Join Us on Wednesday to Meet the Superintendent Candidate

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Upcoming Important Dates

Monday, January 19 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday – No School
Tuesday, January 20 – Gorham Schools Volunteer Info Meeting 6:30pm GMS Library
Wednesday, January 21 – Community Forum to meet Superintendent Candidate 6:00 pm GMS Auditorium
Friday, January 30 – Gorham’s Got Talent 6:00 pm GMS Auditorium

Chinese Culture and Mandarin Class

We still have some room for additional students in the Chinese Culture and Language class that we will be offering beginning on Thursday, January 29th. The class will meet on Thursdays and Fridays during the 7th and 8th grade EICAL periods. We are working with Mrs. Mathieu and Mrs. Williamson to correct any possible conflicts that might arise for students in band and chorus, so, please don’t let that be an obstacle for your child not taking advantage of this very unique opportunity.

There are only a few middle schools in Maine that can offer this type learning, during the school day. Most schools have to do this before or after school.

If you are interested in having your child included, please either send me an email indicating your interest of give me a phone call at 222-1228.

Public Forum to Meet Superintendent Candidate

As part of the vetting process for selecting our new Superintendent of Schools, the Gorham School Committee will hold a public forum at 6:00 pm in the Gorham Middle School Auditorium. The forum will be led by School Committee Chair Dennis Libby who will introduce the candidate, Heather Perry, current Superintendent of School in RSU #3 in Unity, Maine. Dennis has some prepared questions that he will ask and then the forum will be open to the community for their direct questions.

There will be some reaction cards available for the public to share their reactions and comments about the candidate. I hope that you can find time to join us on Wednesday evening for this very important meeting.

 #gorhamms Slow Chat

At our last PIE meeting, we had a discussion about how we can help our parents gain better understanding about all of the different social media applications available to their children, our students. We have tried to keep parents informed of new social media apps as we become aware of them, but, to be truthful, there are so many new apps created everyday, it really is hard to keep up with them. What we can attempt is keeping you abreast of the social media apes that we see in our school. Even with our eyes wide open and our ears to the ground, keeping current is very difficult.

So, I thought I would start a “Slow Chat” on Twitter where we can all share what we are finding and ask questions that of each other about what we are hearing and seeing our kids doing on their devices. I think we first need to help all of us get up to speed with Twitter first so we can make this chat work for us!

So, what is Twitter? I have heard Twitter called many things, depending upon who you ask! Some of the parents I speak with call it something I can’t put in this blog! But, Twitter really is a micro blogging site. You can share thoughts, ideas, concerns or information of any kind with lots of folks in 140 characters, or less. This means that you need to be succinct!

I could continue, but, through Twitter, I have found a pretty good tutorial for beginners about why and how to use Twitter.

James Madison Excellence in Writing Contest Winners

Just before the Christmas Break, we held a wonderful ceremony before the entire school community to honor three of our students who demonstrated excellence in writing. The Gorham Town Republican Committee (not sure that’s the exact name!) for the second year sponsored the writing competition. Students were asked to write about what “with Liberty and Justice for all” meant to them.

This year we more than tripled to number of entries submitted, making it a very arduous task for the judges as they worked through all of the entries to arrive at the final three. The winners received a monetary prize of $100 for the two runners-up and the Grand Prize winner received a $250 check.

I want to thank the Republican Town Committee for their dedication and their determination for working through all of the entries to come up with these three winner. In speaking with John Doyle, School Committee members and organizer of this event, he said that it was very difficult to choose, but a rewarding endeavor, nonetheless.

Madison Essay Contest Winners and Their Parents.

The Essay Contest Winners and their proud parents.

Here are the winning essays, Samuel Orlando’s Grand prize winning essay first, then Haley Caron’s and Lydia Drew’s essays. Interestingly, each of these students are 7th graders! You will have to click on the link to read these essays, sorry.

Sam Orlando:

2014 winning essays 1

Haley Caron:

2014 winning essays 3

Lydia Drew:

2014 winning essays 2

Congratulations to all of the winners and we are really looking forward too next year’s competition.

National Geographic Society Geography Bee Winner

As we welcomed the students back from the very long Christmas Break, several of them had used that time to hone their skills on map photo-7reading, state capitals and geographic features of foreign lands in preparation for the school finals of the National Geographic Society Geography Bee. Thanks to Mr. Jeff Carpenter who did a great job of organizing this event that culminated in an entertaining and informative night of geography facts. We crowned our school champion wo will now prepare for the state championship later in March.

Congratulations to our National Geography Bee School Champion Aaron Goschke on surviving the challenge from all of his school mates. Best of luck at the State Championship! I know you will do a great job of representing Gorham Middle School.

 Linda Dutil, R.N. and A Dose of Reality

DOR-GA, Marietta-Dodgen MS-May 8, 2009 011-paintWe are finalizing plans for a presentation to all of our students by Linda Dutil, an Emergency Room Nurse who has been presenting for several years all over the country about the dangers of teens experimenting with dangerous and illegal substances, struggling with body image and making choices that could negatively impact their life.. Linda’s presentation is geared perfectly to our students as she speaks frankly with our students about her experiences as an Emergency Room Nurse in Waterville, Maine and about the power of being able to say “no”.

Tentatively, we have scheduled her for later in January, but her schedule is quite busy. Hopefully, we’ll have finalized the plans by early this week.

If you’d like to learn more about Linda and her program, here is her web site: dose-or-reality.com

 

topperMiddle

Upcoming Important Dates

Thursday, January 15 – PIE Meeting with School Committee Members
Friday, January 16 – School Dance 6:00 – 8:00 pm in the Gym (this is a change!)
Monday, January 19 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday – No School

New Year’s Resolutions

So, I have already broken most of my New Year’s resolutions, and we’re not even at the end of January!

I am sure, OK, maybe I am hoping that there are many others, who are reading this, who have a similar experience with your own resolutions. At least I can hope, anyway.

Chinese Language and Culture Offering

We are very fortunate to be able to offer to our 7th and 8th grade students the opportunity to learn about the culture of the people of China and gain some rudimentary understanding of the Mandarin language. With the help of the Confucius Institute at the University of Southern Maine, we will offer a mini course in Chinese Culture and Language on Thursdays and Fridays beginning with the start of the 3rd quarter, January 26th.

The students will be exposed to many of the cultural mores of China and how the Mandarin language weaves throughout that culture. The students will learn some basic conversational phrases and gain a brief understanding of how the Mandarin language works. They will learn how to write some of the characters of the language and what each stroke means and its importance to that meaning.

This will be the second year that the Confucius Institute will have served our school, introducing our students to a whole new world. Here is an example of some of what the ids will learn:

For more information on this great opportunity for our students, please join us on Thursday evening, January 15 at 6:00 pm in the GMS Library.

 How About a Twitter Slow Chat?

Twitter logoMany of you are aware, probably too aware, that I am an ardent user and believer of the positive power of twitter. I regularly use twitter to keep in touch with some very powerful educators who are willing to share their experiences and knowledge with me. I wish I were a better student for these people, but even I learn a great deal form them each and every day.

On different evenings during the week, different groups of people with a common intent gather in a twitter chat, signified with the hashtag (#) symbol to discuss a particular topic. For example, in Maine we have a chat for Maine educators called #edchatme. #edchatme “meets” every Thursday evening at 8:00 pm and we discuss topics that are pertinent to Maine educators. The really strange thing about the chats is that often times educators from “away”, not from Maine, join in and share their experiences from their states or countries.

A “slow chat” is one that continues beyond the usual hour that most chat go. A slow chat allows folks to check-in whenever they can and make comments, ask questions or offer up resources that those involved in the chat can check when they are free. It allows for those who have kids that need help with homework or have sports practices at all different hours to participate in the chat when they can.

Our hashtag (#) is #gorhamms. It is dedicated to our middle school and it is the hashtag that we put on everything that we put out over social media, e.g. Facebook Twitter or Instagram. So, if you have something that you would like to get out to the #gorhamms community, you can put it in Twitter and add the hashtag and we should be able to have our slow chat.

For those of you who still don’t know what I’m talking about, here is a short tutorial on using hash tag in a twitter chat:

Until next time…

 

Happy New Year!

 

topperMiddle

Upcoming Important Dates

Monday, January 5 – Students return from Christmas Break
Thursday, January 8 – School Geography Bee 6:30 pm GMS Auditorium
Friday, January 9 – School Dance GMS Gym 6:00 – 8:00 pm
Wednesday, January 14 – Early Release Day for students
Wednesday, January 15 – GMS Talent Show GMS Auditorium 6:00 pm
Thursday, January 15 – PIE Meeting with School Committee Members
Monday, January 19 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday – No School

A Time for Resolutions

With each New Year, we all tend to take stock and make promises to ourself about what we are going to change for the better in the coming year. Alas, I am no different, so hear are a couple of things that I hope to change for the better:

  • A far better way to report out on all of the great things that happen at our school. Far too often our kids and teachers accomplish remarkable feats in academics as well as in the community. I only occasionally remember to report these great works to our greater community. This needs to be better.
  • With all of the shifts that education is experiencing, and will experience in the coming years, I resolve to help inform our community, keeping you up-to-date with all of the current ideas that are coming our way.
  • To go along with the above, I promise not to pontificate (too much!) about the shifts. I will try to put out for you all sides of the question and let you decide who and whether these ideas will work for your kids.
  • These are your children, your most precious gifts, keeping them safe has been, and will remain, our first and highest priority. I resolve to keep you informed on what the experts say about how you, we, can keep our kids safe in all environments, real and virtual.

I really hope that I can keep each of the resolutions, they aren’t that difficult and we strive to accomplish these each and everyday. Let’s see what the new year brings.

School Geography Bee

Jeff Carpenter, and all of our Social Studies Teachers have been “whittling” down to a precious few students to complete in our School -wide Geography Bee sponsored by the National Geographic Society. Our School winner will then take the test to determine if they qualify for the state Geography Bee, that will be held later in March. Come and join all of our school finalists on January 8th beginning at 6:30 pm in the GMS Auditorium. Bring you Atlas!

School Dance

Our first school dance of the new year will be on Friday, January 9th beginning at 6:00 pm and ending at 8:00 pm. We respectfully ask that parents please be prepared to pick up your children at 8:00 pm. I realize that the pick up time can be quite crazy with about 400 parents picking up more than 400 kids, but the past few dances we have had several students who haven;t been picked up until 8:45, after several frantic phone calls by the students.

On a very positive note, with so many of our students attending our dances, they must be very popular.

Early Release Day

We will have another early release day on Wednesday, January 14. Students will be dismissed at 11:10 am. During the morning, the students will have the opportunity to see their peers put their talents on display in our annual Talent Show sponsored by our Student Council. There will be two shows during the morning, when students are not viewing the show, students will be engaged in advisory and team activities.

Please circle on your calendar the date of January 15th to attend our Annual Talent Show at 6:00 pm in the GMS Auditorium.

January PIE Meeting

On Thursday, January 15 at 6:00 pm in the GMS Library, we will be joined in our regular monthly PIE Meeting with selected members of our Gorham School Committee as well as two wonderful people from the Confucius Institute at the University of Southern Maine.

You can bring your questions and concerns for your children’s education to the members of the school committee and also hear a short presentation on how GMS will be offering, on a very limited basis, a Chinese Language and Culture class to some of our 7th and 8th grade students.

This should be a very informative evening, so bring your questions!

James Madison Excellence in Writing Results

On the Friday before we broke for the Christmas Holiday Break, we awarded the prizes for the second Annual Madison Excellence in Writing awards to three 7th grade students. Over the course of the next few weeks I will include the essays here so you can all enjoy the wonderful abilities of these three students.

In the coming days, I will get each of the winning essays posted to the Middle School web page for your enjoyment. I would like to congratulate 7th grade students Haley Caron, Runner-up, Lydia Drew, Runner-up and Samuel Orlando, Grand Prize Winner.

Bullying Beyond the Schoolyard

Over the Christmas break I have been reading and very interesting book by Sameer Hinduja and Justin Patchin called Bullying Beyond the Schoolyard: Preventing and Responding to Cyberbullying. This is their second edition, but a comletely updated version that includes all of the most current research and legal rulings.

I have been using the work of Hinduja and Patchin for a couple of years now, and I have always found them to be the most well researched and practical information that can be found in helping to support our kids who are being victimized and who are victimizing.

One of the most difficult parts in dealing with bullying behaviors is gaining an understanding of what bullying is and, more importantly what it isn’t. To be truthful, there are quite a few definitions of bullying, in fact, most states have their own definitions of bullying that they have made part of their anti-bullying laws and that helps to make the understanding of bullying very difficult. Hinduja and Patchin identify the definition used by the Centers for Disease Control as “as good as any”.

Bullying is any unwanted aggressive behavior(s) by another youth or group of youths who are not siblings or current dating partners that involves an observed or perceived power imbalance and is repeated multiple time or is likely to be repeated. Bullying may inflict harm or distress on the targeted youth including physical, psychological, social or educational harm.

By far, Cyberbullying is becoming the most prevalent behavior we deal with when it comes to bullying behaviors. We have to walk very difficult tightrope when we try to deal with this because of the legal questions that arise when we try to intervene or discipline.

Over the course of the next few weeks I will share, or try to, some of what I have learned from my reading of the book.

To begin, I am including a short video from Dr. Justin W. Patchin, one of the authors of the book, as he talks about cyberbullying and what they have uncovered in their research.

I think the moist important thing I took away from this idea about what bullying is are that it really should include four basic components in order to be considered bullying: Intentional Behavior; Repetition; Violence or aggression, and, in my mind most importantly, a power differential. However, if we decide that these components are not present and that the behaviors do not fit under the definition of bullying, that does not mean we do not deal with the inappropriate behaviors. Our Code of Conduct should, and does, permeate everything we do when it comes to how we treat each other and how we deal with those who choose not to abide by our Code.

 

 

 

Last Week of School for the Year!

topperMiddle

Upcoming Important Dates

Tuesday, December 16 – Chorus and Steel Band Concert GMS Auditorium 6:00 pm
Wednesday, December 17 – Annual Holiday Luncheon all students GMS Cafeteria
Friday, December 19 – James Madison Excellence in Writing Prize Awards GMS Gym 12:30 pm
Friday, December 19 – Student/Faculty Basketball Game 12:30 pm
Friday, December 19 – Last Student Day of the Year!
Monday, January 5 – Students return from Christmas Break

An Apology

In my last post, I think rambled on quite a bit about how the upcoming changes to education are being greeted by those of us in schools as well as the business world’s interpretation of the changes. I really hate it when I ramble on and say very little! So. I am going to try to be more succinct in what I want to say… So I found someone else who can say it much better!

For some reason, we have been made to believe that schools aren’t working for our kids. We are not properly preparing them for life in the “real world” after they complete school. I don’t think it does anyone any good to try to argue that point, on either side. What I believe we need to recognize is that the entire world has changed dramatically and will continue to change at a pace so rapid that we can’t afford to sit back and wait for the “pendulum to swing back”. (For those of you in education, you’re familiar with this phrase coming from those who would rather not face change!)

I came across this video by Steve Wheeler, a professor of educational technology in Plimouth, England. In this video, he talks about how much technology has changed in the past 3 years and what some of the changes that will be coming in the next 5 to 7 years. It is truly startling to begin to think of some of these developments. It is even more startling to think about what impact these changes will have on how we teach our kids.

There is a part of me that is absolutely terrified with some of the implications of these changes, and a whole other part of me wriggling with anticipation. I would love to hear your comments after you have viewed this video.

 Preparing for 2015

With coming of the new year, we have some fairly significant events that impact all of our students. This will be the very first year that our state will be using the assessment from The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) in math and English/language arts. Now, assessing math and language arts is nothing new for the state of Maine, we have been using the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) for the past 6 years, and prior to that we assessed our students using the Maine Educational Assessment (MEA). We also have been assessing our students through the Northwest Educational Assessment (NWEA), that is a computer based, adaptive assessment that asked students to complete multiple choice answers with a “point and click” format.

The SBAC is a bit different in that this will be an adaptive, computer based assessment that will require our kids to be able to manipulate content on their computer in order to be able to answer questions correctly. It really should be easy for most of our students, but it will still be different.

Additionally, we have been selected to participate in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).The NAEP is an assessment given to 4th, 8th and 11th graders across the nation to provide information on our “Nations Report Card” for the educational progress of America’s public schools. In the coming days, you will receive a letter from us indicating that your child has been “chosen” to participate in this assessment. Not all of our 8th graders will be assessed by the NAEP, and, no, I am not sure how they go about selecting the students, they just send us a list and tell us what day. Some of our students will be assessed in math and some will be assessed in language arts. None of them will be assessed in both.

If you want to learn more about the NAEP, you can check them out on this site: http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/

Finally, we are participating in two research grant projects. Each of these projects are very positive for our school and our students. These research projects will require either an assessment or a survey completed by our students. We will not allow these to interrupt our students’ classroom experience, and so these will be completed during the EICAL period. We’ll let you know the exact dates of each of these events.

2015 will also see us continuing our work towards proficiency based education. As you are all very aware, we have been doing a considerable amount of work so far in shifting to proficiency based learning. I have been writing quite a bit about this shift and what it will mean for our kids when we have completed the work. While it should be different, much will still be the same. What you will experience is a far better understanding of what it is that your child is learning, or not learning.

As we progress through the year, and next year as well, we will do a whole lot more communicating about Proficiency Based Education and how it will impact your child. What the implications will be for advancing each year in school, what content and how that content is taught (and, more importantly learned) to you child and how the community as a whole will know what it means to be a learner from Gorham.

Lots of stuff coming in the year ahead, so until next time…

I Think There’s a Storm A brewin’

topperMiddle

Upcoming Important Dates

Tuesday, December 9 – Chorus and Steel Band Concert GMS Auditorium 6:00 pm
Wednesday, December 10 – Early Release Day Students dismissed at 11:10 am
Thursday, December 11 – Band Concert GMS Auditorium Concert 6:30
Friday, December 12 – School Dance 6:00 – 8:00 pm GMS Gym
Wednesday, December 17 – Annual Holiday Luncheon all students GMS Cafeteria
Friday, December 19 – James Madison Excellence in Writing Prize Awards GMS Gym 12:30 pm
Friday, December 19 – Student/Faculty Basketball Game 12:30 pm

James Madison Excellence in Writing Contest

Back in October, many of our students toiled over their computers to pen some excellent essays on what the phrase “with Liberty and Justice for all” means to them when they recite the Pledge of Allegiance every morning. This is the second year of the competition that is sponsored by the Town of Gorham Republican Committee and we had a huge increase in the number of entries.

As an aside, the winners of last year’s contest did a great job in setting the bar for the competition. The young folks who won last year’s competition wrote very moving pieces that were shared with the entire school just before the annual student/faculty basketball game.

The competition awards three cash prizes to the students, $250 for the winner and two $100 prizes to the runners-up.

Concert Season has Arrived

It is that time of year again where our students get to show off their talents and the results of all of their hard work in preparing for these shows. The Steel Band and Chorus convert will be held on Tuesday evening beginning at 6:00 pm in the GMS Auditorium and the various bands will perform on Thursday evening beginning at 6:30 pm. Please circle these dates for two wonderful evening of “joyful” noise from our very talented students.

 Lockdown Drills

We will be practicing our lockdown procedures in the event of an unwanted intruder into our building. If you are a member of our school community you will receive a letter in your child’s backpack in the next day, or so with all of the details as to date and time. We will also outline some of the other systems we will be testing during the lockdown drill and provide you with an opportunity to offer feedback to us. Please check your child’s backpack later this week for the letter.

GMS Giving Tree

OK, so it really isn’t a tree, but it is our way of getting some holiday cheer and Christmas presents to some of the families in our community who are facing the challenge of providing a joyful Christmas for their kids (our kids,too!)

This year we are hoping to provide for 24 families everything from a few simple gifts from Santa Claus as well as a holiday meal with all of the fixings. Our staff has already brought in wrapped presents for several of our families and we have been collecting food and turkeys for meals.

Truly make us all remember the Spirit of Christmas.

Celebrating the Christmas Season

We will be holding our annual Christmas dinner on Wednesday, December 17 during our regular lunches. While I do not yet know the final menu, it usually is a choice of turkey of ham, mashed potatoes, squash, beans and or peas, a dunner roll and a wonderfully tasty dessert. The students will help themselves to a buffet style serving line. We also have many of the kids teachers come down to the cafeteria and join the kids for this wonderful repast.

Please plan on this day for you kids to join in the feast. If you have any questions or concerns, please give me a call.

Learning and Teaching in the 21st Century

We have talk in this space during the past few months about such large interest items as Proficiency Based Learning and Diplomas. Common Core State Standards and large scale standardized tests that will be administered later this spring. I have written about the impact of technology on the way our kids think and learn and, the impact of this new understanding of our kids and how we need to shift what we do to meet these new challenges. Each of these elements will have a dramatic impact on how schools will prepare our kids for their future.

This past week, I had the opportunity to attend the annual Educate Maine conference in Portland, and I came away from the day both invigorated and concerned about the future of schools in the next 10 years, and beyond.

It was very encouraging to see that about 250 people from education, public policy and business felt the need to come together and discuss the future of educating our young people. One session I attended encouraged most, and it was very gratifying to hear about how businesses were opening their doors to schools, and their students, and developing relationships that truly gave the term “real-world learning” meaning. These businesses were able to demonstrate through their actions, how to engage our kids in ways that was meaningful and beneficial to all.

What I found challenging about the meeting was the idea that while we have a dramatic shift in what is going to be expected of our kids, I didn’t see a similar shift in the lens by which we view our tasks. For some who spoke at this meeting the outcomes are expected to change, yet there was not a comparable shift in the how we are going to arrive at these different outcomes.

I am sure that these shifts will be coming, it just gets frustrating that we continue to delay the start of the actuation of these events. Parents regularly tell me that their kids are bored, not challenged and that some teachers don;t give enough homework. This shift should answer all of those concerns about engagement. When kids are able to breeze through homework and seemingly always “ace” the test, they will be moved ahead to more challenging work that will get them into that zone just a bit beyond comfort. It will also allow those students who demonstrate some challenges in certain areas of learning to take the necessary time and additional supports so that they too meet proficiency.

We have some very hard work ahead of us…

 

It Is Hard To Believe the Holiday are Just Around the Corner

topperMiddle

Upcoming Important Dates

Wednesday, November 28 – 29 – Thanksgiving Break No School
Wednesday, December 10 – Early Release Day
Friday, December 12 – School Dance 6:00 – 8:00 pm GMS Gym

Holiday Helpers and Helping

thanksgivingEach year, our School Nurse, Teresa Merrill, organizes a food collection and distribution to those families in our community who face financial challenges of providing a holiday meal or a few gifts from Santa to put under the tree.

As we are fast approaching the holiday season, each year the staff, and the students (Student Council) at GMS, with a donation from the Gorham Health Council, provide holiday sharing of food baskets and small gift items for students at GMS and their families in need. If you are a family interested in assistance or if you are a family who would like to help contribute to this community sharing, please contact Teresa Merrill, R. N. (222-1224) no later than November 14, 2014. All requests for assistance are confidential.

Laptops Over the Thanksgiving Break

As we do during most school vacations, we will be performing an inventory as well as conducting some upgrades to the system and programs on the MLTI laptops. This will mean that our students will not have them with them over the break. All of their teachers have been made aware and they will not be assigning homework that will require the devices. I hope that this doesn’t cause too much of an inconvenience.

Just as a “heads-up”, we will also be conducting some upgrades over the Christmas Break as well. These upgrades will be quite significant and will require us to have the devices during this time.

PIE Meeting

There will be a PIE (Partners In Education) meeting on Thursday night in the GMS Library beginning at 6:00 pm. We have an open agenda, so we’ll be open to talking about anything related to GMS. I will have some resources on hand that we use to deal with bullying behaviors that I would be happy to share with anyone. We will also have information available on what we are doing as a school to comply with the new Proficiency Based Educations requirements.

I hope that you can join us.

GMS Civil Rights Team Project

Would you like your child to get involved in an activity at school, especially one that can help him/her learn some leadership skills and empathy as well as compassion? We have just the activity for you (and him/her), The Civil Rights Team Project(CRTP) is affiliated with the Maine Attorney Generals Office and it helps our students take a leadership role in helping to improve the climate and culture of our school.

The CRTP helps to identify areas of our school that need attention and then they create plans to address those needs. If you would like more information about the CRTP, have your child stop by the Ms. Rounds, 6th Grade Sebago, and get all of the information to get them involved in a very positive activity that helps to improve our school.

Preparing Kids for Their Future

Much has been written in the national press about how our kids don’t seem to be prepared for their future. Our test scores indicate that when our kids are put up against similar age groups kids from places like South Korea and Finland. There are some who think that the Common Core State Standards are wrong-minded solutions for the problems we face. Interestingly, many folks have completely opposite reasons for why the Common Core is wrong!

But I am not writing to debate the merits, or demerits of the Common Core. I am interesting in making sure that our kids are ready for the future, their future, making sure that they have the requisite skills, attitudes and aptitudes to be successful in a rapidly changing world. Truth is, I cannot fathom the possible changes that are coming!

What I can fathom is how much our students have changed over the past 10 years, and how they continue to arrive at middle school with new and different set of skills, attributes and dispositions. Each year, a new group of 6th graders arrive at GMS with more defined skills in technology. That’s because each year we improve the work of our teachers at the elementary grades with new devices and a far greater reach into the digital world. Sometimes we fail to recognize just how much our kids take in when they get their hands of technology and how quickly they adapt to it. In fact, I am confident that the GMS faculty has grown exponentially in the area of technology and how we employ the digital tools in our classrooms. So, what I am about to say may seem counterintuitive to my last statement!

We have grown, as a faculty, in our use of technology. We are getting better at integrating the digital tools in our practice and developing lessons and units that engage students and meet the students where they are. Some on our faculty can “Code” with the best of them, and those that can’t are standing in line to learn how. However, what I am not sure we are recognizing is the real difference in these kids today as opposed to those students who entered our school in the past.

Whether or not the Gorham School Department provides our kids with tech devices has become irrelevant. A quick survey of our incoming 6th graders reveals that many of them have engaged in online behaviors through their video game devices from Nintendo, Sega or Sony. Kids have played “multiplayer online” games with people that they “know” well but have never seen their face. This can be troublesome, if we think about this with our “over 30ish brain”, but it has become the norm for many of our kids and they have learned to manage these interactions quite well. But, I don’t want to stray into that area right now, I want to stay on the topic of how our kids are vastly different than previous generations.

Our kids come to us with vastly different experiences than their predecessors. The activities in which they engage are completely different and the outcomes they experience are far more immediate, allow students to learn from their mistakes and immediately use their learning and try again. None of this is what happens in a traditional school.

Okay, I can hear that little voice in my head saying, “this generation just wants everything… now”! And then I realize that is exactly what my dad said to me, and he was born in 1914, a whole century ago!

Now, I can hear my teacher voice saying “you’re lecturing and babbling on!” So, I will pick this up next week. I welcome your comments here or through my Twitter Feed @briley8557

Until next time…

As the Holidays Near

topperMiddle

Upcoming Important Dates

Monday, November 10 – No School Teacher Workshop Day
Tuesday, November 11 – Veterans Day, No School
Friday, November 14 – School Dance GMS Gym 6:00 – 8:00 pm

Teacher Workshop Day and Veterans Day Celebrations

On Monday, November 10, teachers of the Gorham School District will be engaging in professional development all day. There will be no school for students.

On November 11, in the GMS Gym beginning at 10:00 am the Gorham Veterans Committee will be holding a celebration of the many veterans who sacrificed for the liberties we enjoy each and every day. All are welcomed to attend this great American Celebration of Honor for our citizen soldiers.

The Maine Military Museum will also be displaying several uniforms and other artifacts of a military nature. The display will be set up in the GMS front foyer and in our cafeteria. Please circle your calendar for this great event.

Holiday Helpers and Helping

thanksgivingEach year, our School Nurse, Teresa Merrill, organizes a food collection and distribution to those families in our community who face financial challenges of providing a holiday meal or a few gifts from Santa to put under the tree.

As we are fast approaching the holiday season, each year the staff, and the students (Student Council) at GMS, with a donation from the Gorham Health Council, provide holiday sharing of food baskets and small gift items for students at GMS and their families in need. If you are a family interested in assistance or if you are a family who would like to help contribute to this community sharing, please contact Teresa Merrill, R. N. (222-1224) no later than November 14, 2014. All requests for assistance are confidential.

My Hat in Hand!

I am seeking some help and guidance with this dilemma and I figured I would just put it out there, in the public, to see if I am being unreasonable and over reaching.Me with hat-in-hand

Each year, one of our teachers offer our 8th graders a wonderful chance to visit our Nation’s Capital, Washington, D.C., during the April vacation break. The students leave early on a Monday morning and return on Saturday. There is a cost to the trip which includes transportation, accommodations, meals and admission fees to several venues. As you can imagine, it can be very pricey for some of our students. I am wondering if there is a funding vehicle, available through online sources that might help pay for some of our more needy students to avail themselves of this great opportunity? If you know of something that we can use, without having to “sell our soul”, I would appreciate learning about it. Please feel free to call me at school or send me an email at robert.riley@gorhamschools.org.

I Had to Share This!

We are always looking for ways to expose our students to great learning opportunities. We have a very gifted artist in our school, who doesn’t use traditional canvas or paint, this student uses a digital canvas and his finger to paint some amazing pictures.

IMG_3100

This is a desert setting on IPad, created by Educreations, completed by using his index finger. Pretty Impressive, Huh?

From Digital Natives, Digital Wisdom

Mark PrenskyLast week, I wrote about a book that I have been reading by Mark Prensky. Mark is a former teacher who currently travels the world talking to and with educators, students and parents about how the world of education has changed with the digital revolution we are currently experiencing.

I really hope that I didn’t give the impression that I thought that technology is the be-all-end-all for our students. Let ,e be very clear about technology and its use in education.Technology is a tool, it is not the replacement for the teacher, or the textbook or any of the many other wonderful things that happen in classrooms everyday. Let me repeat myself, technology is a tool, like a shovel for digging a hole, or a hammer for driving a nail. It is only as good as the person who is wielding it.

But I also want to be clear about the majority of the students we deal with every day, they have great access to technology and information. Technology has become ubiquitous in our life.

Daniel Pink, in his ground breaking book (at least to me!), To Sell is Human, writes about how the advantage in most transactions completed today has shifted from the seller to the buyer. Why? Because buyers now have access to vast amounts on information about the product being sold. When buying a new or used car, the buyer can go the the Kelly Blue Book web site and get all of the information about a certain model of vehicle they are interested in purchasing. They can learn about recalls from the manufacturer, particular issues with a certain model (much like the back window motors that fail at an alarming rate on Chevrolet Impalas, I have unfortunately found out!). They can have discussions with people who have purchased the car, and discover their likes and dislikes about their use of the vehicle. Then when you decide on the exact vehicle you want and it happens to be a pre-owned, you can research all repairs done on that car, if it had any accidents, etc.

Need books? Try Amazon! Remember the Sears Catalogue? It’s online, bigger and better than ever! Need to sell that old Christmas present from Aunt Polly? Try eBay! Book a trip? File your taxes? Visit with your grandchild who lives in San Francisco and is beginning to walk and you want to see it? Skype! Feeling ill and want to know if it’s the flu? WebMD!

We all are using technology in more ways than we really know, and it has helped us. Yes, we are adults and we have fully developed frontal lobes and, usually, we can understand the consequences of our actions before we act! Sometimes.

What Prensky is saying is, that in spite of their familiarity with technology, in spite of the fact they are creating lives for themselves, in spite of the fact that they can run circles around us in the technology world, they still need our guidance in learning how to use this wonderful resource productively, appropriately and positively!

So, to demonstrate to you at least one adolescent has used her technology skills for a positive, constructive purpose, I offer the follow TEDx video from this past mont.

More on Proficiency Based Education

As many of you know, and as I have chronicled here many times, I spend a fair amount of time with my Personal Learning Network (PLN) discussing all things PBL logoeducation. My PLN is made upon educators from all across globe, literally from 6 of the 7 continents! (still not sure why Antarctica has failed to respond!).

This past week, my PLN had several discussions, in the Twitter hashtag format, regarding grading and Standards Based Learning, another name for Proficiency Based Learning. I thought I’d share some of the actual comments from folks during this chat as a way of explaining how educators (K-12, and Higher Ed), educational researchers and educational consultants saw Proficiency Based Education.

Here goes:

Q1 What is the purpose of Standards Based Grading, why make the change from “traditional”? #sblchat

A1: Important to eliminate behavioral/ compliance grading #sblchat

A1: SBG focuses learning on what you are teaching, not the “game” of school and point collecting  #sblchat  @rickwormeli2

A1 – Standards-Based Learning is based on learner outcomes rather than chapter, section, page and non-standards-based activities. #sblchat

A1 Standards Based Grading switches the focus in the classroom from grading to learning. #sblchat

A1: SBL helps prepare our Ss for the real world by holding them accountable for learning/mastery. #sblchat

A1: SBG is a measurement of learning not point accumulation for a variety of reasons. #sblchat

A1 Changes the purpose of grades from working the system to mastering the content. A grade is a reflection of learning #sblchat

I could post almost 800 of these kinds of comments about Proficiency Based Learning, but you could join in the chat by using the #sblchat on Twitter on Wednesday evenings beginning at 9:00 pm EST. Also, if you would like to see any of the full chats about #SBLchat, you can do so at Storify.com. Just do a search for #sblchat.

As you can see, there are a lot of educators involved in gaining a better understanding of how we can help our students with authentic learning and not just about acquiring enough points for a “B” or an “A”.

Until next time….