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Freshmen who will be part of the Class of 2017 at Dallas High School arrive for the annual orientation day Sept. 3.
September 10, 2013
DALLAS -- The day finally arrived.
After completing their eighth-grade year just a few months earlier, Dallas School District's 220 new freshmen arrived Sept. 3 for their -- gulp -- first day at Dallas High School.
For just a day, DHS's newest students had the school to themselves. They were eased into the pattern of their new school existence with an introduction to their elected student officers, a lesson in dress code and in-school etiquette, and some sage survival tips from a man who describes himself as a "card-carrying geek," English teacher Jeff Baer.
Freshman Orientation Day at Dallas High is designed to take some of the fear and intimidation out of beginning high school, said principal Steve Spencer. Freshmen are allowed to get familiar with the building and how to navigate "passing time," the few minutes students are allowed to move from class-to-class.
"I think it's great, the special attention to the transition," Spencer said. "It gets kids more comfortable in the building before 750 more kids arrive."
If Tim Hensley, 14, has any reservations about beginning high school, it doesn't show.
Upon his arrival last Tuesday, he promptly picked up his schedule and complementary "Dragon Pride" T-shirt and waited for the day's presentation in Bollman Auditorium to begin.
He is the last in a line of four boys in his family to attend DHS and it seemed he had the drill down.
"I thought today would be kind of chill -- and that some people would be kind of nervous," Tim said. "I know a lot of people will take this day to themselves to figure everything out."
Hensley said he was "more or less" ready for his freshman year and looking forward to his Spanish and drama classes this term -- but is glad for the extra time to get acquainted with his new surroundings.
"I think I will learn about the ground rules for everything, how to get from place to place quickly," he said.
More importantly, though, school officials and student leaders want to help incoming freshmen begin their four-year journey through Dallas High on the right note.
"This is the day we plan for all summer long," Spencer said. "It's day one, the kickoff."
Tim Larson, Dallas High's athletic director, began the day with an invitation for students to get involved -- whether that be in sports, art, a club or school leadership.
"If you are involved in something, you will have such a better time," Larson said
Dallas High freshman Tim Hensley, right, jokes around with leadership team members during a break from Frehsman Orientation Day Sept. 3 at Dallas High.
Baer's keynote speech, however, addressed what is likely to be -- aside from academic rigors -- the students' biggest challenge in high school: making their way through the complicated social environment.
Baer said high school will offer the most social opportunities -- and pitfalls -- that they have experienced in their young lives. He advised the freshmen to take advantage of those opportunities, but also be cautious.
"The question is how you deal with that and what you do when you are given all these opportunities," he said. "The way that you react to all these social opportunities is going to have a huge impact on your experience here."
He warned the class not to fall for the all-too-easy tendency to look at the world as "us versus them" and find ways to "treat each other well."
Baer -- who proudly admitted his school-days geekiness in the often humorous address -- said even he treated classmates in a way that he is ashamed of to this day.
"Girls, it is the ugliest sound in humanity: the teenage girl sniping another girl," he said, saying "Look at her" in his best imitation of a whiny girl voice. "Girls, don't do it."
Then, directing his attention to the boys in the auditorium, Baer said: "We don't think. We don't calculate. We just pile on. Guys, be the one that doesn't jump on that dog pile."
Hensley said after the presentation he will remember orientation day's messages throughout his high school career. He added having them presented on stage in the auditorium makes them more memorable than if they were simply recited in class on the first day.
Members of the Dallas High School Class of 2017 listen to a presentation by English teacher Jeff Baer during Freshman Orientation Day Sept. 3 in Bollman Auditorium.
And good preparation for the next day, when the freshman class' sole possession of the school comes to an abrupt end.
"It's going to be a lot more hectic," Hensley said. "A lot of kids are going to be more nervous."