Weekly Update, October 3, 2017

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GSD LogoUpcoming Important Dates

You can find all important dates for GMS activities at the link below. This is updated daily, so you can check it often!

GMS Daily Announcements

Teacher In-Service Day, October 6 & Holiday on Monday October 9

There will be no school for students on Friday, October 6 as teachers will be involved with a professional development day for the entire district. This will provide all families with an extra long four-day weekend. Students and teachers return to school on Tuesday, October 10.

Movie Screening and Parent Meet-up

We will be screening the film The Mask You Live In on Thursday evening, October 19 beginning at 6:00 pm. All parents are invited to attend the screening , which is free of charge and open to the public. Following the screening, Maine Boys to Men will facilitate a short discussion about the film.

This is part of our on-going effort to address our concerns as to the negative student interactions that have seemed to increase in the past few months.

This screening is for adults only, and will help us all better understand the world our children inhabit, complete with all of the pressures of social media, media representations of how life should be and where real life actually intersects with these stereotypical models presented to our children.

I hope that you can all join us for will be a thought-provoking evening.

School Dances

We have another school dance approaching, and we are hoping to straighten out a couple of misconceptions that have arisen lately.

These dances are invitation only. This means that we invite our students to join us for the dance. The invites can be reminded at anytime by administration. Some of the ways students lose their invite to a dance is as follows:

Throughout the year, dances may be held for 6th, 7th and 8th graders. They are always chaperoned by several teachers, willing parent volunteers and the school administrators. They are held on Fridays, from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. in the gymnasium and drinks and snacks are available for purchase. Dress is expected to be appropriate for the activity and “dating” is strongly discouraged.

Parents must pick up their son or daughter promptly after the event, usually 8:00 pm. Students may not be allowed to attend a dance because of poor school behavior. The following rules will be followed while at the dances:

  • Only students from Gorham Middle School are invited to attend the dance. Students from any other school cannot attend. This would include visiting family members, students who attend private or parochial schools or charter schools.
  • The student is absent on the day of the dance. Only students who are present at school can attend the dance.
  • Similar to our guidelines for athletics, students must arrive at school prior to 9:00 am and must stay through the remainder of the day. Students who are dismissed by a parent for a doctor appointment, or such, may come to the dance. Students who are dismissed because of illness, may not attend the dance.
  • Students who have received 3 detentions in the period between the date of the last dance and the next dance, may not attend the dance.
  • Students who have been suspended from school, either in-house or out of school, may not attend the dance.
  • We realize that cell phones are an important communication tool with parents, and we expect students to have them so students can arrange pick up after the dance. However, we do not want students to be using them at the dance. We have had too many occurrences of students testing each other, using the camera or video function on their phones to create situations of conflict. Students who use their phone during the dance, will have the phone confiscated until the end of the dance.
  • Students are expected to dress in a fashion similar to the school day. We discourage students from dressing in formal attire, and the school dress code still applies.

These dances have been wonderful experiences for many of our students, students enjoy the school in a totally different setting than our traditional school day. They also enjoy seeing teachers and other adults in very different settings that usual, and that has been positive. Most, but unfortunately not all, enjoy the dances and rate these evenings as one of the more positive experiences of middle school. It is those few who seem to need to create the “drama” of conflict, that create problems for the whole. We are trying to reduce those episodes.

I plan to hold grade level assemblies with all students to review these rules for our dance. It would be very helpful to all of us if you would take a few minutes before the dance to make sure that your child understands the rules for the dance.

I would encourage all parents to volunteer to chaperone at least one dance during your child’s middle school life. It truly is an experience and one that will allow you to better understand what makes adolescents tick!

Parent Teacher Conferences

Please circle the dates of October 27 & 27 (Thursday and Friday) to meet with your child’s advisor. As we have done in the past, parents will meet with the child’s advisor to discuss student progress. Parents may request a time to meet with particular Content Area teachers if you fell the need.

Advisors will be meeting with teachers from within the Advisory Cluster to exchange information about student progress, so all advisors will be current with student progress. Also, students will be leading these conferences, helping parents make sense of the new formats of the JumpRope and Infinite Campus Report Cards.

You should be hearing from your child’s advisor shortly about scheduling your meeting time.

District Committee Opening

We are looking for a Middle School Parent to serve on a District-Wide K-12 Grading and Reporting Committee. The purpose of this committee is to collect data to monitor the success and challenges of implementation of our new grading practices across the K-12 system.  This data can be collected through student, staff, and parent pre and post surveys as well as through monitoring of student failure rates at the 6-12 level.  Other data collection methodologies can be determined by the group.  Once data is collected, this group will then make recommendations regarding any “tweaks” to our system and or plans for moving forward that need to be made in order to meet the needs of our students.  

The time commitment for this committee is one meeting per month for ten (10) months. The meeting duration is about 90 minutes and usually begin at 4:00 pm.

If you are interested in joining this committee please send me an email or call my office at 222-1228.

A Word from a Former MS Teacher on Grading

Rick Wormeli is an author of many books on teaching and learning as well as a noted national speaker on all things education. Rick is articulate, funny and concise. He makes his point with humor, but his perspective comes straight from the classroom and his actual experiences with adolescent learners. When he speaks, he speaks from experience… and he is fun to listen to!

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.

We Have Liftoff!

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Upcoming Important Dates

Thursday, August 28 – 1st Day of school for grades 7 & 8
Friday, August 29 – No School
Monday, September 1 – Labor Day, No School
Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday, September 10,  11 & 12 – Laptops Deployed
Wednesday, Thursday & Friday, September 10, 11 & 12 – Tooth Fairies
Monday, September 15 – MLTI Parent Meeting 6:00 pm GMS Auditorium
Tuesday, September 16 – MLTI Parent Meeting 6:00 pm GMS Auditorium
Tuesday, September 16 – Picture Day, Vision & Hearing Screening
Friday, September 19 – 1st School Dance of the year 6:00 – 8:00 pm GMS Gym

No School on Friday August 29 or Monday September 1

Just a reminder that we will have no school for students and teachers on Friday and Monday to allow all families to enjoy one, final long weekend. I hope that the weather holds out for all of us to be able to enjoy all of the activities and family get togethers that are planned for the Labor Day weekend.

We will get back to business on Tuesday, September 2nd for the long haul to Thanksgiving (with a few breaks in between).

MLTI Laptop Deployment

mlti-logoMike Nash and our entire Tech Department have spent the entire summer getting all of the laptops ready for the new school year. There are some new features on theses devices, as there are every year and we will go over those changes during the MLTI Parent Nights on September 15 & 16.

We will deploy the laptops to each grade level beginning on Tuesday, September 10 to the 8th graders, and then we will get the 7th grade and 6th grade on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively. The student will not be able to bring their devices home, if parent choose to allow that, until after the meetings and after all of the paperwork has been completed> I think we can expect to allow the devices to go home to those students whose parents chose to allow it, on Monday, September 22.

Tooth Fairies coming to GMS

tooth fairyOK, not real fairies, but real “people doing good things” for our community.

The Tooth Fairies are a group of dental hygienists who travel around to school offering free, or low cost, dental health services. It is a wonderful service that allows parents to have their child’s teeth checked and cleaned for little or no cost, usually no cost!

If you want your child to have these services here at school, please complete the form that was sent home in the summer mailing and return it to the Main Office of GMS by Friday, September 5th. Those who have the forms completed will be contacted with the date and time of their child’s appointment. The Tooth Fairies will be at GMS on Wednesday,Thursday & Friday, September 10, 11 & 12. The appointment will happen during the school day, and may mean your child will miss a portion of one of their classes.

If you have any other questions about the Tooth Fairies or other health related issues, please contact Teresa Merrill, School Nurse.

MLTI Parent Nights

putthis_on_calendar_clip_artWe are required every year to present an evening of information and digital citizenship to the parents of middle school students who will be using the MLTI issued laptops. As I mentioned above, this evening information session is required for students and families that wish to have the laptops go home.

This year, we are planning a very vigorous session on Digital Citizenship and what parents can do to help their child become positive constructive users of technology. We will be introducing all parents to the CommonSenseMedia web site and the many tips and strategies they offer to help parents who may struggle to keep up with the rapidly changing world of technology.

Please plan to attend one of these informative evenings. The night will begin at 6:00 pm in the GMS Auditorium.

Picture Day

The all important and much anticipated Picture Day will happen this year on Wednesday, September 16. We will have a schedule set up for the students by grade and by team. Again, our pictures will a=school pcbe done by LifeTouch Pictures.

Last year, I heard some concerns that the passages were too expensive and really didn’t offer the bare minimum. I have spoken to LifeTouch and they have assured me that they will address this issue, but I was told that if parents only want one picture, they can do that. They may need to call customer service or use the online shopping option, but any pictures that parents want of their child will be available, not just the packages.

Vision and Hearing Screening

School Nurse Teresa Merrill will also be doing vision and hearing screening for all 7th grade students, and a few selected other students,on the day of the school pictures. These screenings are required of the schools for all 7th graders, and doing them on the picture day makes for fewer interruptions in the school week.

One Last Thought on the Dress Code

First, we have NOT banned students from wearing yoga pants! We understand that yoga pants are comfortable for people wearing them and they are stylish as well. We do expect that all pants are worn at “the natural waist line”. We still are not interesting in seeing students’ undergarments, (this includes boxers, bras, including sports bras and bra straps) as well as bare bellies or the large cut T-Shirts that expose much of the side of male and female students.

We still don’t allow students to wear clothing that promote drugs, violence, sexual activity or hate speech. What we are trying to create is an environment that will allow for the larding process to maximized, free from disruptions or distractions.

The one test I use, and this may not be for everyone, but I asked my kids (when they were students), “would your grandmother approve of what you’re wearing?” Now, to be fair, their grandmother was born in 1915, so she had a very different view of how children should be dressed, but it worked for me… for a while!

 

Well, That was Interesting…

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Upcoming Important Dates

Tuesday, August 26 – GMS Open House 6:00 – 7:00 pm
Wednesday, August 27 – 1st Day of school for 6th grade
Thursday, August 28 – 1st Day of school for grades 7 & 8
Friday, August 29 – No School
Monday, September 1 – Labor Day, No School
Wednesday, Thursday & Friday, September 10, 11 & 12 – Tooth Fairies
Monday, September 15 – MLTI Parent Meeting 6:00 pm GMS Auditorium
Tuesday, September 16 – MLTI Parent Meeting 6:00 pm GMS Auditorium
Tuesday, September 16 – Picture Day, Vision & Hearing Screening

The Conversation on Dress Codes

Last week, I mentioned in this space the difficulties of crafting a dress code that was not slanted towards restricting one gender because the other gender might be distracted by the choice of dress of the other. This caused some comments from the Twitter-verse and from some parents of GMS. That is what I had hoped would happen, the beginning of a conversation.

As I said in the post, at the end of the school year,I had a few teachers, male and female, comment on what we needed to do regarding our young girls who wear yoga pants. They used terms such as “disruptive of the teaching process”, ” distracting to the male students” and “it can be uncomfortable for some”, when expressing why I needed to do something.

The way students dress for school has been an issue for generations. Check out this video from the 1950’s to see what “juvenile delinquents” would try to get away with when they went to school and what the “proper” students should wear:

In the early 60’s, during the “British Invasion” to our shores, hair styles became the item of the moment. Schools enacted hair style restrictions to limit the length of the hair boys were able to sport. I can remember on more than one occasion, having the debate with my dad about the length of my hair. He wanted me to comb my hair back, off my forehead, but the style that the Beatles made famous, a bit long and combed across my forehead, was my chosen style.

In schools during this time, administration had rules about how long boys hair could be, using hair over the ears, or on the collar as the rule. I do remember some of my classmates who were suspended from school and strongly advised to visit the barber before returning to school. Interestingly, those that were suspended did visit the barber before returning to school and there were no more incidents of long hair. Hmmmm…

During the late 60’s, hair got longer, the clothing styles changed dramatically and schools were faced with considerably more complex problems with dress codes. In fact, the US Supreme Court had to weigh in on a couple of incidents where students were disciplined for their choice of style of clothing. In Tinker v. DesMoines Board of Education, the court ruled that clothing styles were a form of speech and as such, could not be absolutely restricted. The phrase that the Court used was that “students did not leave their first amendment rights at the school yard door…”, thereby freeing students to express themselves, within certain limits.

Many of the case that went before the courts had to do with the anti-war sentiment that was pervasive during this time.

I guess what I am trying to communicate here is that every generation has had definite issues about how our young people dress while attending school. It seems that we adults have an amnesia about our lives as adolescents. Whether is was Elvis Presley and his sideburns, or the Beatles with their “mop heads”, the hippies and their long hair and scruffy look or, most recently, the baggy, low-riding pants that many of our young men wore showing off their Joe Boxers, school administrators have worked to find ways to get our kids to conform.

We have a wonderful Code of Conduct. The words mean so much more than their dictionary definitions, and they are truly words that need to be put into action. Respect, Responsibility, Courage, Compassion and Honesty are a common thread in the fabric of our school. The meanings are broad enough to encompass a culture of acceptance of others, as well as a positive image of ourselves. Let’s use our Code as our guideline for all that we do at GMS.

A Great Resource for Parents

Occasionally, in this space, I offer different items that I come across in my travels. One of my favorites are all of the offerings from CommonSenseMedia. However, I have been introduced to a teacher, author, mother and Twitter friend who has so many real practical offerings to help all of us help our kids reach more successful lives.

Jessica Lahey is a teacher, a writer and has appeared on radio and TV, so I guess she is famous! More importantly, she is a very practical voice of reason in a time where the voice of reason is noticeably absent. She writes a bi-weekly piece for the New York Times as well as pieces for The Atlantic and Huffington Post Education. She can be followed on Twitter at @jesslahey and her blog at http://comingofageinthemiddle.blogspot.com.

I would suggest that you explore what she has to offer, especially the NY Times pieces called Motherlode. She is truly a breath of fresh air, and, as all parents of middle school aged children know, fresh air is a rare commodity.

Until Next Week…