Chorus, Band Concerts, Physics Day at Funtown and Top Ten Lists, Oh, My!

Gorham Founders Festival

One of the most anticipated events for our students is the Gorham Founders Festival. The Festival begins Friday, May 25 with the Tardy Brothers opening for the Motor Booty Affair.

There is great entertainment, amusement rides for the not-so-faint-of-heart, lots of food booths and the Gorham Fire Department’s world famous chicken bar-b-que as well as a great auction with lots of great stuff at great prices. If you’d like more info on the Festival check out their web site here:

Joint Chorus Concert with Cape Elizabeth Middle School

On Monday and Wednesday our Chorus played host to a great bunch of young singers from Cape Elizabeth Middle School. This was the second year of this exchange program developed by our very own Chorus Maestro, Tracy Wheeler and the Chorus Teacher from CEMS. Last year the Capers were the very gracious hosts to our students.

Monday was a day of joint rehearsals for the students with some ice-breaker games and some singing (no, duh!) as well as a great pizza luncheon provided by our parents and other volunteers as well as the great folks at Amato’s who gave us a great deal on the pizzas.

Wednesday evening all of the students gathered again and gave an absolutely great concert. It was incredibly well run with transitions kept to a minimum and accomplished in very short order. The kids demonstrated their range of abilities with a couple of solos done very well by the students.

Second Community Service Day of the Year

For anyone who happened to come by the Middle School on Friday, May 18 (today, as I write this), you would have seen a beehive of activity. We had a walk-a-thon to raise money for our Special Olympians in Gorham; there were several advisory groups working the GMS Community Garden; Several more groups were mulching the flower gardens and parking island. We had a couple of groups of kids walk over to the Village School to read books to the younger kids and we had two groups of students performing random acts of kindness for our neighbors.

Faculty Hears from Chris Kaufman, Ph.D

Chris Kaufman of Kaufman Psychological Services in Portland spoke to our faculty Friday afternoon on the subject of How the Brain Learns. Dr. Kaufman spoke with the faculty for a full 2 and on half hours on this very interesting and important subject for our profession. It has always been obvious to all of our teachers how important the adolescent brain is to learning, but this presentation demonstrated to all of us the why.

We will continue to work on this subject so that we can better meet the learning needs of our students.

8th Grade Physics Day at Funtown/Splashtown

OK, I can already hear the “yea, sure” out there! What a great excuse to go to an amusement park during the school day!

Truth is, this is really a very education and engaging day for the students. Each student gets a learning packet with several physics problems that can only be solved by getting on the ride. The students actually have to complete a preview of the ride, work through some “pre-ride” problems and then go experience the actual physics. It is amazing how the kids’ eyes light up with the new learning when the discover the reasons for the feelings of weightlessness when on the Dragons Descent.

8th Grade Celebration of Middle School

I think we have finalized our plans for the evening’s events, finally. It really has been quite an adventure to complete these plans since we can’t use our Gymnasium because of Municipal elections.

We will hold the “Parent” portion of this evening at the Gorham High School gymnasium. We had thought of holding the “Parent” portion in the GHS Auditorium, but that would have limited how many people would be allowed into see the event. The HS Gym will allow us to not have to worry about limited the number of relatives each family can bring.

We will still have the “student” portion of the evening at the GMS Cafeteria complete with all of the decorations and food and great music. This is such a fun night for the students and the adults, we look forward to this each year and a lot of work is done by parents who volunteer to pull this al together. Also our Secretaries, Kristen and Laurie do an amazing amount of work in preparation for this event. Thank you to all of you who help to make this night possible.

More About the Arts at GMS

Earlier in this post I wrote about the joint Chorus concert with Cape Elizabeth Middle School, but that hardly scratches the surface of what is going on in the Arts here. Earlier this month our Jazz Band students traveled to western Massachusetts to perform in the John Philip Sousa Judged Competition. They received the highest marks for their performances and individual students received excellent ratings for their performances.

Both our Chorus and our Jazz Band then traveled to Loranger Middle School to be judged again for their performances and, again, they received high marks for their performances.

Over the course of the school year, as people walk into our building, they are struck at the student artwork that adorns our walls. Vicki Bove and Amy Cousins have student work that is really quite amazing. The exhibits (I really can’t think of another name to call this!) change very often and the range of the work that students do is quite vast. Both of these teacher truly believe that “art is in all of us” and they work hard to get their students to express themselves through the different mediums they employ.

Not that I need to brag about our students (but I really love to!), several of our students have work that is on exhibit at the Portland Museum of Art along with Winslow Homer and Edgar Degas!

And, speaking of the Museum of Art, over the last month, our 8th graders all went to view the Degas exhibit and complete a couple of integrated projects about the museum and the exhibit. It is always gratifying for an educator when they hear the students’ comments about how a field trip really was a whole lot better that they thought it would be.

Last Day for Student Laptops

On June 8th, we will be collecting all of the student laptops for the year. We will have a process for the teachers to use to check in the laptops. All students will be expected to return a laptop, in reasonable condition, the charger that was assigned to the student and the carrying case. If any student fails to return any of the items, parents will be assessed a fee to cover the cost of replacement.

Should there be any significant damage, keys missing, cracked bottom case or cracked LCD screen, families will be assessed the cost of repair. If you have any questions about this, please contact me.

Top Ten Lists

Recently, U.S. News and World Report published its list of the top high schools in America based upon a their criteria of what makes a school great. It has something to do with the number of students taking the Advances Placement tests and how many students pass. U.S. News reported the findings in a couple of formats, the country as a whole and then by state. In each state they ranked the top ten and then ranked the rest of the schools alphabetically.

Well, this got me to thinking about the whole idea of how and why we rank certain things, (Remember, I am a Middle School Principal, so, a little patience please!) and I do enjoy Letterman’s Top Ten List.

In sports, we have standings so we can decide what teams will play for the championship and gets the trophy and all of the endorsements that go along with being a champion, it’s good for business! And, besides, it is really easy to figure out, you win more games than everyone else and you are in first place.

I don’t think the rest of life is as easy to rank as sports, however. When we think about the best place to shop, many of us first think about Wal-Mart, but is it the best place to shop? Some would say yes, some would say no! It depends upon what you are looking for and what quality of product you seek. We have lots of choices for things like a cup of coffee. We could always find a Dunkin Donuts or a Starbucks and we know the quality of their product, but we still choose to patron our local St. Joe’s or Gorham Grind, even though they may not make the Top Ten list nationally.

OK, so where am I going with this?

True to Middle School roots, Top Ten Lists are not worth the paper they are printed on! Let’s take the Maine top ten list for example. Guess which school U.S. news rated second in the state? Greenville Middle/High School! OK, I am no genius, and I mean no disrespect to the gook people and educators of Greenville, but I don’t see folks lining up to get into that school! Greenville (see their web site) is a beautiful community nestled on the shores of Moosehead Lake, a real gem of western Maine and a community filled with great, hard-working people. In fact each year their boys and girls basketball teams contend for state titles. But, come on, U.S. News there must be more to your top ten rankings than just test scores!

Doesn’t this really shine a bright light on how ridiculous the ranking of anything to do with education is?

Now, don’t get me started on Race To The Top!

Until next time…

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