Happy Vacation Time!

This was the time of year that I would look forward to most during my “school days” (or is that daze) career, February Vacation. A whole week without having to do homework, days of ice skating and playing hockey on the pond (which don’t seem to freeze over like they used to!), of finding that tallest hill in town to go sledding with our super fast sled, you know, the kind with the medal runners that work so well on the packed snow, but not so well in deep snow.

We hope that this February vacation is one that will make great memories for you and your family, whether you are going to the warmer climes of someplace very south of here, or just staying home to enjoy the many treats our great state has to offer, may all the days be sunny and very, very long.

  • When the kids return from vacation they will be getting 3rd quarter progress reports on Friday, so look for them in your child’s book bag. Also, remember that you can always view your child’s progress via the Infinite Campus portal available on the Gorham School District web site. If you never received your user name and password, please give Terry LaMontagne a call in the Guidance Office at 222-1247 and she can get you set up very quickly.
  • The Gorham Adult Education folks are presenting a Cyber-bullying Social Media Parent Workshop on Thursday evening, March 22nd beginning at 6 until 8:30 at the Gorham Middle School. Peter Phair, an Maine Educator and Youth Services Coordinator for National Alliance on Mental Illness-Maine and he will provide attendees some tips to identify if your child is being bullied or is a bully. He will help the attendees develop some strategies and tried and true tip for dealing with bullying behavior. The cost of the class is$15 and more information can be obtained from Gorham Adult Education.
  • March 2nd is an early release day for students and, as we do on these days, we will have more than 30 people coming to GMS to speak to our students about the careers they chose. Students will have a chance to hear from authors, doctors and lawyers as well as so many more folks. Is has always been a favorite day with the students, please ask your child who they saw on this day.
  • Just another reminder about our next school dance, it is March 9th and it begins at 6:00 pm until 8:00 pm. This dance is sponsored by the Civil Rights Team, Odyssey of the Mind and our Lego Robotics Teams. Each of these groups have very important outings in the months of March and April and the funds they get from this dance will go a long way in helping  them meet their expenses. At the same time, the teams are seeking volunteers to chaperone the dance, so, if you have nothing better to do on a Friday night (like re-arranging the sock drawer or alphabetizing the most recent edition of the National Budget, then come on over to GMS and enjoy the great tunes from our DJ!

Last week I started a conversation about, well, a lot of things, but mostly it was about our kids and how at this age and in their time of life, risky behavior, e.g. the Cinnamon Challenge, the Salt ‘n’ Ice Challenge, is more prevalent. I also spoke about our challenge as educators in trying to harness this proclivity for risk in a more positive way.

I have told this story many times, but it still rings true to me. When my children were little, my wife and I would take them to visit their grandparents (my parents) on the coast of Maine. Having spent many wonderful summers on the coast myself, I was eager to share my experiences with my children.

When we would visit, there was an area at the end of the beach we called “The Rocks”, an outcropping of rocks that extended into the sea by a couple of hundred yards. As the tide rose it would engulf the rocks and fill small tidal pools with all kinds of interesting marine life. I would bring the kids to the rocks and we would explore those tidal pools after the tide had gone out to see what was left behind. At each pool we would look very carefully to discover periwinkles and mussels (little did I know that some white wine and garlic would have made for a wonderful picnic!) and something we called “China Man Caps” because of their conical shape. What my kids wanted to see were the crabs and the lobsters and maybe a sea star or two. In order to do this I had to turn over some rock, and as anyone who has done this knows, doing this disturbs the sediment upon which the rock sits. As the sediment settled, what lay beneath the rock would appear, almost magically as the cloud dissipated back to the bottom of the pool.

My kids would squeal (mind you my daughter will probably read this and never forgive me) and ask for me to “do it again Daddy!”, which I would dutifully do. The look in my kids eyes as they would search for the “prize” beneath each rock, the shouts of joyous discovery and the absolute and astonishing need to discover more “prizes” under more rocks was far beyond exhilaration. I could see in them something that I would hope that they never would lose, the pure joy of learning something new!

It is that joy of discovery that we seek to instill in all of  our students, everyday. We need to try to harness that risk taking proclivity (used that word twice!) in helping all of our kids experience the joy of discovery. Showing the way, if you will, to that place where learning resides and the biological need for learning that exists in all humans is fulfilled.

Our struggle as educators is to try to tap into that proclivity for risky behavior and make it work for the students. How can we make what we want them to learn as interesting and engaging as well as status boosting as some of these other behaviors.

I came across an article several years ago entitled Lessons from Skateboarders by Richard Sagor. He asks a very important question about schools and learning that came to him as he watched some young people at a local downtown, skateboarding. How is it, that after making several painful attempts at a “trick”, these kids don’t give up. Yet in a classroom, where the lessons are so important, they are willing to give up so quickly? I am attaching a link to the article for your convenience. It is not a very long read, but it does offer some very interesting observations:  Lessons From Skateboarders

I hope you enjoy your week of vacation.

Until next time…

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