Summertime, and the Livin’ is Easy!

topperMiddle

Upcoming Important Dates

Aug 29 – First day of school for 6th Graders
Aug 30 – First Day of school for 7th & 8th Graders
Sep 2 – No School Labor – Long Labor Day Weekend
Sep 5 – Labor Day No School
Sep 8 – School Picture Day
Sep 8 – Vision & Hearing Screening day
Sep 12 & 13 -MLTI Parent Information Evening
Sep 16 – School Dance

Student Placement

We have completed the placement process for all of our students for the next school year. The process is exhausting and extensive and it is one that we take very seriously. We take information from parents and the students’ teachers to make sure we put together combinations that make sense for the entire school. We also work hard to make sure that students have at least one friend on their team (usually, they have many friends with them!).  In any event, since the 8th grade is housed in one wing of the school, it is very likely that they will still have plenty of time for socializing with friends.

Our goal is to have teams that resemble the grade as a whole, in other words, a heterogeneous group of students with similar strengths and similar challenges. We endeavor to make sure that no one team can be perceived as the team that has far more of one type of student over another.

(Side note: In some of the emails and telephone calls we have received, parents have objected to their child being placed on the team with all of the Special Education students, or the behavior students, or, that another team has all of the “college-bound” students. This is why we do this exhausting process, to keep this from happening)

We also understand that sometimes we don’t get it right. We have set out a protocol for parents top voice their concern and request a change of team. To do so, parents must demonstrate one of the following four possibilities in making the request:

  1. Prior negative experience with the student and a teacher on the team;
  2. Prior negative experience with a sibling or family member and a teacher on the team;
  3. An issue between another student on the team that rises to the level of civil or legal involvement, and;
  4. A teacher on the team who is a relative and placement could cause a problem.

Short of meeting any of these conditions, we are restricted from moving students off a team.

There is a bit of hope, however, we know that over the course of the summer students move in and students move away. We are committed to making our teams representative of the grade as a whole. In late August, when we begin to receive the transfer requests, we re-examine the make up of each team and make adjustments at that time. In the past, we have had to move students to different teams.

What we cannot allow is the idea of “team or teacher shopping”. Making requests for a particular team or teacher would complicate the process to the extent that it would be impossible to keep the mix of students representative of the whole grade.

If I could pass on a little bit of wisdom that I have gained over the years, first as a parent, and then as a middle school administrator, kids are incredibly resilient. What appears to be the crisis to end all crises, can be mollified with time.

Finally, I am happy to meet with any parent to talk about each of the teams at our grade levels. We are incredibly blessed at Gorham Middl School because we have some very talented, dedicated teachers who go more than above and beyond to provide our students with great learning experiences.

 Supply Lists for 2016-2017 School Year

I figured that I would try to beat Staples, Wa;smart and Office Max to the punch and get our supply lists out to all well before the “Back-to-School Sale Season” starts. I want to temper these lists a little bit by reminding you that your child does not need  to have all of these supplies for the first day of school, these are meant to last for the entire year, so you might be able to ease into the purchasing a bit.

I have updated our GMS Webpage with the complete lists for each team. Follow this link to the GMS page and scroll down to “Supplies List” section. Please be very mindful of the amount of supplies your child will need. Also, if you are experiencing financial difficulties, please don’t hesitate to call me. We do have some supplies available for students, if necessary. I will keep any information in complete confidence.

Summer Reading for a Principal

Summer is the time that I can settle in for an afternoon of enjoyable reading. Maybe some history about General George Washington and the American Revolution, or John Sanford novel with Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers, those are always interesting, if not a bit gruesome.

But for now, I am elbow deep into Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith’s Most Likely to Succeed (MLS). Tony Wagner has been featured in this blog on a couple of occasions, both in video and in print. I appreciate his take on the challenges we are facing in preparing pour kids for their future. Ted Dintersmith is new to me. The book jacket says he is a venture capitalist who has turned his attention to improving our educational system in a manner that is quite different than other wealthy people are suggesting.

As I said, I am only elbow deep into this book with lots more reading and understanding to do.

About a year ago, Ted Dintersmith was in Fargo, North Dakota, attending a TEDx conference. He delivered this address about his ideas and talked about the documentary he financed about education across the country. So far, I have been completely enthralled with everything Wagner and Dintersmith have said about how our education system needs to be more responsive to the needs of our future. I think we’ll be talking about this more in the coming months. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy his speech from Fargo.

The Power of Social Media

topperMiddle

Upcoming Important Dates

Thursday, February 12 – Digital Citizenship Assemblies for all grades
Friday, February 13 – A Dose of Reality Presentation, all students.
Friday, February 13 thru February 22 – Mid Winter Break, Enjoy the snow!!!
Friday, February 27 – Southern Maine Honors Chorus Festival, Westbrook Middle School
Saturday, February 28 – Southern Maine Honors Concert, Westbrook Middle School 3:30 pm

My Story about Social Media

On Thursday, February 12, Terri Dawson, Susie Hanley and I will address our entire student body in grade level assemblies to remind our kids about how to be a responsible digital citizen. I think we all recognize that, in the hands of the inexperienced, naive or immature individual, social media can be a very dangerous tool. It can be fraught with so many pitfalls that some of our students get caught up in a spider’s web of harsh talk, meanness and threat that escape, or even retreat, seems impossible.

There are some very positive ways to use social media, however, that can create a better world for all of us. Before last week, we had never heard of James Robertson of Detroit, Michigan. Today, because of social media, he will no longer have to trudge 21 miles, round trip each day, to get to work. Evan Leedy, a Wayne State University student had the idea to raise $5,000 to help James get his old auto repaired. His efforts through a social media fund-raising site raised more than $350,000 for Robertson and a local Ford Dealership donated the Ford Taurus. The result of these efforts not only aided an individual in need, it raised the spirits of a city, Detroit, Michigan, that has experienced a considerable downturn in the past two decades. As Robertson said “Forget Los Angeles, Detroit is the city of angels!”

My story is quite a bit different and far less compelling than James Robertson’s and Evan Leedy’s. Mine is about a large corporation and a small guy living in Saco, Maine who just wanted a way to keep his driveway clear of snow.

This past fall I purchased a garden tractor to mow my lawn, and a snowblower attachment to keep my driveway free from snow. Now, I must admit, I did not foresee the kinds of storms we have been getting this winter, but I did want to release myself from being reliant upon someone else to keep free from the back-breaking work of shoveling a long driveway.

When the first snowfall came, I was ready! My snowblower was on (I had the Sears guy out it on because I would have messed it up!), gas tank filled, oil changed to the proper weight (did you know you should use 5W30 and not 10W30 in the winter!), chains on the tires, I was ready. About 10 inches into a 21 inch snowfall, I went out, started my tractor and gave it a go. It seemed to be working fine, although the wind-swept snow returned to my driveway as soon as I passed, but I was making progress (in my mind).

Now comes the fun part. Toward the end of the snow storm (maybe the 19 -20 inch mark) I return to my tractor to finish the job begun earlier. I again check the gas, the oil, the chains and the blower chute, all good. I sit in the seat, place the choke on, depress the brake pedal and turn the key.

A wirrrr! A wirrrr? Yup, definitely a wirrrrr, no turning of the engine at, all. This isn’t right!

I could tell you all of the things I did to try to start this baby, but it would be a waist of time and space here. Suffice it to say that I needed to call the company, which I did.

They sent a man out to fix it and, after a week of waiting for parts and his schedule, he fixed it. Or, so I thought. Next storm, exactly the same result!

This time my call was on a Sunday (right in the middle of another monumental New England snow storm), and the results were much different. They could not possibly get someone out to see my sick little tractor for 12 days, 12 days! With the threat of lots more snow in the forecast, that was not acceptable and I told them that. Alas, there was nothing they could do, and they regretted my inconvenience!”, this is where social media enter the picture for me.

Having not had success with anyone from the company ( I actually had one of the telephone guys tell me “he was the boss, and there was no one above him” that I could speak with!), I turned to social media, met notably, Twitter and Facebook. Here is a picture of my original tweet.Screenshot 2015-02-11 09.45.21

Immediately, I received several tweets from other disgruntled Sears customers about their experiences with Sears repairs. The response was absolutely amazing.

My next move was to express my displeasure on the Sears Facebook page. On the Sears Facebook page there is a section for people to leave comments. I think Sears hoped that people who had received great service or bought life-changing appliances would sing the praises of the company for the whole world to see. What I found in this section of the Sears Facebook page were people who had similar experiences to mine and they were looking for a place to sound off.

This may be where my experience differs from many of the folks who had posted the negative comments. Posting to Twitter and Facebook elicited an immediate response from someone (other than the caller who was the boss!) to inquire about my problem. I started to think I was getting someplace, because shortly after I posted my comments to the Sears Facebook page I received a direct message (DM) on my Twitter feed asking if we could keep this in DM and not public and to DM my phone number and address to the folks at Sears Cares.

Initially, the response was similar to all of the responses I received up to this point. Here is the Sears Cares response:

 

Screenshot 2015-02-11 12.04.30When I responded to their DM that I didn’t want their “regret”, I wanted to be able to use the $3700 I spent for a solution. I explained they I had my money but, I didn’t have their product to use. Not the way I expect commerce to work! So here was my response to them:

Screenshot 2015-02-11 12.08.55

They then responded by asking me to call a telephone number. Now, I must admit I had great trepidation in starting this all over again, trying to get someone to understand the real problem here, not that Sears can made everything they make perfectly, but that they need to stand behind the products they sell. I understand that stuff breaks, I wish we could all be perfect (not like me!) and that the sun shined everyday and that we had achieved world peace, but I really , really do know that is not possible. What is possible is that the company can become more of a humanist (if that’s the correct use of the word) and exercise some compassion for their customer. That’s all I ask.

A nice woman answered the phone, after the obligatory auto-phone-answering voice led me through a couple of options. As soon as I mentioned my name she had my information in front of her on her computer screen. (What a great way to use technology!) She recapped my story and asked if Thursday would work for me (3 days!), so she understood! Finally, someone from the great corporate giant showing compassion!

I don’t know if they will be able to fix this garden tractor, and I certainly could have left all of the negative comments out there, but Sears did respond in an appropriate manner and they did, eventually find some compassion for a small consumer. This is no

Today is Wednesday and I have just received my robot phone call reminding me of the call between 10am and 2pm. I will take time out of my day to be there, as they requested. I am hopeful that the repair guy will have a new starter with him and that I will be able use my very expensive snow remover without any further problems. We’ll see.

What I did learn out of all of this is that social media can be used in a very constructive manner and it can be very powerful. It can also help to open doors to people and things that can help to make your life easier. I have been a huge consumer and user of social media in helping me to get better at being a Principal. I have connected with some very amazing people all over the world who face many of the same challenges and obstacles I do in being a Principal, and they have been so very helpful and giving of their expertise and knowledge.

So, we will continue to work with our students to help them become responsible, respectful, compassionate, courageous and honest users of social media. We will focus our attention on the positive uses and work to minimize the negatives because, if we all endeavor to contribute only positively to social media, we won’t need to worry about the negative. Maybe I’m naive, but I do think I know I kids… and they are the best!

 

 

 

 

Week Two Under our Belt!

topperMiddle

Upcoming Important Dates

September 10 – 6th Grade Parent Meeting GMS Library 6:00 pm
September 16 & 17 – MLTI Parent meetings in the GMS Auditorium 6:00 pm
September 19 – PIE Meeting, GMS Library 6:00 pm
September 20 – School Dance in the GMS Gymnasium 6:00 to 8:00 pm
September 23 – 7th Grade Parent Meeting, GMS Auditorium 6:00 pm
October 1 – 8th Grade Parent, GMS Auditorium 6:00 pm

Thank You  for Coming to Our Open House

Now I have never been a great judge of crowds, you know, estimating how many people are in one place at one time, but last night I think that almost all of our parents came to visit our school. I was hearing reports about where folks had to park to get inside the building and I could see the streams of humanity walking in the halls. It truly was great to see all of you!

I hope that you feel welcome to come back often!

MLTI Device Deployment (Laptops)

imagesWe will begin deploying (that’s computer lingo for handing out!) the laptops this week beginning with the 6th graders. You may remember that the 6th graders will be getting the devices used for the past four years by the 7th and 8th graders, so they will be somewhat used. Our Tech Department, however, has been giving each device the “once over” to make sure that they are operating appropriately. I believe that each student will receive a device that has been upgraded with new memory and new RAM with an operating system (OS) that will be compatible with the new devices that the 7th and 8th graders will be using. I am told that this is a good thing!

The 7th graders will receive their new MacBook Airs on Thursday and Friday, September 5 and 6. Eighth graders will get their new devices on Monday and Tuesday, September 9 and 10. The students will be able to use the computers here at school, but they will not be allowed out of the building until we get all of the parent permissions signed and returned.

We have been experiencing some difficulty in re-imagining (more tech talk) the 6th grade devices, so we will be a bit delayed in getting the devices into the hands of the 6th graders. We expect that by next Wednesday (September 10), the students will have their computers.

As we have in past years, the district will provide a Laptop Protection Plan (LPP) that must be purchased in order for the students to be allowed to take the devices from the building. The cost of the LPP is $25.00, and this year there will be no deductible.

We will explain all of this at the MLTI parent meetings on the 16th and 17th.

GMS Garden Project

Deer fenceAt the end of the school year, last year, we received a couple of grants from Gorham Savings Bank and the Walmart Foundation to fund the purchase and installation of a Deer Fence to protect our long standing garden from the local wildlife. At the beginning of the summer, our crack Maintenance guy, Dan Dupres, installed the fence around the garden. Well, I am pleased to report that the results are coming in and they are terrific. To date, Heather Whitaker reports that the Garden has produced over 600 pounds of produce that has been donated to the Ecumenical Food Pantry of Gorham. 600 HUNDRED POUNDS!!! That is amazing!

Congratulations to our students who tended the garden over the summer, to Mrs. Whitaker for being Lopesuch a green thumb, to Dan for his amazing work installing the fence and to Gorham Savings Bank and the Walmart Foundation for being such great benefactors to our program.

Give to GMS with Target.com

I will be keeping this entry in the blog until the last possible day of the promotion because this can be some real money for our school. I will try to keep this kind of commercialism to a minimum in this blog.

This is clearly filed under the category of shameless pandering by a Principal seeking funds to do our work, but this appears to be something that can really help us fund some activities that we could not cover in our very austere budget. So here goes…Target

Visit http://givewith.target.com/school/5098 to vote for our school.
This year, Target will give money to schools all over the country for one simple act: a vote. Our school needs just 25 votes to earn a $25 donation from Target. But that’s only the beginning. For each additional vote, our school will get $1 more. So please remember that, although the gesture is small, the rewards are potentially huge. Go to http://givewith.target.com/school/5098 to vote for Gorham Middle School once a week through September 21 or until Target has given away all $5 million. And please forward this email to your friends. Vote and see rules at  http://GiveWith.Target.com.

You can only vote once a week, but you can vote multiple time on different devices.

6th Grade Parent Meeting

As I mentioned in previous posts, we are planning to hold quarterly grade level parent nights this year in an attempt to bring our parents closer to our school. Please don’t takeCLIPART_OF_15182_SM_2 this as an inference that our parents are not already close to our school, but we have many challenges and opportunities ahead of us, each that if addressed, will make our school even stronger. These nights are not mandatory, by any stretch of the imagination, but we are hopeful that we can get some new ideas from these meetings.

Our first meeting is for 6th grade parents and we hope to get some feed back on how we can improve the initial experience of your children during the move from elementary to middle school. These can be very challenging times for our newest members and we are always looking to improve. Also, sometimes we can be a bit myopic in our view because we do this every year. Feedback is always good for improvement.

Our meetings will follow a fairly loose agenda. I don’t want us to be restricted in our questions and comments but we do need to be a bit organized with the evening. Our first meeting is Tuesday, September 10 at 6:00 pm in the GMS Auditorium. We will go until we are done, probably about an hour and folks can come and go as they please.

Our Topics for Discussion should include:

The Opening of School
Improving Home/School Communications
Opportunities for 6th graders
How do we get involved?
Other

We are open to other topics for discussions and if you’d like it included on the agenda please send me an email or give me a call.

Common Core State Standards

Common-Core-logoIn the coming months, you will hear a great deal in the press about the impending implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The CCSS is an effort by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the group that represents the Commissioners of Education in all 50 states. The effort is to bring into some kind of alignment with all of the states as to what is acceptable levels of proficiency for the students of America.

It is not without its controversy, however, but I will let other people debate that. For us, I think it is important that we all know what is expected of us and what can we do to help our kids get best prepared for their futures.

I found a short video that attempts to explain the CCSS with reasonable clarity and with pictures.

 This is My First Attempt at This!

I am curious about how many of our students have Smart Phones and how many of them bring them to school. Obviously, technology changes at a very rapid pace, and, while we try to keep up with all of the changes, our students always seem to be a few paces ahead!

I have always wondered how many of our students have access to online resources that do not run through our school filter. This is not a nefarious attempt by administration to stop this, actually, it may be a way for us to do our job better and more efficiently.

So here is my first attempt at inserting a poll in this blog. 

The responses will be anonymous, and don’t feel compelled to respond if you are uncomfortable doing it. This really is just an experiment for me in using this new feature to the blog.

Until next week…

Well, I Think That Went Very Well…

topperMiddle

Happy Labor Day!

September 2 – Labor Day (No School)
September 3 – School Pictures and Vision and Hearing Screenings
September 3 – GMS Open House 6:00 – 7:00 pm
September 4 – Faculty Meeting 2:30 in GMS Library
September 10 – 6th Grade Parent Meeting GMS Library 6:00 pm
September 16 & 17 – MLTI Parent meetings in the GMS Auditorium 6:00 pm
September 19 – PIE Meeting, GMS Library 6:00 pm
September 20 – School Dance in the GMS Gymnasium 6:00 to 8:00 pm
September 23 – 7th Grade Parent Meeting, GMS Auditorium 6:00 pm
October 1 – 8th Grade Parent, GMS Auditorium 6:00 pm

Great Opening of School

On the last day of school, each June (and I’m speaking only for me), I personify our wonderful school building and begin to hear it say, in a whisper, “what am I going to do for the next two and a half months without my kids?”

OK, please don’t think I’ve gone mad, I really haven’t! The school definitely takes on a totally different feel when the kids aren’t present. The doors seem to open with the echo of emptiness, and each footfall walking in the halls resonates that emptiness. But when the kids come back, the life of the building returns, and the hum of life takes over the entire building the way a Big Papi homerun envelopes Fenway (had to get the Red Sox in here somehow!).

Usually, the first day of school is quite traumatic several of our 6th graders (and some 7th and 8th graders as well!), some tears and some children even refusing to leave their cars or get on buses. This year, while we had a few tears, the actual number of students outwardly demonstrating their anxiety was considerably less. So, can I extend a huge thank you to all of you parents and guardians for getting these kids ready for school?

I also want to thank all of our 7th and 8th grade teachers for being “so present” during the 6th grade only day. I really think that their presence in helping the new members of our community with tasks like successfully working the combinations on the new locks and guiding tours around the building, as well as helping out in the cafeteria really made the 6th graders feel very comfortable in their large, strange new surroundings.

Here’s hoping that we can go forward in this positive direction for the whole year!

Thank You for Following

I am hoping that we can use this blog as a vehicle to convey information and other resources that will be helpful during the course of the year. Knowing what we know about adolescents, some of the information (OK, maybe more than “some”) that we send home in backpacks never quite make it into your hands, this should be a resource to answer any questions.

I plan to update this at least weekly, more if there is information I think you may need, so please check back regularly. If you are already following, great. If not, it is very each to do and, when you do, you will receive an email letting you know about a new post.

GMS Open House

Tuesday evening, 6:00 to 7:00 pm, all GMS teachers and many of the staff will be available for a “Meet and Greet”. Teachers will be in their classrooms and we have asked each of our students to introduce you to their teachers and then conduct a tour of their new “digs”, classrooms and other places of interest that will e their world for the next 10 months.

We will have two banks of computers set up in the main foyer of the school. One bank will be dedicated to help parents complete the volunteer verification process so that we can have plenty of volunteers ready for things like working in the classroom, going on field trips and chaperoning dances. The second bank of computers will be to help parents sign in to the Infinite Campus System with their user name and password. The Infinite Campus system allows parents and guardians to remain current with your child’s progress in grades and homework during the school year.

I promise that we will have people at each bank of computers to help you with the process!

We look forward to seeing everyone on Tuesday night.

Give to GMS with Target.com

I will be keeping this entry in the blog until the last possible day of the promotion because this can be some real money for our school. I will try to keep this kind of commercialism to a minimum in this blog.

This is clearly filed under the category of shameless pandering by a Principal seeking funds to do our work, but this appears to be something that can really help us fund some activities that we could not cover in our very austere budget. So here goes…Target

Visit http://givewith.target.com/school/5098 GiveWith.Target.com to vote for our school.
This year, Target will give money to schools all over the country for one simple act: a vote. Our school needs just 25 votes to earn a $25 donation from Target. But that’s only the beginning. For each additional vote, our school will get $1 more. So please remember that, although the gesture is small, the rewards are potentially huge. Go to http://givewith.target.com/school/5098 to vote for Gorham Middle School once a week through September 21 or until Target has given away all $5 million. And please forward this email to your friends. Vote and see rules at  http://GiveWith.Target.com.

You can only vote once a week, but you can vote multiple time on different devices.

Tuesday, September 3rd is Picture Day

On Thursday, your child should have in his/her backpack an order form from Lifetouch Pictures. All students will be having photograph taken.framepic_home It is important for you to know that you have no obligation to purchase any of these packages. We have devised a schedule for these pictures to be taken with a minimum amount of disruption to classes.

We chose to have the good folks at Lifetouch do our pictures this year based upon some photograps they took a couple of springs ago that were well received by those who chose to buy the packages offered. Lifetouch also offered several other features which enhance our safety plans for the school and provide us instant assistance in case of an emergency.

As always, I would welcome your comments about their service and product.

Tooth Fairies

ToothIn the packets that your child brought home on Thursday was an informational sheet about dental care that we can provide through a non profit organization called “The Tooth Fairies”. The Tooth Fairies offer preventative dental care through cleaning to students whose families may not be able to afford such care. The Tooth Fairies are all volunteer Dental Hygienists who volunteer their services to our community.

In order to take advantage of this service, you must return the sheet to our school nurse by the end of this coming week. Teresa Merrill, School Nurse, will be scheduling students for visits by the end of the month.

If you have any questions, please contact Teresa Merrill at school.

Coming Attractions in Next Post

What is the Common Core State Standards. We will try to explain what all of this will meant to our students and our teachers.

The School Year has Begun

topperMiddleImportant Upcoming Dates

August 28 – First Student Day (6th Graders only)
August 29 – All students return
August 30 – No School ( Long Labor Day Weekend)
September 2 – Labor Day (No School)
September 3 – School Pictures and Vision and Hearing Screenings
September 3 – GMS Open House 6:00 – 7:00 pm
September 4 – Faculty Meeting 2:30 in GMS Library
September 10 – 6th Grade Parent Meeting GMS Library 6:00 pm
September 16 & 17 – MLTI Parent meetings in the GMS Auditorium 6:00 pm
September 20 – School Dance in the GMS Gymnasium 6:00 to 8:00 pm

August 28

back_to_school_56th Grade students have the whole school to themselves for the entire day! You remember that during step up day last year your child received their team assignment and met their teachers for this year. Well, it’ this year! Where did the summer go??

We, teachers and staff, have been meeting for the past two days making plans for the first day of school. I am happy to report to you that all of our teachers are ready and raring to go. Floors have been waxed, boards have been cleaned, classroom bulletin boards have been decorated all in anticipating of our newest middle school citizens arriving.

August 29

All students return to the Middle School for the start of a Brand New Year. We can hardly wait to see all of our new students. The day will be a full day for students with an extended Advisory Period so that the Advisory Groups and new team mates can get to know each other.

Give to GMS with Target.com

This is clearly filed under the category of shameless pandering by a Principal seeking funds to do our work, but this appears to be something that can really help us fund some activities that we could not cover in our very austere budget. So here goes…Target

Visit http://givewith.target.com/school/5098 GiveWith.Target.com to vote for our school.
This year, Target will give money to schools all over the country for one simple act: a vote. Our school needs just 25 votes to earn a $25 donation from Target. But that’s only the beginning. For each additional vote, our school will get $1 more. So please remember that, although the gesture is small, the rewards are potentially huge. Go to [ http://givewith.target.com/school/5098 ]GiveWith.Target.com to vote for Gorham Middle School once a week through September 21 or until Target has given away all $5 million. And please forward this email to your friends. Vote and see rules at [ http://GiveWith.Target.com ]GiveWith.Target.com.

You can only vote once, but you can vote multiple time on different devices.

Long Labor Day Weekend

The traditional end of summer weekend promises to be be great weather for all of those hammocklast activities of “freedom”. Cookouts, fishing trips, family gatherings and last walks on the beach (although, the weekends are still great for all of that right through October!), should be in many folks’ plans for the long four-day weekend.

When we return from that wonderful respite, after two grueling days of work (tongue planted firmly in cheek here!), we will begin to long journey of learning, actually a quest more than a journey, that will bring our students to wondrous places facinating people with some incredible stories.

A very long way to say enjoy the Official End of Summer Weekend and please be safe.

Picture Day – September 3

When students return to school from the aforementioned wondrous weekend, we will be framepic_homeholding our annual picture day for all students. We do this as early as we possibly can to make sure that we have time for re-takes for those not satisfied with their first pictures. Doing this early allows us plenty of time to make sure that you have pictures to give to your family members as presents during the holidays.

We will also be performin our annual vision and hearing screenings during this time. Normally, this is reserved for our 7th grade students, but occasionally we have to “catch up” with a few new 8th graders, as well.

Laptop Deployments

mlti-logoAs many of you may have heard, the state of Maine has again renewed the MLTI program for the next four years. This means that all of our 7th and 8th grade students will be receiving new MacBook Airs laptops. Our 6th grade students will be receiving the devices that had been used by 7th & 8th graders, but significantly upgraded from their previous life.

Laptops will be deployed to students beginning on Wednesday

No students will be able to bring home any device until after all meetings have been attended and all paperwork is completed and turned into the office. There is a required meeting for all Middle School parents on either Monday, September 16 or Tuesday, September 17. The meetings will begin at 6pm in the GMS Auditorium. We will look at the new devices for 7th and 8th grade parents and we will look at the new operating system (OS) for all of the computers.

We will also take this time to talk to parents about safety of our students while using technology. This is a very important topic with lots of great resources for parents to use with their children at home. There will also be some tips we can provide to parents so that they can “keep an eye” on their child’s comings and goings on line.

Looking forward to seeing all on this very important night.

GMS Open House

open_house_icon_55924September 3rd is going to be a very busy day for our teachers and students. Beside having our “real” first day of school (possibly with homework!), students will be bringing their parents back to school to introduce them to their new teachers and to show off their new classrooms.

We look forward to meeting all of our parents on this night. The Open House will begin at 6:00 pm and run until 7:00 pm. We plan to have lots of information available for our new and returning parents. There will be information on how to volunteer in our schools, our homework club and after school library availability as well great information about our school lunch program and much, much more.

Please circle the date of September 3rd to join us for this fun night.

Grade Level Parent Meetings

Something new that we would like to start this year at GMS are regular meetings withCLIPART_OF_15182_SM_2 parents of each grade level. Our first meeting will be Tuesday, September 10 at 6:00 pm, with parents of 6th grade students. Initially, we will schedule the meetings for the Auditorium, but, if necessary, we can move to a more appropriate location. These meetings can cover a myriad of topics from technology to Common Core, from the changing nature of their child to ideas about fundraising.

We hope that people will find these nights beneficial and informative and that these sort of events will make our school community a better place for our kids.

We will also be holding similar meetings for parents of 7th grade and 8th grade students later in September on Tuesday the 24th and Tuesday October 1st.

I hope you can all join us on these evenings…

Report Cards, Progress Reports and Infinite Campus

For the past 5 years, we have been using Infinite Campus (IC), a student information system that is as all encompassing as a system can be. IC tracks our attendance, heath issues, student grades and progress as well as family demographics.report2

For the past 3 years all of our teachers have been religiously entering into the IC Grade Module, the progress of students through their classes by placing the appropriate grades achieved on all of the student assignments. The teachers are required to enter their grades at least weekly so that parents can be assured that their child’s progress is as up-to-date as possible. Many of our teachers enter grades more often than once a week, so some are actually “live” grades.

Also for the past 3 years, we have made the Grade Module available to parents by means of a user name and a password. This Portal allows the parents, and students, to see how well they are achieving in each class, what work has been collected by the teacher and what work, if any, may be missing. By checking this Portal on a regular basis, students and parents can keep up on their progress and where any problems may arise.

Because of this Portal, we have found it to be extremely redundant (and expensive) to produce paper copies of all these reports available through the Parent Portal. Beginning with the October Progress Reports, we will no longer be printing copies of the reports for all students. Parents can view the reports through the Parent Portal on the IC System.

If you do not have access to the Internet, we can produce and send out to parents “hard” copies of reports. Please call the Guidance Office to make this request.

Hopefully, this will allow parents to remain current with their child’s progress and save our school a few dollars on paper and printing costs. As always, if you have any questions about this, please give me a call at the office.

Boy Did We Miss the Kids! Thanks for Bringing Them Back to Us!

Gorham House of Pizza

We were all very saddened to hear about the devastating fire at the Gorham House of Pizza. Besides being a landmark in the center of town, GHOP is a vital part of the fabric of our community. I feel quite unqualified to discuss this, being relatively new to the town, but in all of my years in education, I have never encountered an individual or a business that put so much back into the town. I know that I can speak for all of us here at GMS, we wish Angelo and all of his staff the best of luck and we stand very ready to help out in anyway that we can.

Spring Sports Have Begun

All of our sports teams have been practicing since the first week in April and we are now ready to start the games. We were supposed to have games and a track meet today but the weather got the best of us (not that we are complaining since we had great vacation weather). If you happen to be at the school on any given afternoon, stop by one of our fields, I am sure there will be at least one game in progress be it softball, baseball or lacrosse. You can also check our website for a complete schedule of games.

Homework Club and After School Library

During this time of the year we have found that the use of Homework and after school library use drops significantly because we have so many students involved in other after school activities. So, we are going to cut back the days we offer both to two days per week, Tuesday and Thursday. Students can always make time to meet with their teachers after school for extra help on any day, with reasonable notice. We hope that this doesn’t cause too much of an inconvenience to anyone.

Busy Week Ahead

There is so much going on here at GMS this week that it is hard to keep track (fact is, it is hard for me to keep track…period!). So let me try to tell you all of the “goings-on”.

Tuesday, April 24, we have our annual evening for incoming 6th graders and their parents. During this evening we will try to explain what a typical day at the middle school will look like for your child, when they get here. We will have several 6th grade teachers, our School Nurse, Instructional Strategist, Guidance Counselor and, of course, both administrators. We will welcome your questions and concerns. The evening begins at 6:30 in the GMS Auditorium.

Wednesday evening, April 25th, our very accomplished Jazz Band will be performing in concert at the GMS Auditorium beginning at 6:00 pm. Our Jazz Band is just returning from a very successful “gig” in Massachusetts performing at the John Philip Souza National Honors Band Competition. All reports form those in attendance is that our band was fantastic and that our kids were very respectful and gracious guests. Well Done to Mrs. Mathieu and all of the chaperones and students.

Thursday Evening is very busy with the monthly PIE meeting for the middle school in the GMS Library beginning at 6:00 and the All Gorham Band Concert at the GHS Auditorium beginning at 7:00 pm, so, you can come to the PIE meeting and then head over to the High School. But, if that’s not your cup of tea, the Sebago Team is holding an Evening in Ancient Times in the 6th grade wing. This is a showcase of some great work our 6th graders have done while learning about ancient Rome, Greece Egypt and Mesopotamia.

Finally, Friday evening is GMS Night at The Sea Dogs. We have many things happening at the ballpark on this night, our GMS Chorus will be singing the National Anthem, several of our teachers will be honored by the Sea Dogs for their contributions to the community, Jason Lambert, 7th grade LA and Social Studies Teacher will be throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. It should be a great night of fun and maybe a little baseball (given the way the Red Sox have been going!).

Odyssey of the Mind

A couple of posts ago I told you how proud we are of our students and teachers who competed in the state Odyssey of the Mind Competition. You may remember that Odyssey of the Mind is an international education program designed to encourage teamwork, divergent thinking and creativity. Our Students, Sam Roussel, Sam Martel, Teddy Lockman, Coleman Dowdle, Isaac Martel and Simon Roussel have qualified for the World competitions at Iowa State University. This requires fundraising on their part and they are very much in the process of doing this. If you would like to help these young divergent thinkers get to Ames, Iowa and the Iowa State University, please contact Diane Knott at 222-1220.

Spring Assessments

Each Spring we administer the Northwest Educational Assessment (NWEA). This assessment measures, to a certain degree, the growth of your child over the past year. The assessment looks at your child’s reading, math and language use and measures it against the last administration of the NWEA (last Spring). Our teachers use this information to help them form general ideas about how to best be able to “reach” your child, try to find books that will engage your child in reading or formulate a plan for helping your child better acquire language skills or math skills. These tests take about three days to administer, but the results of the assessment are immediate and available to all teachers. You will receive a report of how well your child performed by the end of the school year.

8th Grade students will be administered the Science portion of the MEA on May 10th. This is an assessment given to all 5th and 8th graders in the state of Maine and it measures proficiency based upon the standards articulated in the Maine Learning Results. You will receive a report of these results in mid-September.

Technology and your Kid (Part 5)

Dateline NBC has been running a series for the past couple of weeks titled My Kid Would Never Do That!, where they actually put students, or young people, in situations that call for them to make a rather quick decision about doing the right thing or the wrong thing. I know in my heart that there is something wrong with placing these kids in these kinds of situations, but I also know that doing this may save a couple of families the tremendous heartache when wrong decisions turn tragic.

So, what does this have to do with technology? I think it has everything to do with technology, with getting into an automobile with someone known to be under the influence, talking to strangers and giving them personal information and on, and on, and on.

It all comes down to Parenting 101. Always working with your children to help them make “right” decisions, being a role model for the behaviors you wish to see in your child.

One segment of the show last Sunday night dealt with texting and driving. In past posts I have discussed how the adolescent brain works 80 to 100 times faster that an adult brain and they can actually multi-task quite well on the tasks that they know quite well. That means that students can do homework and text and IM and listen to music and do so very well, because they know how to do all of these. However driving a one ton vehicle is new to most of them and so trying to accomplish texting and driving is difficult because they are new to driving and don’t know how to fully control the car.

The reporter pointed out, quite correctly, that when children see their parents texting while driving, then it becomes OK for them to do the same. While parents may say something like “Do as I say, not as I do”, to their kids, the child sees just the opposite and it becomes OK.

With technology, it is just the same, it is not a technology problem, it is a people problem. If parents deliver the right message, models the right behaviors to their children and sets limits for their children, the the results should be positive. But when parents capitulate to the whining of the child, or accept the notion that “all the other kids are doing it”, therefore it is OK, then the results will more likely not be what your want.

The final words spoken in the show was a message to parents, “Be A Parent, Not A Pal”. These are good words to live by for all of us. Raising a child to adulthood is the most difficult job any of us will ever do, and it is the most rewarding.

Doesn’t Look Like Snow Day is Going to Work!

Thank You to 8th Grade Parents

Thank you to those folks who were able to get to the meeting on Wednesday night about the conflict with the municipal elections and our 8th grade celebration. Also, thanks to the many folks who emailed some suggestions, they all were very helpful. I think what we’ll do is put out an electronic survey with the ideas presented and allow more people the chance to weigh in. I do think, though, we need to have the decision made by the Monday we come back from vacation.

I also think that any chance for a snow will be very remote by then (that was my suggestion, by the way!)

Report Cards

Report cards will be going home with the students today. Please check the back packs, although there should probably be no surprises given that we just had Parent/Teacher Conferences.

I Do Love Being Ahead of the Curve, However!

Several post ago I reported to you about the latest fad that was traveling through communities that had danger written all over it, the Cinnamon Challenge. On Saturday, March 24th the Boston Globe had a very substantial article on the Cinnamon Challenge with warnings to parents and educators to be aware of this happening.

James Mojica, a pulmonologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston reports “The biggest problem is that the powder dries in your mouth and throat, which makes it easier for it to enter your lungs instead of your stomach”. This is what can lead to breathing problems and lung injury.

The Golbe doesn’t report many school indicating that there is a problem in their communities, and some schools are not planning to send out warnings to the families, some are. I believe that if you look at just won video on Youtube, you will agree that the practice is, at its best, nasty and at its worst, down right dangerous.

April Vacation

Not that the students, and certainly not the teachers, need to be reminded, but we have a week off from school beginning on Friday April 13th. Actually, on Thursday the students will be released at 11:10 am and the teachers will have an afternoon workshop. ON Friday the students have no school and the teachers will be working in workshop all day.

If you are traveling, we wish you a safe and swift journey. We will see the kids back here on Monday, April 23rd.

Lots of Stuff Going on After April Vacation

We have a very busy schedule for the week after April Vacation!

On April 24th (Tuesday) we will be holding our annual 5th Grade Parent Night beginning at 6:30 in the GMS Auditorium. There will be Administrators, School Counselors, the School Nurse and several 6th grade teachers present to answer your questions. The evening will last about an hour and will begin with a short presentation on a typical school day for our students, what you, as parents, can expect for your child next year and, perhaps, a little insight on what you can expect from your child in the next three years. Should be an informative evening.

Wednesday, April 25th will have our Jazz Band taking the stage in the Auditorium to entertain us with their work from this year. Mrs. Mathieu reports that the band is in great tune and that they have performed very well at recent competitions, taking second place recently at Scarborough High School.

I can tell you that from what I have heard listening to their rehearsals, this will be a great night of jazz that you will not want to miss. It begins at 6:00 pm.

Thursday April 26th is especially busy for our students. The 6th Grade Sebago Team is presenting an evening of ancient times. The students will exhibit their learning of the ancient Romans, Greeks and Egyptians. So, “Walk Like an Egyptian” over to the “Colosseum” to catch some student exhibits of “Olympic” proportions (did I get it all in?)

Also on April 26th we have a PIE Meeting in the Library beginning at 6:30. In a recent post, I aksed about the idea of a Pot Luck Supper at the middle school where folks shared their recipes that we could put into a cook book that could be a fund raiser for the school. But, we could talk about anything that night.

And finally, but certainly not leastly( my spell check tells me this is not a word, oh well!), the All Gorham Chorus Concert will happen at the GHS Auditorium beginning at 7:00 pm.

Truly a busy night for all of us, I hoe to see you at most of these events.

End of the Year Testing

Beginning the week of April 30 through May 18, we will be administering our Spring NWEA testing. Each student will be assessed in the areas of reading, math and language use. The NWEA is an adaptive assessment, meaning that as student answer questions correctly the difficulty of the questions increase, and if they answer incorrectly the opposite occurs. Which leads to the question, if I don’t want the test to be too hard get a few incorrect answers, but this works in just the opposite for the scores the students receive. The best idea is to do the best you can so we can see how much you’ve grown over the year.

The tests will be administered on the students laptops and should only take a period of two per day for about 3 days, trust me, the students will not be tested for all of the days all three weeks, we really try to keep the interruptions to a minimum.

The Maine Educational assessment in Science will be administered to the 8th grade students on Thursday, May 10. This will be completed in one day and it is required by the state for all 5th and 8th grade students.

Technology and Your Kids (Part 2)

Last week, I talked about a couple of instances where technology was impacting lives in a different way, not better and not worse, just different. It made me begin to think about how rapidly our world is changing and how it impacts the lives of our students.

The PBS Television series Frontline did a report called Growing Up on Line that is a very in depth and revealing (and, sometimes troubling) view into the world that is available to our students. It talks about how our kids can create a whole new and different identity for themselves right under our nose. The show is about an hour in length, but you can certainly view it in smaller segments. What is also included in this web version of the Frontline series are several interviews with the people who research this topic. They do offer some very insightful ideas about how we keep the lines of communication open with our children and still keep them safe.

This show was produced and aired in 2008, so, in technological years, this show is ancient. So much has changed in the ensuing years that has increased tech’s influence upon our children and ourselves. Students are still reporting that their parents a getting them cell phones at a much younger age and the students report that the parents get them because they want their child to have the safety of being able to contact them whenever. Sometimes the unintended consequence of this is their child has more access to the outside world.

One of the first thoughts that we all have is that behind every screen there is a predator waiting for your child to come on line so that they can snare them into their trap and have their way with them. And, certainly, this is some truth to this, but it may not be the only thing we need to worry about.

Some of our students, right here in Gorham, have engaged in behaviors that definitely have us worried. The district has a very strict filter that keeps students from going to places they should not go, places like Facebook and MySpace and any web site that may include sex or pornography. We regularly review the web histories of many students that, somehow, bubble up as getting involved in something they shouldn’t be involved with. We have a program called Apple Remote Desktop, where we can actually see what students are doing on their computer in real time.  We know there are no limits on what is “out there” in cyber space, (it kind of reminds me of what my idea of the Wild West was. you know, “no lawman for miles, and you’re faced with the hombre just down the trail”), so we are ever vigilant, when the kids are at school. We try very hard in our school to educate our kids on how to be safe on the internet, and we are quite pleased with our results.

Once the students leave our network, however, we lose a certain amount of control. We can’t see where they are in real time anymore and our filters and firewalls do not extend beyond our school network. We rely on the parents, at home to make sure that students are using the devices appropriately.

This is where I suggest to parents to check with their Internet Service Provider (ISP) to see what kind of controls are available through their network. Time Warner Cable has some very good features in their system, but they are really hard to understand for the average person. A call to them to help gain an understanding of their controls would be very helpful.

One area we really need to work, however, is the idea of how we treat each other with technology.

On many occasions, I relate to the students who have acted inappropriately with others using technology, of a time, long, long ago (when I was a kid, so, really long ago!) when everything we said about someone disappeared into thin air immediately after we said. There were no chat logs that could be recovered, or emails that were forwarded or even a time machine that could actually go back in time and recover files long since deleted. Our words were gone as soon as we said them.

Today, it is a very different story. We can recover key strokes of students computers, right down to when the backspace because of a misspelling. Everything these kids do on line in these days is recorded. Pictures from cell phones, videos from cell phones, uploads to Facebook and Youtube, these can all be shared instantaneously with an infinite number of folks (OK, not infinite, maybe more like 6 billion) all with the push of a single button.

And these images do not go away… EVER!

We can wring our hands and gnash our teeth and scream “what are we to do?”, but that won’t help. Our best advice for living in this new era is to become less of a digital tourist and work toward becoming a positive digital citizen.

Until Next Time…