Name: Jonathan Blake Dycus
From: CLEVELAND, TN
Addiction Awareness in Underserved Schools
Addiction Awareness in Underserved Schools
My name is Jonathan Dycus. I am a teacher in Murray County GA. I teach at one of the most economically disadvantaged schools in Georgia–Pleasant Valley Innovative. It is an alternative middle/high school for students that are either 1) in high school and on the verge of dropping out due to a lack of success, or 2) have been sent to us for punitive reasons. The students at Pleasant Valley are far more prone to coming from abusive households, already have alcohol or drug dependency issues, and are statistically more likely to suffer from suicide ideation. Our school has a very high percentage of students that also have psychologically or emotionally needs that are not able to be met through the traditional school system, and instead need community services. We have to constantly be on the lookout for the makings of the cycle of addiction. Drug and alcohol addiction is a legitimate concern for many of our student population, and we must figure out how to help not just them, but the same problems running rampant in their families. The faculty here loves our students deeply, but we are not trained to meet the needs of severe psychological trauma that often leads to addiction.
On top of all this is the fact that Murray County is one of the poorest counties in Georgia. There is a lack of resources from all perspectives — educationally, socially, family involvement, physical and mental health, etc. On the other end there is an abundance of all the wrong things–generational poverty, incarceration, drug and alcohol addiction, unemployment, etc. Statistically, our area suffers from the correlating factors that lead to all of these issues, and thus, we must always be in constant communication with our students about the potential problems they face.
At Pleasant Valley we serve the students who “need the most” inside a community that needs more than we can offer. While our community has many problems, the families and students deserve a chance at change; and change is best begun by locally invested “change agents.” The first line of defense against drug and alcohol addiction is at home, but many of our student’s home lives are troubled. The second line of defense against suicide for our students is us–their teachers at Pleasant Valley. We need to be trained in knowing what to look for, what to say, and how to say it. We are also the loving and caring mentors that our students see every day, and oftentimes on their worst days, because they trust us, they talk to us first.
The best hope we have is for teachers, the common thread in the community, to become those “change agents” that might change our students lives for the better. Research proves that the larger the number of effective teachers we have in our system increases the likelihood that our students will come into contact with a mentor or personal inspiration that might change the trajectory of their lives. While we know that great teachers have the power to create great change, recruiting special teachers into a high-need school system like ours isn’t likely. Therefore, our community’s best hope for change is to change from within. We need to lead, train, and mentor our current teachers to be the best versions of themselves.
For this reason, I am pursuing a graduate degree in Teacher Leadership from Kennesaw State. This is a unique program that is not meant to create principals or administrators, but rather, to train teachers in the art of leadership amongst their peers. The program is designed to train teachers in providing meaningful professional development to their peers, helping in building a school culture of continuous improvement and growth, becoming change agents while maintaining the role of classroom teacher.
It’s my professional hope to become a teacher leader who creates and leads professional development; who mentors and coaches other teachers in knowing important signs of trouble; and who models the best practices in regards to how we care for students with mental and emotional issues.
Many institutions try to inspire change through verbalization…telling others how to “be better” instead of showing them how to “be better”. I want to be a different kind of leader. I want to maintain my role as a teacher while leading my colleagues as a “change agent.” I want to lead by example, not by dictation. The Teacher Leadership degree will train me in the process, and by doing so, will potentially help an entire community of students who desperately need and deserve top notch teachers. It is my belief that we can change lives through this program, and I know first hand how important every life is.
When I was nine years old, my mother committed suiced after years of battling alcohol addiction. She too, like me, was a teacher. I am now committed to honoring her life in this way. I am a teacher working on the front lines battling against addictions and disastrous toll it takes on everyone involved. I want to better help schools, teachers, and staff know how to help the students who show up at our doorsteps each and every day. I believe that healthy homes and aware teachers are the best defenses against addiction, and while I cannot change the home lives of my students, and can help with providing them with teachers that are better equipped to handle potentially dire situations.
I am asking for your financial help in this dream. Thank you for your consideration.