Looking Forward to a Great Fall Season


Upcoming Important Dates

Friday, September 19 – 1st School Dance of the year 6:00 – 8:00 pm GMS Gym
Monday, September 22 – 26 – NWEA Testing for 7th graders
Tuesday, September 23 – Odyssey of the Mind Awareness Night, 6:00 pm GMS Library
Tuesday, September 23 – Ice Hockey sign ups in the GMS Cafeteria, 6:30 pm
Wednesday, September 24 – Early Release Day, Students will be dismissed at 11:10 am
Monday, September 29 – October 3 – NWEA Testing for 6th graders
Tuesday, September 30 – Meet the Candidates Night at GMS 6:00 pm, GMS Cafeteria

School Dance

Our first dance of the school year is this Friday night from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm.ani-dance1

This is a great time for all of our kids to gather with friends and socialize and enjoy each others company. All of our school rules still apply as to behaviors and dress codes. I know this is an evening event where the opportunity for getting together and making impressions is very important to all of our students. This is where we need real help from home. Our dress code still applies to our dances, so I am asking that parents remind their children that this is a fun event and not a formal event, id students could dress accordingly, it would be appreciated.

Laptop Information

mlti-logoI really want to thank all who attended the MLTI Parent Orientation evenings we held earlier this week. We are in the process of collecting all of the information that the students have returned and we (actually, my secretaries!) are compiling the lists and making sure which parents want the devices to go home and which do not. When we get this part of the bookkeeping done, we will then allow the devices to go home, not latter than Monday, September 22nd however.

Again, thanks for your participation.

Common Sense Media and Emily Bazelon

CommonSenseMediaEach evening of the MLTI Parent Orientation Meeting, Terri Dawson and I mentioned Common Sense Media and Emily Bazelon, author of the book entitled Sticks and Stone: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy. (Phew! Long Title) Well, here is a video that has both of these people in one place, sticks and stonestalking about how to stem bullying in our schools.

And, as I write this, I am wondering if anyone would like to join a book group to read and discuss this book? I really would be interested in gathering with parents who are interested in learning more about this scourge in our society and I would love to expand this conversation beyond our school and into our community.

If this is of interest to any of you, please send me an email at robert.riley@gorhamschools.org

Fall Sports Season  Schedule

I will reprise our entry form our last post to make sure that everyone has a copy of our Fall Sports Schedule. I also want to remind all that weather can be our friend… or not! Please check the daily notices for changes to the sports game schedule as well as changes to daily practices.

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How was School Today?

Screenshot 2014-09-18 09.47.54So often, when our kids come home from a long day at school, we want to know how school was for them, so, we ask the question “How was school today? And our kids respond with something like “good” or “OK”, and that ends the conversation. And you want to know more!

The Huffington Post offered a wonderful article by Liz Evans on this subject with 25 different ways to elicit more tha a one word answer from your child. Several of the suggestions are really good and can really lead to some great discussions bout school and open the lines of communication between parents and children. Here is a link and I hope you enjoy. Liz Evans, How was School Today

Odyssey of the Mind Information Night

OM LogoGorham Schools are very lucky to have an active Odyssey of the Mind (OM) organization. Our students regularly compete at national levels and are very successful. The group gets together regularly during the school year under the direction of Diane Knott. All of the participants are so engaged in their work and in solving the problems that are presented by the National Organization. This is a great opportunity for students to practice working collaboratively refining their creative problem solving skills. This is also an excellent way for our students to practice the leadership skills they will need in the future. I encourage all parents to find out more about this activity for their children.

The informational night will be Wednesday, September 23rd in the GMS Library beginning at 6:00 pm. Parents and students are encouraged to attend and if you would like more information contact Diane Knott at email: diane.knott@gorhamschools.org or by phone 222-1376.

 Proficiency Based Education

By now, many of you have at least heard about Proficiency Based Education and that the state of Maine has made the decisions to base all graduation decisions on whether of not students attain proficiency in all 8 content areas. Now comes all of the hard work, and believe me, we (our faculty) are working very hard to comply with the law, but more importantly, we are working to make the learning for our students as real and engaging for them.

For years, we have used a system of communicating to parents the progress of their children’s learning that required teachers place a number of letter that would represent the entirety of the students’ learning. All of the work over a period of 45 days, or so, boiled down to a single letter or number to represent all of the complexities of the daily learning that happens in every class, for the entire grading period.

I get that we need to keep things efficient and as simple as possible, I do get it! I wonder, however, if some of the message we are trying to communicate to parents and students gets lost in the simplicity. I think that communicating about student learning is a far greater story than a single letter or number. And that is what we are working on as we strive to meet the mandates of the state while insuring that our students are getting the best from us.

We will continue to work on this and we will work to communicate with all of you about how these changes will impact our kids and their futures. I encourage anyone who has questions about subject, or any other for matter to contact me.

We will have plenty more about this topic here in the future. Until then…

Looking Forward to a Great Week!


Upcoming Important Dates

Monday, September 15 – MLTI Parent Meeting 6:00 pm GMS Auditorium
Monday, September 15 – 19- NWEA Testing for 8th grade
Tuesday, September 16 – MLTI Parent Meeting 6:00 pm GMS Auditorium
Tuesday, September 16 – Picture Day, Vision & Hearing Screening
Wednesday, September 17 – Information Night for the Washington, D.C. trip 6:30 pm at GMS Library
Friday, September 19 – 1st School Dance of the year 6:00 – 8:00 pm GMS Gym
Monday, September 22 – 26 – NWEA Testing for 7th graders
Tuesday, September 23 – Odyssey of the Mind Awareness Night, 6:00 pm GMS Library
Wednesday, September 24 – Early Release Day, Students will be dismissed at 11:10 am
Monday, September 29 – October 3 – NWEA Testing for 6th graders
Tuesday, September 30 – Meet the Candidates Night GMS Cafeteria 6:00 pm

MLTI Parent Nights

CommonSenseMediaOur annual nights for informing parents of the new and improved features of the MLTI Program and the devices will be on Monday and Tuesday night beginning at 6:00 pm in the GMS Auditorium.

This is something we are trying for the first time. If this works well, you may see more of me!

WGME School Spirit Challenge

This coming Friday, September 19th, GHS will be participating in the WGME News 13 School Spirit Challenge. Channel 13 will be on campus all morning, beginning at 5:00 am School Spirit Challenge(yup, that’s right,5:00 am). As part of the Challenge, school collect nonperishable foods for the Good Shepherd Food Bank. The school that collects the most food, as measured in pounds, will win the season long competition against several school from all over the Channel 3 viewing area. We at GMS are determined to help our fellow Gorham students win that challenge, so over this week, we will be collecting canned and other nonperishable foods. Our plan is to bring what we collect over to the high school on Thursday night to be added to what the students from the high school bring, Let’s hoe we can collect a whole bunch of cans and boxes!

For more information on the Spirit Challenge, check out the WMGE 13 web site.

Early Release Day Activities

On Wednesday, September 24, the entire school will be working to produce a Lipdub for the Macy’s Lipdub competition. As I mentioned in our last post, our students will lip dub to Beach Boys all time favorite, Be True to Your School. We hope to have all students, through their advisories, join in the making of this video. Just as a short reminder, here is our last Lipdub done 3 years ago to our great friend Flo Rida.

School Picture Day, Tuesday

a=school pcJust a short reminder that all students will have their pictures taken on Tuesday, September 16, by Life Touch Studios. The pictures will be available for purchase by parents either in the package plans they offer or on an a la carte basis. If you want pictures, but don’t want one of the packages, just call the customer service line and order what ever pictures you want.

NWEA Testing

Over the next 3 weeks, each grade will participate in the administration of the Northwest Education Assessment (NWEA) tests. These assessments are nwea_logo_twittersquare_biggergiven on the computer and they serve to assist us in planning for what students may need in the coming school year. The results of the assessments do not have any weight on the students report cards but they do give a fairly clear picture about the strengths and weaknesses of each student.

Usually, the testing last about 3 to 4 class periods for each students, so there should not be a great disruption to the normal student day.

US CapitalWashington, D.C. Information Night

Any 8th grader interested in traveling to our Nation’s capital with a group of your classmates during the April school vacation, April 20 -25, 2015. The meeting will last approximately 30 minutes. For more information, contact Melanie Doran at melanie.doran@gorhamschools.org

First School Dance of the Year

DancersIt is that time again for the clock to creep to an alarmingly slow speed.No, not really, the two hours of the dance seems to travel incredibly fast for the students and equally as slow for the adults who monitor these dances. In any event, the evening is filled with lots of fun for the kids and our DJ Parfecta (Mr. Parvanta) always finds the perfect combination of slow dance music and not so slow dance music to keep all of our kids entertained.

Truly, we look forward to seeing our kids enjoy their time in school, which they seem to do at the dances. Now, if we could only figure out how to get that much energy from them during the normal school day!!!

Fall Sports Schedules

We have, hot off the presses, our Fall Sports Schedule for all to cut out and put on the refrigerator door. As with all sports schedules in the Northeast, we are subject to some strange weather and that weather can wreak havoc on our best laid plans. I would advise all to check our daily notices, published to the Middle School web page for any changes or updates to this schedule, as well as the practice schedules put out by each coach.


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Odyssey of the Mind Awareness Night

There will be an evening meeting for all folks interested in learning more about how OM works and what kinds of great adventures students can experience when that participate in this activity. Join Diane Knott in the Library of GMS at 6:00 pm on Tuesday, September 23 to learn more about your child could expect. For more information about OM, email Diane at diane.knott@gorhamschools.org

We are Beginning to Hit Our Stride


Upcoming Important Dates

Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday, September 9, 10 & 11 – Laptops Deployed
Wednesday, September 10 – Gorham Education Foundation meeting 6:30 pm Recreation Building
Wednesday, Thursday & Friday, September 10, 11 & 12 – Tooth Fairies
Monday, September 15 – MLTI Parent Meeting 6:00 pm GMS Auditorium
Tuesday, September 16 – MLTI Parent Meeting 6:00 pm GMS Auditorium
Tuesday, September 16 – Picture Day, Vision & Hearing Screening
Friday, September 19 – 1st School Dance of the year 6:00 – 8:00 pm GMS Gym

Tooth Fairies Postponed

tooth fairyThe Tooth Fairies, a group of Dental Hygienists who travel to school offering free dental health services, had to postpone their arrival at GMS. Don’t fret, however, as they have rescheduled to October 15 – 17. This gives some of you who may not have signed up time to do so. If you would like your child to receive these very important dental health service, please call Teresa Merrill and arrange an appointment.

Gorham Education Foundation (GEF)

GEF logo1-u149We have received word that the Gorham Education Foundation will be holding their first meeting of the school year this Wednesday evening (September 10) in the Recreation Building near the Library at 6:30 pm.

The GEF is a non-profit foundation, under the guidelines of the IRS 501-c-3, that raise funds to support the mission of the Gorham Schools. They hold regular events to raise funds and awareness of, and for the Gorham Schools.

For more information on the Gorham Educational Foundation email: gorhamef@gmail.com

GMS is on Twitter

You can follow Gorham Middle School on Twitter now at @GorhamMiddleSch,if you have your own Twitter account. If you haven’t joined the Twitterverse, you twitter_newbird_boxed_whiteonbluecan still access our Twitter feed by going to http://twitter.com/GorhamMiddleSch.

We plan to offer some views into the day-today happenings at GMS and to feature some of the very innovative and engaging activities that happen on a typical day. We will also use the medium to inform our community into all upcoming activities. We look forward to having you join us.

Picture Day

Next Tuesday, September 16th, all students will have their picture taken by the good folks at Life Touch Studios. We will use the student images for our Student a=school pcInformation System as well as offer to parents and families the opportunity to purchase packages of photos for family enjoyment. Life Touch has provided us with some very high quality portraits for families to frame and give as gifts or to just enjoy looking at over the years.

We have sent home descriptions of the photos and possible packages for purchase by families with your child in their backpack. Life Touch has put together several possible options for purchase, you  just need complete the information on the sheet along with your selections and have your child bring it with them on Tuesday/

Life Touch has been willing to work with us to help all families record the early years of their children. If you do not find a package that meets your requirements, or you think may be too expensive but you want one 8×10, please give the phone number on that order sheet a call and tell them what you would like. They are after all in the business of selling pictures, so I am willing to bet they will work with you. If they don’t, give me a call and I will see what I can do.

Sports and Physicals

The fall sports season has begun with practices commencing yesterday after school. I am not sure how many kids we have signed up so far, but it was really great to see all of our fields filled with young people running and jumping and kicking. The schedules are being finalized for the middle school and as soon as I have it, I will get it up on the Middle School Web site.

In order for our students to participate in sports, students must have a current physical on file with the school. By current, we mean within two years. One thing that happens often is that physicals “run out” or expire during the school year because the actual date of the physical was later in the school year. If you have any questions about your child’s physical date, give the office a call and we’ll check.

Safety Drills

BFD2During the first week of school we held two fire drills for our students and teachers. We usually conduct 8 to 10 fire drills during the course of the year and 2 to 3 lockdown safety drills. Our goal is to never have to use any of these exercises for real, but we do practice all of these safety exercises to be prepared.

We will, in all likelihood, hold a coup,e of more fire drills with the students this fall while the weather remains comfortable. We will also be putting up obstacles during the evacuation so that students and teachers will revert to plan B and move students in a different direction and to a different evacuation point. We usually do this with first responders observing and providing critiques for how we can improve.

We will also hold the lockdown drills in the coming months. We will notify our community of parents and guardians of these events before hand so that you will not be getting any strange texts from your kids about an emergency at the middle school.

Mandarin Language and Culture Offering

COnfusius InstWe will again be offering to our 7th & 8th graders an opportunity to participate in the Mandarin and Culture course offered through the Confucius Institute at the University of Southern Maine. The course will meet on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays during the students EICAL period. Unfortunately, students who are in band or chorus will not be able to participate in this offering as that is when band and chorus has their rehearsals.

If you are interested in having your child participate in this wonderful offering, please send me an email or give me a call.

After School Library

The GMS library is open for students who wish to use the resources of our Library for homework or research. The Library is manned by Mr. Carpenter beginning at 2:30big_bookworm_color until the late bus at 4:00 pm. Students are expected to be working on school work while they are in the Library and not just be gathering for social purposes.

This is a great chance for students who may need some help in finding resources for their projects or getting some assistance with getting homework done. The Library is also a nice quiet place for some great reading time in an environment that is conducive to quiet reading.

Parents may pick up their child before 4:00 pm if they would like by going to the Library and getting their child.

GMS is Doing Another LipDub

I can’t believe it was four years ago that we performed a whole school activity that was very new to me called a Lipdub. Mr. Flo Rida provided us with the “Good Feelin'” and all of our students and teachers got into the spirit of the day. With the exception of the two folks introducing the event, the kids and students were terrific. So, if you’ll fast forward past the old folks at the beginning you can see our first try at a LipDub.

We are now going to try to make this work positively for GMS, given our experience. Macy’s, the huge department store (do they still call them that!?!) is offering significant cash prizes for the top three LipDubs in a national contest of middle and high schools across the country. Each school is required to follow a set of rules, which we already know we can do, and upload the video to the Macy’s Youtube account.

Here are the rules of the contest and a sample of what a LipDub might look like.

Keeping Maine Students Safe

dhhs-logo-footer2We have received several advisories from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention regarding mosquito borne illnesses. Eastern Equine Encephalitis and West Nile Virus have been detected in a few mosquito pools in southern Maine and the Healt Department advises that we take precautions. We have sent home with your child several fact sheets on both of these mosquito borne illnesses as well as a sheet with preventative measures that parents can take to protect their children.

At present, there have been identified cases of either illness in the Gorham area, but we will continue to monitor the Maine CDC website for updates and we will keep you informed if we learn more.

 More From our School Nurse

More and more we are hearing in the news about how certain childhood diseases are on the rise. Diseases such as measles and mumps and even polio are making a big comeback across America and the world. Many of the stories that I have seen are laying the resurgence of these diseases on the lax immunization protocols and, sometimes a fear of the possible negative side effects of some of the immunizations.

The state of Maine has requirements of schools to insure that schools remain safe by requiring proof of immunization of all students. There are exceptions allowed for philosophical and religious reasons, we just need to have those exceptions documented and on file.

If you have any questions about your child and the requirements for immunizations, please give Teresa Merrill, School Nurse a call.

Until next time…


We Have Liftoff!


Upcoming Important Dates

Thursday, August 28 – 1st Day of school for grades 7 & 8
Friday, August 29 – No School
Monday, September 1 – Labor Day, No School
Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday, September 10,  11 & 12 – Laptops Deployed
Wednesday, Thursday & Friday, September 10, 11 & 12 – Tooth Fairies
Monday, September 15 – MLTI Parent Meeting 6:00 pm GMS Auditorium
Tuesday, September 16 – MLTI Parent Meeting 6:00 pm GMS Auditorium
Tuesday, September 16 – Picture Day, Vision & Hearing Screening
Friday, September 19 – 1st School Dance of the year 6:00 – 8:00 pm GMS Gym

No School on Friday August 29 or Monday September 1

Just a reminder that we will have no school for students and teachers on Friday and Monday to allow all families to enjoy one, final long weekend. I hope that the weather holds out for all of us to be able to enjoy all of the activities and family get togethers that are planned for the Labor Day weekend.

We will get back to business on Tuesday, September 2nd for the long haul to Thanksgiving (with a few breaks in between).

MLTI Laptop Deployment

mlti-logoMike Nash and our entire Tech Department have spent the entire summer getting all of the laptops ready for the new school year. There are some new features on theses devices, as there are every year and we will go over those changes during the MLTI Parent Nights on September 15 & 16.

We will deploy the laptops to each grade level beginning on Tuesday, September 10 to the 8th graders, and then we will get the 7th grade and 6th grade on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively. The student will not be able to bring their devices home, if parent choose to allow that, until after the meetings and after all of the paperwork has been completed> I think we can expect to allow the devices to go home to those students whose parents chose to allow it, on Monday, September 22.

Tooth Fairies coming to GMS

tooth fairyOK, not real fairies, but real “people doing good things” for our community.

The Tooth Fairies are a group of dental hygienists who travel around to school offering free, or low cost, dental health services. It is a wonderful service that allows parents to have their child’s teeth checked and cleaned for little or no cost, usually no cost!

If you want your child to have these services here at school, please complete the form that was sent home in the summer mailing and return it to the Main Office of GMS by Friday, September 5th. Those who have the forms completed will be contacted with the date and time of their child’s appointment. The Tooth Fairies will be at GMS on Wednesday,Thursday & Friday, September 10, 11 & 12. The appointment will happen during the school day, and may mean your child will miss a portion of one of their classes.

If you have any other questions about the Tooth Fairies or other health related issues, please contact Teresa Merrill, School Nurse.

MLTI Parent Nights

putthis_on_calendar_clip_artWe are required every year to present an evening of information and digital citizenship to the parents of middle school students who will be using the MLTI issued laptops. As I mentioned above, this evening information session is required for students and families that wish to have the laptops go home.

This year, we are planning a very vigorous session on Digital Citizenship and what parents can do to help their child become positive constructive users of technology. We will be introducing all parents to the CommonSenseMedia web site and the many tips and strategies they offer to help parents who may struggle to keep up with the rapidly changing world of technology.

Please plan to attend one of these informative evenings. The night will begin at 6:00 pm in the GMS Auditorium.

Picture Day

The all important and much anticipated Picture Day will happen this year on Wednesday, September 16. We will have a schedule set up for the students by grade and by team. Again, our pictures will a=school pcbe done by LifeTouch Pictures.

Last year, I heard some concerns that the passages were too expensive and really didn’t offer the bare minimum. I have spoken to LifeTouch and they have assured me that they will address this issue, but I was told that if parents only want one picture, they can do that. They may need to call customer service or use the online shopping option, but any pictures that parents want of their child will be available, not just the packages.

Vision and Hearing Screening

School Nurse Teresa Merrill will also be doing vision and hearing screening for all 7th grade students, and a few selected other students,on the day of the school pictures. These screenings are required of the schools for all 7th graders, and doing them on the picture day makes for fewer interruptions in the school week.

One Last Thought on the Dress Code

First, we have NOT banned students from wearing yoga pants! We understand that yoga pants are comfortable for people wearing them and they are stylish as well. We do expect that all pants are worn at “the natural waist line”. We still are not interesting in seeing students’ undergarments, (this includes boxers, bras, including sports bras and bra straps) as well as bare bellies or the large cut T-Shirts that expose much of the side of male and female students.

We still don’t allow students to wear clothing that promote drugs, violence, sexual activity or hate speech. What we are trying to create is an environment that will allow for the larding process to maximized, free from disruptions or distractions.

The one test I use, and this may not be for everyone, but I asked my kids (when they were students), “would your grandmother approve of what you’re wearing?” Now, to be fair, their grandmother was born in 1915, so she had a very different view of how children should be dressed, but it worked for me… for a while!


Ready, Set…


Upcoming Important Dates

Tuesday, August 26 – GMS Open House 6:00 – 7:00 pm
Wednesday, August 27 – 1st Day of school for 6th grade
Thursday, August 28 – 1st Day of school for grades 7 & 8
Friday, August 29 – No School
Monday, September 1 – Labor Day, No School
Wednesday, Thursday & Friday, September 10, 11 & 12 – Tooth Fairies
Monday, September 15 – MLTI Parent Meeting 6:00 pm GMS Auditorium
Tuesday, September 16 – MLTI Parent Meeting 6:00 pm GMS Auditorium
Tuesday, September 16 – Picture Day, Vision & Hearing Screening

GMS Open House

Our first big event of the school year will be on August 26 at 6:00 pm as all of our teachers will have their rooms ready for the annual open house. Teachers will welcome parents beginning at 6:00 pm until 7:00 pm in their classrooms. We will have lots of information available to parents on tables in the foyer of the school as well as our library and cafeteria. We hope to you all at GMS on Tuesday (holy smokes, that’s a week a way!)

Preparation for the New Year

We are all very busy getting the school ready for the arrival of almost 660 students on August 27 (first day for all the students). The floors have been waxed, the walls have been scrubbed and painted where needed. Each of the classrooms now has projectors mounted to the ceilings. This helps us keep the students safe from accidentally tripping on the many wires on the floor. It also makes our insurance carriers very happy! Our supplies are arriving daily, restocking our emptied store rooms with paper and pens, markers, rulers (do we still use those?), graphing paper and the all important erasers (‘cuz we do make mistakes).

We are also doing lots of work to comply with the newest laws regarding Common Core and Proficiency Based Learning. Over the summer, we have attended several workshops, listened to several videos and read lots of the newest articles to make sure that we are ready for the coming shift.

Now, all we need are the students! I can’t wait for them to arrive, even though that means the end of summer and the coming of what the Old Farmers Almanac calls “A Winter of Super Cold!”

The First Days of School

As we have for the past couple of years, we will welcome the 6th Graders on Wednesday, August 27th, just the 6th graders! They will have the whole school to themselves to explore and get comfortable. The 6th graders will have a chance to get to meet all of their teachers, as well as the teachers at 7th grade and 8th grade, just so that they can put names to faces and feel comfortable and safe in our school.

We will also have plenty of time to take care of the two most dreaded items that brand new middle school students encounter, the combination lock for their locker and the lunch line in the cafeteria. If there are any areas that cause more consternation and angst among our new students, it is these two areas, initially. I promise that once they feel as though they have these conquered, they will turn their attention to items such as wearing the right kind of shoes, having the latest style of jeans and appropriately styled T-Shirts. But, first they must conquer the combination locks and the lunch line with a correct PIN.

The rest of the students will all arrive on Thursday, August 28th. The students will report to their Advisors first thing. While we will not have a typical day for all students, they will have time to attend all of their classes and meet all of their teachers.

Save the Date

We are required by our lease agreement with the state of Maine to hold an annual meeting to discuss the use of the MLTI provided devices (laptops) before we allow them to go home with the students. We have set aside two evenings, Monday, September 15 and Tuesday, September 16 at 6:00 pm for these meetings. You only need to attend one of these meetings and you must sign the appropriate permission sheets and acknowledgment forms to allow your child to use the laptops away from school.

I remind all parents that the final decision about whether a laptop goes home with the student rests with the parents. Part of the acknowledgment is that the parent accepts responsibility for the device in the event that it is damaged. We have, in the past, developed several methods to limit that liability for parents, and we will be discussing these methods at these meetings.

We will also use these meetings to help parents gain a greater understanding about how to keep your children safe while they are on line and other strategies to keep your child cyber-safe.

New Staff at GMS

There have been some changes at GMS since the students left last June. We have a bunch of new folks working with our students at different grade levels. One of our teams has changed their name to reflect the island off the Maine coast with the tallest lighthouse (recently sold at auction), The Boon Island Team at the 8th grade.

So over the next few weeks I will be introducing you to some of our new staff, beginning with our newest teaching staff:

Because of retirements, we have hired 2 new English/language arts teachers. The Boon Island Team will be joined  Mary Guimond. Mary is very familiar with Gorham and many of our students may have had Mary as a substitute teacher last year. Mary completed her training at the University of Southern Maine in the ETEP program. During her internship period, she was placed at Gorham High School as well as Biddeford Middle School. Mary also coaches the girls ice hockey team and girls lacrosse team at Gorham High School. We are very excited to have Mary join the GMS team.

Meghan Rounds will be joining the Sebago team at the 6th grade. Meghan comes to us with experience teaching in the Richmond, Me school district and with a couple of years as an educator with the Portland Water District. Meghan has actually taught several of our students over the years through they program. We are excited to welcome Meghan to our team.

I will work on getting pictures of everyone for the next edition.

Looking forward to the beginning…

Well, That was Interesting…


Upcoming Important Dates

Tuesday, August 26 – GMS Open House 6:00 – 7:00 pm
Wednesday, August 27 – 1st Day of school for 6th grade
Thursday, August 28 – 1st Day of school for grades 7 & 8
Friday, August 29 – No School
Monday, September 1 – Labor Day, No School
Wednesday, Thursday & Friday, September 10, 11 & 12 – Tooth Fairies
Monday, September 15 – MLTI Parent Meeting 6:00 pm GMS Auditorium
Tuesday, September 16 – MLTI Parent Meeting 6:00 pm GMS Auditorium
Tuesday, September 16 – Picture Day, Vision & Hearing Screening

The Conversation on Dress Codes

Last week, I mentioned in this space the difficulties of crafting a dress code that was not slanted towards restricting one gender because the other gender might be distracted by the choice of dress of the other. This caused some comments from the Twitter-verse and from some parents of GMS. That is what I had hoped would happen, the beginning of a conversation.

As I said in the post, at the end of the school year,I had a few teachers, male and female, comment on what we needed to do regarding our young girls who wear yoga pants. They used terms such as “disruptive of the teaching process”, ” distracting to the male students” and “it can be uncomfortable for some”, when expressing why I needed to do something.

The way students dress for school has been an issue for generations. Check out this video from the 1950’s to see what “juvenile delinquents” would try to get away with when they went to school and what the “proper” students should wear:

In the early 60’s, during the “British Invasion” to our shores, hair styles became the item of the moment. Schools enacted hair style restrictions to limit the length of the hair boys were able to sport. I can remember on more than one occasion, having the debate with my dad about the length of my hair. He wanted me to comb my hair back, off my forehead, but the style that the Beatles made famous, a bit long and combed across my forehead, was my chosen style.

In schools during this time, administration had rules about how long boys hair could be, using hair over the ears, or on the collar as the rule. I do remember some of my classmates who were suspended from school and strongly advised to visit the barber before returning to school. Interestingly, those that were suspended did visit the barber before returning to school and there were no more incidents of long hair. Hmmmm…

During the late 60’s, hair got longer, the clothing styles changed dramatically and schools were faced with considerably more complex problems with dress codes. In fact, the US Supreme Court had to weigh in on a couple of incidents where students were disciplined for their choice of style of clothing. In Tinker v. DesMoines Board of Education, the court ruled that clothing styles were a form of speech and as such, could not be absolutely restricted. The phrase that the Court used was that “students did not leave their first amendment rights at the school yard door…”, thereby freeing students to express themselves, within certain limits.

Many of the case that went before the courts had to do with the anti-war sentiment that was pervasive during this time.

I guess what I am trying to communicate here is that every generation has had definite issues about how our young people dress while attending school. It seems that we adults have an amnesia about our lives as adolescents. Whether is was Elvis Presley and his sideburns, or the Beatles with their “mop heads”, the hippies and their long hair and scruffy look or, most recently, the baggy, low-riding pants that many of our young men wore showing off their Joe Boxers, school administrators have worked to find ways to get our kids to conform.

We have a wonderful Code of Conduct. The words mean so much more than their dictionary definitions, and they are truly words that need to be put into action. Respect, Responsibility, Courage, Compassion and Honesty are a common thread in the fabric of our school. The meanings are broad enough to encompass a culture of acceptance of others, as well as a positive image of ourselves. Let’s use our Code as our guideline for all that we do at GMS.

A Great Resource for Parents

Occasionally, in this space, I offer different items that I come across in my travels. One of my favorites are all of the offerings from CommonSenseMedia. However, I have been introduced to a teacher, author, mother and Twitter friend who has so many real practical offerings to help all of us help our kids reach more successful lives.

Jessica Lahey is a teacher, a writer and has appeared on radio and TV, so I guess she is famous! More importantly, she is a very practical voice of reason in a time where the voice of reason is noticeably absent. She writes a bi-weekly piece for the New York Times as well as pieces for The Atlantic and Huffington Post Education. She can be followed on Twitter at @jesslahey and her blog at http://comingofageinthemiddle.blogspot.com.

I would suggest that you explore what she has to offer, especially the NY Times pieces called Motherlode. She is truly a breath of fresh air, and, as all parents of middle school aged children know, fresh air is a rare commodity.

Until Next Week…


Getting Ready for The New School Year


Upcoming Important Dates

Tuesday, August 26 – GMS Open House 6:00 – 7:00 pm
Wednesday, August 27 – 1st Day of school for 6th grade
Thursday, August 28 – 1st Day of school for grades 7 & 8
Friday, August 29 – No School
Monday, September 1 – Labor Day, No School
Wednesday, Thursday & Friday, September 10, 11 & 12 – Tooth Fairies
Monday, September 15 – MLTI Parent Meeting 6:00 pm GMS Auditorium
Tuesday, September 16 – MLTI Parent Meeting 6:00 pm GMS Auditorium
Tuesday, September 16 – Picture Day, Vision & Hearing Screening

Not to be a “Debbie Downer!”

I know that summer is just beginning, and we are all still formulating plans for that fishing trip or family gathering. I, too, really don’t want to be thinking about this, but as the great philosopher Yoda says “think, we must”.

So, with that in mind, we have scheduled to GMS Open House for the evening of August 26th from 6:00 – 7:00 pm. Teachers will be in their rooms to meet the parents and guardians of their new students. We all hope to see you all there. It will be a great time to meet our “old” staff and the new faces that will be joining the GMS Family for the coming year.

Student Handbook Revisions

As we do each summer, we examine our Student Handbook for areas where we need to make changes. We intend to publish the Student Handbook in Ibook Author which will allow everyone to see it, regardless of what computer platform you use. It should also be available on other devices as well, such as smart phone and tablets.

The area that seems to cause the most concern and consternation is our dress code! Given that styles are ever changing, and the retailers are marketing specifically to our aged kids with an eye toward making them seem older than the really are, becomes a problem for most middle schools.

We, meaning me, really struggle with writing a dress code that does not single out one gender over the other, and yet most dress codes seem to do exactly that.

In our school, our male students have eschewed the baggy, low riders that displayed their boxers. A couple of years ago, the skinny jeans were in style for many of our male students, but that, too seems to have passed. We now have the yoga pants fad going through our school for our female students, and that seems to be causing quite a stir among our faculty as well as around the country.

I have done a little research on this in the past week and I have discovered that we definitely are not alone with this issue. Seems that schools all across the country are facing this new fad. How they are responding to their girls wearing yoga pants, which tend to be body conforming, is not unexpected, they are banning their students from wearing them.

I am not sure we are sending an appropriate message when we ban things like yoga pants from schools because it is, in fact, gender specific. In some manner, it may be perceived that the “good order of the school” relies on what the girls are wearing, this somehow feels unbalanced.

I have survived the middle school years, albeit 15 to 20 years ago. The schools my kids went to had dress codes that restricted what the students could wear. I didn’t find that I had to fight too much with my kids about what they wore, mostly because my and I bought their clothes, and we didn’t purchase the kinds of clothes that made my daughter look older than she was. Also, she was quite level headed and involved in other things to worry about what she wore.

It also helped that I was teaching at the school and she didn’t have the opportunity to leave the house wearing one set of clothes and then changing into other clothes when she got to school. This has happened with several of our students in the past year!

In any event, we will be making some adjustments to our dress code this summer. We will try mightily to make sure that we do not isolate on one gender with too many restrictions. And, we will be asking parents to be mindful as the  begin the process of “Back-To-School” shopping of succumbing to the wishes of “Madison Avenue” and the Disney Channel Kids shows, and looking for clothes that will be functional for school, easy on the pocket book and doesn’t make you child look 5 years older than they really are!

As an aside, I came across this article from an Evanston, Illinois newspaper about the dress code at one of their middle schools. I think you’ll find this interesting! Haven Middle School Dress Code Protest

Student Placement Issues

We have received a few calls and emails regarding the placement of kids on teams for next year. I appreciate all of you for understanding our process of placement and the lengths we go to to try and make teams that make sense for our entire school. We do try to make sure that each child has  friend with them on their team. In some cases, we have even been able to get friends in the same advisory, but not always!

Just a reminder about requesting changes of placement for your child. We have four possible conditions to which we can respond:

  • Negative prior experience with your child and a particular teacher;
  • Prior negative experience with an older sibling and a particular teacher;
  • Issue with another student that rises to the level of legal action between the families, and;
  • A neighbor, relative or close friend as the teacher that would create an uncomfortable situation for the child, teacher or family.

We will be back in the office during the second week of August, so if you have any questions regarding placement, you can call us then. You can also email us if you have a question that we can answer. We do monitor our emails often during the summer.

 Student Supply Lists

At the annual step up day this past June, your child should have received a supplies list from their next year team. The list usually includes items such as notebooks, 3-ringed binders, pencils, pens, index cards, markers, etc. I know these are all very important items for school. I also know that your child will want to feel prepared when they arrive at school on that first day. So, that means that you will begin hearing about all of the things that will be “necessary” on that first day of school.

I have cautioned the teachers to make sure that all requested supplies are “necessary” and just “what we have always done”. I can assure you that no child will be made to feel uncomfortable on those first days of school if they don’t have everything on their supply list!

I have always been shocked by the total  cost of all of the items on these lists. I must say, however, our teachers do a really good job of keeping the lists short, but, depending on grade level and team, the cost of all of the items on the list can exceed $100! And some of the items will not be needed until 2nd semester!

So, please use your best judgment, not about what is on the list, nut about what you can reasonably afford, when you head out for back to school shopping. (there, I said “Back to School”!)

Summer Reading Recommendations fro CommonSenseMedia.com

CommonSenseMedia Over the past several years, I have recommended CommonSenseMedia.com as a great resource for all things about your kids. Things like newly released movies and video games, ideas about how to help your child deal with issues about bullying, and so many more topics. Here is a review of some books for teens from 12 to 17 years old that might help both you and your child pick out some interesting summer reading books.

CommonSenseMedia not only makes a recommendation according to genre and style, they also give you a very nice synopsis of the book to help you decide if it is right for your child. Check them out at CommonSenseMedia. While you’re visiting the site, check out all of the other great features they offer to parents to help you deal with technology, video games and even friendships.