OK, Winter, I Know You’re Out There!

topperMiddle

Important Upcoming Dates

November 20 – School Lockdown Drill
November 22 – School Dance, GMS Gymnasium 6:00 – 8:00 pm
November 27 – 29 – Thanksgiving Break No School
December 10 – Holiday Band Concert 6:30 pm GMS Auditorium
December 12 – Activities, Clubs and Sports Team Picture Day
December 12 – Chorus and Steel Band Concert 6:30 GMS Auditorium
December 13 – School Dance GMS Gymnasium 6:00 – 8:00 pm

Stormy Weather

It is that time of the year, you know, when kids (and teachers) seem to follow the weather reports with a far greater sense of importance. The possibility of that wonderful time when the air is filled with snow flakes, the roads are empty of cars (except the brave and the snow plows) and, speaking of snow plows, the age old battle of shoveling the end of the driveway only to have the gleeful snowplow man drive by 20 minutes later and re-deposit all of that snow right back where it came from (Argh!!).

We will continue to call the TV and radio stations to notify the public that “we will be sleeping in this morning” and we will also mass send out emails, text messages and make automated phone calls to you home and cell phones (which ever we have on file) making the announcement as well. Hopefully, everyone will get the message.

You may want to check the parent portal to make sure the we have your correct information in our Student Information System. If we have incorrect information, you can call Terry LaMontagne in our Guidance office and she will get the new info updated. Here’s hoping that we only have one snow day!

School Lock Down Drill

In conjunction with the Gorham Police Department, we will be holding a Lock Down Drill for our students on Wednesday, November 20. The building alarm will sound and students and teachers will practice our protocols designed and outlined in our School Emergency Plan. Local safety personnel will be on hand to evaluate all of all plans and offer suggestions on how we can improve our safety procedures.

We do these types of drills a couple of times a year, and each time we seem to learn more about how we can improve and keep our community safe.

File This Under “Stuff Parents Should Know”

In the past few weeks, although it has probably been going on longer, we have become aware of a social networking site that many of our students have been visiting that is causing some concern. OK, it is causing quite a bit of concern with me!

The site is called Ask.fm, and it thrives on the fact that people can post their messages anonymously. People are asked a fairly innocuous question like “why are you alive?”. They then answer their question and others are “invited” to answer the question about you as well. As you can imagine, there is ample opportunity for some people to take “liberties” that they would not ordinarily take in person.

There have been countless number of stories in the media about Ask.fm, and none of them have been very flattering. Because of the way the site is set up, respondents are anonymous, it is very fertile ground for cyber bulling and behaviors that students would not normally engage. We have had a few instances of our students being targeted, but, because of the anonymity, we are hard pressed to pinpoint the source.

This is where you all come in!

During our MLTI Information nights, you remember, the evening meetings you kids said “you had to attend”, we talked about keeping the laptops in a family room or in a common area all within eyesight of adults. Please do not let the students take the devices into their bedrooms so that they can “have a quiet place to study”. Having the adult eyes present as much of the time as possible, will inhibit the students from venturing to places of uncharted waters.

I would also suggest that each of us should ask our kids if they are aware of this site, have they been to it and have they ever participated in the “pile on” of others that happen on this site. Their answers could be great topics for discussion around the dinner table.

The site is blocked at school, so unless students have figured out how to bypass our filters, the 7 hours, or so, that students are at school, they will not have access to Ask.fm.

Going “Incognito”

I have been try to look at the situation that has been played out in the national media surrounding the bullying of an NFL Player by his teammates, and specifically, one teammate. As an observer of this through only the lens of what is reported in the newspapers and on the TV, I am amazed at how much this sounds like a middle school environment rather than that of a “Professional” organization.

One thing that I have found very interesting, however, is how this is playing out with teammates, management and others. The pathology (if that is the correct word) is strikingly similar to the stuff we deal with here at GMS. Students say something that is offensive to another student and the response we get “I was just fooling with him/her”, sound familiar?

Then we have the “bystanders”, the folks who are in the vicinity of the action taking place. Olweus has defined these people in several different categories from “henchmen” to “defender of the victim” and several names that fall in between those two ( see chart below).

What is interesting to me is the fact that what I have observed in the media is much of what Olweus describes on this chart, only more to the left side of the chart and less on the right side of the chart. This really demonstrates how difficult it is for anyone to come to the aid of the victim, even strong, overly aggressive grown men who do actually know the difference between right and wrong, yet do not want to appear to be weak in the company of their peers. If it is that difficult for a professional football player to stand up in a locker room and say that what apparently happened was not OK, imagine how difficult it is for our students to try this. And, yet we all know that the correct thing to do in this situation is to stand up, not for the individual, but against the behaviors that are wrong!

I would love to have a conversation about this with parents.

PIE Meeting

Our regularly scheduled PIE meeting, set for November 21 has been cancelled. I will be out of town on that evening. We will have our regular meeting on December 19th in the GMS Library beginning at 6:00 pm.

Cleaning Up Your Digital Footprint

One of the resources I use to collect information for this blog is Twitter, you know, that “140 character, I don’t understand what all the fuss is about, who cares what Kanye is doing” social media site that seems to be included in lots of peoples conversations. I also follow several very good people (not Kanye!) who help in doing my job and help me help my staff have lots of resources available to them.

One person I follow is Patrick Larkin, Assistant Superintendent of Schools in Burlington, Massachusetts. He is constantly “tweeting out” very interesting resources and he has created within his school district a true sense of what it means to be a 21st Century School System.

His students at Burlington High School, and other schools in the district, seem to have embraced a very positive position about how to properly use social media for improving the educational experience. The students seem to understand the power of social media and its truly positive elements in improving their educational experience and in using to help others have a positive educational experience. The students have developed a Help Desk, what the call a “Student Run Genius Bar”, that offers tips for students in maximizing their use of technology.

This post, from January 15, 2013, offer students not just the how to clean up your social media sites, but a very good rationale as to why you should clean up your social media sites. I will tell you that I found this very informative and helpful for me and how I employ social media in my work and my life and I thought you all might find that it makes for a good conversation with your kids. http://bhshelpdesk.com/2013/01/15/cleaning-up-your-digital-identity-a-students-perspective/

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