Off to a Great Start

topperMiddle

Upcoming Important Dates

Thursday, September 3 – Sign-ups for Cross Country 7:45 am in the Ping Pong Room
Friday, September 4 – No School
Monday, September 7 – Labor Day Holiday, No School
Tuesday, September 8 – Late Buses start after school.
Tuesday, September 8 – Sign-ups for Chorus and Steel Band
Monday, September 14 – MLTI Parent Orientation Meeting 6:00 pm GMS Auditorium
Tuesday, September 15 – MLTI Parent Orientation Meeting 6:00 pm GMS Auditorium
Friday, September 18 – School Dance 6:00 – 8:00 pm GMS Gymnasium

A Huge “Thank You” to all Coming to Our Open House

In speaking with the staff this morning, the overwhelming adjective they used to describe last night’s Open House was, well, “overwhelmed”! Each and every faculty member commented on the amazing turnout of so many of our parents coming by to have the children introduce their advisors and the new teachers. Thank you to every one who came out!

Sports Sign-ups

Boy’s and Girl’s Soccer for both 7th and 8th Grade are currently signing up players for the coming season. If a student is interested in trying out for any of these teams, they should sign up. The sign up sheets are posted on the glass windows just outside the cafeteria.

7th & 8th Grade Field Hockey are singing up as well and those sign up sheets are outside the cafeteria as well.

6th, 7th 7 8th grade coed Tennis will be starting next week as well.

Any student in grade 6, 7 or 8, interested in running Cross Country this season, should attend an organizational meeting Thursday Morning (tomorrow) in the Ping Pong Room in the corridor behind the Gym. The meeting begins at 7:45 am and will last only 10 minutes or so. If a student forgets, or misses the meeting, they should meet with Mr. McCarthy sometime during the day or early next week to sign up.

Late Bus Begins

We will begin the Late Bus Runs on Tuesday, September 8. The buses pick up students at GMS at 4:00 pm. This is perfect because it coincides with the end of practice and all activities at GMS. Students will get on one of three possible buses that head out in different directions across Gorham. We have a map available in the foyer of the Middle School so that students can find where the live and decide which bus will take them to their home.

The Late Buses run Mondays through Thursdays, with the exception of the early release days.

Band, Chorus and Steel Band

Any student interested in joining Chorus, band or the Steel Band are invited to sign up. There is no experience necessary for any of these activities and there is plenty of fun and enjoyment in each one. Please encourage your child to try something new this year that might extend them “just beyond their comfort zone”!

MLTI Parent Orientation Nights

As we have since the beginning of the MLTI program, we will be holding our mandatory parent orientation night on Monday and Tuesday evening, September 14 and 15. The evening will begin at 6:00 pm and we will try to keep the night’s work to an hour!

We do have a lot to offer all parents in assisting you in managing your kids and their use of technology at home. We are still working on a couple of items that will help us control how much the kids “abuse” the devices over the weekends and in the evenings.

We also need to have a conversation about the “gorhamschools.org Apple ID” accounts for our students who have not yet reached the age of 13, which is more than half of our student body!

For some of you, this might be the 8th or 9th time you have “had” to attend one of these events, so I promise you, we will make valuable to you and , perhaps, even surprise some of you with new information!

Please circle one of these two dates to join us in the Auditorium.

Let’s Start a Book Group

OK, I know that I am no Oprah! But, I have been reading a wonderful book about parenting and teaching adolescents in the modern era. I have written about this book in this space a couple of times, but I would really like to get a group of folks together so that we could explore all that Jessica Lahey, author of The Gift of Failure, offers to us as a way to help guide us toward making our kids more autonomous in their decision making and in their contributions to your family and to the education.

If you could email me indicating your interest in joining other parents and teachers in reading and discussing this great book, that would be great. I have heard from a couple of parents who are interested in starting a group and it would be great to get it going in October.

Sleep Deprivation and School Kids

It is that time again, when all of the demands of school, you know, homework, reading, socializing over social media, in no particular order of importance, start to compete with our kids sleep time. Not because the kids are going to sleep any earlier, but because the alarm clock goes off and that big yellow bus or the school bell ringing intrudes upon the morning of all of our kids.

The above mentioned Jessica Lahey offers some really good information from the American Academy of Pediatrics and how sleep deprivation impacts the lives of our kids and their families.

The article is from The Altantic and I hope you enjoy it!

Finally, An Interesting Video

John Green is an American author of a series of books written mostly for young adults, but I think that he appeals to many more than just the young adults. In this TEDx Indianapolis video he uses his skills as a writer to expose some very interesting and enlightening insights into his own learning and how he views learning could be.

The video is about 19 minutes long, but he is very engaging, entertaining and, at times, rather funny. I hope you enjoy it.

 

Until next time…

The First Day is Fast Approaching

topperMiddle

Upcoming Important Dates

Monday, August 31 – 6th Graders’ first day of school
Tuesday, September 1 – First day for 7th & 8th Graders
Tuesday, September 1 – GMS Open House 6:00 – 7:00 pm
Wednesday, September 2 – School Pictures
Friday, September 4 – No School
Monday, September 7 – Labor Day Holiday, No School
Monday, September 14 – MLTI Parent Orientation Meeting 6:00 pm GMS Auditorium
Tuesday, September 15 – MLTI Parent Orientation Meeting 6:00 pm GMS Auditorium
Friday, September 18 – School Dance 6:00 – 8:00 pm GMS Gymnasium

Getting Ready for the School Year

In mid July, we emailed out to all families the supplies list that your child’s team was requesting that the kids come to school with on the first day of school. Since that time, we have had almost 20 new students enroll in school! We ill be getting updated list back on the middle school web site on Monday, so that everyone will know what they need for the coming school year.

I am going to ask each team, however, try to pare down their lists with an eye towards lessening the burden upon families for a large cash outlay, when some of the supplies may not be needed until later in the school year. Hopefully, our new lists will reflect that reduction.

GMS Open House

We hope to see all of you at the Annual Gorham Middle School Open House on Tuesday, September 1 beginning at 6:00 pm until 7:00 pm. We will have lots of information available to parents about what will be happening during the coming school year for your children.

If you want to volunteer in the Gorham Schools, there is a process that we must follow, For example, if you’d like chaperone at one of our dances, you need to be registered as a volunteer. If you’d like to chaperone a field trip, you need to be registered. You can sign up for the orientation meetings on Tuesday night in our foyer.

Have you ever wondered why your child seems to go through the money in his/her luck account so quickly, or  how can you accommodate your child’s special dietary needs? Our Cafeteria Manager will be present to answer all of your questions.

We will have all sorts of information on the many different clubs we have at the middle school, as well as sign ups for all of the fall sports teams.

And, all of your child’s teachers will be present to meet you and show you their classrooms.

So,please, circle the date on your calendar and stop on by and see us!

School Pictures

We have schedule the folks from Lifetouch to be at GMS on Wednesday, September 2 to take individual pictures of our students. These pictures will be used in Infinite Campus, our Student Information System, our annual school yearbook and for ID cards that will be distributed to the students.

You can order picture now by going to the Lifetouch website mylifetouch.com and using our school code:  LG555444Q0 to complete your order. This will eliminate tyne need to have your child remember to bring in the order form and you can pay online, as well.

New Staff at GMS

It has been quite a summer for us at GMS. At the end of last school year, we said good-bye to some old friends, and now it is time to welcome new faces to our community.

Joining us this year are:

Sarah Collins – Sarah comes back to us from Oak Hill Middle School in Sabattus, Maine. I say “come back to us” because Sarah completed her internship with Kelly Winslow teaching French. Sarah will join the Monhegan Team as an 8th Grade Advisor and she will be returning to her first love of teaching Spanish.

Brett Brown – Brett will be joining the Sebago Lake Team in the 6th grade teaching math. Brett is another familiar face to all of us at GMS, last year, he was an intern with David Palmer in the 8th grade teaching science.

Cathy Loiselle – We are extremely excited to have Cathy join us as our new School Nurse. cathy fills the position long held by Teresa Merrill, who has moved on the be the sSchool Nurse at Great Falls School. Cathy comes to us after several years as a School Nurse at Thornton Academy in Saco.

Beth Orlando – Beth joins us after many years as the School Librarian for the Old Orchard Schools. Beth is a resident of Gorham and she is looking forward to expanding the services offered by our Library. Beth fills the position after long-time School Librarian, Kathy Marquis retired at the end of the school year.

Cynthia Grover – Cynthia will be joining the GMS Staff in a new position of Social Worker for grades 4 through 8. Cynthia has several years experience as a School Social Worker in the Bonny Eagle District and she also has experience as a Substance Abuse Counselor, which should help us and our kids during this very difficult and treacherous stage of their lives.

Mindy Rathbun – Mindy will be the Instructional Strategist for the Middle School Her role will to help our teachers identify and plan strategies for our students who are demonstrating difficulties in learning in the classroom. She will also monitor our Response to Intervention plans as well as test students as part of the IEP Process. Mindy joins us from the Scarborough School apartment and is a Gorham resident as well.

School Supply Lists

I have been promising for quite sometime now, that our individual team supply lists will be available on the Middle School Website. I really hate it when I don’t come through with what I promised, but we do have an excuse… no, reason,… yah, probably an excuse!

When you come into the Middle School this fall, I promise you, you will be amazed. Our Office has been completely re-done by our incredibly duo of Kathy Richardson, Administrative Assistant in Facilities and Dan Despres. In order to complete all of the painting and renovations, our office had to be totally dismantled. (see, I told you this was more of an excuse!) and we had to vacate the premises along with all of our “stuff”, including the lists.

But, we now have them, and I promise, the will be on the Middle School Website tomorrow! (at least, I hope@!)

School Supplies

What a Principal Does Over the Summer

I have spent the summer trying to think of ways that we can help our all of our students be successful. Each year, especially toward the close of the school year in June, we all wonder what we could have done to get “johnnie” over the “hump” and ready for the next teacher and grade.

To help me with this, I went back to my Daniel Pink books on motivation, in particular Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates us. I first read this book a couple of year ago in my feeble attempt to get a better understanding of motivation, for many reasons, to see what would motivate me, my faculty and our students.

As I read Drive, I began to hear the words of Sir Kenneth Robinson and his and his wildly popular TED Talk on Schools Killing Creativity (click the link if you’d like to see the TED video). My mind raced with questions about what we are doing and why we are doing it! Are we, inadvertently, choking the creative life out of our students? Are we seeking to make our kids a one-size-fits-all automaton that will perform the menial tasks of rote memorization and regurgitation for the sake of a good grade on the test?

I am now reading a book by Jessica Lahey, who is a middle school teacher in northern New England and a mother of 2 boys. Her book, The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed, talks about her discoveries as a middle school teacher and a parent in allowing her kids to struggle with their decisions and the consequences that follow, while guiding and protecting from a distance.

Both of these books and the Ken Robinson video speak at great length about how curious and motivated our kids are… when they were in kindergarten! But, that over time, as they progress through their education, they become far more reluctant to take on challenges out of the fear of failure. The all seem to ask the question “are we bribing our kids into compliance instead of challenging them into engagement?”

This morning, I received a letter from Measured Progress that instructed me how to log on to our account to get the results of the MEA’s that were administered last spring, and I am reminded about the realities of American Public Schools and the mandates for accountability. I will open the files and download the information and try to make the best of the stark amount of data we receive. I will endeavor to make it all make sense for what we need to do next to help our kids be successful. However, I know in my mind and my heart that giving our kids the room for experimentation and failure, and the support to try again is far better than any information I will glean from these reports in helping our kids be successful.

I will be buying several copies of the Jessica Lahey’s book The Gift of Failure. If any of you would like to borrow a copy, or if you would like to start a book group to dissect what it say and means for us, please let me know.

Until next time…

Middle School Students & Presidential Candidates

topperMiddle

Upcoming Important Dates

Monday, August 31 – 6th Graders’ first day of school
Tuesday, September 1 – First day for 7th & 8th Graders
Tuesday, September 1 – GMS Open House 6:00 – 7:00 pm
Wednesday, September 2 – School Pictures
Friday, September 4 – No School
Monday, September 7 – Labor Day Holiday, No School

A Reminder on Student Placement

We have taken quite a few phone calls and emails regarding the placement of your kids on teams for the coming year, although not more than in the years past. It is always good to review the process we use in assigning students to their new teams and our reasons why we do it.

We have three academies teams at each grade level, each grade has a 4-person team and a 2-person team. The 7th and 8th grade have a 3-person team and the 6th grade, for the first time in several years have two 4-person teams, the result of a dramatic increase in the number of 5th graders coming from the elementary schools.

Our goal is to create teams at each grade level that are very similar in make up as the entire grade. We consider things like the proportion of males to females, the number of students receiving Special Education services, the number of students who receive services through our Gifted and Talented Program and students who have demonstrated behavioral issues in the past few years. We examine the results of the students NWEA assessments given during the current school year and the results of NECAP scores in previous years. This information helps us to make sure that we distribute all sorts of learners to each team.

We also ask parents fro  information on their children. You may remember that many of you completed a form (online this year for the first time!) answering, in a “million words or less”, questions about what your child found challenging in the current year, what your concerns are for your child in the coming year and anything that you wanted to tell us about your child as a learner.

We finally asked the current year teachers about the make-up of the teams. We asked if they noticed any combinations that may create a problem, should we pair students with another students, because they work well together. We also asked if their was anything that they saw in the teams that should be addressed.

Then we assigned the students to teams.

As you can imagine, this is a very tedious, human-intensive process, and we are bound to make mistakes or miss something. However, once the teams are created, it becomes very difficult to make changes, not impossible, but very difficult. The district has devised a protocol for making changes that all schools must follow. In order to make changes, one of these conditions must exist:

    1. Prior negative experience with a particular teacher and your child
    2. Prior negative experience with a teacher and a sibling,
    3. Significant conflict with a particular student (“significant meaning restraining order, protection for abuse, etc.)
    4. Relative or close friend or neighbor which could cause discomfort in the relationship.

As a final caveat to this protocol, we always have several students move out of the district and several students move into the district. Remembering that we want all of the teams to be a microcosm of the entire grade level, we will re-examine the team make-up in late August to see if adjustments need to be made. We will then call folks who have expressed interest in changing their child’s team, but do not meet any of the above conditions to see if they still want a change. Then we try our best to accommodate s many requests as we can.

Thoughts While Watching a Political Debate

First, let me promise you that this will not be about politics, or trying to convince you for whom you should, or should not vote.

This meandering is more about how grown men, and very powerful grown men, react when one of these grown, powerful men, decides to make a comment about someone who was not even present or able to defend themselves. I am also not talking about his comments about Megyn Kelly from Fox News after the debate. I am talking about the comment Donald Trump made while Megyn Kelly was asking a question about his purported treatment of women.

The moment Donald Trump tried to get a laugh from the audience, at the expense of someone not even present, and not one of those grown, powerful men stood forward to call Mr. Trump on his comment, not one came forward, regardless of what they think of Rosie O’Donnell, to say that Mr. Trumps’ comments were not appropriate for the forum in which they all struggled to participate.

Being the Principal of a Middle School in Maine, we have our challenges with the way in which our kids treat each other. We beat the drum of our Code of Conduct (Respect, Responsibility, Courage, Compassion and Honesty) daily. We use it to remind our kids about how they are to treat each other, everyday!

Each of these men on stage that evening say they want to be the next leader of the free world, our Commander-in-Chief, the President of the United States of America! Becoming President of the United States has always been something that was and answer young kids gave when asked what they wanted to be when they grow up, right after Fireman! You would have hoped that one of these grown and very powerful men would have had the courage to stand up and call Mr. Trump out on his comment.

This behavior is something that occurs in middle schools across this country almost every day. Would it have been too much to ask for one of these men to set an example for all of the middle school kids across this country that they want to lead?/

Humans Need Not Apply

As I was looking for something that I could use to bring the Middle SchoolFaculty back to the realization that the start of school was coming, I came across this video that certainly makes one think about education in the future. I hope it brings some questions forward that we struggle to find good answers for!

Enjoy!

Summertime, A Time for Learning

topperMiddle

Upcoming Important Dates

Monday, August 31 – 6th Graders’ first day of school
Tuesday, September 1 – First day for 7th & 8th Graders
Friday, September 4 – No School
Monday, September 7 – Labor Day Holiday, No School

Student Placement

We have taken quite a few phone calls and emails regarding the placement of your kids on teams for the coming year, although not more than in the years past. It is always good to review the process we use in assigning students to their new teams and our reasons why we do it.

We have three academies teams at each grade level, each grade has a 4-person team and a 2-person team. The 7th and 8th grade have a 3-person team and the 6th grade, for the first time in several years have two 4-person teams, the result of a dramatic increase in the number of 5th graders coming from the elementary schools.

Our goal is to create teams at each grade level that are very similar in make up as the entire grade. We consider things like the proportion of males to females, the number of students receiving Special Education services, the number of students who receive services through our Gifted and Talented Program and students who have demonstrated behavioral issues in the past few years. We examine the results of the students NWEA assessments given during the current school year and the results of NECAP scores in previous years. This information helps us to make sure that we distribute all sorts of learners to each team.

We also ask parents fro  information on their children. You may remember that many of you completed a form (online this year for the first time!) answering, in a “million words or less”, questions about what your child found challenging in the current year, what your concerns are for your child in the coming year and anything that you wanted to tell us about your child as a learner.

We finally asked the current year teachers about the make-up of the teams. We asked if they noticed any combinations that may create a problem, should we pair students with another students, because they work well together. We also asked if their was anything that they saw in the teams that should be addressed.

Then we assigned the students to teams.

As you can imagine, this is a very tedious, human-intensive process, and we are bound to make mistakes or miss something. However, once the teams are created, it becomes very difficult to make changes, not impossible, but very difficult. The district has devised a protocol for making changes that all schools must follow. In order to make changes, one of these conditions must exist:

    1. Prior negative experience with a particular teacher and your child
    2. Prior negative experience with a teacher and a sibling,
    3. Significant conflict with a particular student (“significant meaning restraining order, protection for abuse, etc.)
    4. Relative or close friend or neighbor which could cause discomfort in the relationship.

As a final caveat to this protocol, we always have several students move out of the district and several students move into the district. Remembering that we want all of the teams to be a microcosm of the entire grade level, we will re-examine the team make-up in late August to see if adjustments need to be made. We will then call folks who have expressed interest in changing their child’s team, but do not meet any of the above conditions to see if they still want a change. Then we try our best to accommodate s many requests as we can.

Student Supply Lists

During the step up day, back in June, each team gave their new students a list of the supplies that they School Supplieswill need for the coming year. Now, I don’t think for a minute that these lists actually made it out of every student’s backpack. I want to encourage each of you to wait before you head out to Staples or Walmart to purchase each of the items on the list that probably never made it home.

We will post on our web site the lists for each team, but, I promise you, your child will not need all of the supplies on the first day of school! My hope is that we can be a bit more judicious with our list and try to reduce the cash layout for parents!

The Gift of Failure and What is “Grit”

Over the summer months, I have been fortunate to have some of the good people I follow on Twitter offer some very interesting ideas on the work that we do with our kids.

gift of failureJessica Lahey is a parent, a middle school teacher and an author who regularly contributes to the New York Times, Altlantic and is seen occasionally on the TODAY Show, as well as Vermont Public Radio. She writes about her experiences with her kids and her students. Of the many people I follow on Twitter, she regularly offers the most sound and reasonable advise in how to deal with our kids who are at a very vulnerable and precarious stage in their young lives. I value each and every morsel of information she offers because it is based in reality and not coming from the theoretical lab.

She has authored a new book called The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed. The book is expected to be released later in August and it is available on Amazon for pre-purchase.

This is from the back cover of the book:

Modern parenting is defined by an unprecedented level of overprotectiveness: parents now rush to school to deliver forgotten assignments, challenge teachers on report card disappointments, mastermind children’s friendships, and interfere on the playing field. As teacher, journalist, and parent Jessica Lahey explains, even though these parents see themselves as being highly responsive to their children’s well-being, they aren’t giving them the chance to experience failure—or the opportunity to learn to solve their own problems.

Everywhere she turned, Lahey saw an obvious and startling fear of failure—in both her students and in her own children. This fear has the potential to undermine children’s autonomy, competence, motivation, and their relationships with the adults in their lives. Providing a clear path toward solutions, Lahey lays out a blueprint with targeted advice for handling homework, report cards, social dynamics, and sports. Most important, she sets forth a plan to help parents learn to step back and embrace their children’s setbacks along with their successes.

I offer this information, not as an indictment on our communities parenting skills, but as a reminder that our kids are just that, KIDS! That means they will sometimes (some more than others) be forgetful. They will, in act, make mistakes and sometimes do things that we find absolutely inconceivable! But, they are still kids.

It also means that our teachers need to remember this as well, our kids are kids, prone to mistakes and failures as we work with them.

Joe Bower was a classroom teacher in a Red Deer, Alberta, Canada, middle school.More recently, he has left the traditional classroom to teach at a local hospital in Red Deer providing short term crisis stabilization and inpatient assessments  to children under the age of 18 who present a wide-range of mental heath related difficulties. (joebower.org).

Joe is a prolific blogger on education issues facing his school and his Province. He writes about a wide-range of issues that impact education.

In his blog… for the love of learning… dated December 12, 2013 and entitled, let them eat grit:four reasons why grit is garbage, he does a great job of dispelling our misguided ideas that our kids who areJoe Bower struggling only need to “buck up”, “stiffen their back”, “don’t give up” in order to succeed in school.

Joe does a great job of identifying those students we claim “need to show more grit” in order to succeed. He puts it this way:

When pundits call for more grit and resiliency, they aren’t talking about all children. No one is demanding that high-scoring students show more grit. When people call for more grit they are talking about the low scorers — and we know the low scorers tend to be children who are English language learners, special needs, living in poverty, suffering from mental health problems or are for complex reasons generally difficult to educate.

And, when we truly think about the kids we want to demonstrate more grit, he is spot on! Sure, we have a lot of students who appear to be from wonderful families, and they are, but we don’t know what happens when our kids leave school each day.

But the most important takeaway from this post by Joe are these words:

 Challenging one’s own practices and system priorities can be tough but nothing will ever change and schools will never improve as long as we place all the responsibility for change and improvement on students and schools.

Think about this. We spend a great deal of time in test preparation and angst about the results of standardized testing. We write, and re-write, curriculums to align with the Common Core State Standards or the Next Generation Science Standards or the myriad of other mandated standards aimed at our students, and then lament that they aren’t producing the results we want.

The better question is, “What are we doing in our classrooms that is different?” Are we still assigning lots of homework and rueing the the fact that some of our kids never get it passed in? Are we assigning worksheets and getting upset when they aren’t done?” Do we worry that the students are using technology to copy and paste their assignments, and then sharing them with their classmates?

We all know the answers to these questions band yet, we soldier on with what we have always done, albeit with our attempts to change.

So, let me ask you, is anyone interested in continue this conversation? If so, please drop me an email and we’ll set up a group!

 

Countdown to Summer!

topperMiddle

Upcoming Important Dates

June 9 – Referendum on the School Budget, GMS Gym & Municipal Center, all day
Tuesday, June 9 – 8th Grade Step-up day 9:00 – 10:40 am
Wednesday, June 10 – Open House for retiring Superintendent Ted Sharp 2:30 – 4:40 GMS
Thursday, June 11 – GMS Band Concert 6:00 pm Auditorium
Thursday, June 18 – Step up Day for 6th & 8th Grade, 9:00 – 10:45 am
Thursday, June 18 – 8th Grade to High School 9:00 – 10:45 am
Thursday, June 18 – 8th Grade Celebration 6:00 pm GMS Gym
Friday, June 19 – Last day of school (barring any snow storms!)

Municipal Referendum

If you do nothing else on Tuesday, June 9th, Please,make you voice heard by voting on the School Budget Validation Referendum. Regardless of how you vote on the budget, up or down, it is important that your voice be heard! Voting will open at 7:00 am and remain open until 8:00 pm. Please get out and vote!

Step Up Day

Our 7th & 8th Grade students will meet their new teams and their new advisors on Thursday, June 18. Over the course of the past 3 months, we have collected information from parents and current teachers about each of our kids. We have used this information to make decisions that we feel create teams and classrooms that are similar in make up to the entire grade level.

As happens every year, some students will be disappointed that they are not with a particular friend, or group of friends, or that they did not get a particular teacher or team. I want assure you that we read every parent input sheet and listen and read all of the input from this years teachers in making pour placements. Once we have placed students, we are very restricted in making changes and we will not make changes to accommodate being placed with friends.

We do have 4 possible conditions where we will make changes.

  1. Prior negative experience with a particular teacher and your child
  2. Prior negative experience with a teacher and a sibling,
  3. Significant conflict with a particular student (“significant meaning restraining order, protection for abuse, etc.)
  4. Relative or close friend or neighbor which could cause discomfort in the relationship.

If, for some reason, we may have missed this information, please give us a call. If we were not aware of any of these condition existing, we will need to have the details before we can act.

8th Grade Celebration

The 8th graders will have a very busy last day of school on Thursday, June 18. We will begin at 8:00 in the gym with a rehearsal of the evenings ceremony. Students will be given their designated seats and instructed on how the evening will go.

At 9:00 am, they will board buses for the high school where Chris Record and staff will provide information on activities, sports and other extracurricular events that will be open to them in the coming years.

Around 10:45, they will return to the middle school for a final run through of the evening events and then, weather permitting, move out to the recess area for a cookout.

At 1:00, they will all move in to the Auditorium for the first screening of the 8th grade slideshow. They will then head up to their advisory area, conduct a final clean up and clean out of lockers and be dismissed for the day.

The students are expected to be in their designated seats at 5:55 pm on Thursday evening. We will begin the celebration promptly at 6:00 pm with a goal to be done by 7:10, at the latest. From there, the students will dance the next two hours of the night away, rocking’ to the tunes of Adam Parvanta. There will be lots of food and snacks for the students to enjoy their final night as middle schoolers.

The 8th graders are not expected on Friday!

Standards vs. Standardization

Prior to entering the field of education, I worked in private business, first as a banker and then owning my own Bed and Breakfast in downtown Portland, Maine. It was vitally important that our guest experience be standardized from night-to-night. Our guests expected that their ensuing stays with us would at least equal their first stay with us, they need to know what to expect, and they expect a level service that was consistent.

Similarly, in my banking days, I had the privilege of having a few restaurant franchisees as customers, some fast food and some small chains. Of course, this was in the days before ATM and debit cards were accepted at fast food restaurants.

During my time with these folks as customers of the bank, and clients of mine, I learned a lot about the “McDonalds Way”, or the “XYZ Restaurant and Grill way”. Each business, regardless of the size of their bottom line worked and trained their staff in their “way”. Everything from how to answer the phone to how to greet the customer to portion control and recipes. It was all neatly outlined in a manual and it was expected that each would be followed to the “T”.

With my fast food franchisees, I learned that it was critical that each hamburg be grilled a certain amount of minutes on one side before they are flipped, and then a certain number of minutes on the second side. French Fries needed to be in the oils at a prescribed temperature for a prescribed number of minutes, and the appropriate amount of onions, lettuce, pickles and special sauce needed to be applied to each burger. To make sure that the fast food franchisees were keeping the formula in tact, the “Home Office” would send out inspectors to conduct audits of the cooking times and temperatures and woe be the franchisee who decided to change anything in the formula!

If only educating our young folks could be as simple as timing the amount of learning that needs to occur on one side and then know when to turn them over to complete the process in order for a students to be deemed proficient and “college and career ready”. But, alas, we know that’ not the way our kids learn. Kids learn in any number of different ways and in any number of different times. Sometimes, kids see the ideas and get them on first try and sometimes it takes longer.

To be honest, I think many of our problems can be attributed to our own steadfast nature about how the school experience should be for our kids. Within schools everywhere, classrooms are filled with teachers who will quickly state that not all children learn at the same rate and in the same way, and then assign a worksheet with 20 questions to be completed for homework.

We had an interesting conversation about technology in a faculty meeting last week. As you are aware, Gorham Middle School is one-to-one with technology in grades 6 through 8, participating in the Maine Learning Technology Initiative in grades 7 & 8, and 6th grade having the old MacBooks. as part of the image on each of our laptops, students have “Air Drop”, and application where students can literally drop a file onto the laptop of someone in the same room over the air, not emailed or shared, but dropped onto their desk top.

Teachers were saying that one student would complete the worksheet and then it would be “dropped” to other students to “change the font or color of ink and not change any of the wording” and then pass that work in as their own.

Now, on the surface, I’d say “shame on those kids for cheating”! But I think the issue is greater than that. If we only want kids to fill out sheets with only one correct answer for each question, is the problem the kids or is it the teachers? Do we disrespect the time of our students so much that we expect that 50 to 100 kids per class should all be doing the same thing, in isolation, and then come together to share our answers?

Getting our students ready for a future of cross-continent collaboration, inter-cultural understanding and becoming v=creative problem solvers, as well as productive, responsible citizens, don’t we need to ask more of them than to complete a worksheet?

We need our students to reach for these standards that will help make them better at all of the above, but not a standardized approach to learning that requires all students complete all 20 questions on every worksheet in order to demonstrate proficiency.

Someone who can articulate this far better than I can is Will Richardson. Will is a parent, an educator and the author of the best selling book Why School?, something we should ask ourselves everyday. Read this post by Will and see if you have the same concerns I have. I would love to hear from you.

 

…And Now, The End is Near –Frank Sinatra

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Upcoming Important Dates

Tuesday, June 2 – Public Hearing on School Budget, Municipal Center 7:00 pm
Wednesday, June 3 – Incoming 5th Grade Special Education Students visit 10:30
Friday, June 5 – Step Up Dance 6:00 -8:00 pm GMS Gym
June 9 – Referendum on the School Budget, GMS Gym, all day
Tuesday, June 9 – 8th Grade Step-up day 9:00 – 10:40 am

Recap of MEA Testing

We are putting the finishing touches on the first (and last, I guess) administration of the Maine Educational Assessment (MEA) produced by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC). As well, we are also wrapping up our semi-annual administration of the NWEA.

I can report to you that most of our students found the MEA to be less than inspiring and not worth the build up we gave it during our preparation period. I can also report that teachers were less than impressed on a couple of fronts. First, the few questions that they had the opportunity to read, (let me interject here that teachers did not spend their time looking over kids shoulders to see the questions,) they were not impressed with their quality! Second, with both the ELA Performance Task and the Math Performance Task, the teachers were required to deliver a short lesson to “prime the pump” of the students prior to completing the performance task. Several of the students at all grades really questioned the value of the 15-30 minutes spent delivering the lesson as the questions had little to do with the lessons.

With the NWEAs we at least get a picture of individual growth of the students over the course of the year. This is not to say that the NWEAs offer a real clear picture of growth, the reports are given in the form of RiT scores and are not easily transferable into a normed score, at least for this anachronistic administrator! But, we do get data very quickly and it is data that we can use as we place students on teams for next year and make decision bout programming,unlike the data we expect to see from the MEA, maybe in July!

Also of note, the kids were under-whelmed by the MEA assessment. I have no idea what our results will be, but I am confident that our kids and our teachers put forth the best effort possible. I am confident that our efforts were strong and our energies were placed properly. The results may, or may not bear this out, but regardless of our results, we know that there will be something new that we’ll need to prepare our kids (and teachers!) for in the coming year.

Grades vs. Learning

As we travel through this assessment season (MEA & NWEA), I am always puzzled by the results many of our students generate on these assessments and the results that are generated in their classrooms. For many of our students there is a real disconnect between what learning students demonstrate in our classrooms and what achievement levels they demonstrate on these normed assessments. Quite honestly, some of the students show dramatic gains on their NWEA between the fall assessment and the spring assessment, yet their report cards don’t indicate that kind of gain.

Which brings me to what we do in middle school, or, at least what I think we should do.

I have been a building administrator at the middle level for 14 years and not once have I received correspondence from any college, university, community college, technical school, prep school or the military regarding a student’s record for the 3 years they attended my school. Not one!

What do you think this means? Do you think this is a classic case of “what have you done for me lately?” that we see in our professional (and college, OK, that’s probably professional, too) sports across the nation. A team doesn’t perform to expectations, the coach gets fired, the quarterback gets benched, etc. the story is the same across all sports? I don’t think so, I think that the colleges, et al understand the the years during middle school are designed to help the student understand themselves as learners, not good students of content matter, but good learners regardless of the content.

Kim Kankiewicz is a Seattle area writer published in Pacific Standard, McSweeney’s, Full Grown People, and elsewhere, you can find her online at kimkankiewicz.com and tweeting as @kimprobable, wrote an interesting piece that was published in the Washington Post on May 12, 2015 about her trials with her 7th grade son and his grades.

It seems that as she experiences the anxiety of the weekly teacher email and the weekly review of the students online report card, she begins to get a better understanding of the purpose of these years in middle school. As she starts to ask herself the questions as to exactly what do the numbers on the screen mean, she begins to come to the understanding that those numbers could mean lots of different things, or nothing. She begins to understand that when we assess students, it should support student learning. The numbers just can’t seem to do that very well.

There is an old allegory used in education about the Acme Parachute Packing Company. In their training program, they have 3 new trainees learning how to pack a parachute. Trainee 1 pack the parachute correctly the very first time and receives a pat on the back. However, in the ensuing days of the training, this Trainee 1 begins to believe s/he has this packing business down pat and begins to lose focus. The parachutes s/he packs over the next few days aren’t quite up to the level of his first attempt, in fact they seem to be getting progressively worse.

Trainee 2 does a very poor job on the first attempt and each subsequent attempt, s/he gets progressively better until finally s/he can pack the parachute correctly every time.

Trainee 3 seems to be an enigma, sometimes s/he packs the parachute perfectly another times, not so good!

When we average out the grade for each of these parachute packers, Trainee 1, high marks in the beginning of the training and then progressively worse, Trainee 2 starts out very slowly but steadily improves to a consistent level and Trainee 3 is very inconsistent in how s/he packs the parachute. However, if I were to average out each of the trainee’s performances, the average would be about the same. The question is: Which one do you want packing YOUR parachute?

The final number doesn’t tell the story of a student. There has always been so much more to student learning that cannot be communicated in a single number! Also, and this is especially true in middle school, this will not be the final exposure to any of the content our students will have. We just have to make sure that we don’t suck the learning life out of our kids.

8th Grade Celebration

Plana are moving forward to end the year with a wonderful celebration of the middle school experience for our 205 8th graders. Many parents have been busy making book marks and organizing decorating parties to transform the school into a “Glow in the Dark” and J Adam Parvanta has been carefully selecting tunes for the students to dance their way out of middle school and on to high school.

We are still on for the evening of Thursday, June 18th at 6:00 pm in the Gymnasium. We ask that the students be in their seats at 5:55 pm and we will start promptly at 6:00. At 5:30, we will start to show the 8th grade Slide Show, pictures of our  8th graders that they have submitted and have been compiled by Christine Ioconeta. Our goal is to have the “Parents Portion” of the evening done by 7:10 and get the students into the cafeteria for the dance celebration, or the “Kids Portion” of the night.

This should be a fun night. We do not limit the number of guest that each student can have, but we do ask that if any of your guests have any special needs for handicap seating, please let us know in advance and we’ll try our best to accommodate.

8th Grade Students and Over Due Library Books

Along with the end of their middle school careers come the necessary collection of middle school items like laptops, textbooks (do we still use those?), uniforms and sports equipment, etc. We expect that each of the items that our students used during their time here will be returned in good working condition. Sometimes, however, that is not the case.

If we find that your child was issued a textbook, laptop or school uniform and it suffers damage, there may be a charge assessed to the family for repairing or replacing the item. The laptops are given a very quick scan by our Tech Department when the student returns the device, however, there are times when damages are discovered when we get a chance to do a complete scan of the device. If this occurs, we will attempt to contact the family and let them know of the damage and why will be required of them.

Library books are also a difficult item to collect. There have been years when we discover that students have books issued to them over all three years of their time here and they remain outstanding. Try as we do to collect these books, we have a few individuals who just can’t seem to get the books from home back to school. If you happen to see any books that belong to our library, it would be very helpful to have them back.

Hang in There, The Tests are almost done!

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Upcoming Important Dates

Monday, May 11 – 6th Grade MEA Testing begins, all week
Monday, May 11 – 8th Grade Summer Reading Book Talk 8:00 am
Tuesday, May 12 – Selected Students visit Elementary Schools
Wednesday, May 13 – Early Release Day, Students dismissed at 11:10 am
Thursday, May 14 – Selected Students visit Elementary Schools
Friday, May 15 – 8th Grade Physics day at Funtown
Tuesday, May 19 – NWEA Testing Window begins for 8th graders

8th Grade Book Talk

Lucie Bowers and Chris Record will address the 8th graders on the selection of books for their summer reading. 8th Grade teachers, please remind your kids of their obligation to finish reading these books during the summer to prepare for a series of activities during the first day of school in August.

5th to 6th Grade Transition Activities

During the coming week, a group of selected 6th, 7th & 8th grade students will be traveling to the Elementary Schools to talk about “Life as a Middle Schooler”. These students will be dismissed from their classes for the afternoon (after testing for 6th graders).

Early Release Day Agenda

To properly prepare for the work of Wednesday, all teachers should begin entering some of you 3rd quarter assessments into Jumprope as we will be asking all teachers to take 5 students, and their 3rd quarter work, an upload their results into Jumprope. This will require each teacher to determine which performance indicators that were being assessed. When this information is uploaded, I would like to have all teachers begin to manipulate the information in Jumprope (e.g. formative assessments, summative assessments, cross curricular information and guiding principles). We are seeking to see where we need to address future professional development.

One real caveat, this will be far from perfect! I have no expectations that everyone will have a complete understanding of this. We hope that this will begin to uncover what our next steps need to be as far as professional development needs for the coming school year. It should also help each us get a better understanding of how the system works and how we can makes this work for us.

We will meet in the Library at 12:15, after lunch on your own.

Field Trips

This time of year tends to get very busy with teachers and students leaving the building for various activities. Please complete the District Field Trip Request form found on the district Web Site and as you send this out for approvals please make sure you include the following:

Kristen Fitz
Judy Philbrick – Transportation
Rhonda Warren – Superintendent Office
Lynn Erickson – Food Service
Teresa Merrill – School Nurse
Susie Hanley
Bob Riley

If you are leaving the building to take your kids on a walk or to do a lesson out of the building, please let Kristen and Laurie know. Often time, it seems that when we are looking for kids for their parents to pick up, they are outside the building. It would also be helpful if you took one of the walkie-talkies with you.

More Testing

Now that we have almost completed the MEA administration, we start all over agin with the NWEAs. 8th Grade will begin the schedule on Tuesday, May 19, followed by the 7th grade the following week and the 6th grade the week after that.

Then, we will be done with the assessments for the year… until September!