Good-bye, Vacation, you were really great!

As difficult as it is to say “good-bye” to this vacation, we are looking forward the coming weeks of school. This will be our longest, sustained period of school since September and we are looking forward to lots of great student learning.

March 2nd will be a very busy day for Gorham Middle School, students and faculty! We start with an early release day for students, student will be dismissed at 11:10 for the day. However, during their day they have a choice of listening to more than 30 people from the greater Portland community talking about their careers. Susie Hanley, Lona Tassey and Kelly Winslow have been very busy arranging and planning for this day. They have contacted all of these people and convinced them that our students were worth a couple of hours of their time. We have some very interesting people with very interesting careers coming in to GMS, sportscasters, authors, doctors, lawyers, coaches, servicemen and much, much more. We are convinced that this will be the best Career Day yet at GMS, thanks to Susie, Lona and Kelly.

Early Release days at GMS

Let me take a minute and talk about our early release day activities. We are very proud of these days and what they do for our students and our community. In the past, we used to run shortened classes for the students, about 25 minutes long. While these days were not totally lost to the students, too often the classroom activities would be so truncated as to be of no real benefit. Many of our teachers wanted to have more time for team level activities, hence our idea of a school-wide activity. We began with a Public Safety Day, where we invited Federal, State, County and local public safety agencies to speak to our kids about how in their jobs they use math, science, social studies and language arts. The day was a huge hit with both the faculty and the students, as well as the folks who came in from the different agencies. Since that first day 4 years ago, we have continued to hold our Public Safety day and added a Career Day, Local Charities Day, Diversity Day and Community Service Days, each has been a great success. We are already planning days for next year that include the cultural contributions of music and the arts. Living in in such a rich area that is so supportive of the arts community makes the prospects of this day very interesting. Watch this space for details on the upcoming days.

More on Our Busy Day…

Also, March 2nd, the students will receive their 3rd quarter progress reports in their book bags. You will definitely want to watch for them because we do Parent Teacher Conferences at the end of the month, but before we close the grades for the 3rd quarter. I remind you all again that you can access your child’s grades through our Infinite Campus Parent Portal if you have your user name and your password. Please don’t worry if you have forgotten either, sadly, I can relate! Just gibe Terry LaMontagne in the Guidance Office at 222-1247 and she will reset everything for you.

March 2nd is also our 3rd celebration of the “Spread the Word to End the Word Campaign”. This is a campaign to ban the use of the “R- Word” and it is being championed by our students in the Functional Life Skills Program. The students are asking students and community members to log on to and pledge to do your part to end the use of the word as a derogatory statement. Our school will be filled with posters asking all of our students to get involved and make the pledge to refrain from using the word. Also, our Functional Life Skills students will write about how hurtful the word is to them and how its use makes them feel. In the past few years all of our students have done an excellent job at pledging to stop using the word , and I am happy to report that it seems to be working, at least in our school.

Finally, March 2nd is the annual celebration of the birthday of Dr. Suess. Many schools across the country will celebrate this day by participating in the Read Across America Day, a day of purposeful reading. Since our day is an early release day and we have already planned activities, we plan to celebrate on Monday, March 5th. However, you can celebrate at home with your children on Friday by setting aside a time for a family read with all of your children. I cannot think of a better way to gather as a family and celebrate the birthday of one of America’s most beloved children’s authors. If you would like some ideas for activities that you can do with your family, check out this link: Read Across America Activities.

A Call for Dance Chaperones on March 9th

Our next school dance is Friday, March 9th beginning at 6:00 pm until 8:00. The dance is being sponsored by our Civil Rights Team and our Odyssey of the Mind and Lego Robotics teams. All of the organizations have very important activities planned for the spring and the funds from this dance help to fund all of it, so we hope that we see all of our students at the dance. Additionally, the faculty sponsors would love to have lots of chaperones for this evening, so, if you have nothing better to do on Friday, March 9th, give either Sarah Rubin or Diane Knott at the school a call and offer your services.

Our Next PIE Meeting

Our next PIE meeting is Thursday March 15th in the GMS Library beginning at 6:30 pm. We have several possible topics that we could discuss, for example, the role of formative assessment in the classrooms at GMS and what does this mean for my child; Or, Governor LePage and Commission of Education Steven Bowen have announced a new initiative designed to change the way we currently know school, what does this mean for Gorham? Or we could talk about anything else, we hope to see you here!

Continuing Last Week’s Conversation

Last week I included a link to an article by Richard Sagor about things we could learn form skateboarders in an effort to create some thoughts about how our kids learn today. Superintendent Sharp reminds us frequently that “These ain’t our fathers’ schools” (please pardon the use of “ain’t”), and it becomes more and more apparent with every passing day. Our kids are more connected to the world, for better or worse, than ever before. I haven’t done the numbers, but it would be safe to say that more than 50% of our students carry a cell phone to school during the day (I think that estimate is low, but I’m kind of conservative!). Each of our students has access to a laptop at school and many are able to take them well, and many of our students have a presence on some social networking site such as Facebook or Skype. Students access information via Youtube if they want to hear the latest hit from Jay-Z or Beyounce or get a look at the latest viral video. In other words, they are connected to so many people and so much information and exposed to so many different fads, it is hard to keep up.

What’s a teacher to do to keep their students interest? How about parents, what can you do to keep your children interested in this instantaneously connected world?

Again, I will pick on my kids (sorry Lizzie and Nate!). It might have been 10 years ago, but it is still very fresh in mind as if it happened yesterday! We were driving as a family to a gathering and the kids were sitting in the backseat being very quiet with an occasional chortle or chuckle rising from the awkward silence. I checked my rear view mirror to investigate the reasons for the chuckling and was surprised to see both of them, eyes on their cellphones and thumbs pecking wildly on the keyboard. Have any of you ever experienced this? I asked who they were speaking with and I was surprised, to say the least, they were speaking to each other through texting! They were less than 2 feet away from each other, close enough to punch the other in the arm! I think this was the beginning of my understanding that the world had definitely changed!

What can we do about it? I don’t think going back to the old days is a possible answer, either. Robert Evans, a clinical psychologist and former high school teacher from Massachusetts, has written several books, one called Family Matters: How Schools Can Cope with the Crisis in Childrearing, in which he details, in an historical fashion, the American family through this massive growth period in American history and their relationship with American schools. It is an interesting book that asks lots of questions and provides some thoughtful answers.

One very important and indisputable fact is that the kids have evolved very quickly and continue to do so at an ever increasing rate and that schools are struggling to evolve and when we do, it is a glacial pace. We have many of the physical pieces in place, but where are we with our disposition in accepting the changes that are coming? This might be a great conversation for our next PIE Meeting, did I mention it is Thursday, March 15 at 6:30 in the GMS Library!

Until next time…

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