75 Degrees ??? Can This Be Spring?

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Important Upcoming Dates

April 15 – Gorham All Chorus Concert GHS Auditorium, 6:00 pm
April 17 – School wide Pizza Fundraiser sales due in the office
April 21-25 – Spring Break
May 9 – GMS Night at the Portland Sea Dogs 6:00 pm

GMS Night at The Sea Dogs

Friday, May 9th will be our annual GMS Night at The Portland Sea Dogs, the Double A affiliate of the World Series Champion Boston Red Sox. OK, I know that you all know that the ‘Dogs are the affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, but it really feels good to write that part about being the “World Series Champions”. Even though they just dropped 3 of 4 games in the Bronx!

Anyway, each year we have our evening at the ‘Dogs where our Chorus sings the National Anthem, we have some lucky GMSer throw out the first pitch and we all have a great night at the ballpark.

We have General Admission tickets on sale at the Main Office of GMS for a discounted rate of $4.00. We only have a limited amount, so I would advise you reserve early. Just call Kristen of Laurie to reserve your seats.

MLTI Laptops Remain at School during Vacation

As we do at each of these breaks during the school year, we try to use this time to complete upgrades and complete an inventory of the devices. The upgrades are necessary to improve our security of the devices and the inventory helsp us keep track of the machines as well as uncover any damages that may have happened since our last inventory.

Hopefully, the weather will be so great during this vacation that all of our kids will be outside playing in the fresh air that they won’t miss their computers. In any event, we do hope that everyone has a great break and is ready to come back ready for the “Final Stretch”!

Its Spring and that means Dress Code Review

Lord knows we have waited long enough for the nice spring weather to arrive, and, we know what that means, as well. With this nice weather comes the need for us to be more than just a bit note mindful about what our students wear each day to school.

Below, I have copied what we have in our Student Handbook about our dress code:

Students are to dress in a manner that will not distract, disrupt or be hazardous to their safety and well-being. Parents should be involved in setting standards of dress and grooming for their children. However, if the student, by dress or grooming is interfering with the educational process or is not dressed conducive to the activity, appropriate action, involving the parents will be taken.

The following will not be permitted in school:

  • Shirts, tops, and dresses should cover the entire back and midriff and should be buttoned appropriately; students wearing spaghetti straps should have no exposed undergarments, as exposed undergarments are considered inappropriate for school.
  • Suitable footwear should be worn at all times. Socks, bare feet, or slippers are not considered safe or suitable footwear.
  • If students wear shorts they should be worn at the natural waistline, be of a length no higher than mid thigh, and should not expose underwear.
  • All pants should be worn at the natural waistline and belted if necessary to keep them at natural waistline.
  • All skirts and dresses should be of a length no higher than mid thigh.
  • Hats, caps, chains, headbands, and bandannas cannot be worn in the building.
  • Students may not wear clothing or jewelry that depicts obscene, vulgar, or sexual, promoting illegal activity (tobacco, drugs, or alcohol), libel, fighting words or other expressions that could cause a disruption.

Note: Administrators will make the final decision regarding clothing/accessories of a questionable nature.

 

And for those who would like to see our dress code in action, here is our world famous Dress Code Police video from our student Film Festival of 2 years ago:

Proficiency Based Education

I have written in this space several times about the coming shift, starting with our current 8th grade students, to a new way that schools will operate in the future. You may remember a video I placed in this space about standards and why we need them. It is a short one, so here it is as a reminder:

Now the state has decided that students need to demonstrate more than the ability to put in “time in a seat” in order to be granted a diploma. Students will need to create a “body of evidence” of their learning over their school careers in order to be granted a diploma. We are still working on how all of this is going to work and what it will mean for us and for our students.

One thing that we will be doing in the month of May will be holding parent meetings to explain and discuss what all of this will mean, going forward. We are looking for the best time of day and the best day of the week to hold these events to insure that we get to as many people as possible. In that vein, I am including a couple of poll questions for you to indicate the best time of day and the best day of the week for such a meeting.

Electronic Cigarettes Update

Electronic cigarettes are sold in convenience stores and smoke shops. Each cigarette contains up to 24 mg of nicotine. Refills, sold at the same locations, typically come as cartridges (0-24mg of nicotine) or 10 ml bottles (up to 240 mg per bottle). The products are sold in a variety of flavors including cherry, chocolate, vanilla and cotton candy. An even wider variety of flavors and concentration are available.

Why am I letting you know about this? Because this concentration of nicotine can be very dangerous to young people, like our kids. The fact that the cigarette makers are making this is these different flavors is also evidence tat these people are aiming at our kids with their marketing.

There are some who claim that these devices are not harmful, or at least as harmful as traditional tobacco products. I will disagree with all of those folks based upon the toxic nature of nicotine and what it does to the adolescent brain. It is harmful! Please keep an eye out for these products in your children’s possession.

From our Good Friends at Opportunity Alliance

I received information about an event that will be presented by our friends at Opportunity Alliance called Parenting in the Age of Legalization: A Conversation on Preventing Teen Substance Use. This event will take place at the South Portland High School Lecture Hall on Wednesday, April 30 beginning at 7:00 pm. On the panel for this event will be Greg Marley from NAMI Maine, Pender Makin from the REAL School, LeeAnne Dodge from University of Southern Miane and Liz Blackwell-Moore from Opportunity Alliance.

This event is designed to help parents figure out how to speak to your child during this time of changing norms and policies. I hope that you can make what I believe will be a very informative evening.

Amazing What a Little Perspective Will Do!

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Upcoming Important Dates

March 28 – Teacher Workshop Day, No school for students.
March 28, 29 & 30 – GHS Production of Wizard of Oz.
April 2 – Early Release Day Students dismissed at 11:10 am
April 3 – 8th Grade Graduation Planning meeting
April 4 – 3rd Quarter Ends for students
April 4,5 & 6 – GHS Production Wizard of Oz
April 8 – Gorham Schools All Band Night, GHS 6:00 pm
April 11 – Student Grades available on Infinite Campus
April 11 – School Dance Sponsored by the 7th Grade
April 15 – Gorham School All Chorus Night, GHS 6:00 pm
April 17 – PIE Meeting, GMS Library 6:00 pm
April 18 – Spring Break begins at dismissal

Giving Thanks

Two weeks ago, in this space, I informed you all of the events that occurred here during the Friday Parent Teacher Conferences. I briefly mentioned how struck I was,BFD2 that as we were all exiting the building, the Gorham Firefighters were rising into the building and into harms ways. Unfortunately, yesterday, in the city of Boston two of their brave firefighters lost their lives so that others may live. Their sacrifice has been credited with allowing many others time to escape the fire. So, I cannot just allow the work of our Gorham Firefighters pass with only a “glib” comment about racing in to danger. I also know we all appreciate the dedication of all our first responders, and I just wanted to extend to that family, the family of firefighters, our heartfelt thanks and our prayers during this time of sorrow and loss.

Music and Art in our Culture Day

MusicWednesday, April 2, our students will be treated to a Music and art in our Culture Day activities. Tracy Williamson has put together a great line up of performers and artists for our students to enjoy. The students have signed up for many of the workshops that will happen on this day. As we try to do with all of out themed early release days, I am including a roster of the performers and artists who will be conducting workshops. This should be a fun and engaging day for our kids as they, hopefully, see art and music in a different light. Here is a list of the offerings: Following is a list of workshops and presentations being offered on our Early Release Day. Everyone will have the opportunity to see the Gorham High School Concert Band presentation in the Auditorium and then choose three more small workshops to attend. ! !

  • ART! ! ARTIST PETER RIMKUNAS! Illustrator, Video Game Designer, Animator are just some of the art forms that Peter uses. This presentation includes the artist’s background and examples of his creations.! !
  • ARTIST DARALYN MCCOLL! Learn what it takes to be a designer! You will hear a brief description of the background of an artist and see many examples of her art made with different materials. Find out how you can be paid to create art for a company or own your own design company. Daralyn uses digital programs to create a variety of work and will have you help with making your own creation!! !
  • “ANIMATION DOMINATION” – MRS. DAWSON! Bring your laptop for this fun and interactive animation session in the DEC! This workshop will focus on the art of animation and show you how to make stykz figures come alive using animation software. Class size limited to 15.! !
  • “COTTAGE INDUSTRIES” – MR. CARPENTER! Selling your arts and crafts. Mr. Carpenter will talk about and demonstrate his own Cottage Industries including jewelry making, crochet, card making and painting.! !
  • “MAKING SOMETHING FROM NOTHING” – MRS. HANLEY! For this session you will make art from little things that you might not think would make art. There will be supplies available here, but if you have any objects at home like charms, ribbons, cool kinds of paper, string, any little interesting things that you have saved but aren’t quite sure what to do with, bring them in and incorporate them into a piece of art.! !
  • SCREEN PRINTING! Screen print baby onesies with Ms. Holden to donate to the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital. This is a great chance to learn how the screen printing process is done. Class limited to 6 students.!
  • THEATER GAMES – GREG WATSON! In the world of theater, actors and actresses practice many different techniques to get them comfortable on the stage and able to easily play different roles. Theater games are a great way to practice that. During this session you will participate in improv, role playing games and other ice breaking activities where you can have fun and play different characters.! ! !
  • LIGHTS UP! IMPROV WORKSHOP! Maine’s David LaGraffe from Lights Up! Improv and Portland Players is coming all the way to GMS to offer us this Theater Improv Workshop! You will spend time working with partners and in groups being silly and creating fun scenes. This is a great opportunity to work with a really fun and talented actor! Definitely not to be missed!! !
  • DANCE! ! CONTRADANCE – KIM ROBERTS! Contradance is a folk dance that has become tradition in New England. Similar to square dancing, dancers are partnered up and listen to directions that are called out during the music. During the dance you have to mix up and switch partners when the caller calls it so you have to really listen and stay on your toes. Think Cha Cha Slide meets folk country. ! !
  • HIP HOP DANCE – Jasmine Quarles DANCE STUDIO OF MAINE! Join some of the fabulous instructor’s from Gorham’s own Dance Studio of Maine and learn some hip hop dance moves you can show off at the next GMS Dance!! !
  • BOKWA – Susan & Mike Sinnett STUDIO FIT! Bokwa is a new and completely different approach to movement. Bokwa participants draw letters and numbers with their feet while performing dance movements with a South African influence. Moving together to today’s most popular music, participants off all ages draw the Bokwa L, 3, J, K and dozens of other steps. Simply feel the music and freely move with the beat.! !
  • MUSIC! ! AFRICAN DRUMMING – ANNEGRET BAIER! Work with renowned drummer Annegret Baier playing various drums and rhythm instruments to learn African songs and rhythms. This session was a favorite last year! ! !
  • MARIMBA PLAYING WORKSHOP! Learn how to play marimba just like the Maine Marimba Ensemble with Matt Wasowski from the Gorham School of Music. Class size limited to 10. ! !
  • BLUES SONGWRITING WORKSHOP! Learn how to write your own Blues song with Jim Svendsen from the Gorham School of Music. Choose a topic, write the lyrics and perform your song for the class.! !
  • GORHAM HIGH SCHOOL ACOUSTIC COFFEEHOUSE & POETRY SLAM! Matt Murray is bringing Gorham High School singers, songwriters, guitarists and poets to GMS to perform their own original works. You will definitely recognize some of these artists!! !
  • POP KARAOKE! Just how it sounds! Join Mr. P. in the 8th grade wing for a karaoke singing extravaganza. Limited to 30 students.! !
  • GUITAR & SONGWRITER’S WORKSHOP! Learn and review some basic guitar chords and chord progressions and learn how to go about writing your own songs with GMS’s own singer/ songwriter, Mr. Lambert. If you have your own guitar, you can bring it in. There will be 10 guitars available to borrow.! !
  • A CAPELLA WORKSHOP! Join Señora Krohn to learn how to sing in an a capella group. Sra. Krohn has lots of experience singing in a capella groups as you all saw in the Talent Show this year. She may even break out a little beat boxing if you’re lucky!! !
  • JARA GOODRICH, HARP! Have you ever seen and heard a real harp up close? Not like a little cupid harp, but a really huge, 6-foot tall, orchestral harp with tons of strings? Professional harpist, Jara Goodrich, from the Portland Symphony, will be coming in to talk about this incredible instrument and play for you.
  • WANT TO LEARN HOW TO PLAY AN INSTRUMENT?! So you thought you wanted to play an instrument, but never got the chance? You have been playing or singing but want to learn how to read music? Mrs. Mathieu & some of our talented GMS band students will demo all the instruments you can learn how to play right here in our school! It’s never too late to start playing an instrument!
  • NEIL BOYER, OBOE! Join the extremely talented and well known, principle oboe player of the Portland Symphony to learn about the instrument, the hand made reeds, some of the types of music the oboe plays and the importance of the oboe to the orchestra. Mr. Boyer teaches oboe at USM and Dartmouth College and has played in the Vermont Symphony and the Portland Symphony. Possible guest appearances by some of his fellow players too!

GHS Production of The Wizard of Oz

Hopefully, all have purchased your tickets for the production of The Wizard of Oz, that Gorham High School students will be presenting beginning on Friday evening,oz March 28 and Saturday evening, March 29 at 7:30 in the GMS Auditorium. The Sunday matinee will begin at 2:30pm. Now, if you were unable to get your tickets for this weekend, don’t worry, you can see the production next weekend, as well, at the same times.

End of 3rd Quarter

I know i have said this before, and I am sure I will say it next year as well, but it is really hard to believe we have completed 3 quarters of this year. It truly does feel like we just started the school year and we still have so much left to do. In any event, the 3rd quarter does really end on Friday, April 4. That leaves just one more quarter left in the school year! Student grades for the quarter will be posted on the Infinite Campus system no later than the end of the day on Friday, April 11. If you are having difficulty in seeing your child’s grades on Infinite Campus, please give Terry Lamontagne a call at 222-1220.

#PTchat

Twitter logoHuh?? What is that, a typo? Has Riley really lost his mind?? For those of you who have Twitter accounts and may be regular users, the idea of a hashtag (#) is not something new. However, for those that are uninitiated in the hashtag is a method that twitter users can categorize their subjects. For example, on Thursday nights at 8 pm many educators, mostly from Maine, “gather” on Twitter to discuss a topic of interest. We send out 140 character tweets, some with links to other websites, about that topic. The 140 characters means that we must try to be concise in our entry (something I have great difficulty doing, no surprise to many of you, I know!). It is usually very interesting stuff and I really do learn quite a bit from my peers. Well, #PTchat is for parents and teachers to share what needs to be shared in order to better serve the students and our community. #PTChat happens on Wednesday evenings beginning at 9:00 pm (EDT) and usually runs for about an hour, but there are always those who post items regularly during the week using the #PTchat to make sure that it is visible to all interested in what’s going on with parents and teachers. Finally, as with any # category, you can “lurk”, which I do quite often, just to see what others are saying and doing to improve the relations between home and school. You do not have to “tweet” to be a part of the chat and learn from it. You can just observe. One warning I will offer you however, is that once you start, you will find that you have much to offer the group.

 Preparing our Kids for Their Future

HarvardThere was an article in the Boston Globe this week about students who are graduating from Massachusetts High schools are not prepared for the working world upon graduation from High School. This statement and story really surprised me because Massachusetts has long been held up as an exemplar of student achievement. In fact in the most recent PISA assessments released last fall, if Massachusetts were an independent country, it would rank in the top ten for student achievement. So, how can this be? How can a state who has reached such levels of student achievement not have their students ready for the work world? For answers, I turned to the Harvard School of Graduate Education and their Change Leadership Group. Tony Wagner, co-director of the Change Leadership Group, wrote an interesting article entitled, Rigor Redefined, in which he talks about what the CEOs of several large, multi-national companies are looking for in their employees. This is not something that we don’t already know, in fact, back in the late 1990s educators in Maine developed a set of skills that we all belied were necessary for our students to be successful. Back then we called them The Guiding Principles. Tony Wagner describes his conversations with these people who run these businesses as surprising in what they don’t want from their prospective employees as well as what skills and character traits they do want in the prospective employees.

“First and foremost, I look for someone who asks good questions,” Parker responded. “We can teach them the technical stuff, but we can’t teach them how to ask good questions—how to think.”

“What other skills are you looking for?” I asked, expecting that he’d jump quickly to content expertise.

“I want people who can engage in good discussion—who can look me in the eye and have a give and take. All of our work is done in teams. You have to know how to work well with others. But you also have to know how to engage customers—to find out what their needs are. If you can’t engage others, then you won’t learn what you need to know.”

I am including a link to the entire article that was posted this week on his web page. It is rather lengthy, but certainly worth the time and effort. Enjoy!

http://www.tonywagner.com/resources/rigor-redefined

How To Make Parent/Teacher Conferences Interesting!

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Upcoming Important Dates

March 18 – GHS Principal and Department Heads present to 8th Graders
March 18 – 8th Grade Parent Night for all students attending GHS next fall, 6:30 pm in the GHS Auditorium.
March 18 – Southern Maine Middle School Math Meet at GMS beginning at 3:00 pm
March 19 – Drugs 101: What Parents Need to Know, GMS Auditorium 6:00 – 8:00 pm
March 20 – PIE Meeting 6:00 pm in the GMS Library
March 28 – Teacher Workshop Day, No school for students.
April 2 – Early Release Day Students dismissed at 11:10 am

How to Make Parent Teacher Conferences Interesting!

For those parents and students who were present at their conferences on Friday morning, we all had an interesting and dramatic interruption, I would say!

It is not unusual for our teachers and students to respond to the sounding of the fire alarm, we routinely perform fire drills during the course of the year. The alarm goes off, announcements are made as to “an Alarm has been detected in the building” and we all very quietly and orderly exit the building. It is an easy routine and, for some students, it is a welcome break in an otherwise boring school day. But when it happens when we don’t have a school full of students and we have several hundred parents in the building for conferences, it become more than just a bit unusual.

I was just beginning our first parent conference of a morning that would be filled with several more parents of my advisees when the alarm started. My first thought was that our maintenance crew was doing some repairs and either accidentally set off the alarm, or they were testing the system. When no additional announcement was made, it became apparent that this was for real!

I am pleased to report that all of our teachers reacted exactly as they have practiced with the students many times. When questioned by parents, “do we really need to evacuate?”, our teachers reacted as trained and moved everyone out of the building and away from the fire lanes allowing for the emergency vehicles to gain quick access to the building.

The first responders did an amazing job! Each fire company knew exactly where they needed to go and they responded with clock-like precision in arriving at the pre=determined locations and setting up their command post.

I am happy to report that, while we did have a small fire in a heat pump for our geothermal heating system, it was quickly contained and no damage was sustained, except the heat pump itself.

Since it was a very cold March morning (haven’t we had too many of them recently?), the firefighters cleared our gymnasium so that we could bring the parents and students in from the cold. We had pulled out the bleacher seats for the comfort of the parents, students and teachers. Not that I was really surprised, but I think it was very interesting that the teachers and parents picked up the conferences that had been interrupted while standing in the gym. As parents were arriving for their scheduled appointments, they had been scheduled right through the day, teachers welcomed them into the gym and started conferencing with them there. Never missing a beat!

So, if you want your parent teacher conferences to be spiced up a bit, plan for a small fire in your heating system, make sure that the first responders come in with the appropriate amount of flair and sit back and watch your amazing teachers do what they do best!

So, Speaking of Conferences

If you were one of those parents who had your conference canceled by our little emergency on Friday, you child’s advisor should be contacting you about rescheduling for later this week of early next week. If you haven’t heard from the advisor by Thursday of this week (March 21st), please reach out to the advisor and attempt to reschedule.

No one plans for these types on disruptions to occur, but when they do, we try to work around them. It is always helpful that we have such a supportive community behind us.

Drugs 101:  What Parents Need to Know

On Wednesday evening, March 19 at 6:00 pm in the GMS Auditorium, beginning with a walk through model of a “typical” adolescent’s bedroom, Gorham Substance Abuse Counselor Claudine Emerson will present on what all parents should know about substance abuse of some adolescents and how some of our students have been able to “hide in plain sight” of their families the evidence of their substance abuse.

This very informative evening with help parents understand what types of substances are being abused by adolescents in general and in particular, what types of substances are being abused by some of our students right here in Gorham. Please make it an important part of your Wednesday evening.

PIE Meeting

As I mentioned in the past couple of post in the space, we are in the beginning stages of “transitioning” our 8th graders too the High School. This morning, Mr. record and several of the Department Heads from the High School visited the Middle School to explain the process and expectations that await them on their arrival at the High School in late August. Tonight (March 18), in the GHS Auditorium, Mr. Record will meet with the parents of our 8th graders to enlighten them on what they can expect next year as their children move on to the next phase of their academic journey.

On March 20, at 6:00 pm in the GMS Library, we will begin planning for the final Celebration of Middle School that we hold on the evening before the very last day of school. We kind of have most of the process down by now, but we want to be able to include the parents in the planning. Each year we always come up with some new ideas that make the evening special for the students.

So come and join us on Thursday evening at 6:00 pm in the GMS Library, and bring your ideas.

Snow Days, Snow Daze!

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Important Upcoming Dates

March 13 – Parent Teacher Conferences 3:00 – 8:00 pm
March 14 – Parent Teacher Conferences 8:00 am – 2:00 pm. No School for students.
March 14 & 15 – GMS School Musical presentation 7:00 pm in the GMS Auditorium.
March 18 – GHS Principal and Department Heads present to 8th Graders
March 18 – 8th Grade Parent Night for all students attending GHS next fall, 6:30 pm in the GHS Auditorium.
March 18 – Southern Maine Middle School Math Meet at GMS beginning at 3:00 pm
March 19 – Drugs 101: What Parents Need to Know, GMS Auditorium 6:00 – 8:00 pm
March 20 – PIE Meeting 6:00 pm in the GMS Library
March 28 – Teacher Workshop Day, No school for students.
April 2 – Early Release Day Students dismissed at 11:10 am

8th Grade to High School Transition

And so it begins…

GHS/GMS Transition School Counsellor Ryan Watts has been meeting with several different groups of 8th grade students over the past month to prepare them for the process of registering for classes next year. Students were given lots of information about the types of classes available to them, how important these next few months will be for their availability to join some classes.

The next step in the transition process will to have GHS Principal Chris Record, along with several members of the GHS Faculty meet with the 8th graders. This will be the first time they will have seen the 8th graders as a whole group and they usually come away very impressed. Mr. Record, and crew, will be at the Middle School on Tuesday, March 18 at 8:00 am.

Later that same evening, Mr. Record will host an evening event for the parents to explain to them the process of registration and what they can expect to receive from the High School during the registration process. He will also review what families can expect as an experience for their child during High School.

While we are still working our what this is going to look like, he will also discuss the idea of the newly legislated Proficiency Based Diploma that this class of 8th graders will be expected to meet. I suggest you arm yourself with lots of good questions for Mr. Record and his staff.

The Emperor’s New Clothes

You must plan to spend either Friday or Saturday evening in the audience at the GMS Auditorium to be entertained by the GMS students and their presentation of The Emperor’s New Clothes.  The students and Señora Krohn have created a wonderful kingdom of song, dance and laughter in our beautiful auditorium. It is a guaranteed night of fun and enjoyment of students singing, dancing and playing. Please mark the date on the calendar.

Drugs 101: What Parents Need To Know

Wednesday evening, March 19th in the GMS Auditorium, Claudine Emerson, Substance Abuse Counselor for the Gorham Schools will be presenting an evening of very valuable information that all parents need to know. In an effort to improve the awareness of parents about their children and the substances that prevalent in our community, Claudine will discuss how students are hiding their paraphernalia and their substance in plain sight in their bedroom.

Claudine will have a mock bedroom set up that parents can get up close and personal with to try to find the many possible hiding places our kids can employ. She will also inform those in attendance of the kinds of substances that seem to be popular with some of our students and how parents can detect when their child may be under the influence.

This will be a very informative evening that promises to open some eyes and some minds to help all of us protect our kids. Join us at 6:00 pm for a close look at the mock bedroom and for the 6:30 presentation.

PIE Meeting

Our next PIE meeting will be Thursday evening at 6:00 pm in the GMS Library. At this meeting we will begin the planning process for the Celebration of Middle School that is held for our 8th graders moving on the the High School.

There really is quite a bit of planning that needs to be done for this wonderful event and memorable evening for our 8th graders. So, come to the PIE meeting on Thursday evening at 6:00 complete with your great ideas and your ambitions.

Parent Survey

We have closed the link to the SurveyMonkey Parent Survey and we are very busy compiling the results (when I say “we”, I mean Dennis Crowe and our crack technology crew.) When we get the results broken down into manageable information, we will share those results. Personally, I can’t wait to see them!

Another Teacher Workshop Day

On March 28, students will not have school so that our faculty, district wide, can undertake a complete review of what the legislation about Proficiency Based Education will mean for each of our schools. We intend to complete this review as well as reconcile this with the coming of the Common Core State Standards. This really is doing to be a new way of doing business for schools across the state and it will require us to be far better in communicating your child’s progress through the grades.

In past posts to this blog, I have commented on the Common Core State Standards. I am always on the lookout for articles and other information that I can share here with our parents in the hope that we all will become more aware of how these standards will change our school. In this piece from Jessica Lahey that was published in the New York Times last month, she correctly states that the “Common Core standards are intended to raise performance expectations for our students.” She notes that the debate is heating up and that there are far more issues at stake than what appears on the surface.

I an including a link to the article for your perusal. New York Times. If you have any feed back or comments you’d like to share, please feel free to post a comment or email me directly.

April 2nd, will be an early release day for students, with our students being dismissed at 11:10am so that we can complete the work we will begin on March 28.

The students’ day will be filled with arts and music as we hold our second annual Music and Arts in our Culture Day. This is being organized by Tracy Williamson, our Steel Drum and Chorus teacher. She has lined up many great activities for our students to participate in and to observe. If this year’s day is half as good as the day we had last year, our kids are in for a real treat.

Will Winter Ever Loosen Its Grip on Us?????

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Upcoming Important Dates

March 5 – Spread the Word to End the Word Day at GMS
March 6 – GHS Chorus Spring Concert Tour of the District.
March 7 – Progress reports available on Infinite Campus at the end of the school day.
March 12 – Early Release Day for students, students will be dismissed at 11:10 am.
March 13 – Parent Teacher Conferences 3:00 – 8:00 pm
March 14 – Parent Teacher Conferences 8:00 am – 2:00 pm. No School for students.
March 14 & 15 – GMS School Musical presentation 7:00 pm in the GMS Auditorium.
March 18 – GHS Principal and Department Heads present to 8th Graders
March 18 – 8th Grade Parent Night for all students attending GHS next fall, 6:30 pm in the GHS Auditorium.
March 18 – Southern Maine Middle School Math Meet at GMS beginning at 3:00 pm
March 19 – Drugs 101: What Parents Need to Know, GMS Auditorium 6:00 – 8:00 pm
March 20 – PIE Meeting 6:00 pm in the GMS Library
March 28 – Teacher Workshop Day, No school for students.

Spread the Word to End the Word

100h-Alternate-Logo-DarkWednesday, March 5 marks the fifth annual Spread the Word to End the Word campaign.  Spread the Word is a campaign that was created in 2009 at a Special Olympics Global Youth Activation Summit.  The motivation behind this campaign was to promote the positive contributions of people with intellectual disabilities by making a pledge to stop using the R-word. Most people don’t think of this word as the language of hate, but that’s exactly what it feels like to millions of people with intellectual disabilities, their families and friends. I believe that most of us are fundamentally good and that we’re just not aware that the word is offensive and that it hurts.  Everyone deserves respect and removing the R-word from our everyday speech is one step we can take toward showing them that respect.

In 2009, Jordan Shiers (GHS ’10) attended the Global Youth Summit.  She has been an amazing voice for her brother Cole (GHS ’13).  With admiration and love she produced a video to help Spread the Word.  Her video can be viewed below:

For more info on the Spread the Word campaign, check out their website: www.r-word.org

Something for all Parents to be Aware

At our dance last Friday night, there seemed to some unusual commotion on the dance floor. Apparently, someone had dropped a “pen” on the floor and several of our students made rather dramatic attempts to retrieve said “pen”. Now, this may not sound unusual except that I am really struggling to understand why one of our students would have a “pen” out during the dance and on the dance floor.

This got me to thinking, (which is no small fete) about this, and then it struck me. Is it possible that our students could have been engaged in “Vaping” during our dance. I certainly hope not, but when we asked around at school, not many people knew what we were talking about. So I thought I would do some research and let the parents know about this relatively new behavior with young folks (as my dad liked to say!).

Students are able to partake of banned substances in a very surreptitious manner by using a vapor pen. It looks exactly like a pen and it does not produce any odor or smoke. So a student in the back of the room, pondering a question on a test by seeming to be chewing on the end of their pen, could actually be partaking of an illegal substance.

There are several reports from TV Stations from around the country about this phenomenon but I was only able to download a clip from Fox’s Hannity Show that talks about issue. I encourage all of you to have conversations with you children about this and other substance use as often as possible.

Music in our Schools Month

March is Music in our Schools month and we are so very fortunate, in Gorham, to have very dedicated music educators and very talented music students who make beautiful music Printthroughout our schools every day. In the month of March we celebrate all of this good work and we are very lucky to have Gorham High School students who are willing to perform for the students in the k-8 grades.

The GHS Chorus will perform two concerts at the Middle School on Thursday, March 6, at the end of the school day. We will be the last stop on their very busy day. They will also perform a number with our GMS Chorus during this visit.

Parent/Teacher Conferences

meeting-451-95-115-80-cOur annual Spring Parent Teacher Conferences will be held on Thursday afternoon and evening (3:00- 8:00 pm) and on Friday (8:00 am – 2:00 pm). In the next few days you will be receiving information from your child’s advisor with the times that you can schedule these conferences.

I urge all parents to make contact with your child’s advisor to arrange for this very important meeting time. At each grade level, there will be important information that will be transmitted regarding placement for next and for our 8th grade parents whose children will be moving on to the high school.

As always, you do not need to wait for these days to occur to meet with your children’s teacher. Appointments can be made on any day just be calling or emailing the teacher and expressing your concern.

I look forward to see all of the parents during these two days.

Early Release Days and Teacher Workshop Days

During the month of March, we have a couple of days where the students will be released early or will not come to school at all. These aren’t days where we send to teachers off to a spa to relax (I know you all know that!), these are days when we can dedicate time to explore topics such at Proficiency Based Education, Common Core State Standards and other topics of note, as well as provide time for Parent/Teacher Conferences.

Saying this, I know that this can be an inconvenience to some parents and we do try to limit the days we take for these reasons and we make every attempt to make these days productive for our staff.

As noted above, we have an Early Release Day on Wednesday, March 12. Students on this day will be released from school at 11:10 am. On Friday, March 14, there will be no school for students all day to provide time for our Parent/Teacher Conferences. Finally, on Friday, March 28, students will not have school to allow teachers in the district to undertake activities to further our work at complying with recently passed legislation to requires all school in Maine to award diplomas based upon students reaching proficiency in all content areas.

We will continue our discussions about Proficiency Based Education in the coming weeks. If you have any questions about our work in the area, lease give me a call at school.

Annual GMS Musical Presentation

Emps New Clothes pin designSave the dates of March 14 & 15 for the GMS Student performance of The Emperor’s New Clothes. The presentations will begin at 7:00 pm each night in the GMS Auditorium, admission is suggested at $5.00 and all are welcome to attend.

Each year, I am amazed and thrilled at how well Señora Krohn and all of our students manage to bring a little bit of Broadway to Gorham. The music and dancing, the acting abilities of our students and all of the work that goes on behind the scenes that make the presentation possible. It really is a heartwarming and delightful time of the year. Our students extend way beyond their comfort zones to give to our community!

The Transition to High School Begins

I know i Say this every year, but it truly does astonish me that the youngsters, who arrived here 2 and one half years ago wide-eyed and full of apprehension are getting ready to move on to the high school. Time passes so quickly sometimes!

On Tuesday, March 18th, Chris Record, Principal of GHS will bring the Department Heads at GHS to the Middle School to meet with our 8th graders. They will discuss the requirements for reaching graduation and give a brief description of what courses will be available to them as Freshmen. Each Department Head will explain the courses that they will offer during each year of their GHS career and what the requirements will be for entry to they more advanced classes.

Later that evening, Chris and his Department Heads will welcome the parents and students to an evening affair where he will inform the parents of the process of registration and how the students will be welcomed to the High School. The event will happen on the evening of March 18, beginning at 6:30 pm in the GHS Auditorium.

Drugs 101: What Parents Need to Know

Substance Abuse Counselor Claudine Emerson will reprise the very popular and highly informative session for PARENTS ONLY on Wednesday evening, March 19th in the GMS Picture 16Auditorium. The evening plans to educates parents about signs, symptoms and current trends of alcohol, tobacco, inhalants, marijuana and other drugs adolescents may use. A highlight of this program is a mock teenager’s bedroom set up for parent’s to observe and attempt to identify the obvious and not-so-obvious drug related paraphernalia. Throughout the presentation, more than 50 drug and alcohol indicators will be unveiled to show how some adolescents hide drug and alcohol use from their parents.

The Bedroom viewing will begin at 6:00 pm and the presentation will begin at 6:30 pm. I hope that you can make it.

For more information or questions, please contact Claudine Emerson  claudinee@gorhamschools.org or 222-1193.

March PIE Meeting

Above, we talked about our 8th graders making the transition to the High School, so that is our cue to begin the planning process for the 8th Grade Celebration of Middle School. This is an evening where we celebrate our 8th graders and give them a real great send off from the Middle School into the summer vacation and then off to the High School.gradclip6

We have, in the past, offered the students a cookout when the return from Step-Up Day at the High School, a viewing of a video of all of the highlights of their time at GMS and then have a huge celebration in our Gum for the parents to enjoy and, finally a dance in the Cafeteria complete with food and drink.

All of this takes planning, so we usually use the March PIE meeting as the kick off to our planning. We will meet in the GMS Library beginning at 6:00 pm. I hope that you can all join us and share your ideas for making this a great event.

More on Proficiency Based Education

For the past few weeks I have included a little a bit about how education in Maine will be changing in the next few years especially for our Middle School students. I have mentioned the  advent of the Common Core State Standards, the new Maine legislation regarding students achieving “Proficiency” before they will receive a diploma and the methods by which we will assess all of this.

I came across a video, about 15 minutes in length, that talks about all of these issues from the prospective of someone who has real questions about whether this is good for our students, or not. I will express that I am still working all of this through. I have reservations about our current course, I will admit. However, I think it is important to get all of the information out.  So, here is a video by Chris Tienken, and Assistant Professor of Education at Seton Hall University. He raises some real questions and offers some solutions to think about.

Cold Enough for Ya??!!

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Important Upcoming Dates

February 6 – Evening Performance of Talent Show 7:00 pm
February 14 – Last Day for the Parent Survey (see below)
February 17 – 21- Mid Winter break
February 27 – PIE Meeting GMS Library 6:00 pm
February 28 – School Dance 6:00 – 8:00 pm

Parent Survey

SurveyYou should have received an email via our Blackboard mass e-mailing system with a link to a survey specifically for parents to provide feed back to us about what your beliefs, understandings and perceptions are about the Gorham Schools in general and about Gorham Middle School specifically. We ask that your your share those thoughts and perceptions with, anonymously, so that you can share honestly with us. In order for us to get better, we need to hear not just what we are doing well, if anything, but where you believe we can improve.

If, for some reason, you did not receive this email, please call us or respond by email and we’ll send you out a link to the survey.

8th Graduation Planning

I say this every year, but it really is true! It is hard to believe that it is that time of year to begin the planning for that special evening that celebrates the Middle School experience for our current 8th graders and to give them a fitting send-off to the high school.graduation-clip-art-2

We usually meet a couple of times in March and April to set up committees for the planning of the “parent” portion of the evening and, the more important “Kid” version of the evening.   We have a PIE meeting scheduled for Thursday, March 20 at 6:00pm in the GMS Library, so we could use this evening as our first organizational meeting and then make decisions about future meetings from there.

…and Speaking of Transition to High School

It is also that time of year when we start the real planning for the 8th graders to begin to register for their classes next year at the high school. To that end, Chris Record, Principal at GHS and several of the Department Heads will come to the Middle School on March 18, to meet with all of the 8th graders and talk about what High School will look like next year and how they should begin to think about the classes they will take next year. That evening, Mr. Record will host the parents of our 8th graders for the annual 8th Grade Parent Night at GHS. This is an evening where Mr. Record will inform all parents of the registration process and what their children and they should expect over the course of their high school career. That evening event will begin at 6:30 in the GHS Auditorium.

Students will be asked to complete their registration process during the days of March 17, 18 & 19.

The Start of a New Quarter and Semester

We are now more than half way through the year, and if we continue to get snow and snow days, we will always be just about halfway through the year. So, whomever you are, and you know who you are, the person doing that snow dance, you can stop now.

But, on a more serious note, we are heading down the stretch for school work and we will be looking to start the preparations for all sorts of end of year activities and placement for next year. There are some highlights in the coming months that are waiting for our students. In may, we will be administering the NWEA assessments. These assessments help us determine growth for students over the course of the year. For our 8th graders, the results of these will help the high school administration determine which students are placed in what classes fro their freshman year. These are especially important assessments for the 8th graders!

Each grade level and team will have planned field trips for our students so that they can experience all of the wonderful adventures in learning that Southern Maine and New England have to offer. Some grades get to walk the Portland Freedom Trail, (I’ll bet some of you thought the Freedom Trail was only in Boston!), while other will be taken on nature walks in some of the great nature preserves we have.

In any event, in order for all of these trips to fully benefit our kids, we need them to assert themselves into the learning in these next couple of months to lay a good foundation for the fun excursions. We know how hard each and every one of our parents works to help get the kids involved in their education, we are asking that you all keep doing the great work you have been doing!

From the School Nurse

NurseI don’t think any of us need to be reminded that we are deep in the midst of Flu Season. We have seen an increase in the number of students who are called in sick each day. (By the way, thank you all for doing such a great job in letting us know when your kids are going to be out!). We are also seeing an increase in the number of students who are coming down to the nurse because of some type of malady. We really do hate to have to call parents to come to school to pick up their sick child, but we know that they must go home.

Teresa Merrill, School Nurse, has asked that I remind all that if your child has had a fever or has vomited in the past 24 hrs, it is necessary that the child stay home until they are fever free for 24 hours without the aid of Tylenol or other medicine. One of the best ways to beat the flu is to isolate the students when they are in the contagious stage. By you keeping the child out of school, we reduce the chance that the germs will spread… maybe! Anyway, every little bit helps in keeping our kids healthy.

GMS Night at the Portland Sea Dogs

With all of the snow we have received in the past  month, and the promise of more to come, it is hard to imagine that a couple of the most important days of the year is just around the Little League Baseballcorner, Moving Van Day and 1st Day of Pitcher and Catchers! Ah, Spring! The sound of horsehide on ash, the crack of the bat and the snap of leather! Okay, maybe I am getting ahead of myself, we have a day planned for GMS to celebrate at the Sea Dogs, we will have our Chorus sing the National Anthem before the game and we will have some lucky middle school student throw out the first pitch, plus we will get to see some of the tremendous prospects of the World Champion Boston Red Sox in action.

If you would like to purchase tickets for this game, they are $5.00 for General Admission seats. Just call Kristen Fitz at the Main Office to place your order.

Proficiency Based Learning

Over the past few months, we have been talking in the space about the shift that Maine schools will be taking, beginning with the current 8th grade class. As I have mentioned, Maine calls this a shift to a Proficiency Based System of Teaching and Learning. Some places have called it Standards Based Learning or Competency Based Teaching and Learning.

This will require our schools to look at how we measure our students and their learning, including how we report the students’ progress to parents and to the students themselves. I am going to try to find some resources that will, hopefully, help you all understand why we are undertaking this change and also, to help you know what questions to ask as we all make this shift to a different way of doing our jobs.

This video is a short explanation of what the authors call Competency Based Learning. I will say that it is rather simple, yet it seems to be filled with what I call “edubabble”, or others may call jargon. Hopefully, it will help a little bit, and I promise that I will continue to seek out other resources that will make these changes as painless as possible.

Until next week…

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Important Upcoming Dates

January 27 – 3rd Quarter and Second Semester begins
January 31 – Semester grades updated on Infinite Campus Parent Portal
February 5 – Early Release Day
February 5 – Talent Show for School (schedule to follow)
February 6 – Evening Performance of Talent Show 7:00 pm
February 17 – 21- Mid Winter break

Proficiency Based Learning

sbr2Last year the state Legislature passed a bill, that was signed by the Governor, that will have a major impact on how we graduate students beginning with our current 8th graders. Unlike the past, where students needed only to acquire a certain number of credits over 4 years to receive a diploma, students must now demonstrate, through several methods, a proficiency in each of the 8 content standards of the Maine Learning Results and the Common Core State Standards in Math and English Language Arts.

We have been working for several years to bring our practices in line with Proficiency Based Teaching and Learning. Some of the improvements we have made are the development of Power Standards for each content area, at each grade level, and we report out on those standards each quarter. We continue to work with our faculty and staff to refine those Power Standards and, also refine our classroom practices to match those standardized expectations.

Over the course of the next few years we plan to ramp up our work in Proficiency Based Teaching and Learning to align ourselves more completely with the expectations of the state and with the expectations we set for ourselves. I think that it would be very helpful to all of you not in education to review the Maine Department of Education web site and become familiar with the changes that will be coming in the years ahead.

If I can offer an aside to the state mandated requirements.

Learning us such a personal project. Some things we learn very quickly and some things we have to really struggle and spend inordinate amounts of time to understand. In American Public Education, we want all of our students to get to the understanding level. Does it matter how long it takes them to get to understanding? I guess what I am trying to implant into the front of everyone’s mind is that the learning is important, not the time it takes to achieve mastery.

Changes with the Student Laptops

Over the Christmas Break we were able to perform some updates to most of the MLTI devices as well as the 6th grade laptops. Finally, we have been able to figure out how to force shut down all of the machines by 10:00 pm and allow them to restart at 6:00 am. I realize that we have some students who are involved in many activities that require them to do 12894-Clipart-Picture-Of-A-Desktop-Computer-Mascot-Cartoon-Character-Confused-And-Seeing-Starshomework past 10:00 pm, and this may cause a problem for them. Unfortunately, we cannot pick and choose individual devices to place this restriction.

We have also added a policy banner to each device which will be the first screen the students see when they start up the device. This banner requires the students to acknowledge the Acceptable Use Policy of the district and it reminds the students that the device belongs to the state and they must abide by all of the rules of the school and the lease agreement.

We have also restricted the admin allowances for students to download games or there applications on the their device. For the first few months, students were allowed to download most any game the wanted with very few restrictions.

Finally, we will be adding some more “bells and whistles” to the devices over the February vacation, so the devices will need to stay at school. We will also be performing our regular inventory and performing some spot checks on the devices for damage or misuse.

Tell Us How We’re Doing!

SurveyOn January 31st you will be receiving an email from us through the Blackboard System, our universal messaging system, to participate in a survey about Gorham Middle School. This is a survey that is being generated by us to help us work toward that ever present goal of perfection. Ok, not really perfection, but as close to it as we can come.

How are your children doing in the Gorham Schools? Are there things that you wish we would do differently? How about courses of study, would you like us to offer something different? Do your kids feel safe coming to school everyday?

We will be using Survey Monkey, an online survey site and all responds will be absolutely anonymous. This is the first time in my 7 years that we have done this kind of information gathering and we would really appreciate your feedback. Please watch your emial inbox for the email with the link.

GMS Top 40

I haven’t been as religious with this as I should have been, but I am always intrigued by the requests our students make for music at our monthly dances. I will also admit that I knowAT40 only the names of the performers in passing and could not identify any of them just by their music (with the exception of Led Zepplin and Aerosmith!). If you know these performers and their music, then you are “with it” with your kids. OK, I think just saying “with it” has put me into the “not having a clue” category!

In any event, here are the top five songs requested by the students for the last dance and the top 5 slow dance songs requested:

The top 5 dance song requests:

  • #5 Lil Jon – Turn Down for What
  • #4 Macklemore – White Walls
  • #3 Jason Derulo – Talk to Me
  • #2 Zedd – Stay the Night
  • #1 Katy Perry – Dark Horse.

The top 5 slow dance songs:

  • #5 Led Zepplin – Stairway to Heaven
  • #4 Passenger – Let Her Go
  • #3 Christina Perri – 1000 Years
  • #2 Aerosmith – Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing
  • #1 Great Big World – Say Something

Fundraising Ideas

fundraiser_school-427-95-115-80-cWe have really made an effort to reduce the amount of times we ask parents to contribute to a fundraising activity at GMS. For the most part we have relied on our monthly dances to help us fund many of our activities. Now, the good people at the recycling companyCLYNK are offering schools an interesting fundraising opportunity that also helps the environment as well as provide us with the needed extra funds to continue to offer our students the “extras” at school.

I have asked our teachers to let me know about their interest in helping lead this effort, and now I am asking parents and our community to judge interest. If you would be interested in helping us with this campaign, please give me a call at school, 222-1220.