Education Needs a Bill James

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Upcoming Important Dates

Wednesday, April 1 – Early Release Day, Students dismissed at 11:10 am
Tuesday, April 7 – Sebago Team’s Ancient World Museum, 6:00 pm GMS 6th Grade Wing
Tuesday, April 7 – All Gorham Band Concert, GHS Auditorium 6:30 pm
Wednesday, April 8 – School Committee Meeting, Municipal Center 7:00 pm
Friday, April 10 – GMS Dance sponsored by the 6th Grade, 6:00 – 8:00 pm
Tuesday, April 14 – All Gorham Chorus nigh GHS Auditorium 6:30 pm

Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics

There are several quotes from the inimitable Mark Twain that are my favorites, but this one is my most used and Mark Twainmy most favorite. (I won’t mention the quote about School Committees!!)

We live our life surrounded by these numbers, or data, as it is so often referred to these days in education. Dropout rates, Literacy rates, numeracy rates and graduation rates are just a few that we try to examine in making a determination about how successful American Public Schools are doing.

PISA logoLet’s not forget about the numbers we use when we compare our students to the students of the rest of the World, the all important PISA Assessment, or the Programme of International Student Assessment conducted by the Organization of Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD). The PISA assessment is the one done every two years and compares 15 year-olds in the United States to the 15 year-olds from around the globe. It is also the assessment that has almost every policy maker shouting from the tree tops that our schools are not doing their job!

In the coming weeks, our students at GMS will be taking the first administration of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Computer Adapted Test (CAT) and Performance Task (PT). This assessment is PARCClogodesigned to measure how well our students are “achieving proficiency” towards the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) that were created at the direction of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). In Maine, we call this assessment the Maine Educational Assessment (MEA).

Now, this assessment, the MEA, is supposed to provide schools, districts and the state with an abundance of evidence that will indicate whether, or not, the schools, the teachers and the students are making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). The assessment is broken down by sub groups, (e.g. Students Identified with Disabilities, Socio Economic Standing (SES), English Language Learners (ELL), Cultural background, Title 1 and a panoply of other categories). However, each of these sub groups are measured in the exact same manner, do the students meet proficiency on the assessment, period.

MLBlogoWhat if measured baseball in the manner? Think about it, all managers and coaches are rated on the ability of their hitters to hit the baseball, and their fielders ability to catch and throw the ball, ands, that’s it. How about if the only teams that make the playoffs are the teams that have the highest batting average. Ok, I know that it could be said that would seem as it should (consider the 1927 Yankees “Murderer’s Row”) or the teams who hit the most home runs. But, we know that is not always the case, some teams win with defense, others with pitching. Yet, for some inexplicable reason, we are going to measure the success of school districts, schools, principals and teachers on the one single statistic, the results of a test given to students.

What education needs is someone like Bill James. Who is Bill James, you ask? He is the man responsible for a 200x200xJames-Bill-square.jpg.pagespeed.ic.tkF52VCBl3whole new series of statistics that are being used in the baseball world. These statistics are used  by baseball management teams when they are negotiating new contracts for professional baseball players. These statistics are the numbers used to determine the value of an individual player, in the parlance of education, these numbers are summative assessments, just like the SBAC or PARCC!

As I said above, there have been some truly great players. Ted Williams was a great player, perhaps the greatest hitter of all time in the opinion of a few folks, and in the “numbers” he produced during his stellar career. Ted is the last major-league ball player to hit above a .400 average for a whole season, hitting .406 in 1941. Since then, some players have come close to hitting .400, but none have been able to sustain that level of proficiency for a full season since. Ted was also the American League MVP twice during his career, six-time American League batting champ, hit more than 500 home runs and won exactly no championships as a member of the Boston Red Sox.

OK, so I understand that baseball is a team sport. I know that it takes everyone doing their job to the fullest to win championships, or be a successful team. I also know that there are lots of reasons why teams win, and Bill James has been able to accurately quantify, using actual results, why these teams have been successful. He has broken down performance into very small bits that can be used to determine the value of baseball players.

How do we compare what we do in a classroom and how students learn with what goes on on a baseball field? I am sure there is a way to do it, it’s just that there isn’t the profit motive to get anyone interested. There is a motive (profit or some other) to rank school using the raw data from the results of tests that may, or may not measure what is being taught. One, need only look at the profit and loss statement of Pearson or any other testing conglomerate.

So, Bill James, if you’re unlucky enough to have stumbled across this missive, and cray enough to have plodded through this tome, the world of education needs your expertise. We need someone to make sense of the results of these new PARCC and SBAC Assessments and give a true picture of how are kids are doing!

Final Day for Ordering Yearbooks

Please remember that April 20th is the final day for ordering GMS Yearbooks. If you would like to purchase a yearbook, there are two ways to do it. You can stop by the GMS Main Office and pick up an order form, enclose a check in the appropriate amount and leave it with our secretaries, or you can go to the Lifetouch Website at ybpay.lifetouch.com use the GMS ID Code of 3788215.

We will only order as many yearbooks as students purchase, so if you don’t get your order in by April 20th, you will be “out of luck”!

 

 

 

Two 5 Day Weeks in a Row!!!

 

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Upcoming Important Dates

Friday, March 6 – GMS Musical Alice@Wonderland, GMS Auditorium 7:00 pm admission $5
Saturday, March 7 – GMS Musical Alice@Wonderland, GMS Auditorium 7:00 pm admission $5
Saturday,March 7 – Indoor Track meet at Portland Expo 8:00 am
Saturday, March 7 – 6th Grade Honor Music Festival, Bonny Eagle Middle School 3:00 pm
Tuesday, March 10 – 8th Grade Parent Night at the High School 6:00 pm GHS Auditorium
Wednesday, March 11 – Early Release Day, Student dismissed at 11:10 am
Thursday, March 12 – Parent Teacher Conferences 3:00 – 8:00 pm
Friday, March 13 – Parent Teacher Conferences 8:00am – 2:00 pm NO SCHOOL FOR STUDENTS
Saturday, March 14 – Indoor Track Meet at Portland Expo 2:30 pm

School Yearbooks

YearbookclipartWe are again offering several options for parents and students to order yearbooks for this year, and you can order them online or pick up an order form in the Office. The cost of the yearbooks is $17 for a soft cover yearbook. The softcover is a nice option to help keep the cost down and still get all of the memories of the school year. If you want a hard cover bound version, that cost is $22, and if you would like to have your child’s name printed on the cover along with their school picture, to really personalize it, you can add that as well fro an additional $5 charge.

The last day to order yearbooks is April 20 and to oder online you can go to: http://www.ybpay.lifetouch.com and use the school code 3788215.

Alice@Wonderland Musical Performance

Friday and Saturday night, March 6 & 7 our young thespians performed the wonderful adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. If you weren’t able to make your way to GMS on either Friday or Saturday evening, you missed a wonderfully energetic display of song, dance and funny lines, not to mention some great acting.

Thank you to Joe Hanley, husband of Assistant Principal Susie Hanley, for some wonderful  pictures of both evening’s performances.DSC_0396 DSC_0403 DSC_0411 DSC_0416

Busy Week Next Week

Next week is a very busy one for all of our parents. Our 8th grade parents are invited to join Principal Chris Record of Gorham High School, along with the Department Heads and school counsellors, to preview what parents, and students, can expect when their child enrolls at GHS next year.

This evening is one that should answer all of your questions about the transition to the high school as well as bring up a few more questions that you hadn’t already thought about.

The evening begins at 6:00 pm in the GHS Auditorium and should last until 7:30, or so.

Then, on Thursday evening and Friday during the day, the Middle School is holding our Spring Parent/Teacher Conferences. By now, everyone should have scheduled an appointment to meet with your child’s advisor. If you have not yet received an appointment, or made contact with your child’s advisor, please send them an email or give them a phone call.

As you know, we schedule conferences with your child’s advisor, however, if you want to meet with a particular content area or allied arts teacher, you may do so by simply contacting them and setting up a time to meet.

If you haven’t heard from you child’s advisor, please give me a call and I can “gently” remind them to set up an appointment.

The Pass Out Challenge

We have become aware of a new “game’ that our students are experimenting with called the Pass Out Game or Pass Out WarningChallenge, This is a very dangerous game for for kids to be playing and the possible consequences can be devastating.

In the past, I have written about the Cinnamon Challenge, and the Salt Challenge and this is just another one of the many things that young people try as they experiment with their own mortality, yes mortality!

Let me give you an idea of what the kids do in the Pass Out Game. First, the kids will take about 30 deep breathe, in effect, to force hyperventilation. Then, with the help of one of their friends, they will deprive the brain of oxygen by having their friend compress their chest. They will stand against the wall and their friend will use both hands to press, as hard a they can, on their chest, in effect forcing all of the air out of their lungs. In a few seconds, the brain will be deprived of oxygen and the child will pass out. If they are alone, they will blow on their thumb, attempting to force blood into the brain that lacks oxygen. The result is the same, the child will lose consciousness, some kids actually go into convulsions.

I wish I could tell you that this new fad is really a new fad, but it is not. This has been around since I was a teen. I can remember the kids in my neighborhood playing this game more than 50 years ago. I can also tell you that I can remember some kids getting seriously injured and suffering some catastrophic, long lasting injuries because of this game. I suspect that this is still the case, now 50 years later.

If you are unfamiliar with this “game” and you would like to see what it looks like, checkout Youtube and search for Pass Out Challenge, there are tone of wrong-minded kids putting up their own videos for other to see hoping for sone notoriety.

Planning for Celebration of Middle School

This is another of those occasions where I say “I can’t believe it’s here already” or “It’s that time of year again”, but we need to begin the planning for the 8th Grade Celebration of Middle School on the night before that last day of school.

We will hold our first organizing meeting on Thursday, March 19 in the GMS library beginning at 6:00 pm. This meeting is usually informational and organizational. We do make some decisions on how we will be making decisions and how we will collect ideas and then act on those idea.

I look forward to getting the planning started. Please call me if you can’t make the meeting but would like to work on a committee.

 

We Actually Did 5 Days Last Week!!!

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Upcoming Important Dates

Wednesday, March 4 – Spread the Word to End the Word Day
Friday, March 6 – GMS Musical Alice@Wonderland, GMS Auditorium 7:00 pm admission $5
Saturday, March 7 – GMS Musical Alice@Wonderland, GMS Auditorium 7:00 pm admission $5
Saturday, March 7 – 6th Grade Honor Music Festival, Bonny Eagle Middle School 3:00 pm
Tuesday, March 10 – 8th Grade Parent Night at the High School 6:00 pm GHS Auditorium
Wednesday, March 11 – Early Release Day, Student dismissed at 11:10 am
Thursday, March 12 – Parent Teacher Conferences 3:00 – 8:00 pm
Friday, March 13 – Parent Teacher Conferences 8:00am – 2:00 pm NO SCHOOL FOR STUDENTS

Alice @Wonderland

AliceatWonderland small posterJPEGIt is that time of year again! Our young GMS thespians get to “strut the boards” (that does it for my theatrical jargon!) and present to our community a wonderful adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Please join us on both Friday, March 6 and Saturday March 7 in the GMS Auditorium beginning at 7:00 pm for tea with The Mad Hatter or croquet with The Queen of Hearts. I am sure that the evening will be filled with wonderful song and lots of belly laughs for everyone.

Spread the Word to End the Word

For the past several years, Gorham Middle School Students, Faculty and staff have celebrated the 1st Wednesday in March expunge the word 100h-Alternate-Logo-Darkretard from the vocabulary in our school and community. Each year, our students renew their pledge to end the use of that word to denigrate, put down or otherwise slam their peers and I am happy to report that they have done a great job of cutting the word out of their vocabulary.

Luanne Amell has led this effort for several years at GMS and she has worked tirelessly to get our kids to go on line at www.r-word.org and make their pledge to stop using the word. We will have great celebration on Wednesday, March 4, the actual day of Spread the Word to End the Word.

I hope that many of you will join us in this pledge to value each and every member of our community for who they are and the talents the bring to our world. Just go to the link provided and make your pledge.

8th Grade Parent Night

parentsYou know, I say this every year and it really does seem to sneak up on us, but it is that time of year when we start the preparations for saying good-bye to our 8th graders. It really seems like they just started here and we are planning to send them off to the high school.

High School Principal Chris Record and all of his Department Heads will welcome the parents of our 8th graders, and the 8th graders, too, to the GHS Auditorium at 6:00 pm on Thursday, March 10. Chris will outline what parents can expect during the next few months from the high school regarding courses, requirements and expectations from the high school teachers. This is a great night for the parents to ask questions, clarify the expectations and get the answers they need direct from the source. I hope you can attend.

Early Release Day

Wednesday, March 11 will be an early release day for the students so that teachers can attend a professional development event. Students will be dismissed at 11:10, but we will have a regular schedule, just shortened classes.

Parent Teacher Conferences

Our Parent Teacher Conferences will be held on Thursday evening, March 12 from 2:30 pm until 8:00 pm and again on Friday, March 13 CLIPART_OF_15182_SM_2(hopefully not a bad omen for our students or their families!) beginning at 8:00 am until 2:00 pm. Students’ Advisors will be available to meet with parents on these days, however, if neither of these days works for you, please just contact your child’s advisor to arrange an alternate date. These conferences are a very important element of the home/school communication and are a great chance for teachers, students and parents  to get together and discuss progress throughout the year.

You should be hearing from your child’s advisor in the coming days to schedule your time to meet.

Please note: There are no classes for students on Friday for students.

Cold Enough For You!?!

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Upcoming Important Dates

Friday, February 13 thru February 22 – Mid Winter Break, Enjoy the snow!!!
Friday, February 27 – Southern Maine Honors Chorus Festival, Westbrook Middle School
Friday, February 27 – School Dance GMS Gym 6:00 -8:00 pm
Saturday, February 28 – Southern Maine Honors Concert, Westbrook Middle School 3:30 pm
Saturday, March 7 – 6th Grade Honor Music Festival, Bonny Eagle Middle School 3:00 pm

A Warm Welcome

photo-9All of the faculty, staff and our students want to offer a warm welcome to our new Superintendent-elect, Heather Perry. We truly look forward to working with Ms. Perry as we all tackle the challenges that public school education faces in the coming years.

A Dose of Reality

We had a great assembly with all of our kids on Friday. Linda Dutil, an Emergency Room Nurse from Waterville who travels around thephoto-10 country sparking with high school and middle school kids about the realities of abusing substances. Linda does a great job of keeping the presentation very appropriate for the age of the kids and she does not place challenges in front of the kids. What she does is talk about what happens when young people make poor choices and end up in her Emergency Room. Linda does a great job of getting the kids involved in the presentation and she paces her “shock” effect about substances with a comforting compassion of a parent.

Music Honors Season

MusicAs you can see form the “Upcoming Important Date” section of this edition, we have several Honors Concerts coming in the next few weeks for several of our very talented musicians. It is a source of great pride for our school and our community to have so many of our students selected for these great accomplishments. I urge you, if you can find the time, to take in one of these concerts. It is a great chance for our kids to collaborate with other great middle school musicians.

An Update of Proficiency Based Education

The Gorham School department continues to work toward awarding Proficiency Based Diplomas as required by the state beginning with our current 6th grade class. I know that there are several folks out there wondering what is the fuss about this and how is it going to impact my son or daughter as they continue on in CBE-image1school.

I think we first need to remember why we send our kids to school. Our community allocates lots of financial resources and makes great sacrifices so that our kids will learn skills and knowledge to be successful in their life and become productive, positive citizens who will contribute to the betterment of our society. Ultimately, we want our kids keep this Democracy, that has endured for more than 235 years, strong and vibrant well into the future.

There are far too many interpretations of what this looks like specifically, but I think we can agree that having a well educated populace is our top goal.

So the grading systems we all grew up with had teachers administering tests and quizzes and then assigning grades to them based upon the number of correct answers divided by the number of questions on the test. Some teachers assigned more points for short answer questions than they did for multiple choice, true/false, or selected response questions. Some tests had essay questions called constructed response questions that would be worth the most points. Teachers usually used a percent to represent how a student did on any given test.

So, here are 3 students in the same class, taking the same 10 tests. What do the results of these 3 students demonstrate about their learning in my social studies class?

Student 1 Student 2 Student 3
Test #
1 50 100 100
2 60 100 50
3 60 90 90
4 70 90 60
5 80 80 100
6 80 80 60
7 90 70 50
8 90 60 90
9 100 60 80
10 100 50 80
Average 78 78 78

Each student achieved an average of 78% on the tests given. These tests were designed to demonstrate student achievement on a topic in social studies. Unlike some teachers, I chose not to look at homework for this quarter, so I graded the students based solely on the results of these tests. I purposely didn’t give anyone a zero, because I know about the toxicity of giving a student a zero and how it serves only to disengage the student.

What do these grades say about each of these kids?

Let’s look at student #1;

This student appears to start slow, not getting the information or not knowing how to study for my tests, or not understanding what I was looking for. After a time in my class, this student seems to begin to understand either the content or what I was looking for in answers to my questions. By the end of the quarter this student seems to have a good understanding of the content, or what I was looking for in answers, or how to study better for my tests, or had the lead role in the play I was directing for the school, or was the all-state center on my hockey team, or was polite in my class! (Ok, some of these reasons are a little ridiculous, but I wanted to show how the human condition can enter into our decision process.)

Student #2:

This student starts the quarter off with a bang! 100’s on the first two of tests of the quarter. This is going to be a great quarter for this student, maybe a really easy quarter, maybe too easy! This student’s grade seem to fall off as the quarter moves on. Perhaps something happened at home, or “significant other” problems, or I truly bored this student (most likely!). What does this say about how much this student learn?

Student #3

This student is the most troubling, in my mind. Very inconsistent in the scores on each of the tests and this doesn’t really tell me a lot about whether this student is understanding what I am teaching.

The bottom line for each of these students is that the “averaged” a 78% for this quarter, but I cannot tell whether these kids have “mastered” what it was that I was teaching! The path each of these kids took to 78% are so vastly different that I cannot honestly say which one has attained proficiency toward the standard I was teaching.

This is why we need to honestly examine how we determine what students are learning and to what level there are learning it. Our traditional method for making these determinations has passed us by, and what we need our kids to demonstrate cannot be measured by these traditional methods.

We will continue to work as a school, and a district to create systems that will best help our kids become what we want them to become, and that is what we said above about preserving our Democracy for many future generations.

Please call, or email me, if you have any questions about what we are doing and why.

The Power of Social Media

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Upcoming Important Dates

Thursday, February 12 – Digital Citizenship Assemblies for all grades
Friday, February 13 – A Dose of Reality Presentation, all students.
Friday, February 13 thru February 22 – Mid Winter Break, Enjoy the snow!!!
Friday, February 27 – Southern Maine Honors Chorus Festival, Westbrook Middle School
Saturday, February 28 – Southern Maine Honors Concert, Westbrook Middle School 3:30 pm

My Story about Social Media

On Thursday, February 12, Terri Dawson, Susie Hanley and I will address our entire student body in grade level assemblies to remind our kids about how to be a responsible digital citizen. I think we all recognize that, in the hands of the inexperienced, naive or immature individual, social media can be a very dangerous tool. It can be fraught with so many pitfalls that some of our students get caught up in a spider’s web of harsh talk, meanness and threat that escape, or even retreat, seems impossible.

There are some very positive ways to use social media, however, that can create a better world for all of us. Before last week, we had never heard of James Robertson of Detroit, Michigan. Today, because of social media, he will no longer have to trudge 21 miles, round trip each day, to get to work. Evan Leedy, a Wayne State University student had the idea to raise $5,000 to help James get his old auto repaired. His efforts through a social media fund-raising site raised more than $350,000 for Robertson and a local Ford Dealership donated the Ford Taurus. The result of these efforts not only aided an individual in need, it raised the spirits of a city, Detroit, Michigan, that has experienced a considerable downturn in the past two decades. As Robertson said “Forget Los Angeles, Detroit is the city of angels!”

My story is quite a bit different and far less compelling than James Robertson’s and Evan Leedy’s. Mine is about a large corporation and a small guy living in Saco, Maine who just wanted a way to keep his driveway clear of snow.

This past fall I purchased a garden tractor to mow my lawn, and a snowblower attachment to keep my driveway free from snow. Now, I must admit, I did not foresee the kinds of storms we have been getting this winter, but I did want to release myself from being reliant upon someone else to keep free from the back-breaking work of shoveling a long driveway.

When the first snowfall came, I was ready! My snowblower was on (I had the Sears guy out it on because I would have messed it up!), gas tank filled, oil changed to the proper weight (did you know you should use 5W30 and not 10W30 in the winter!), chains on the tires, I was ready. About 10 inches into a 21 inch snowfall, I went out, started my tractor and gave it a go. It seemed to be working fine, although the wind-swept snow returned to my driveway as soon as I passed, but I was making progress (in my mind).

Now comes the fun part. Toward the end of the snow storm (maybe the 19 -20 inch mark) I return to my tractor to finish the job begun earlier. I again check the gas, the oil, the chains and the blower chute, all good. I sit in the seat, place the choke on, depress the brake pedal and turn the key.

A wirrrr! A wirrrr? Yup, definitely a wirrrrr, no turning of the engine at, all. This isn’t right!

I could tell you all of the things I did to try to start this baby, but it would be a waist of time and space here. Suffice it to say that I needed to call the company, which I did.

They sent a man out to fix it and, after a week of waiting for parts and his schedule, he fixed it. Or, so I thought. Next storm, exactly the same result!

This time my call was on a Sunday (right in the middle of another monumental New England snow storm), and the results were much different. They could not possibly get someone out to see my sick little tractor for 12 days, 12 days! With the threat of lots more snow in the forecast, that was not acceptable and I told them that. Alas, there was nothing they could do, and they regretted my inconvenience!”, this is where social media enter the picture for me.

Having not had success with anyone from the company ( I actually had one of the telephone guys tell me “he was the boss, and there was no one above him” that I could speak with!), I turned to social media, met notably, Twitter and Facebook. Here is a picture of my original tweet.Screenshot 2015-02-11 09.45.21

Immediately, I received several tweets from other disgruntled Sears customers about their experiences with Sears repairs. The response was absolutely amazing.

My next move was to express my displeasure on the Sears Facebook page. On the Sears Facebook page there is a section for people to leave comments. I think Sears hoped that people who had received great service or bought life-changing appliances would sing the praises of the company for the whole world to see. What I found in this section of the Sears Facebook page were people who had similar experiences to mine and they were looking for a place to sound off.

This may be where my experience differs from many of the folks who had posted the negative comments. Posting to Twitter and Facebook elicited an immediate response from someone (other than the caller who was the boss!) to inquire about my problem. I started to think I was getting someplace, because shortly after I posted my comments to the Sears Facebook page I received a direct message (DM) on my Twitter feed asking if we could keep this in DM and not public and to DM my phone number and address to the folks at Sears Cares.

Initially, the response was similar to all of the responses I received up to this point. Here is the Sears Cares response:

 

Screenshot 2015-02-11 12.04.30When I responded to their DM that I didn’t want their “regret”, I wanted to be able to use the $3700 I spent for a solution. I explained they I had my money but, I didn’t have their product to use. Not the way I expect commerce to work! So here was my response to them:

Screenshot 2015-02-11 12.08.55

They then responded by asking me to call a telephone number. Now, I must admit I had great trepidation in starting this all over again, trying to get someone to understand the real problem here, not that Sears can made everything they make perfectly, but that they need to stand behind the products they sell. I understand that stuff breaks, I wish we could all be perfect (not like me!) and that the sun shined everyday and that we had achieved world peace, but I really , really do know that is not possible. What is possible is that the company can become more of a humanist (if that’s the correct use of the word) and exercise some compassion for their customer. That’s all I ask.

A nice woman answered the phone, after the obligatory auto-phone-answering voice led me through a couple of options. As soon as I mentioned my name she had my information in front of her on her computer screen. (What a great way to use technology!) She recapped my story and asked if Thursday would work for me (3 days!), so she understood! Finally, someone from the great corporate giant showing compassion!

I don’t know if they will be able to fix this garden tractor, and I certainly could have left all of the negative comments out there, but Sears did respond in an appropriate manner and they did, eventually find some compassion for a small consumer. This is no

Today is Wednesday and I have just received my robot phone call reminding me of the call between 10am and 2pm. I will take time out of my day to be there, as they requested. I am hopeful that the repair guy will have a new starter with him and that I will be able use my very expensive snow remover without any further problems. We’ll see.

What I did learn out of all of this is that social media can be used in a very constructive manner and it can be very powerful. It can also help to open doors to people and things that can help to make your life easier. I have been a huge consumer and user of social media in helping me to get better at being a Principal. I have connected with some very amazing people all over the world who face many of the same challenges and obstacles I do in being a Principal, and they have been so very helpful and giving of their expertise and knowledge.

So, we will continue to work with our students to help them become responsible, respectful, compassionate, courageous and honest users of social media. We will focus our attention on the positive uses and work to minimize the negatives because, if we all endeavor to contribute only positively to social media, we won’t need to worry about the negative. Maybe I’m naive, but I do think I know I kids… and they are the best!

 

 

 

 

Enough Already!!! Please Stop the Snow!!!

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Upcoming Important Dates

Tuesday, February 10 – Southern Maine Honors Jazz Festival, York High School 4:00 pm
Thursday, February 12 – Digital Citizenship Assemblies for all grades
Friday, February 13 – A Dose of Reality Presentation, all students.
Friday, February 13 thru February 22 – Mid Winter Break, Enjoy the snow!!!
Friday, February 27 – Southern Maine Honors Chorus Festival, Westbrook Middle School
Saturday, February 28 – Southern Maine Honors Concert, Westbrook Middle School 3:30 pm

PIE Meeting Postponed

We had a PIE meeting scheduled for Thursday evening at 6:00 pm, but I am going to have to postpone this until later in February for personal reasons.

While I am on the subject of PIE meetings, I do want to follow up on a couple of topics that we discussed at our PIE meeting in January.

One question that was asked was about the contract custodial workers that are part of the private company that provides our cleaning services. I have been assured that each of the workers who work in our schools have all had criminal records check performed by the state police. As we said at the meeting, we could;t imagine that they would not have had a criminals record check, but we could not answer for sure. Now we can!

Another idea that came out of the PIE meeting was how can parents keep up with the ever changing landscape of social media. In full disclosure, Terri Dawson, our Technology Integrator for the middle school, passed this on to me a while ago so this may already be out of date!

Our good friends at Common Sense Media have provided parents with 15 Apps and sites that kids are going to besides Facebook. I wish I could tell you that I am familiar with all of them, but I can’t. Many of the Apps and sites and I familiar, but not all. Anyway, checkout this resources from Common Sense Media. Maybe after you have had a chance to check each of these out, we can all sit down and teach each other.

Digital Citizenship Assemblies

On Thursday, February 12, we will hold grade level assemblies for the students to remind them about their responsibilities to follow our Code of Conduct when the are using technology. By technology I mean any device, whether it is the laptop we provide through MLTI, or their cellphones or even their iPods and gaming consoles. We have experienced a couple of episodes of students not exercising their best judgment when using these advices.

I don’t think for a minute that our kids are deliberately attempting to cause harm to their peers, but I do believe that they are not thinking about what they are doing or what the possible consequences are for being unkind. Quite often, when we confront students about their actions on line, they explain that they “didn’t mean to cause harm”,

We intend to include a very recent, student produced video to try to drive home our point that as easy as it is to not think about what they post, it is just as easy to help all of us remember to think before we post. This video plays on the parody of a virus that is priding and that “carrier” may not know that they are “infected”. It is a nice pay on words that makes a very serious point.

 Dose of Reality

We will try once again to have Linda Dutil come to GMS to speak to our kids about the realities of substance use and abuse. So far, this is our third attempt to Have Linda join us for this very important presentation for our kids. She will be here on Friday, February 13 and will present to our entire school.

Now, if we can only get the snow gods to cooperate, we may actually get to Friday without any more snow days…

MLTI Laptops over Vacation

We continue to work on upgrades to operating systems and add applications for our students to use in their learning every month. In order for us to complete these upgrade properly, we like to have the laptops here at GMS, on our network, so that we can test the systems and push out packages. (Boy, that is a lot of technical talk!) We also complete inventories and an audit of the devices for damages and defects.

So all of this says that the students will not be taking their laptops home over the February vacation.

Report Cards

As we have done for the past year and one half, report cards are available through the Infinite Campus Parent Portal. You can, if you would like, print out your child’s report card from the system quite easily. If you have any difficulties, just ask your kids, they do it all the time here.

If you would like us to send you a hard copy of your child’s report card, please contact Terry Lamontagne in the Guidance office. She will put one in the mail for you.

Had Enough Snow Yet??

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Upcoming Important Dates

Wednesday, February 4 – Early Release Day, students dismissed at 11:10 am
Wednesday, February 4 – Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey
Friday, February 6 – School Dance 6:00 – 8:00 pm GMS Gym
Friday, February 13 – A Dose of Reality Presentation, all students.

MIYHSMaine Integrated Youth Health Survey

On the early release day, Wednesday, February 4, all of our students will be administered the MIYHS. This survey is a collaborative effort of the Maine Department of Education and the Department pif Health and Human Services. The results of this survey is completely anonymous, we will get results on a school-wide basis, but we will have no idea as to the identity of any of the individual respondents.

The information the state gains from these surveys, given to all students in grade 5 through 10, are used to inform the state on the efficacy of the current programs and how these programs can be improved. You received a letter through first-class mail from the middle school informing you of this survey. If you have any questions about the survey, please give me a call at 222-1228.

A Dose of Reality

OK, I am officially sick and tired of the snow and the snow days! All of these days away from school are causing us to really do a DOR-GA, Marietta-Dodgen MS-May 8, 2009 011-paintquick two-step trying to reschedule all of the activities we have had planned.

We have rescheduled the presentation by Linda Dutil, R.N. to Friday, February 13. You may remember that she is the emergency room nurse from Waterville, Me who travel around the country with her very appropriate and direct presentation on dangers of substance abuse.

For more information on her presentation, check our her web site at a-dose-of-reality.com

Chinese Culture and Language Class

COnfusius InstWe are planning to begin the Chinese Culture and Mandarin Language Class this coming Thursday, February 5. There is still time to sign your 7th or 8th grade student! We have about 10 7th grade students signed up, but only 2 8th grade students enrolled. We could really use some more 8th graders! If you are interested in having your child gain this wonderful, enriching experience, give me a call at 222-1228 or send me an email at robert.riley@gorhamschools.org.

Many Attend Public Forum for Superintendent Candidate

There was a great turnout for the public forum with Heather Perry, the finalist for the position of Superintendent of Schools. I think I counted almost 60 members of the community plus another 15 administrators and teachers from the Gorham Schools. Thank you to all who took time out of your very busy schedules to participate in the event. Thank you also fro bringing some great questions to ask Ms. Perry so we could all get a better insight into who she would help take our schools forward.

We all know how difficult it has become to finance public education, and how many requirements have been placed upon the public schools of all our communities, we need to have someone who can truly take the lead in this work.

I hope that each of you gained a better idea of who Ms. Perry is and how she would do if she were selected our next Superintendent.

That Time of Year

BullyingThere is something about this time of year that tends to make our kids forget all that we have worked so hard to accomplish about kindness and what it means to be a “friend”. Over the past week, or so, we have had to deal with a couple of instances where our great kids have forgotten about our Code of Conduct and behaved in a manner that creates upset in our building.

Our Code of Conduct is ubiquitous in our building! We have signs everywhere reminding us all of the words we believe are so important in our district. When we speak with students about behaviors, not just the negative behaviors, we always bring the conversation to our “Code”.

In the past few weeks however, we have had some incidents of “cyber-meaness”. Why “cyber-meaness” and not cyberbullying, you might ask. For an answer I refer to Sameer Hinduja and Justin Patchin’s work Bullying: Beyond the Schoolyard, second edition and their definition of cyberbullying.

“…the willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones and other electronic devices…”

Willful: The behavior has to be deliberate, not accidental.
Repeated: Bullying reflects a pattern of behavior, not just one isolated incident.
Harm: The target must perceive that harm was inflicted.
Computers, Cell Phones and other electronic devices: This, of course, is what differentiates cyberbullying from traditional bullying.

The one element that Patchin and Hinduja seem to leave out explicitly from this list is the idea of imbalance of power. I think that the imbalance of power is definitely implied in their book about cyberbullying. I think we can sometimes lose sight of the power of a mean post online.

Let me use the example i mention above. The young person who made a single post, taking a picture of a piece of writing by another student and posting that picture on their Instagram. This was a single post, and it was discovered very early in the process This student was mortified that this could be bullying, let alone cyberbullying.

“I was just kidding”!  “I didn’t mean to hurt anyone”! These were the responses through the tears of remorse, and I do believe there was legitimate remorse with this student. This student had never been in any sort of trouble before and, in fact, had been an exemplary student in many ways during their time with us. This was very much out of character.

But, as we examined this incident using the lens offered by Hinduja and Patchin, we can see that this was indeed a real case of cyberbullying. This was very willful,  by that I mean it was deliberate post by this student. The target of this post could certainly feel that harm had come their way with this post as it was not something that was intended for the public to consume and it definitely used a computer, cell phone or electronic device to convey the message. The question comes about repeated, was this something that was repeated? My answer is a resounding YES! Think about this, this student placed out into the universe of cyberspace something that was not complimentary about another. While they only placed out there for their friends gov view, they lost control of the content. The possibility of this piece of content being repeatedly shared is exponentially increased. I think this would qualify as repeated.

It does bring to mind the Native American tale “Feathers in the Wind” which I share with the students quite often. Understanding that gossip, or any sort of unkind words, placed on the “wind”of cyberspace, take on a life of their own which the originator lost control. That misunderstanding by the originator was critical in how we dealt with them for consequences.

This video from NetSmartz is a great teaching tool for getting young kids to understand the power of gossip!