We are Beginning to get into our Groove!

I Hope I Didn’t Offend Anyone

In my zeal to use humor to address a very serious subject, I noticed after I posted that this image could be offensive to some, considering I used name calling as a “put down” for all bullies . That is not at all what I want to accomplish.

To respond to bullying behaviors by using Big Ugly Loner Losers Yearning attention a fairly negative image, could be equated to “fighting fire with fire”, and we all know where that leads… everyone getting burned! Yet, this is what we see as the response to mean behavior from one students toward another. While it may feed the individual sense that you “stood up” for yourself by having an equally nasty comeback, it does very little to make the behaviors stop, and that is, after all, what we all want, isn’t it?

So, my choice for the image imbedded in my post was a poor choice. I should have done better and set a much better example! However, I think that this demonstrates how difficult it is for all of us to remain on the “high road” when we are faced with some cutting comments from our peers.

Circle the Date: October 11th

We will begin the “conversation on bullying behaviors” in the GMS Auditorium at 6:30 pm.

In last week’s post, I mentioned our struggles in coping with bullying behaviors. We are now in our 4th week of school and in the time since we began, we have had to deal with a few cases of “bullying behaviors” by our students. You may note that I put “bullying behaviors” in quotes. That is because when we examine the events that caused these claims to rise, we find that there is a “give and take” between students of language, looks or physical activity before one, or both raise the issue of bullying. Usually, when we talk with the students we hear statements like “we were just fooling around at first.” or “we always kid each other, I thought we were friends”.

This really creates a problem for us (OK, now I sound like I’m complaining!). We take each case of bullying behavior seriously and when we have difficulty trying to figure out what actually happened, we do not want it to seem like we are minimizing the event. Too often, school administrators pass over the behaviors as a “boys will be boys” behavior or something similar. We believe we cannot afford to do that, but we also do not want to elevate events to a level no warranted, either.

There are lots of resources for teachers, administrators, parents and students available on the internet. In preparing for this Conversation, I have come across many excellent resources that I will use during this work. I have also come across lots of stuff that seems to be contradictory to what I believe is good practice.

The bottom line of our conversations will be a plan for how we, as a community, will address the behaviors that get in the way of our students, your children, feeling safe and willing to learn. I hope we see lots of you on the 11th.

This Just In

I gotta believe that someone in the US Department of Education is reading this blog, because just as I was about to publish this post I checked my Twitter feed. What do you think I find? That’s right, a tweet from my good friends at the USDOE to help promote our “Conversation” on October 11th. Check out this post from Deborah Temkin.

GMS Homework Protocols

As an adviser to 15 eighth grade students, I have had several conversations during our advisory time about homework and how long it takes my students to complete the assignments each night. I must tell you that this was a very interesting conversation, and they really had me worried about how much work they were getting each night. However, during the conversation some other “topics” came up that made me think a little more about what they were saying.

As we talked about all of the homework, we also talked about texting friends and facebook statuses and the occasional skype conversation, nit to mention the TV break to catch up on the Voice and AGT and of course the ever important series Jersey Shore and Snooki’s new addition. I did ask if they did all of these activities before, during or after the finished their homework and they all answered “YES!”.

First, our Student Handbook is intentionally vague about homework for each grade level, allowing for each team and each teacher some leeway in assigning homework so that it can fit the needs of the entire team.

The School Committee Policy on homework is also written to allow each teacher the responsibility to act according to the needs of their class, yet be mindful that the student has requirements for additional classes as well. It is my opinion that this Homework Policy (IKB) is extremely well written and allows for teachers, students and students and family to interact positively in the furtherance of the academic goals of the district.

OK, we’ve covered the legalese stuff, but what does this mean for me and my family?

When we examined our Homework Protocols a couple of years ago, a committee of teachers and administrators at GMS examined several other schools and what they do, both locally and nationally, and we came up with a fairly good “rule of thumb” for our teachers and students to follow. We, the entire faculty, decided that 10 minutes per grade level (6th grade = 60 minutes, 7th grade = 70 minutes and 8th grade = 80 minutes) per night should be sufficient for our students to complete their homework.

We had several reasons for this rule, we believed that it was sufficiently progressive for the students to prepare them for more complex work each year, it was sufficient time for each teacher to get what they needed out of homework and it provided time for students to “have a life” outside of school with club teams and dance schedules and just plan old ordinary family time.

We also felt that this met with the letter and the spirit of the School Committee’s policy.

So what should you do if your child has reached the threshold for an evening of homework? There are a couple things you could do. One, call your child’s teacher and leave a message for them on their school voicemail about the homework problem. Another solution would be to email your child’s teacher explaining the difficulties. Sometimes the teacher can respond right away, because they are on email many evenings. Finally, the very low tech method would be to put your signature on the homework paper with a very brief explanation.

Communication is the key to all of this, both from home-to-school and school-to-home.

Recap of the First School Dance of the Year

Friday night’s dance has been the talk of the school on Monday and Tuesday. I think the kids really enjoyed the dance and, I am happy to report, the dance went very well, the kids were great and the chaperones did a great job.

Oh, yeah, and our new DJ was amazing. We had lights, fog and beach balls to keep the kids going, and, believe it or not, the kids actually danced quite a bit. Can’t wait for the next dance, next month.

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