Helping kids stay motivated in school

Published 3:14 pm Friday, November 28, 2008

Local school system leaders are seeing some success in their efforts to keep students in school, although truancy remains a problem here and elsewhere, a teacher told the Bainbridge Kiwanis Club at their Nov. 20 meeting.

David Kirkland, a seventh-grade teacher at West Bainbridge Middle School, said the Decatur County Board of Education’s adoption of an attendance policy last year has helped. Each of the county’s 10 schools have adopted unique incentives to encourage students to attend every day.

Kirkland said he’s seen the difference at his school this year, as 265 of 565 students had perfect attendance in the first nine weeks of school. There’s also been a significant decline in the amount of discipline referrals, serious offenses of the student conduct rules and fighting, he said.

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Programs in which adults mentor students have also made a positive impact, Kirkland said.

“As you grow up, it’s hard to talk to your parents,” Kirkland said. “But it’s easier if there’s someone outside the home you can tell your problems to.”

Kirkland believes strongly in the bonds he has with family, his students and the area. He has lived in Decatur County most of his life, graduated from Bainbridge High School and Bainbridge College. After receiving an associate’s degree from BC, Kirkland worked at a local industry. He also worked as a Bainbridge Public Safety investigator before obtaining a bachelor’s degree in criminal science from Thomas University and later a master’s degree in education administration.

“I can’t think the City of Bainbridge, the school system, my wife and daughters enough for their support,” he said.

For Kirkland, an avid fisherman and athletic coach, reaching fulfillment in life goes beyond the classroom and workplace. A little more than half of the approximately 5,500 students in county schools are involved in an extracurricular activity.

Kirkland has first-hand knowledge of how students can benefit through those activities, as he is the wrestling coach at Bainbridge High School, the baseball coach at WBMS and the seventh-grade football coordinator. He also enjoys taking his school-age daughters hunting and fishing.

“It’s a big deal to those kids when the community shows up at an event to support them,” he said. “It gives me goosebumps to see kids succeed.”