Happy New Year



GSD LogoUpcoming Important Dates

Jan 10 – School Committee Meeting 7:00 pm Municipal Center
Jan 11 – Fund raiser for the Gorham Backpack Program UNO’s Pizzeria
Jan 12 – School Dance 6:00 – 8:00 pm GMS Gymnasium
Jan 12 – Grade Level Assemblies during WIN Time
Jan 15 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday – No School
Jan 17 – PIE Meeting with Gorham School Committee 6:00 pm GMS Library
Jan 23 – GMS Talent Show – GMS Auditorium 6:00 pm
Jan 24 – Early Release Day – Students dismissed at 11:10 am
Jan 24 – School Committee Workshop 7:00 pm Municipal Center

School Dance Sponsored by the GMS Student Council

Our next dance is this Friday, January 12 beginning at 6:00 pm and runs until 8:00 pm. This dance is for the benefit of the GMS Student Council who do so many  wonderful things for our school and our community.

Over the past year, the Student Council has raised funds for the Animal Welfare League of Greater Portland, as well as collected food and toys for the shelter to use with their “guests”. The students have lead a school-wide collection of food and holiday presents for more than 20 families so as to provide some holiday cheer for some of our families who have struggled during the school year.

For our school community, the students of the Student Council have organized Spirit Week Activities to increase the spirit of our school, Teacher Appreciation activities as well as placed notes of encouragement in lockers for their fellow students.

The funds from this dance will help the Student Council continue to be able to provide our school and community with all sorts of resources and fun for the balance of the school year.

As with all dances, we could always use chaperones. Now, I know that many of your children say that you cannot chaperone the dance! Remember, the kids are using reverse psychology on you, what they are really saying is that they want you to chaperone the dance. I hope to see you there!

PIE Meeting with the School Committee

Our annual PIE Meeting with select School Committee members will be Wednesday, January 17 at 6:00 pm in the GMS Library. Please come and meet the members of our School Committee and ask some questions as to the direction of the schools in Gorham.

Fundraiser for the Gorham Backpack Program

There will be a fundraiser for the Gorham Backpack Program at UNO’s in South Portland on Thursday, January 11. UNO will donate up to 20% of your check to the Backpack Program, whether you eat in our takeout.

The Backpack Program was started this year by Gorham Middle School Teacher Heather Whitaker, GMS Social Worker Thom Courtney and Village School Social Worker Jen Baker. The program provides students in need with healthy food choices to tide them over the weekends and school vacations.

The program received initial funding from the Gorham Educational Foundation. It is estimated that it costs about $225 per year to provide food for each student. These fundraisers are integral in helping to keep the program viable and working for our students. Please consider going out for dinner on Thursday, January 11 at UNO’s in South Portland.

Early Release Day 

Students will be dismissed at 11:10 am on Wednesday, January 24.

At this time, we are working to organize some sort of after school activity, although, as of now, we have nothing planned. It is always our hope that we can reduce the number of students who go “downtown” to roam the streets and do what adolescent do when they get a free afternoon.

Please stay tuned and as soon as we know what we may be doing, we will get the information out to you.

The Gift of Failure

Over the past few years I have mentioned a book written by Jessica Lahey, a teacher of adolescents and a mom of adolescents called the Gift of Failure. I would again recommend this book to parents and teachers who deal with adolescent students.

Jessica is now bringing her book to Youtube, and to date she has 4 episodes up. Each episode covers a different topic and is about 15 minutes in length. These short videos are filled with some great insights and ideas on how to deal with kids of all stripes!

You can subscribe to Jessica’s Youtube stream yourself, but I thought I’d include her first video as a teaser. I hope you enjoy!

First 5-Day Week Done!


Upcoming Important Dates

Friday, September 18 – MLTI Parent Orientation Meeting 6:00 pm GMS Library
Friday, September 18 – School Dance 6:00 – 8:00 pm GMS Gymnasium
Monday, September 21 – NWEA Testing for 8th Graders, all week
Wednesday, September 23 – Early Release Day, students dismissed at 11:10 am
Monday, September 28 -NWEA Testing for 7th Graders, all week
Monday, October 5 – NWEA Testing for 6th Graders, all week
Thursday, October 8 – Tooth Fairies

MLTI Parent Orientation Night

I really do recognize how much of an inconvenience attending these parent nights can be. For that past 13 years, I have been preparing and delivering these messages to rooms full of parents who are only present because their child has “badgered” them to attend. (OK, that may be a bit harsh, I really do think many parents attend because they want to learn more about the world their kids will be exploring!)

First, let me begin by stating that no child MUST bring their laptop home! It is, however, a very valuable tool for all of our students as the explore their learning. We do recognize that, along with this great resource for information, comes a great responsibility to use it it wisely and productively.

It is our goal that each parent will get a better understanding of how these devices can be used productively and positively and how to recognize when students are not using them productively and positively. We will share lots of resources with parents that will help you deal with your child when you believe they are being targeted, or they targeting other with their devices and other type of technology.

We will share with parents how the laptops will be used to engage students in their learning (And, we all know they should be engaged in their future, but sometimes it is a struggle!).

Please make plans to join us either of the 3 nights we offer the presentation, Monday, Tuesday or Friday of this week (Sept 14, 15 & 18)

School Dance

Our first school dance is this Friday night in the GMS Gymnasium. The admission fee is $5.00 and we ask that parents be prepared to pick their children up by 8:00 pm, the ending time for the dance.

as we do each dance, we are asking from parents who would like to come to the dance, please feel free to do, we have plenty of “jobs” that you can around the gym and the cafeteria. I am sure your kids would Love to have you here!

As an added attraction for our students, the good people at iSpoon will be offering a post dance special to our students fromlIspoon logo GMS after the dance. If you’d like to treat your kids to a “treat” after the dance, stop down to ISpoon and take advantage of their generosity.

NWEA Testing

nwea_logo_twittersquare_biggerWe will begin our twice yearly assessment of our students through the NWEA testing. The students will be assessed on reading, language usage and math. This is a computer based test that is aligned to our standards and it will gives a great deal of information about each of our students.

We have been using the NWEA’s for several years now , and the results can be used as a check-in on how we are doing as a school, but, more importantly, the results provide us with some very important diagnostic information about strengths and weaknesses of individual students.

If you have any questions, please feel free to give me a call.

Late Bus

We have begun running the late buses on Mondays through Thursdays. The buses pick up students at the middle school at about 4:00 pm. I say “about” because the buses do arrive somedays, a bit early, yet they do not leave the middle school until after 4:00. We also make sure that we have everyone who needs a ride on a bus.

The downside to our late bus program is that we only have 3 buses to bring students home, therefor it is almost impossible to have door-to-door service. We try very hard to get the students to within a half mile, usually we do a whole lot better, and some kids do get to be dropped off in front of their houses. We just can’t guarantee that for everyone.

If you have any questions about transporting our students, your children, please give me a call at 222-1228. I may not have the answer immediately, but I will get back to you as quickly as I can with an answer.

Early Release Day

We have our first early release day of the school year on Wednesday September 23.The students will engage in an assembly about our school Code of Conduct and how important our words are when we speak with each other.

The students will be dismissed at 11:10 am for the day.

The teachers will be engaged in content area work. The school is committed it ensuring that our students are properly prepared for the requirements of working in the “real” world of the 21st Century.

Tooth Fairies

OK, no, I have not lost my “marbles” and, yes, Tooth Fairies do exist!tooth fairy

The Tooth Fairies are a dedicated group of Dental; Professionals who make themselves available to several schools in the area to proved free, or very low cost, dental health services to families in each community. These services include cleaning and an examination of potential issues that parents can them address.

Our first Tooth Fairy visit is schedule for Thursday, October 8 during the school day.Tooth

If you would like your child to be examined by a “Tooth Fairy” please give GMS School Nurse Cathy Loiselle a call at 222-1224.

The Work of Education and Educators

I plodded through, like all dutiful Americans, the Republican Debate last Wednesday night. Some of the solutions that I heard, especially regarding education, seemed to me to be very rudimentary and lacking in a real knowledge of what challenges that educators face every day in preparing our kids for their futures.

Our “business” is truly a “people business”, one of relationships and understanding in the moment. At our level, our students are being bombarded with all sorts of messages about how their life should unfold for them, and we know that it just doesn’t happen the way it does on the Disney Channel or MTV.

I want to share a very short clip from one of my “Heroes of Education”, Sir Kenneth Robinson. For those of you who are regulars here, you will have seen his videos before an, I am sure, been impacted by his wisdom.

I hope that we can be successful everyday in keeping these words in the forefront of our work.

The Gift of Failure

In the past few posts to this spot, I have talked about Jessica Lahey’s book The Gift of Failure. As a school, we are beginning togift of failure start book groups using this as our “touchstone” to begin to see the power of “letting go” so that our kids can succeed, embracing the idea that failure is neither fatal nor final. Truthfully, this is a very difficult concept for some induction to embrace because many in education have been successful students themselves prior to becoming teachers (this writer not being one of them!).

I would love to have a book group made up of parents who would like to meet for some discussions about what lesson we could all learn from Ms. Lahey’s book.

If you are interested in starting a book group at GMS, please call me at 222-1228 or send me an email at robert.riley@gorhamschools.org. I could see meeting in the evening or the morning, over coffee and danish perhaps.

Week of September 8th


Upcoming Important Dates

Tuesday, September 8 – Late Buses start after school.
Tuesday, September 8 – Sign-ups for Chorus and Steel Band
Wednesday, September 9 – School Committee Meeting, Municipal Center 7:00 pm
Friday, September 11 – National Day of Service in remembrance of September 11th
Monday, September 14 – Laptop Devices deployed to students
Monday, September 14 – MLTI Parent Orientation Meeting 6:00 pm GMS Auditorium
Tuesday, September 15 – MLTI Parent Orientation Meeting 6:00 pm GMS Auditorium
Friday, September 18 – School Dance 6:00 – 8:00 pm GMS Gymnasium
Wednesday, September 23 – Early Release Day, students dismissed at 11:10 am

After School Activities

The Gorham Middle School has loads and loads of after school activities during the course of the school year to keep our kids engaged in school and activities. We also provide a late bus on Monday through Thursday that pick students up at the middle school at 4:00 pm and brings the students to areas close to their home.

Please check our daily announcements that Laurie DeLuca publishes each day and posts to the GMS Web Page. The “Daily Notices” is on the left side of the page.



Screenshot 2015-09-08 12.20.54





MLTI Parent Orientation Nights

These evening meetings are still a requirement for our students’ parents to attend, if they want their mlti-logochild to be able to bring the laptops home for school use. I recognize that this is a nuisance for many parents, and, especially those parents who have had several children come through the middle school during the MLTI Era. This is a requirement of the lease agreement that all school districts have with the state of Maine, and it is required by School Board Policy.

We will hold three meetings this year. Our first two will be on Monday and Tuesday evening at 6:00 pm in the GMS Auditorium. Recognizing that Monday and Tuesday are the days in which members of our school community may be celebrating the Jewish Holiday of Rosh Hashanah, we will hold a meeting will on Friday evening at 6:00 pm in the GMS Auditorium. This evening event coincides with our first dance of the year, so, if you’d like to bring your child to the dance and stop by the Auditorium for some new information, that would be great. Hopefully, we can get all of the parents to attend these meetings, as required.

We do have some new “wrinkles” this year to the laptop program, as well as bringing back some of the old “wrinkles” that we were unable to use last year. We will also address how parents can help their child become better digital citizens and how to productively and positively use technology.

Laptop Deployment

And, Speaking of laptop technology, we plan to get the devices into the hands of our students beginning on Monday, September 14th. We are developing a schedule, beginning with the 8th grade.

We have been delayed in deploying the devices this year because of an accident that occurred while we were getting the devices imaged over the summer. Unfortunately, the shelf un which we were storing the devices collapsed and caused quite a bit of damage to many of the laptops. We have been able to work with the good folks at MLTI and our intrepid Technology Crew have been working diligently to get the device repaired and ready. Thus our delay in getting the devices out to the students.

An Amazing Resource

BullyingLast year, I spoke about a book that I was reading by two dedicated researchers on the very timely topic of bullying called Bullying Beyond the Schoolyard:Preventing and Responding to Cyberbullying by Justin Patchin and Sameer Hinduja. These two have dedicated much of their adult life to the study of bullying behaviors and how we can help young people deal with the bullying behaviors of others.

This last week, Sameer Hinduja used his Twitter account to share one incredible resource for families when they are faced with behaviors that can be considered harassing or threatening. This resource has the email address, web site URL or phone number of many of the social media outlets (some that I have never heard of!) when you or child becomes a victim of bullying of harassing behaviors online.

So, if you have ever wondered “who can I call to report that I am being harassed on (you pick the social media platform), check out this great resource, bookmark it to your computer and use any one of the available outlets if you feel you need to report appropriate behaviors on line.

Cyberbullying Resource


Day of Remembrance and Service

31965September 11, 2001 is seared into the memories of most of the parents and guardians of our kids, yet, as hard as this is to believe, the events of that day as but a passage on Wikipedia or a nuclei on Youtube for all of our kids. In our effort to continue to recognize the sacrifices made on that day, and the bravery demonstrated by Americans across the country, we will remember the events of that day with a short moment of remembrance at 8:46am, Friday morning.

Across the state and the country, there are opportunities for students and others to engage in service to others from donating blood to cleaning up a neighbor’s yard, or even, perhaps, bringing a plate of cookies to the fire station as a way of “Thanks for all you do”!

First School Dance of the Year

It is that time of year again when Mr. Parvanta breaks out the “old platters” and his trusty turntable and

Mr. P at the controls of happiness for GMS!

Mr. P at the controls of happiness for GMS!

“spins” some great tunes for the kids to dance to! And, if you believe that, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’d love to sell you.

Mr. P, as he is know here, might not even know what a turntable looks like, but he does have his trusty computer that has a complete playlist of the most recent artists 9you know, the ones we don’t know and the kids do!). He has his light show ready and his confetti cannons (not really cannons, just tubes of confetti), now all we need are the kids

The dance begins at 6:00 pm and runs until 8:00, don’t listen to your kids when they tell you it’s later! We do ask that parents be here to pick the kids up at 8:00, and plan on a traffic jam both coming and going. The cost of the dance is $5.00 and the Student Council will be selling treats and refreshments during the dance.

Our dress code is the same as it is for school and, we frown on students thinking that they “have to have a date”, they don’t!

We are also looking for parents who would like to chaperone the dance. We promise that you only need to be in the Gym for a short period of time (not sure if the music and lights constitute cruel and unusual punishment!) and your kids don’t ever have to see you! If you are interested in chaperoning the dance (a once in a lifetime opportunity), please call 222-01220 and let Kristen or Laurie know you’ll be here.

Lost and Found

Less than one week in and we have all of this in the Lost & Found!

Less than one week in and we have all of this in the Lost & Found!

I am always amazed at the amount of “stuff” that gets left lying around the building with no one making a claim of ownership. Everyday, after lunch, there has to be 3 or 4 lunch bags left outside the building by kids who forget about them when they return from recess.

Mrs. Hanley dutifully picks them up and brings them to the Lost and Found located just outside the cafeteria, thinking that kids will see them when the return to lunch the next day. It’s amazing that these lunch bags, some that are LL Bean quality, just continue to sit in the Lost & Found day-after-day.

If you some one that belongs to you, please give us a call, or better yet, let your child know that you expect them to bring it home the next day.

And, Speaking of Lunch…

I have mentioned here for the past couple of weeks the book I am reading from Jessica Lahey called The Gift of Failure. This is a book for parents and for educators. Ms. Lahey, a mother of 2 children (actually

Just a small sample of "stuff" brought for students who forgot it at home!

Just a small sample of “stuff” brought for students who forgot it at home!

one is a Middle Schooler!) and a teacher at the middle level, so she is twice blessed!

One particular passage in her book, Ms. Lahey talks about the day she sent her son off to school and then noticed that he had left his homework on the kitchen table. Ms.Lahey agonized, as only a mother can, about should she bring his homework to school and leave it at the office so he wouldn’t have to suffer the consequences with his teacher, of let nature take its course.

I think we are all faced with this dilemma from time-to-time during the upbringing of our children. I know I was when my kids were in school and I always thought what was the big deal, I could just drop it off at the office on my way to wherever. However, I did resist most of the time, and, my kids had to either learn how to remember their stuff or face the consequences.

gift of failureSo, each day, we have some of the greatest parents in the world who look after their kids with incredible kindness and love, and work to make sure that soccer shoes are at school when they have been left behind at home. Lunch boxes, some of which end up in the aforementioned Lost & Found, being brought to school after the student “forgot” them at home. If we apply Ms. Lahey’s reasoning, and I think we should, what are we teaching our kids if they never get to feel the consequences of their inattentiveness!

I will make a promise to you all, any child who forget his lunch, will be fed! I will make sure of that. As for forgotten homework or sports equipment, we will support the child as they work through the consequences and hopefully, help them to devise some strategies to be less forgetful.

Ms. Lahey’s book is filled with some great ideas and techniques and support for parents who think that if they don’t come to their child’s rescue in these situations, they are lousy parents. I think we will all feel fortified as parents by what she writes.

Again, I am willing to coordinate a book group, here at GMS fro any parent that would like to participate in a discussion. Please just let me know.

Off to a Great Start


Upcoming Important Dates

Thursday, September 3 – Sign-ups for Cross Country 7:45 am in the Ping Pong Room
Friday, September 4 – No School
Monday, September 7 – Labor Day Holiday, No School
Tuesday, September 8 – Late Buses start after school.
Tuesday, September 8 – Sign-ups for Chorus and Steel Band
Monday, September 14 – MLTI Parent Orientation Meeting 6:00 pm GMS Auditorium
Tuesday, September 15 – MLTI Parent Orientation Meeting 6:00 pm GMS Auditorium
Friday, September 18 – School Dance 6:00 – 8:00 pm GMS Gymnasium

A Huge “Thank You” to all Coming to Our Open House

In speaking with the staff this morning, the overwhelming adjective they used to describe last night’s Open House was, well, “overwhelmed”! Each and every faculty member commented on the amazing turnout of so many of our parents coming by to have the children introduce their advisors and the new teachers. Thank you to every one who came out!

Sports Sign-ups

Boy’s and Girl’s Soccer for both 7th and 8th Grade are currently signing up players for the coming season. If a student is interested in trying out for any of these teams, they should sign up. The sign up sheets are posted on the glass windows just outside the cafeteria.

7th & 8th Grade Field Hockey are singing up as well and those sign up sheets are outside the cafeteria as well.

6th, 7th 7 8th grade coed Tennis will be starting next week as well.

Any student in grade 6, 7 or 8, interested in running Cross Country this season, should attend an organizational meeting Thursday Morning (tomorrow) in the Ping Pong Room in the corridor behind the Gym. The meeting begins at 7:45 am and will last only 10 minutes or so. If a student forgets, or misses the meeting, they should meet with Mr. McCarthy sometime during the day or early next week to sign up.

Late Bus Begins

We will begin the Late Bus Runs on Tuesday, September 8. The buses pick up students at GMS at 4:00 pm. This is perfect because it coincides with the end of practice and all activities at GMS. Students will get on one of three possible buses that head out in different directions across Gorham. We have a map available in the foyer of the Middle School so that students can find where the live and decide which bus will take them to their home.

The Late Buses run Mondays through Thursdays, with the exception of the early release days.

Band, Chorus and Steel Band

Any student interested in joining Chorus, band or the Steel Band are invited to sign up. There is no experience necessary for any of these activities and there is plenty of fun and enjoyment in each one. Please encourage your child to try something new this year that might extend them “just beyond their comfort zone”!

MLTI Parent Orientation Nights

As we have since the beginning of the MLTI program, we will be holding our mandatory parent orientation night on Monday and Tuesday evening, September 14 and 15. The evening will begin at 6:00 pm and we will try to keep the night’s work to an hour!

We do have a lot to offer all parents in assisting you in managing your kids and their use of technology at home. We are still working on a couple of items that will help us control how much the kids “abuse” the devices over the weekends and in the evenings.

We also need to have a conversation about the “gorhamschools.org Apple ID” accounts for our students who have not yet reached the age of 13, which is more than half of our student body!

For some of you, this might be the 8th or 9th time you have “had” to attend one of these events, so I promise you, we will make valuable to you and , perhaps, even surprise some of you with new information!

Please circle one of these two dates to join us in the Auditorium.

Let’s Start a Book Group

OK, I know that I am no Oprah! But, I have been reading a wonderful book about parenting and teaching adolescents in the modern era. I have written about this book in this space a couple of times, but I would really like to get a group of folks together so that we could explore all that Jessica Lahey, author of The Gift of Failure, offers to us as a way to help guide us toward making our kids more autonomous in their decision making and in their contributions to your family and to the education.

If you could email me indicating your interest in joining other parents and teachers in reading and discussing this great book, that would be great. I have heard from a couple of parents who are interested in starting a group and it would be great to get it going in October.

Sleep Deprivation and School Kids

It is that time again, when all of the demands of school, you know, homework, reading, socializing over social media, in no particular order of importance, start to compete with our kids sleep time. Not because the kids are going to sleep any earlier, but because the alarm clock goes off and that big yellow bus or the school bell ringing intrudes upon the morning of all of our kids.

The above mentioned Jessica Lahey offers some really good information from the American Academy of Pediatrics and how sleep deprivation impacts the lives of our kids and their families.

The article is from The Altantic and I hope you enjoy it!

Finally, An Interesting Video

John Green is an American author of a series of books written mostly for young adults, but I think that he appeals to many more than just the young adults. In this TEDx Indianapolis video he uses his skills as a writer to expose some very interesting and enlightening insights into his own learning and how he views learning could be.

The video is about 19 minutes long, but he is very engaging, entertaining and, at times, rather funny. I hope you enjoy it.


Until next time…

The First Day is Fast Approaching


Upcoming Important Dates

Monday, August 31 – 6th Graders’ first day of school
Tuesday, September 1 – First day for 7th & 8th Graders
Tuesday, September 1 – GMS Open House 6:00 – 7:00 pm
Wednesday, September 2 – School Pictures
Friday, September 4 – No School
Monday, September 7 – Labor Day Holiday, No School
Monday, September 14 – MLTI Parent Orientation Meeting 6:00 pm GMS Auditorium
Tuesday, September 15 – MLTI Parent Orientation Meeting 6:00 pm GMS Auditorium
Friday, September 18 – School Dance 6:00 – 8:00 pm GMS Gymnasium

Getting Ready for the School Year

In mid July, we emailed out to all families the supplies list that your child’s team was requesting that the kids come to school with on the first day of school. Since that time, we have had almost 20 new students enroll in school! We ill be getting updated list back on the middle school web site on Monday, so that everyone will know what they need for the coming school year.

I am going to ask each team, however, try to pare down their lists with an eye towards lessening the burden upon families for a large cash outlay, when some of the supplies may not be needed until later in the school year. Hopefully, our new lists will reflect that reduction.

GMS Open House

We hope to see all of you at the Annual Gorham Middle School Open House on Tuesday, September 1 beginning at 6:00 pm until 7:00 pm. We will have lots of information available to parents about what will be happening during the coming school year for your children.

If you want to volunteer in the Gorham Schools, there is a process that we must follow, For example, if you’d like chaperone at one of our dances, you need to be registered as a volunteer. If you’d like to chaperone a field trip, you need to be registered. You can sign up for the orientation meetings on Tuesday night in our foyer.

Have you ever wondered why your child seems to go through the money in his/her luck account so quickly, or  how can you accommodate your child’s special dietary needs? Our Cafeteria Manager will be present to answer all of your questions.

We will have all sorts of information on the many different clubs we have at the middle school, as well as sign ups for all of the fall sports teams.

And, all of your child’s teachers will be present to meet you and show you their classrooms.

So,please, circle the date on your calendar and stop on by and see us!

School Pictures

We have schedule the folks from Lifetouch to be at GMS on Wednesday, September 2 to take individual pictures of our students. These pictures will be used in Infinite Campus, our Student Information System, our annual school yearbook and for ID cards that will be distributed to the students.

You can order picture now by going to the Lifetouch website mylifetouch.com and using our school code:  LG555444Q0 to complete your order. This will eliminate tyne need to have your child remember to bring in the order form and you can pay online, as well.

New Staff at GMS

It has been quite a summer for us at GMS. At the end of last school year, we said good-bye to some old friends, and now it is time to welcome new faces to our community.

Joining us this year are:

Sarah Collins – Sarah comes back to us from Oak Hill Middle School in Sabattus, Maine. I say “come back to us” because Sarah completed her internship with Kelly Winslow teaching French. Sarah will join the Monhegan Team as an 8th Grade Advisor and she will be returning to her first love of teaching Spanish.

Brett Brown – Brett will be joining the Sebago Lake Team in the 6th grade teaching math. Brett is another familiar face to all of us at GMS, last year, he was an intern with David Palmer in the 8th grade teaching science.

Cathy Loiselle – We are extremely excited to have Cathy join us as our new School Nurse. cathy fills the position long held by Teresa Merrill, who has moved on the be the sSchool Nurse at Great Falls School. Cathy comes to us after several years as a School Nurse at Thornton Academy in Saco.

Beth Orlando – Beth joins us after many years as the School Librarian for the Old Orchard Schools. Beth is a resident of Gorham and she is looking forward to expanding the services offered by our Library. Beth fills the position after long-time School Librarian, Kathy Marquis retired at the end of the school year.

Cynthia Grover – Cynthia will be joining the GMS Staff in a new position of Social Worker for grades 4 through 8. Cynthia has several years experience as a School Social Worker in the Bonny Eagle District and she also has experience as a Substance Abuse Counselor, which should help us and our kids during this very difficult and treacherous stage of their lives.

Mindy Rathbun – Mindy will be the Instructional Strategist for the Middle School Her role will to help our teachers identify and plan strategies for our students who are demonstrating difficulties in learning in the classroom. She will also monitor our Response to Intervention plans as well as test students as part of the IEP Process. Mindy joins us from the Scarborough School apartment and is a Gorham resident as well.

School Supply Lists

I have been promising for quite sometime now, that our individual team supply lists will be available on the Middle School Website. I really hate it when I don’t come through with what I promised, but we do have an excuse… no, reason,… yah, probably an excuse!

When you come into the Middle School this fall, I promise you, you will be amazed. Our Office has been completely re-done by our incredibly duo of Kathy Richardson, Administrative Assistant in Facilities and Dan Despres. In order to complete all of the painting and renovations, our office had to be totally dismantled. (see, I told you this was more of an excuse!) and we had to vacate the premises along with all of our “stuff”, including the lists.

But, we now have them, and I promise, the will be on the Middle School Website tomorrow! (at least, I hope@!)

School Supplies

What a Principal Does Over the Summer

I have spent the summer trying to think of ways that we can help our all of our students be successful. Each year, especially toward the close of the school year in June, we all wonder what we could have done to get “johnnie” over the “hump” and ready for the next teacher and grade.

To help me with this, I went back to my Daniel Pink books on motivation, in particular Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates us. I first read this book a couple of year ago in my feeble attempt to get a better understanding of motivation, for many reasons, to see what would motivate me, my faculty and our students.

As I read Drive, I began to hear the words of Sir Kenneth Robinson and his and his wildly popular TED Talk on Schools Killing Creativity (click the link if you’d like to see the TED video). My mind raced with questions about what we are doing and why we are doing it! Are we, inadvertently, choking the creative life out of our students? Are we seeking to make our kids a one-size-fits-all automaton that will perform the menial tasks of rote memorization and regurgitation for the sake of a good grade on the test?

I am now reading a book by Jessica Lahey, who is a middle school teacher in northern New England and a mother of 2 boys. Her book, The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed, talks about her discoveries as a middle school teacher and a parent in allowing her kids to struggle with their decisions and the consequences that follow, while guiding and protecting from a distance.

Both of these books and the Ken Robinson video speak at great length about how curious and motivated our kids are… when they were in kindergarten! But, that over time, as they progress through their education, they become far more reluctant to take on challenges out of the fear of failure. The all seem to ask the question “are we bribing our kids into compliance instead of challenging them into engagement?”

This morning, I received a letter from Measured Progress that instructed me how to log on to our account to get the results of the MEA’s that were administered last spring, and I am reminded about the realities of American Public Schools and the mandates for accountability. I will open the files and download the information and try to make the best of the stark amount of data we receive. I will endeavor to make it all make sense for what we need to do next to help our kids be successful. However, I know in my mind and my heart that giving our kids the room for experimentation and failure, and the support to try again is far better than any information I will glean from these reports in helping our kids be successful.

I will be buying several copies of the Jessica Lahey’s book The Gift of Failure. If any of you would like to borrow a copy, or if you would like to start a book group to dissect what it say and means for us, please let me know.

Until next time…

Summertime, A Time for Learning


Upcoming Important Dates

Monday, August 31 – 6th Graders’ first day of school
Tuesday, September 1 – First day for 7th & 8th Graders
Friday, September 4 – No School
Monday, September 7 – Labor Day Holiday, No School

Student Placement

We have taken quite a few phone calls and emails regarding the placement of your kids on teams for the coming year, although not more than in the years past. It is always good to review the process we use in assigning students to their new teams and our reasons why we do it.

We have three academies teams at each grade level, each grade has a 4-person team and a 2-person team. The 7th and 8th grade have a 3-person team and the 6th grade, for the first time in several years have two 4-person teams, the result of a dramatic increase in the number of 5th graders coming from the elementary schools.

Our goal is to create teams at each grade level that are very similar in make up as the entire grade. We consider things like the proportion of males to females, the number of students receiving Special Education services, the number of students who receive services through our Gifted and Talented Program and students who have demonstrated behavioral issues in the past few years. We examine the results of the students NWEA assessments given during the current school year and the results of NECAP scores in previous years. This information helps us to make sure that we distribute all sorts of learners to each team.

We also ask parents fro  information on their children. You may remember that many of you completed a form (online this year for the first time!) answering, in a “million words or less”, questions about what your child found challenging in the current year, what your concerns are for your child in the coming year and anything that you wanted to tell us about your child as a learner.

We finally asked the current year teachers about the make-up of the teams. We asked if they noticed any combinations that may create a problem, should we pair students with another students, because they work well together. We also asked if their was anything that they saw in the teams that should be addressed.

Then we assigned the students to teams.

As you can imagine, this is a very tedious, human-intensive process, and we are bound to make mistakes or miss something. However, once the teams are created, it becomes very difficult to make changes, not impossible, but very difficult. The district has devised a protocol for making changes that all schools must follow. In order to make changes, one of these conditions must exist:

    1. Prior negative experience with a particular teacher and your child
    2. Prior negative experience with a teacher and a sibling,
    3. Significant conflict with a particular student (“significant meaning restraining order, protection for abuse, etc.)
    4. Relative or close friend or neighbor which could cause discomfort in the relationship.

As a final caveat to this protocol, we always have several students move out of the district and several students move into the district. Remembering that we want all of the teams to be a microcosm of the entire grade level, we will re-examine the team make-up in late August to see if adjustments need to be made. We will then call folks who have expressed interest in changing their child’s team, but do not meet any of the above conditions to see if they still want a change. Then we try our best to accommodate s many requests as we can.

Student Supply Lists

During the step up day, back in June, each team gave their new students a list of the supplies that they School Supplieswill need for the coming year. Now, I don’t think for a minute that these lists actually made it out of every student’s backpack. I want to encourage each of you to wait before you head out to Staples or Walmart to purchase each of the items on the list that probably never made it home.

We will post on our web site the lists for each team, but, I promise you, your child will not need all of the supplies on the first day of school! My hope is that we can be a bit more judicious with our list and try to reduce the cash layout for parents!

The Gift of Failure and What is “Grit”

Over the summer months, I have been fortunate to have some of the good people I follow on Twitter offer some very interesting ideas on the work that we do with our kids.

gift of failureJessica Lahey is a parent, a middle school teacher and an author who regularly contributes to the New York Times, Altlantic and is seen occasionally on the TODAY Show, as well as Vermont Public Radio. She writes about her experiences with her kids and her students. Of the many people I follow on Twitter, she regularly offers the most sound and reasonable advise in how to deal with our kids who are at a very vulnerable and precarious stage in their young lives. I value each and every morsel of information she offers because it is based in reality and not coming from the theoretical lab.

She has authored a new book called The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed. The book is expected to be released later in August and it is available on Amazon for pre-purchase.

This is from the back cover of the book:

Modern parenting is defined by an unprecedented level of overprotectiveness: parents now rush to school to deliver forgotten assignments, challenge teachers on report card disappointments, mastermind children’s friendships, and interfere on the playing field. As teacher, journalist, and parent Jessica Lahey explains, even though these parents see themselves as being highly responsive to their children’s well-being, they aren’t giving them the chance to experience failure—or the opportunity to learn to solve their own problems.

Everywhere she turned, Lahey saw an obvious and startling fear of failure—in both her students and in her own children. This fear has the potential to undermine children’s autonomy, competence, motivation, and their relationships with the adults in their lives. Providing a clear path toward solutions, Lahey lays out a blueprint with targeted advice for handling homework, report cards, social dynamics, and sports. Most important, she sets forth a plan to help parents learn to step back and embrace their children’s setbacks along with their successes.

I offer this information, not as an indictment on our communities parenting skills, but as a reminder that our kids are just that, KIDS! That means they will sometimes (some more than others) be forgetful. They will, in act, make mistakes and sometimes do things that we find absolutely inconceivable! But, they are still kids.

It also means that our teachers need to remember this as well, our kids are kids, prone to mistakes and failures as we work with them.

Joe Bower was a classroom teacher in a Red Deer, Alberta, Canada, middle school.More recently, he has left the traditional classroom to teach at a local hospital in Red Deer providing short term crisis stabilization and inpatient assessments  to children under the age of 18 who present a wide-range of mental heath related difficulties. (joebower.org).

Joe is a prolific blogger on education issues facing his school and his Province. He writes about a wide-range of issues that impact education.

In his blog… for the love of learning… dated December 12, 2013 and entitled, let them eat grit:four reasons why grit is garbage, he does a great job of dispelling our misguided ideas that our kids who areJoe Bower struggling only need to “buck up”, “stiffen their back”, “don’t give up” in order to succeed in school.

Joe does a great job of identifying those students we claim “need to show more grit” in order to succeed. He puts it this way:

When pundits call for more grit and resiliency, they aren’t talking about all children. No one is demanding that high-scoring students show more grit. When people call for more grit they are talking about the low scorers — and we know the low scorers tend to be children who are English language learners, special needs, living in poverty, suffering from mental health problems or are for complex reasons generally difficult to educate.

And, when we truly think about the kids we want to demonstrate more grit, he is spot on! Sure, we have a lot of students who appear to be from wonderful families, and they are, but we don’t know what happens when our kids leave school each day.

But the most important takeaway from this post by Joe are these words:

 Challenging one’s own practices and system priorities can be tough but nothing will ever change and schools will never improve as long as we place all the responsibility for change and improvement on students and schools.

Think about this. We spend a great deal of time in test preparation and angst about the results of standardized testing. We write, and re-write, curriculums to align with the Common Core State Standards or the Next Generation Science Standards or the myriad of other mandated standards aimed at our students, and then lament that they aren’t producing the results we want.

The better question is, “What are we doing in our classrooms that is different?” Are we still assigning lots of homework and rueing the the fact that some of our kids never get it passed in? Are we assigning worksheets and getting upset when they aren’t done?” Do we worry that the students are using technology to copy and paste their assignments, and then sharing them with their classmates?

We all know the answers to these questions band yet, we soldier on with what we have always done, albeit with our attempts to change.

So, let me ask you, is anyone interested in continue this conversation? If so, please drop me an email and we’ll set up a group!


Well, That was Interesting…


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…