “I don’t think they’re very good at failing.”

Panel members also agreed students too often “want the answer right then.”

They attribute that to an “entitlement” attitude and technology. Patterson said a lack of “general problem-solving skills” is a problem, “as opposed to doing the hard work.”

Jarrard said teachers have to “reprogram” parents and students to think of more than their GPA.

Irvine said students “tend to use technology to circumvent the learning process.”

Roberson urged teachers to use “word problems” constantly with students.

“They’ve got to use their brains for something other than just manipulating technology,” he said.

Roberson said he emphasizes to students “everybody in this room is here to take your job” if they don’t work hard and consistently.