Week of February 27

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Upcoming Important Dates

Feb 27 – Students and Teacher return from Break
Mar 1 – Spread the Word to End the Word Day
Mar 2 – GHS Chorus Concert in the Gym 12:30 (we will do 2 concerts)
Mar 3 – School Dance sponsored by the 6th grade 6:00 -8:00 pm
Mar 3 & 4 – Southern Maine MS Honors Band and Chorus Concert
Mar 3 & 4 – GHS One-Act Play presentation 7:30 pm MPAC
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)
Mar 12 – Daylight Savings Time Begins
Mar 15 – Early Release Day, Students dismissed at 11:10 am
Mar 19 – Winter Fever Reliever GMS cafeteria 6:00 pm

School Vacation

I hope that all of you had a great week of school vacation. I know that some years the weather can really deal a rough blow, but this year was exceptional. For those of you who are skiers, I cannot imagine better conditions than we had this week. And, even wit the warmer weather, there was still some great sledding weather or snowshoeing weather with great conditions.

It was also great weather to take in the championship run of the Gorham High School girls Basketball team at the Civic Center! Best of luck to the girls next week in Augusta as they take on the Vikings of Oxford Hills.

Now that we are at the end of a great week, we turn our sights toward a very busy March with MEA Testing, 8th Grade Transition activities and beginning the planning for the next school year.

Spread the Word to End the Word

Help Spread the Word to End the Word! You are invited to be a fan of respect and join us in an ongoing campaign to stop the use of the R-word. The goal of Spread the Word is an effort to draw attention to the fact that a large population of people are hurt and offended by the use of the R-word. This is more than just eliminating a certain word from your vocabulary, this is about an evaluation of our attitudes towards a population that has been stigmatized throughout their lifetimes. Everyone deserves respect and removing the R-word from our every day speech is one step we can take toward showing respect.

Please make your pledge by going to www.r-word.org. There will be pledge sheets at grade level lunches on Wednesday for students to sign.

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 negative 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, salads and snacks. These are priced individually and the students can use their Pre-Paid account to purchase.

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 cause a 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 confidentially steer you in the right direction to obtain information about these 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.

Winter Fever Reliever

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!

On Sunday, March 19th, 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 19th!  Hope to see you there!

Proficiency Based Learning

Imagine, if you will, (cue the Twilight Zone music) you are once again sixteen years old. You are sitting in the driver’s seat of your fathers four-door sedan, with the white walled tires, waiting for the man from the Registry of Motor Vehicles to slide into the passenger seat to administer your driving portion of the test for your first driver’s license.

The palms of your hands are dripping with sweat, so much so that your are not sure that you will be able to hold the steering wheel steady. Your armpits are moist and your heart rate is preparing to break land-speed records. You have studied the drivers manual, taken all of the drivers ed classes and completed at least 30 hours of driving with your mom or your dad, and it seems like years for them. You know you’re ready, but you’re still petrified!

The passenger door opens and the man dressed in the uniform of the Registry of Motor Vehicles slides into the passenger seat and begins to give you instructions about where to go and what to do.

Not ideal conditions for test taking, but it is what it is, and you fail to make a full stop at the stop sign (although, you’re sure you did!) and you FAIL your driving test and do not get your license!

Lots of tears and self doubt but, the world does not end. You go back to a few more driving practices with Mom or Dad, or, maybe that uncle who seems to show a whole lot more patience than Mom or Dad when you downshift to second instead of upshifting to fourth! The practice seems to work, your uncle has given you a pep talk to get you ready, and you return to the Registry of Motor Vehicles for another go at the “TEST”.

Alas, the pep talk didn’t work and you, once again, failed your driving test.

Let’s say you fail this test a third time, and now you’re wondering if driving is something that you really should be doing. You give it one more shot and, you PASS!

The Registry does not place any special restrictions on your license. There isn’t some kind of sticker that says “Took 3 times to pass”. You pass and you now have your license to drive.

Wouldn’t it be silly if the Registry used the average of all of your scores to determine if you could get your license. “Well, you failed the first 3 times you took the test, so you need to pass the test 4 times to get a passing grade on the driving test!”. That would be silly, and a waste of time for all. Or, worse, the Registry decided that your fails were so terrible they determine you will never get a license.

That’s just not the way the real world works, we just don’t average the things that really count. Yet, for more than 100 years, this is what we have been doing to students. One colossal fail on “the test” and you can never get your average up high enough to pass the course.

There are a plethora of examples of how real doesn’t match what we do in schools and, yet we continue the practice because… well, I don’t know because.

Will Richardson is a self-described parent, author, speaker, instigator, blogger about the web and its effects on school and learning. He is the co-publisher of ModernLearning.com and he can be followed on Twitter at @willrich45. I have been following him for several years now, and each time I read one of his blog posts, I am reminded about why I got into education in the first place.

I think the most profound phrase he uses that continues to stick with me more and more each day is “…trying to the wrong things right…”. When you think about our Core Beliefs here in Gorham this is what they say:

Each student is unique and learns in different ways and at different rates.

And yet, we continue to move students through school in similar age groupings. We also provide 51 minutes for math learning, 51 minutes for science learning, and so on. Our Core Beliefs have much more than just this and, I believe that every teacher, support staff and administrator in our district wants for each of our students to be successful in their life.Yet, we continue to try to get better at doing more of the same!

I’ve ranted on long enough. I am including a link to something from ModernLearning.com that came across my Twitter feed over the vacation. This can voice what I am so woefully explaining far better. I hope you enjoy.
https://medium.com/modern-learning/9-elephants-in-the-class-room-that-should-unsettle-us-8335b2cef9aa#.gp35fnw0n

Celebrating Music, Culture and Student Achievement

topperMiddleUpcoming Important Dates

  • March 6 – Spread the Word to End the Word Day
  • March 6 – Leadership Team Meeting in Melanie’s room at 2:30 pm.
  • March 7 – Organizational meeting for 8th grade parents and the Celebration of Middle School in June. GMS Library at 6:30 pm.
  • March 8 – Mr. Record to address the 8th  Grade about transition to the High School 8:00 am in the auditorium.
  • March 8 – School Dance sponsored by the Odyssey of the Mind, I-Team.
  • March 13 – Faculty meeting in the Library beginning at 2:30 pm.
  • March 14 – PIE Meeting in the GMS Library at 6:00 pm.
  • March 19 – 8th Grade Parent Night in the Gorham High School auditorium beginning at 6:30 pm.
  • March 29 & 30 – The GMS presentation of the school musical Peter Panic
  • March 28 & 29 – Parent Teacher Conferences

Spread the Word to End the Word

100h-Alternate-Logo-DarkFor the past several years, students and staff of Gorham Middle School have taken a pledge to end the use of the R-word as a derogatory put down. Each year we seem to have more and more students get involved with this worthy cause. Wednesday, March 6th is the national day of Spread the Word to End the Word and we will again be asking our students and staff to consider taking the pledge to end the use of the R-word. We hope that many of our families will also join us in taking the pledge and having a conversation with your children about the use of the R-word as a put down.

To take the pledge to End the Word, you can go to the R-Word.org web site.

School Dance

I know that it seems like last week when we had our last dance, but we’ve had a couple of weeks plus a week of vacation since our last dance. This dance is being sponsored by the Odyssey of the Mind and the GMS I-Team. This dance will have a few different wrinkles than our other dances in that the I-Team will be offering some gaming options for students as well as some student-generated films from past GMS Film Festivals.

We remind all students and parents that all school rules still apply, but for this dance, we are encuraging students to bring with them their cell phones and personal gaming devices. We will have contests and competitions in designated areas for students who want to “game” at the dance. We will still not allow students t use their cellphones in the gym or the cafeteria.This should be a fun evening for our students and certainly, a different experience for our staff as well.

Finally, we ask that parents be prepared to pick their children up at 8:00 pm.

Little Caesar’s Pizza Fund Raiser

The Middle School is looking for an alternative fund raising idea to replace our annual LittleCaesars-logoMagazine Drive. We have been in contact with several fund raising folks to find a decent alternative that will reap positive rewards.

It is not that we are displeased with the Magazine Drive, it is just that it appears to have “run its course” with us. This year’s drive was very disappointing in the number of sales and in the involvement of the students. This Pizza Drive is something that we have done in past years on a much smaller scale. We have given some thought to examining how this will work on a larger scale.

As always, we are open to different ideas on fund raising for field trips and speakers and other events that will benefit our students and expose them to new and different experiences. If you have any ideas, please drop us a line or give us a call.

Celebration of Middle School Planning Meeting

On Thursday, March 7 we will hold the first meeting to organize the festivities for the 8th grade as they prepare to leave GMS and become High School students at GHS. We haven’t yet finalized the date of the last day of school, but we plan to hold this event on the night before. We have a celebration in the GMS Gymnasium for the parents and then the students have a dance in our cafeteria with food and drinks and wonderful decorations.

This first meeting will be to discuss committee formation for the different parts of this night as well as discuss ideas for a theme for the evening.

I hope that many of you can join us to help plan this fun night for our students.

Seeking Volunteers

We are seeking volunteers who would like to star in a series of videos that we will use later this year and next year to help our students better understand what proper digital citizenship looks and sounds like. We need to have about 4-5 adults and about 6 students who will act out different scenarios that will demonstrate the “do’s” and “Don’ts” of online behavior. We will need to do the filming after school and on a Saturday.

We will be operating on a very limited budget, but we will be providing a great lunch to those who volunteer. If you are interested in starting your acting career, or you just want to help out, contact Terri Dawson.

GMS School Musical

Please set aside the dates of March 29 and/or March 30 to come to the GMS Auditorium to PETERPANICsee the presentation of the school musical Peter Panic. A whole bunch of students (that’s the term I use when I don’t know the exact number!) have been working very hard after school learning lines and songs for this wonderful presentation of a school musical being presented and all of the problems that accompany such a presentation (huh?).

In any event, I am sure that our students, under the great direction of Sra. Krohn, will be in fine voice and will indeed entertain you. Circle the date and the time of 7:00 pm for an evening filled with fun song and hijinx.

8th Grade Transition Activities

I know I says this every year, and I really shouldn’t be surprised, but I does come up rather quickly after the February Break. What am I talking about? It is the time ofr us to make sure that our 8th grade students know as much as they can about their first year of high school.

We begin with Principal Chris Record coming to the middle school to address the students on the process of registering for classes. He really does a great job of introducing the kids to all of the great activities and different courses that will be available to them during their career. He will join us on Friday morning, March 8 in the GMS Auditorium.

On March 19th, he will have another meeting, in the evening, at the high school that will be for parents to ask questions about the courses that will be available to the students as well as any other questions that parents may have about the high school experience.

Please mark your calendars for 6:30 on Tuesday, March 19th.

Music in Our Culture Day

I would like to send out a huge “THANK YOU” (that’s about as big as I can get it with the fonts!) to Tracy Williamson of Music teacher and Chorus Director for the very successful Music in Our Culture Day.notes

I have spoken here several times about our early release days and how we try to give our students something more than a day full of shortened classes. Tracy organized a day filled with several professional musician who shared their music and the origins of their music with our students. The kids were treated to a great concert from several folks as well as learning about how music plays such a big role in our lives.

There were so many performers presenting to our kids I could not get to all of them, but here is a small sample of the music our kids got  chance to enjoy:

These guys came down from the University of Maine at Orono and they were a huge hit with both the students and the staff. They brought a capella music to our kids and we have been hearing that some of our kids want to start their own groups.

The Jerks of Grass are a local Bluegrass band that play at venues around southern Maine. As they entertained the kids with their brand of music they also told the kids about each of their instruments and how Bluegrass music developed as a purely American music form.

The session on African Drumming had all of the kids absolutely enthralled with the drums and the other instruments. All of the kids were amazed at how good they began to sound after they had just a little instruction.

This is just a small sample of the events our kids had a chance to see. Some other presentation showed our kids how music is used to create the desired emotions in the movie business, a guitar workshop run by our very own Mr. Lambert where kids go to play guitars and learned about how they impacted our history. We had a couple of local dance studios come in and teach our kids Latin dancing and some really cool hip hop moves. Can’t wait for the dance on Friday night to see our kids “bust” a couple of moves they learned.

Again, none of this could have even happened without the great work and dedication of Tracy!

Learning Team Work

After that great morning with our kids on Friday, all of our teachers undertook the monumental task of trying to make meaning out of all of the data we get from the state about the NECAP’s. From all reports, it was a beneficial exercise that will need a great deal more work. I have emailed to the 6th and 7th grade teachers the results from your last year classes. I do understand that you would love to have the names of the kids on those results, but FERPA keeps me from giving those to you. We will create more time for us to be able to continue the analysis of this data as well as draw the necessary correlations with our Learning Team work.

In the meantime, I came across these TEDx Videos that does a nice job of hitting most of the work of our Learning Teams, I hope you enjoy these videos.

This video could be a companion to the article “Lessons from Skateboarders”.