Bullying Behaviors and School Dances

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GSD LogoUpcoming Important Dates

Sep 21 & 22 – Maine Boys to Men and Hardy Girls Healthy Women
Sep 24 – 28 – Moving Naturally Week (see info below)
Sep 26 – Civil Rights Team Training – Portland
Sep 26 – Parent Summit on Bullying 6:00 pm GMS Auditorium
Sep 29 – End of STAR 360 testing
Sep 28 & 29 – Maine Boys to Men and Hardy Girls Healthy Women
Sep 29 – Announced Lockdown Drill 12:30 pm
Oct 5 – Maine Boys to Men and Hardy Girls, Healthy Women
Oct 6 – Teacher Workshop Day – No School for Students
Oct 10 – Columbus Day Holiday, No School
Oct 13 – School Dance sponsored by the 7th Grade

Addressing Bullying Behaviors

We are taking several steps to address the behaviors of our students toward each other that has created issues within the school culture for the past few years.

We are engaged several organizations to help us address the manner in which our students deal effectively and positively with each other:

  • Rand Corporation –We are involved in a multi-school, multi year long study on the role of Restorative Practices in reducing the incidences of bullying behaviors. Our students have taken surveys, our faculty has been and will continue to be trained in the Restorative Practices.
  • Maine Boys to Men – Boys to Men is a non-profit organization in Maine. They have been operating for almost 20 years with middle and high schools across the state. The goal of the program is to help boys understand the stereotypical nature our culture can apply to the genders and help the students better understand their role.
  • Hardy Girls, Healthy Women – Another Maine non-profit that works with young women in middle and high schools to help them understand and come to grips with the cultural expectations of being a women today.
  • Opportunity Alliance – A Community Action Agency for Cumberland County serving more than 20,000 people. The have access to services and resources to aid in our goals to reduce the negative behaviors of our students.
  • Gorham Action Team for Youth (GATY) – GATY is a group organized within Gorham to work to provide positive alternative activities for our youth of Gorham.
  • Civil Rights Team – Team of GMS Students who are passionate about making GMS a safe and welcoming environment for all students at GMS.

To begin, we have Maine Boys to Men and Hardy Girls, Healthy Women meeting with our students for 4 sessions over the next four weeks. This will help give us a common language to use with our students. These meetings begin this week and run until the first week in October.

We have schedule a Parent Evening on Tuesday, September 26 at 6:00 pm in the GMS Auditorium. You will meet several of the people we will be working with over the course of the coming year. At this meeting, we will also begin to map out a community plan for addressing these behaviors as a community.

We will be holding several of the evening events throughout the school year to address these behaviors among our students. We look forward to seeing many of you there.

Moving Naturally Week

Happy Heathy Gorham (HHG) is a group formed last year with the aim of making Gorham the “happiest and healthiest town in Maine. Over the course of the school year, HHG will be sponsoring four weeks of activities aimed to provide healthy and happy citizens of Gorham. The four themed weeks will be Moving Naturally Week in September, Kindling Kindness in November, Growing Gratitude in February, Eating Well in April.

The week of September 24 will be Moving Naturally week and Gorham Middle School will be joining in the activities. All week long students will count their steps for the day and we will record our progress each day. We are looking to track our progress toward one million steps for the week on our web page, so that the community can watch our progress.

We are also planning a “Walking School Bus” for Wednesday where students will get off the bus at the high school and we will have several teacher and parent volunteers along the path through the neighborhood as the students walk to the middle school.

Finally, during our advisory periods each day students will engage in activities organized by our Health and Physical Education Teachers to provide for movement during the day.

If you would like to volunteer with the walking school bus, please contact Volunteer Coordinator Heidi McGouldrick at GMS.

Lock Down Drill

We will conduct an announced Lock Down Drill on Friday, September 29. We announce this first drill so that we can make sure that all of our school community is ready to execute all of the protocols we have set up for the safety of the school. We will hold at least one more drill during the school year, which will be unannounced. We will send out a blackboard message at the beginning and at the end of the drill to let all families know of the drill.

School Dances

Each month, we hold school dances for the students of Gorham Middle School. Many of our students look forward to these dances as a great way to enjoy the company of their fellow students. Adam Parvanta, our resident (well now at GHS!) DJ keeps the music upbeat (and G Rated) and works the dance with precision and with engaging activities for all of the students.

These dances have also allowed the middle school to forgo many of the extra fundraising activities that we have done in the past. It is very rare when your child will come home from the middle school asking you to buy wrapping paper or magazine subscriptions. All of the money raised at the dances goes to each of the grade level teams to help pay for field trips and other activities.

One thing that I have noticed in the most recent dances, the end of last year and the beginning of the year, is the idea that the dance is somehow a place to dress up and to have a “date” for the dance. While I can’t tell anyone who they can come to the dance with, I do want to encourage all parents that “going with someone” or “dating” at the middle school level is strongly discouraged. This sort of behavior is not developmentally appropriate for students at middle school and, according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Georgia could lead to higher dropout rates.

Beside the longer term negative effects of “dating” in middle school, the shorter term impact is that our students are not ready for the responsibilities of “dating” and  it creates all sorts of drama in school, which creates conflict between and among student. I know that most parents may not even be aware that their child is “dating” in middle school, but I would ask that all parents have a conversation with their child about this. I would also suggest that reading this article first may help.

Circle These Dates

In an attempt to give you a “heads up” on important dates a little further out in the future:

October 25 & 26 – Parent Teacher Conferences
November 6 – Parent Night on “How to Read My Child’s Report Card 6:00 PM

I’ll Finish with a Short Video

This video is just a part of a longer TED talk by Sugata Mitra given in 2013 at the TED Conference in Long Beach, California. It truly will pique your interest and if you’d like to see the entire talk (23 minutes long) you can see it at TED.com

Here is just the first 5 minutes of the video from Youtube:

Week of February 1st

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Upcoming Important Dates

Feb 1 – Student Report Cards Available on Infinite Campus Parent Portal
Feb 2 – Indoor Track organizational meeting 7:30 am cafeteria
Feb 3 – Early Release Day, students will be dismissed at 11:10
Feb 4 – Indoor Track first practice, after school
Feb 5 – School Dance, GMS Gym 6:00 – 8:00 pm sponsored by Civil Rights Team and Student Council
Feb 10 – Chasing the Rabbit, Community Presentation, GMS Auditorium 6:30 pm
Feb 11 – Grade level assemblies on digital citizenship
Feb 12 – Mid-Winter Break begins at dismissal of students
Feb 26 & 27 – Honors Chorus Festival at Westbrook Middle School
Mar 1 – 8th Grade Parent Night at GHS Auditorium 6:00 pm
Mar 7 – Public Forum to discuss the Gorham School District Re-Visioning GMS Library 6:30 pm

Student Report Cards

As we have for the past few years, all student report cards are available to parents and guardians via the Infinite Campus Parent Portal. All student grade should be finalized for the 2nd quarter. If your child has received an “incomplete” for a particular class, that means there is still some work needing to be completed and turned in to the teacher for additional feedback. Students have 2-weeks to complete the work and have the grade changed to reflect the work.

If you are unable to access the Parent Portal and/or would like a a paper copy, please contact Terry LaMontagne in the Guidance Office. She can either give you your individual access to the Portal or can arrange to have a paper copy sent vis first class mail. Terry can be reached at 222-1247.

Early Release Day

Studnets will be dismissed at 11:10 on Wednesday, February 3rd.

The 8th grade students will be attending a series of mini workshops presented by people from our community talking about the jobs they do. The students will learn what kinds of skill they will need to be successful in the work place.

We have folks coming to GMS from all walks of life, Agriculture Government & Public Administration, Architecture and Construction,Health Science and Marketing. Students have been assigned to groups based upon interested demonstrated through surveys conducted by Ryan Watts, School Counselor.

Please be sure to ask your child about the presentations they were able to attend.

The 6th and 7th grade students will be attending regular, but shortened classes on this day.

School Dance

Hard to believe, but it’s that time again for our middle school students to put on their dancing shoes and swing to the tunes of Mr. Parvanta! OK, that was really hokie, so,   sorry!

This dance is sponsored by the Civil Rights Team and our Student Council. We are always looking for chaperones for our dances and parents are always welcome to stop on by and enjoy the fun. The dance begins at 6:00 pm and ends promptly at 8:00, so please make sure that you are available to pick up your child if you are not going to chaperone. Did I tell that our dances are fun?

Chasing the Rabbit – A Presentation by Derek Volk

Derek Volk is a Maine businessman who has penned a memoir with his 24-year old son Dylan, called Chasing the Rabbit:A Dad’s Life Raising a Son on the Spectrum. The book highlights the Volk family’s significant challenges and heartfelt triumphs as fellas the various coping strategies they have employed throughout Dylan’s life.

Please join us in the Gorham Middle School Auditorium at 6:30 as Derek details the families frustration before Dylan’s diagnosis through adolescence and into his life as a young adult with a dream of pursuing a career in comedy.

The evening will begin promptly at 6:30 pm.

Save the Date

I realize that this is 5 weeks ahead of the planned event, but this is too important to let ride until the last minute. Please save the date of Monday, March 7 at 6:30 pm in the Gorham Middle School Library.

It has been almost seven years since the Gorham School District has revised the vision of our schools for our community. With the hiring of Superintendent Heather Perry, part of her work to familiarize herself with our district was to meet with as many community members as humanly possible within the first 6 months of her tenure. She has met with more than 200 members of community from business leaders to students in her efforts to get to know our community and our schools.

From all of those meetings came an understanding that it was now the to revisit the vision of the district that was written back in 2010. To accomplish this re-examination of our vision, Superintendent Perry has convened a committee of stakeholder to develop how we get the most input, from the most people within Gorham.

By now, many of you may have already received and completed a short survey asking for your input on about 10 questions. If you have already completed this survey, thank you.If you haven’t completed it, please check the district web site or call GMS and we’ll make sure you get the opportunity to have input.

The public forum on March 7th will be one of several scheduled at different locations across the district to allow the public to expand their input beyond the questionnaire. Please make it a priority to attend one of the public forums, if you can.

Grade Level Digital Citizenship Assemblies

Just prior to the February Mid-Winter break, we will be conducting grade level assemblies for our students to remind of the Gorham Schools Code of Conduct and that it does extend to the digital universe.

Students will gather in the Auditorium and Terri Dawson, GMS Technology Integrator will lead the students through a series of scenarios that many have encountered or could encounter online. The students will learn some basic strategies to help them deal with behaviors that tend to be manifest only in online situations. Terri will use the resources for the good folks at Common Sense Media to help guide the students through each scenario.

These assemblies will be held on Thursday, Feb 11 during the students normal tutorial period.

Indoor Track Sign up and Practice

All students who are interested in running Indoor Track should be ready to sign up tomorrow morning (Feb 2) in the Cafeteria before school. Practice will begin Thursday afternoon after school at GMS.

Indoor Track is a great way for kids to become involved in a school activity. All students at GMS are eligible to participate and practices are usually held after school with the students being able to take the late bus home. The meets are usually held on Saturdays at the Portland Exposition Building on Park Avenue (next to Hadlock Field where the Sea Dogs Play.). The meets are a wonderful way for kids to test themselves in a very safe and support environment. They also get to meet some kids from other schools during these meets. As a building Principal, it is really encouraging to see how the kids cheer on their teammates as well as their opponents during these events.

I encourage all to encourage their child to give it a try!

Maine Recycles Championship sponsored by Clynk

Over the course of this year, we have been recycling our returnables through Clynk in a program that allows us to give out bags with our stickers. Folks then use these bags and stickers to make donations to our school to help fund activities and supplies that are not in our budget.

Now, the good people at Clynk are sponsoring the 2nd Annual Maine Recycles Championship powered by Clynk beginning on February 22 and running through April 25. In this contest, we need to continue to collect and recycle our returnables and bring to the Clynk Recycling Centers at Hanford’s Markets. The winning school will receive an additional bonus of $500 on top of all the funds for the bottles returned. Additionally, Hanford’s will match fifty cents for every dollar of returnables recycled.

This is a great chance for our school community to raise some funds and be environmentally aware. If you have any questions, please drop me an email of give me a call.

Until next time….

So Far, So Good

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Upcoming Important Dates

Wednesday, May 6 – Teacher Appreciation Day at GMS
Friday, May 8 – School Dance 6:00 – 8:00 pm
Friday, May 8 – Parent Meet Up, GMS Library 6:00 – 8:00 pm
Friday, May 8 – MEA Science Assessment for all 8th graders
Monday, May 11 – 6th Grade MEA Testing begins, all week
Monday, May 11 – 8th Grade Summer Reading Book Talk 8:00 am
Tuesday, May 12 – Selected Students visit Elementary Schools
Wednesday, May 13 – Early Release Day, Students dismissed at 11:10 am
Thursday, May 14 – Selected Students visit Elementary Schools
Friday, May 15 – 8th Grade Physics day at Funtown

MEA Assessments

I am aware that there has been a considerable amount of discussion and concern on the part of many parents about the Maine Educational Assessments (MEA). Some of our parents have chosen to opt their children out of participating in these assessments, and that is certainly within the parental rights. I can tell you that our 8th graders reported found that the assessments were “not that bad” given what they were led to believe they would be like. Many of the kids said that some of the questions were a bit difficult to understand and they required a couple of readings to be able to understand what was actually being asked, but they thought the questions were fair and the felt that our teachers had them very well prepared.

For those students who have been opted out, we have a couple of activities for them to complete during the time that the other students are taking the tests. These activities require the students to complete some research and then be prepared to publish their findings. When these are completed, I will provide links so you can see what your kids produced.

Spring and Dress Codes

With the advent of the warmer weather (really!), comes the infernal and eternal battle with how kids dress. Last summer I addressed the dress code in relation to yoga pants and whether they should be allowed in school. Several of our faculty were concerned that the tightness of these garments and the “body-hugging” nature of these, apparently, very comfortable pants caused some concern that they would be a distraction to our school.

Of course, this only pertained to our young girls, as our boys were attired in jeans or shorts (worn appropriately at the natural waistline). When I asked how many of their students indicated to them that these garments were a “distraction” in the class, they could not cite a single occasion.

The truth is, in my humble opinion, our students in the Springtime are filled with distractions. Regardless of the manner of dress of anyone of the opposite sex, our kids are distracted. Some from the warm weather and being stuck, yes stuck, in a classroom and some form those first yearnings of attraction to someone special. If we really think that our young boys “driven to distraction” by the dress of our young girls, we have a far greater problem on our hands. We should be teaching our kids about respect, compassion and honesty (words from our Code of Conduct) in how they view their classmates.

Society has given us far too many examples in how not to treat each other, we need to be setting the examples in how we should be treating each other.

So, rather than waxing on about dress codes, please know that we are not going to be fashion police. Our Handbook states that shorts and skirts should be worn no higher than the mid thigh ( we have a rule of thumb about fingertip length), pants should be worn at the “natural waistline, and shirts, T-shirts and sweatshirts should not promote behaviors that are sexual in nature, advertise alcohol or tobacco products and should not contain words to be considered “fighting words”. We do not allow T-shirts that have unusually large arm hole that expose a large portion of the students anatomy.

Parent Meet Up

On Friday, May 8, we will hold our monthly school dance in the gym from 6:00 until 8:00 pm. Unlike our regular monthly dances, Claudine Emerson, our school Substance Abuse Counselor will be holding a Parent Meet Up in the school library during that same time.

What is a Parent Meet Up, you ask? Claudine will be available to answer your questions and concerns about the substance abuse that is present in Gorham among our young people and how you can identify the tell-tale signs of whether your child is beginning to engage in risky behaviors.

The meeting will coincide with the dance, so you can bring your kids and the  stay for a while in the Library. This meeting should last about 90 minutes and then you can check out your kids and “slow dancing”!

MEA Science Assessment

On Friday, May 8, all 8th graders will be participating in the annual MEA Science Assessment. This assessment is a “paper-and-pencil test, unlike the recent computer adaptive test given to the 8th grade last week. This is a test, again mandated by the state, to all 5th, 8th and 11th grade students state-wide.

For those parents who “opted” their children out of the computer adaptive test earlier, if you want your child opted out, you will need to make a separate request for this assessment. The requirement are the same:

Date of the request
Legal name of the Parent
Legal Name of the Student
Reason for the opt out

6th Grade MEA Assessments

Beginning the week of May 11, all 6th graders will be administered the MEA computer adaptive test and performance tasks for English/Language Arts and Math. The students will be tested in the morning on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. The following Monday, May 18th will be used for make up for students who were absent.

I can honestly say that the administration has gone quite well for the 7th and 8th graders. We have not experienced any technical difficulties and our students have worked very diligently at performing that highest level, I am very proud of how well they have done, regardless of the actually outcomes.

If you have any questions about this assessment, please give me a call at 222-1228.

Early Release Day – May 13

All GMS Students will be released at 11:10 am on this day.

During the morning our students will be engaging in an activity of decorating their classroom doors. We at Gorham Middle School pride ourselves as being a welcoming, warm and safe school for all of our students. In our Mission Statement we use the words “…Inspires our students to become model citizens…”. The door decorating activity will foci on how our school understands that there are differences among us, but that these differences actually make us a far stronger community, able to take on difficult tasks successfully because of the vitality of our community.

The day will be very full of learning, both traditionally and non-traditionally, learning by doing and learning in action. It will be a great day for our kids.

A Most Interesting Video

Finally, I showed this video to our faculty last week in an effort to demonstrate the nature of how we learn and, hopefully, to create a different understanding of how the Brain works so very differently in younger folks. It also was a great demonstration in how the older we get, the more rock solid our biases become in our own neurological system. I hope you enjoy it.