Week of February 20

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Upcoming Important Dates

Feb 17 – Mid-Winter School Vacation begins at dismissal
Feb 27 – Students and Teacher return from Break
Mar 2 – GHS Chorus Concert in the Gym 12:30 (we will 2 concerts)
Mar 3 – School Dance sponsored by the 6th grade 6:00 -8:00 pm
Mar 7 – 8th Grade Parent Night at GMS 6:00 pm MPAC
Mar 8 – GHS Principal Jandreau speaks to 8th Graders
Mar 10 -12 – GMS School Musical (more info below)

Winter Fever Reliever

This has been re-scheduled to Sunday, March 19 at 6:00 pm

This information is from Tracy Williamson and has been sent to all of you in an email. This sounds like a really fun evening of music!

Next Sunday, the 12th, the Gorham Middle School and High School Steel Bands will be performing a benefit concert with the Portland based steel band, Sister Steel.  The benefit is to raise money for our registration fee for the New England Steel Pan Festival that is to be held at Thompson’s Point on May 7th.
The event is from 6-8:30pm in the GMS cafeteria with a suggested donation at the door.
We are also looking for people to donate food items to a bake sale / snack concessions table for the event.  If anyone would like to contribute something, please let me know!  The steel band parents and Sister Steel are making crockpot meals and traditional foods from Trinidad for the event too.
Come enjoy some steel pan music, food and dancing on the 12th!  Hope to see you there!

Early Release Day – Feb 15

On Wednesday, all of our students were able to enjoy several presentations by members of local public safety organizations. I only wish we could have had a few more so that more students could have enjoyed listening to these people talk about their jobs and how what they learned in middle school matters to them even now in their work.

 

Let me give you an example of who will be here:

  • Maine State Fire Marshal – We had two folks from the Fire Marshal’s office who talked to the students about investigating the origins of fire scenes and how they go about inspecting buildings to make sure they are safe for the public.
  • Gorham Police Department
    • Accident Reconstruction – Students were able to see, first hand, how police agencies are able to reconstruct, using math and science.
    • Crime Scene Processing – Math, science and language arts in processing a crime scene.
    • K-9 Handling
  • Gorham Fire Department
    • Paramedics – How science and math are critical in their work everyday.
  • Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department
  • Cumberland County Emergency Management Agency
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • U.S.Marshal’s Service
  • U.S. Secret Service
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement
  • Maine Juvenile Justice
  • Maine Bureau of Highway Safety – How math and science are involved in driving a car.

Parent Meet-up

On Friday night, in conjunction with our monthly school dance, Cynthia Grover, GMS Social Worker and Claudine Emerson, GHS Substance Abuse Counselor, held a Meet-up for GMS Parents. We had about 26 parents show up for this meeting and, from all reports, the night was a great success! I am sure this will be the first of several events like this to help us all keep our kids safe.

Please keep a watch here for the next event planned, and thanks to all of the parents who attended.

GMS Students Present The Little Mermaid

Please circle the dates of March 10 trough March 12 and plan to attend one of the presentations of the annual GMS Musical. GMS students, under the direction of Tana Krohn, will present three (3) shows of the Little Mermaid. Shows on Friday and Saturday evening begin at 7:00 pm and, new this year, a Sunday matinee beginning at 2:00 pm.

We have come to expect from our students some amazing performances, beautiful singing, great acting, lots of laughs and a truly, wonderfully memorable evening. Please make pans to catch at least one show!

Changes in School Nutrition Program

We have been working with our School Nutrition folks to help get a handle on the number of students who are carrying balances on the school lunch account.

School lunch at GMS offers a very vibrant array of meals for our students to enjoy that are both delicious and nutritious (I sound like a commercial!). Our Food Service also offers some wonderful items on an “a la carte” basis. Pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches, hamburg and cheeseburger as well as a variety of cold sandwiches and snacks. These are priced individually and the students can use their Pre-Paid account to purchase these.

Families can use this pre-paid account system so that they don’t have to remember to give their children cash each day to eat lunch. Here is a link to the on-line pre-paid system that families can use to keep track of their account balances and to receive warnings when the account drops to a certain level and needs to be replenished.

We don’t ever want to withhold lunch from a child, and we won’t, however, sometimes, we do have accounts that go seriously into a negative balance. This causes a problem for your child and for the Food Service people, who need to be responsible to the taxpayers of Gorham and not become a burden on the school budget.

We recognize that family situations change over time and the family finances sometimes struggle. We want to be able to continue to provide nutritious lunches for all of our students. There are some programs that can help and if you give me a call I can steer you in the right direction to obtain information about the programs.

In the meantime, I will be reaching out to the people who are carrying negative balances to see if we can work out a plan to bring these balances into line with the program, If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call the Food Service staff or me.

8th Grade Transition Begins

I know I say this every year, and the time seems to be picking up speed as each year passes, but it is time to begin the transition of our 8th graders  heading toward the highs school.

It will begin with the 8th Grade Parent Night hosted by Gorham High School Principal Brian Jandreau, and his staff on Tuesday evening, March 7 at 6:00 pm in the Gorham High School MPAC. Brian will talk about the High school experience in general and what to expect in the coming days, as the 8th graders begin registering from classes beginning in August as First Year Students at GHS.

The next morning, Principal Jandreau and several department heads and Guidance Counselors will meet, in an assembly, with all of the 8th graders to talk about requirements for First Year Students, and possible courses that will be open to them.

There will be several other events happening during the school day here at GMS that will help the students prepare for that ever crucial first year of high school. Transition Counselor Anna Peterson has lots of interesting plans fro the next few weeks and will be in classes with students to help as well.

Then we need to begin to plan for that last, final, big day at GMS. Watch this space for more information about gathering a planning committee.

TeenSafe

I have recently discovered this web site fir parents who are concerned about their child and the use of technology, especially cellphone use. Now, I am not endorsing this for anyone, but I am including a news report from a TV Station (I am not sure where!). I believe there is a free version and a paid version and this report gives lots of good information that you can follow up on if you are interested.

Amazing What a Little Perspective Will Do!

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Upcoming Important Dates

March 28 – Teacher Workshop Day, No school for students.
March 28, 29 & 30 – GHS Production of Wizard of Oz.
April 2 – Early Release Day Students dismissed at 11:10 am
April 3 – 8th Grade Graduation Planning meeting
April 4 – 3rd Quarter Ends for students
April 4,5 & 6 – GHS Production Wizard of Oz
April 8 – Gorham Schools All Band Night, GHS 6:00 pm
April 11 – Student Grades available on Infinite Campus
April 11 – School Dance Sponsored by the 7th Grade
April 15 – Gorham School All Chorus Night, GHS 6:00 pm
April 17 – PIE Meeting, GMS Library 6:00 pm
April 18 – Spring Break begins at dismissal

Giving Thanks

Two weeks ago, in this space, I informed you all of the events that occurred here during the Friday Parent Teacher Conferences. I briefly mentioned how struck I was,BFD2 that as we were all exiting the building, the Gorham Firefighters were rising into the building and into harms ways. Unfortunately, yesterday, in the city of Boston two of their brave firefighters lost their lives so that others may live. Their sacrifice has been credited with allowing many others time to escape the fire. So, I cannot just allow the work of our Gorham Firefighters pass with only a “glib” comment about racing in to danger. I also know we all appreciate the dedication of all our first responders, and I just wanted to extend to that family, the family of firefighters, our heartfelt thanks and our prayers during this time of sorrow and loss.

Music and Art in our Culture Day

MusicWednesday, April 2, our students will be treated to a Music and art in our Culture Day activities. Tracy Williamson has put together a great line up of performers and artists for our students to enjoy. The students have signed up for many of the workshops that will happen on this day. As we try to do with all of out themed early release days, I am including a roster of the performers and artists who will be conducting workshops. This should be a fun and engaging day for our kids as they, hopefully, see art and music in a different light. Here is a list of the offerings: Following is a list of workshops and presentations being offered on our Early Release Day. Everyone will have the opportunity to see the Gorham High School Concert Band presentation in the Auditorium and then choose three more small workshops to attend. ! !

  • ART! ! ARTIST PETER RIMKUNAS! Illustrator, Video Game Designer, Animator are just some of the art forms that Peter uses. This presentation includes the artist’s background and examples of his creations.! !
  • ARTIST DARALYN MCCOLL! Learn what it takes to be a designer! You will hear a brief description of the background of an artist and see many examples of her art made with different materials. Find out how you can be paid to create art for a company or own your own design company. Daralyn uses digital programs to create a variety of work and will have you help with making your own creation!! !
  • “ANIMATION DOMINATION” – MRS. DAWSON! Bring your laptop for this fun and interactive animation session in the DEC! This workshop will focus on the art of animation and show you how to make stykz figures come alive using animation software. Class size limited to 15.! !
  • “COTTAGE INDUSTRIES” – MR. CARPENTER! Selling your arts and crafts. Mr. Carpenter will talk about and demonstrate his own Cottage Industries including jewelry making, crochet, card making and painting.! !
  • “MAKING SOMETHING FROM NOTHING” – MRS. HANLEY! For this session you will make art from little things that you might not think would make art. There will be supplies available here, but if you have any objects at home like charms, ribbons, cool kinds of paper, string, any little interesting things that you have saved but aren’t quite sure what to do with, bring them in and incorporate them into a piece of art.! !
  • SCREEN PRINTING! Screen print baby onesies with Ms. Holden to donate to the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital. This is a great chance to learn how the screen printing process is done. Class limited to 6 students.!
  • THEATER GAMES – GREG WATSON! In the world of theater, actors and actresses practice many different techniques to get them comfortable on the stage and able to easily play different roles. Theater games are a great way to practice that. During this session you will participate in improv, role playing games and other ice breaking activities where you can have fun and play different characters.! ! !
  • LIGHTS UP! IMPROV WORKSHOP! Maine’s David LaGraffe from Lights Up! Improv and Portland Players is coming all the way to GMS to offer us this Theater Improv Workshop! You will spend time working with partners and in groups being silly and creating fun scenes. This is a great opportunity to work with a really fun and talented actor! Definitely not to be missed!! !
  • DANCE! ! CONTRADANCE – KIM ROBERTS! Contradance is a folk dance that has become tradition in New England. Similar to square dancing, dancers are partnered up and listen to directions that are called out during the music. During the dance you have to mix up and switch partners when the caller calls it so you have to really listen and stay on your toes. Think Cha Cha Slide meets folk country. ! !
  • HIP HOP DANCE – Jasmine Quarles DANCE STUDIO OF MAINE! Join some of the fabulous instructor’s from Gorham’s own Dance Studio of Maine and learn some hip hop dance moves you can show off at the next GMS Dance!! !
  • BOKWA – Susan & Mike Sinnett STUDIO FIT! Bokwa is a new and completely different approach to movement. Bokwa participants draw letters and numbers with their feet while performing dance movements with a South African influence. Moving together to today’s most popular music, participants off all ages draw the Bokwa L, 3, J, K and dozens of other steps. Simply feel the music and freely move with the beat.! !
  • MUSIC! ! AFRICAN DRUMMING – ANNEGRET BAIER! Work with renowned drummer Annegret Baier playing various drums and rhythm instruments to learn African songs and rhythms. This session was a favorite last year! ! !
  • MARIMBA PLAYING WORKSHOP! Learn how to play marimba just like the Maine Marimba Ensemble with Matt Wasowski from the Gorham School of Music. Class size limited to 10. ! !
  • BLUES SONGWRITING WORKSHOP! Learn how to write your own Blues song with Jim Svendsen from the Gorham School of Music. Choose a topic, write the lyrics and perform your song for the class.! !
  • GORHAM HIGH SCHOOL ACOUSTIC COFFEEHOUSE & POETRY SLAM! Matt Murray is bringing Gorham High School singers, songwriters, guitarists and poets to GMS to perform their own original works. You will definitely recognize some of these artists!! !
  • POP KARAOKE! Just how it sounds! Join Mr. P. in the 8th grade wing for a karaoke singing extravaganza. Limited to 30 students.! !
  • GUITAR & SONGWRITER’S WORKSHOP! Learn and review some basic guitar chords and chord progressions and learn how to go about writing your own songs with GMS’s own singer/ songwriter, Mr. Lambert. If you have your own guitar, you can bring it in. There will be 10 guitars available to borrow.! !
  • A CAPELLA WORKSHOP! Join Señora Krohn to learn how to sing in an a capella group. Sra. Krohn has lots of experience singing in a capella groups as you all saw in the Talent Show this year. She may even break out a little beat boxing if you’re lucky!! !
  • JARA GOODRICH, HARP! Have you ever seen and heard a real harp up close? Not like a little cupid harp, but a really huge, 6-foot tall, orchestral harp with tons of strings? Professional harpist, Jara Goodrich, from the Portland Symphony, will be coming in to talk about this incredible instrument and play for you.
  • WANT TO LEARN HOW TO PLAY AN INSTRUMENT?! So you thought you wanted to play an instrument, but never got the chance? You have been playing or singing but want to learn how to read music? Mrs. Mathieu & some of our talented GMS band students will demo all the instruments you can learn how to play right here in our school! It’s never too late to start playing an instrument!
  • NEIL BOYER, OBOE! Join the extremely talented and well known, principle oboe player of the Portland Symphony to learn about the instrument, the hand made reeds, some of the types of music the oboe plays and the importance of the oboe to the orchestra. Mr. Boyer teaches oboe at USM and Dartmouth College and has played in the Vermont Symphony and the Portland Symphony. Possible guest appearances by some of his fellow players too!

GHS Production of The Wizard of Oz

Hopefully, all have purchased your tickets for the production of The Wizard of Oz, that Gorham High School students will be presenting beginning on Friday evening,oz March 28 and Saturday evening, March 29 at 7:30 in the GMS Auditorium. The Sunday matinee will begin at 2:30pm. Now, if you were unable to get your tickets for this weekend, don’t worry, you can see the production next weekend, as well, at the same times.

End of 3rd Quarter

I know i have said this before, and I am sure I will say it next year as well, but it is really hard to believe we have completed 3 quarters of this year. It truly does feel like we just started the school year and we still have so much left to do. In any event, the 3rd quarter does really end on Friday, April 4. That leaves just one more quarter left in the school year! Student grades for the quarter will be posted on the Infinite Campus system no later than the end of the day on Friday, April 11. If you are having difficulty in seeing your child’s grades on Infinite Campus, please give Terry Lamontagne a call at 222-1220.

#PTchat

Twitter logoHuh?? What is that, a typo? Has Riley really lost his mind?? For those of you who have Twitter accounts and may be regular users, the idea of a hashtag (#) is not something new. However, for those that are uninitiated in the hashtag is a method that twitter users can categorize their subjects. For example, on Thursday nights at 8 pm many educators, mostly from Maine, “gather” on Twitter to discuss a topic of interest. We send out 140 character tweets, some with links to other websites, about that topic. The 140 characters means that we must try to be concise in our entry (something I have great difficulty doing, no surprise to many of you, I know!). It is usually very interesting stuff and I really do learn quite a bit from my peers. Well, #PTchat is for parents and teachers to share what needs to be shared in order to better serve the students and our community. #PTChat happens on Wednesday evenings beginning at 9:00 pm (EDT) and usually runs for about an hour, but there are always those who post items regularly during the week using the #PTchat to make sure that it is visible to all interested in what’s going on with parents and teachers. Finally, as with any # category, you can “lurk”, which I do quite often, just to see what others are saying and doing to improve the relations between home and school. You do not have to “tweet” to be a part of the chat and learn from it. You can just observe. One warning I will offer you however, is that once you start, you will find that you have much to offer the group.

 Preparing our Kids for Their Future

HarvardThere was an article in the Boston Globe this week about students who are graduating from Massachusetts High schools are not prepared for the working world upon graduation from High School. This statement and story really surprised me because Massachusetts has long been held up as an exemplar of student achievement. In fact in the most recent PISA assessments released last fall, if Massachusetts were an independent country, it would rank in the top ten for student achievement. So, how can this be? How can a state who has reached such levels of student achievement not have their students ready for the work world? For answers, I turned to the Harvard School of Graduate Education and their Change Leadership Group. Tony Wagner, co-director of the Change Leadership Group, wrote an interesting article entitled, Rigor Redefined, in which he talks about what the CEOs of several large, multi-national companies are looking for in their employees. This is not something that we don’t already know, in fact, back in the late 1990s educators in Maine developed a set of skills that we all belied were necessary for our students to be successful. Back then we called them The Guiding Principles. Tony Wagner describes his conversations with these people who run these businesses as surprising in what they don’t want from their prospective employees as well as what skills and character traits they do want in the prospective employees.

“First and foremost, I look for someone who asks good questions,” Parker responded. “We can teach them the technical stuff, but we can’t teach them how to ask good questions—how to think.”

“What other skills are you looking for?” I asked, expecting that he’d jump quickly to content expertise.

“I want people who can engage in good discussion—who can look me in the eye and have a give and take. All of our work is done in teams. You have to know how to work well with others. But you also have to know how to engage customers—to find out what their needs are. If you can’t engage others, then you won’t learn what you need to know.”

I am including a link to the entire article that was posted this week on his web page. It is rather lengthy, but certainly worth the time and effort. Enjoy!

http://www.tonywagner.com/resources/rigor-redefined

Our Thoughts and Prayers Go Out to All…

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Important Upcoming Dates

  • December 18 – Faculty are invited to join our students in the cafeteria for a holiday feast.
  • December 19 – Faculty will gather off-campus to celebrate the season
  • December 19 – Holiday Band Concert 6:00 pm in the GMS Auditorium
  • December 21 – Band and Chorus concert in the morning; Student/Faculty basketball game in the afternoon.
  • December 24 – January 1 – Christmas Break
  • January 2 – Leadership Team meeting in Melanie’s room beginning at 2:30.

Helping Our Kids Deal with Tragedy

This weekend was a very difficult one for all of us. The needless, senseless and incomprehensible events of Friday in Newtown, Connecticut have truly taxed our abilities to rationally and reasonably discuss why such events happen to our kids. There are lots of resources available on the web, being offered on television and in the newspapers.

Here is a collection of resources that have come to me through my Twitter feed:

http://www.educationworld.com/a_admin/resources-coping-with-newtown-school-tragedy.shtml


http://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/news/release/2012/parent-tips-for-connecticut-school-shooting-12-14-2012/

http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/CDPS-SafeSchools/CBON/1251621089752

Should you have questions or concerns about your child or how we are dealing with these events, please do not hesitate to call with suggestions or ideas.

Lots of Excitement at the Dance

On Friday night, we held our regular monthly dance. Not really big news…usually!

This picture was taken moments before the fog set off the Fire Alarms!

This picture was taken moments before the fog set off the Fire Alarms!

What made this dance different from all of the dances we have held in the past 6 years was that our new fog machine activated the smoke detector in the Gym. We had taken great pains to make sure that the fogger wasn’t strong enough activate the device, and for the first fours dances it didn’t. This month, it did.

I want to commend the teachers and chaperones present and our students for the orderly way the evacuated the building. We had to have the Fire Department respond to check the building and to reset the alarm. That took about 15 minutes, or so and we were cleared to go back into the building and resume our dance. Very Interesting!

Holiday Feast

Tuesday, during grade level lunches, were are inviting all staff to join your students for a special buffet lunch. We will serve a traditional holiday dinner of turkey and all of the “fixin’s”. You are invited to join you advisees, or any other students you choose to have lunch with. We hope this will be the beginning of a new tradition at GMS.

More on Our Community Service Day

catsathartLast week I told you all about our Community Service Day, and even had some pictures. Thanks to Mrs. Littlefield, we have some great pictures of the cats using the toys our students made for the HART for Cats Foundation. As you can see by the pictures, the cats were quite enamored with their new toys.

Iboat

Did you know that Gorham Middle School has a “yacht” sailing around the Atlantic Ocean? Well, it’s not really a yacht, but it is a boat about four feet Iboatlong that has a small sail on that can catch the wind and power the boat. It also is equipped with a GPS (Global Positioning System) that transmits its exact location back to our Sebago Alliance Wiki. If you would like to follow the progress (meanderings may be more appropriate!) check out the wiki here: http: IBoat Meanderings.

If you would like more information of the IBoat program program, you can check out the Sebago Alliance web site here: SEA iBoats

Berlin City Drive for Education

BerlinCityWe are very proud to announce and very grateful to Berlin City Auto, that three GMS teachers and two students received grants from the Berlin City Drive for Education Foundation. Kim Fotter wrote her grant requesting the purchase of 5 Apple iPads for her classroom to help her students be able to engage in a more meaningful way primary sources of research for her Social Studies Class.

Heather Whitaker, Alternative Education Teacher, requested the funds to help purchase outdoor wear to help her students when they take their hikes and other outdoor adventures that are part of her curriculum.

Tracy Wheeler, Chorus Director and Music Teacher, purchase iPads for her classrooms to allow her students easier access to music composing applications as well as a vehicle for her Steel Band students to hear and see the Steel Drums being played by professionals.

Finally, two of our Band Students, Evelyn Turnbaugh and Lizzie Lemieux, under the direction of Kim Mathieu, requested funds to help defer some of the costs as our Band is raising funds to pay to travel on a concert tour through Europe next summer.

Congratulations to all of our grant winners.

The Concert Season

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GMS Chorus under the direction of Tracy Wheeler-Williamson.

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The First Chamber Singers of GMS

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GMS Steel Band

‘Tis the season for our concerts of Band and Chorus. Last week we held our Steel Band and Chorus Concert under the direction of Tracy Wheeler-Williamson. I am always amazed at how talented our student are, and how courageous they all are. The concert was very well attended by parents and relatives and they were treated to a beautiful concert of Steel Drums and young children’s voices. Above are some pictures of the concert.

The Power of Rumor and Misinformation

Over the past couple of months I have seen first hand what kind of power rumor and misinformation has, and how it can change  the way we perceive events and individuals. We all want to be “in the know”, not feel left out. I am sure there is some psychological name for this condition.

I have heard this statement many times and I am not sure to whom it is attributed, “A little information can be a dangerous thing”, and I think that over the past few days this had born out as very true. The headlines have been full of people’s observations, opinions, thoughts, perceptions and misconceptions about the horrific events in Newtown, Connecticut. My example of the power of rumor and innuendo is closer to home, but, never the less a good example.

On Friday evening at GMS, we held our monthly dance for our students as scheduled. We have a great DJ, who also is a teacher in our school. He uses lots of special effects during the dance to give our kids a great time. On this Friday night we had a bit of a problem with the fog machine and it activated our school’s fire alarm.

I was very impressed in how quickly and orderly our students left the building and assembled outside, away from the building and off the main access allowing the fire apparatus to approach the building very safely. After about 15 to 20 minutes the building was cleared by the Fire Department and we were able to resume our dance.

Now, here is where the rumor and innuendo comes in.

I told several students and faculty members that the alarm was activated by the fog machine and that we did not have a fire and no one pulled the the alarm in the building. Yet, throughout the evening and all through the weekend, I received “information” about who had pulled the alarm and why they had pulled it! I was given the names of a few students. A couple of students were mentioned multiple times. Each time, I reminded the students and others that the alarm was the result of the fog machine and that no student had done anything nefarious.

I understand that this does not come close to the tragic events of Friday, but it does remind us to be mindful about what we pass on as truth without the full knowledge of the facts.

In the coming days and weeks, we will learn more about what happened in Connecticut, this is what time does, it uncovers the truth. We will learn from these tragic events and we will become better at our jobs of teaching and protecting your children, our students. We will take these difficult, heart-wrenching lessons and improve because that is the monument we can build to those innocent children and heroic teachers.

We can also strive to “be kinder than necessary” to all that we meet, to do our part in creating the world we want for our children.