Bullying Behaviors and School Dances

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GSD LogoUpcoming Important Dates

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

Addressing Bullying Behaviors

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moving Naturally Week

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

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

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

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

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

Lock Down Drill

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

School Dances

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

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

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

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

Circle These Dates

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

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

I’ll Finish with a Short Video

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

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

First 5-Day Week Done!

topperMiddle

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

topperMiddle

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.

So Far, So Good

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Upcoming Important Dates

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

MEA Assessments

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

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

Spring and Dress Codes

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

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

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

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

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

Parent Meet Up

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

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

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

MEA Science Assessment

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

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

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

6th Grade MEA Assessments

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

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

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

Early Release Day – May 13

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

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

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

A Most Interesting Video

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

Parent Teacher Conferences and so much more…!

topperMiddle

Upcoming Important Dates

Wednesday thru Friday, October 15 – 17 – Tooth Fairies
Friday, October 17 – GMS Dance Gymnasium 6:00 – 8:00 pm
Wednesday, October 22 – Early Release Day, Students dismissed at 11:10 am
Wednesday October 22 – Parent Teacher Conferences 2:00 to 8:00 pm
Thursday, October 23 – GMS Flu Shot Clinic
Friday, October 24 – GMS Flu Shot Clinic
Friday October 24 – Parent Teacher Conferences 8:00 am – 2:00 pm
Tuesday, November 4 – Election Day in Maine

PIE Meetings

Our monthly PIE meetings will begin in November. We had originally planned to hold a PIE Meeting on Thirsday evening, October 9th, but we have postponed that so that we can attend a ceremony in Augusta where our very own Technology Integrator, Terri Dawson will receive a much deserved award from the Maine Chapter of Technology Educators, ACTEM.

I promise we will be back on schedule on November 20th, where we will have some discussions about Proficiency Based Education and what it will mean for my child.

Speaking of Proficiency Based Education

I have heard from a few of our parents about their concerns of the state switching to a Proficiency Based Diploma and their concerns focus on their child’s chances of being accepted to a good college.

I think these are real concerns. We have long lived with the notion that there is some magic formula for students being accepted into college, That somehow, the admissions departments at all of these colleges and universities have some sort of ritualistic method for deciding who gets accepted and who gets rejected. This is real stuff to many of our families and we shouldn’t enter this blithely or cavalierly.

I have been telling parents that while this is going to be different, much of the process will look the same. Teachers will still be giving test and students will still be writing papers. Parents will still receive reports about their child’s progress. Some students will still excel and some students will still struggle. That is the age old process of school and this will still happen.

What won’t happen is that students who excel will not have to languish in classes that are moving too slow. Once they have sufficiently demonstrated proficiency in a particular topic, they will move on. They will continue to be challenged to greater heights, because the leaning will never stop! Students who struggle will receive time to get it. (notice, I didn’t say “get it right or correct”!) That is what I meant. Students will work until they master the learning challenge.

Parents will receive reports that explain what your child is learning and where your child still has more learning to complete and master. Time will not be a factor in determining a student’s progress through school, learning will be the determinant. This is a dramatic shift in how schools have been operating for the past 100 years, at least.

Parent/Teacher Conferences

GMS will be holding our Parent Teacher Conferences on Wednesday, October 22nd from 2:00 pm to 8:00 pm and on Friday, October 24 from 8:00 am until 2:00 pm. You should be receivingparents information from your child’s advisor about scheduling a time that works best for you. If, for some reason Wednesday or Friday can’t work for you, please give your child’s advisor a call or an email to arrange a date and time that does work.

We have conferences set up with the students’ advisors to allow more time for parents to meet and discuss the progress, both academically and socially. If you would like to meet with one, some or all of your child’s content area teachers, you need only make an appointment. This can be done at anytime of the school year.

I say this every year, so this year will be no different, you do not need to wait for these schedule conference dates to meet with your child’s teachers. You can schedule meetings any tie during the year that you need to meet. A simple phone call or email to arrange the meeting is all you need.

Student Apple IDs

Apple LogoSince the MLTI meetings back in September, we have been working to de-bug the issues with our good friends at Apple Computer to allow students under the age of 13 to create an Apple ID. This is to be able to allow these students to download selected applications and content created by our staff on to their devices.

We think we are ready to for the rollout!

We are putting a link to a presentation on our GMS Website that will help answer some quest you may have and also help you in the process of creating the Apple ID for your child under the age of 13.

If you have questions, please call Terri Dawson, Technology Integrator at GMS 222-1007.

 Flu Clinic

Flu shotAs we have done for the past few years, we will be offering a Flu Shot Clinic in conjunction with the Parent/Teacher Conference days. Here is the information for the dates, times and locations of the clinics:

The Gorham School Department will be offering Influenza (Flu) vaccine clinics on the following dates:
OCTOBER 22 at GHS back of MPAC for GHS students only 8:00AM to 11:00AM
OCTOBER 23 at GMS GYM for K-8 students (Parents must be present with their child or an adult designated by the parent) and GHS students who could not attend at GHS in the morning from 3:30PM to 6:00PM
OCTOBER 23 at GMS GYM K-8 students (Parents must be present with their child or an adult designated by the parent) 8:00AM-12:00PM

For more information, please call Teresa Merrill, School Nurse at GMS 222-1220.

An Oldie but Goodie!

As we examine how we are making the shift to a Proficiency Based Education system and a diploma awarded to high school students based upon the attainment of proficiency, I am offering, for the Oldiessecond time, a video we showed to our faculty in September 2012 to help lay a foundation for our work. Diana Laufenberg is still a classroom teacher working with students, just like ours and still challenging her students to reach beyond their classrooms, themselves and their teachers to discover great learning. She still embraces failure as a learning opportunity, but she is no longer working in a school with the great technology she had in Philadelphia. In fact, she has very little technology in her current school, and yet she still has her students reaching beyond to great learning.

I hope you enjoy this video and, more importantly, I hope this stirs up some questions that we can discuss.

Looking Forward to a Great Fall Season

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Upcoming Important Dates

Friday, September 19 – 1st School Dance of the year 6:00 – 8:00 pm GMS Gym
Monday, September 22 – 26 – NWEA Testing for 7th graders
Tuesday, September 23 – Odyssey of the Mind Awareness Night, 6:00 pm GMS Library
Tuesday, September 23 – Ice Hockey sign ups in the GMS Cafeteria, 6:30 pm
Wednesday, September 24 – Early Release Day, Students will be dismissed at 11:10 am
Monday, September 29 – October 3 – NWEA Testing for 6th graders
Tuesday, September 30 – Meet the Candidates Night at GMS 6:00 pm, GMS Cafeteria

School Dance

Our first dance of the school year is this Friday night from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm.ani-dance1

This is a great time for all of our kids to gather with friends and socialize and enjoy each others company. All of our school rules still apply as to behaviors and dress codes. I know this is an evening event where the opportunity for getting together and making impressions is very important to all of our students. This is where we need real help from home. Our dress code still applies to our dances, so I am asking that parents remind their children that this is a fun event and not a formal event, id students could dress accordingly, it would be appreciated.

Laptop Information

mlti-logoI really want to thank all who attended the MLTI Parent Orientation evenings we held earlier this week. We are in the process of collecting all of the information that the students have returned and we (actually, my secretaries!) are compiling the lists and making sure which parents want the devices to go home and which do not. When we get this part of the bookkeeping done, we will then allow the devices to go home, not latter than Monday, September 22nd however.

Again, thanks for your participation.

Common Sense Media and Emily Bazelon

CommonSenseMediaEach evening of the MLTI Parent Orientation Meeting, Terri Dawson and I mentioned Common Sense Media and Emily Bazelon, author of the book entitled Sticks and Stone: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy. (Phew! Long Title) Well, here is a video that has both of these people in one place, sticks and stonestalking about how to stem bullying in our schools.

And, as I write this, I am wondering if anyone would like to join a book group to read and discuss this book? I really would be interested in gathering with parents who are interested in learning more about this scourge in our society and I would love to expand this conversation beyond our school and into our community.

If this is of interest to any of you, please send me an email at robert.riley@gorhamschools.org

Fall Sports Season  Schedule

I will reprise our entry form our last post to make sure that everyone has a copy of our Fall Sports Schedule. I also want to remind all that weather can be our friend… or not! Please check the daily notices for changes to the sports game schedule as well as changes to daily practices.

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How was School Today?

Screenshot 2014-09-18 09.47.54So often, when our kids come home from a long day at school, we want to know how school was for them, so, we ask the question “How was school today? And our kids respond with something like “good” or “OK”, and that ends the conversation. And you want to know more!

The Huffington Post offered a wonderful article by Liz Evans on this subject with 25 different ways to elicit more tha a one word answer from your child. Several of the suggestions are really good and can really lead to some great discussions bout school and open the lines of communication between parents and children. Here is a link and I hope you enjoy. Liz Evans, How was School Today

Odyssey of the Mind Information Night

OM LogoGorham Schools are very lucky to have an active Odyssey of the Mind (OM) organization. Our students regularly compete at national levels and are very successful. The group gets together regularly during the school year under the direction of Diane Knott. All of the participants are so engaged in their work and in solving the problems that are presented by the National Organization. This is a great opportunity for students to practice working collaboratively refining their creative problem solving skills. This is also an excellent way for our students to practice the leadership skills they will need in the future. I encourage all parents to find out more about this activity for their children.

The informational night will be Wednesday, September 23rd in the GMS Library beginning at 6:00 pm. Parents and students are encouraged to attend and if you would like more information contact Diane Knott at email: diane.knott@gorhamschools.org or by phone 222-1376.

 Proficiency Based Education

By now, many of you have at least heard about Proficiency Based Education and that the state of Maine has made the decisions to base all graduation decisions on whether of not students attain proficiency in all 8 content areas. Now comes all of the hard work, and believe me, we (our faculty) are working very hard to comply with the law, but more importantly, we are working to make the learning for our students as real and engaging for them.

For years, we have used a system of communicating to parents the progress of their children’s learning that required teachers place a number of letter that would represent the entirety of the students’ learning. All of the work over a period of 45 days, or so, boiled down to a single letter or number to represent all of the complexities of the daily learning that happens in every class, for the entire grading period.

I get that we need to keep things efficient and as simple as possible, I do get it! I wonder, however, if some of the message we are trying to communicate to parents and students gets lost in the simplicity. I think that communicating about student learning is a far greater story than a single letter or number. And that is what we are working on as we strive to meet the mandates of the state while insuring that our students are getting the best from us.

We will continue to work on this and we will work to communicate with all of you about how these changes will impact our kids and their futures. I encourage anyone who has questions about subject, or any other for matter to contact me.

We will have plenty more about this topic here in the future. Until then…

Looking Forward to a Great Week!

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Upcoming Important Dates

Monday, September 15 – MLTI Parent Meeting 6:00 pm GMS Auditorium
Monday, September 15 – 19- NWEA Testing for 8th grade
Tuesday, September 16 – MLTI Parent Meeting 6:00 pm GMS Auditorium
Tuesday, September 16 – Picture Day, Vision & Hearing Screening
Wednesday, September 17 – Information Night for the Washington, D.C. trip 6:30 pm at GMS Library
Friday, September 19 – 1st School Dance of the year 6:00 – 8:00 pm GMS Gym
Monday, September 22 – 26 – NWEA Testing for 7th graders
Tuesday, September 23 – Odyssey of the Mind Awareness Night, 6:00 pm GMS Library
Wednesday, September 24 – Early Release Day, Students will be dismissed at 11:10 am
Monday, September 29 – October 3 – NWEA Testing for 6th graders
Tuesday, September 30 – Meet the Candidates Night GMS Cafeteria 6:00 pm

MLTI Parent Nights

CommonSenseMediaOur annual nights for informing parents of the new and improved features of the MLTI Program and the devices will be on Monday and Tuesday night beginning at 6:00 pm in the GMS Auditorium.

This is something we are trying for the first time. If this works well, you may see more of me!

WGME School Spirit Challenge

This coming Friday, September 19th, GHS will be participating in the WGME News 13 School Spirit Challenge. Channel 13 will be on campus all morning, beginning at 5:00 am School Spirit Challenge(yup, that’s right,5:00 am). As part of the Challenge, school collect nonperishable foods for the Good Shepherd Food Bank. The school that collects the most food, as measured in pounds, will win the season long competition against several school from all over the Channel 3 viewing area. We at GMS are determined to help our fellow Gorham students win that challenge, so over this week, we will be collecting canned and other nonperishable foods. Our plan is to bring what we collect over to the high school on Thursday night to be added to what the students from the high school bring, Let’s hoe we can collect a whole bunch of cans and boxes!

For more information on the Spirit Challenge, check out the WMGE 13 web site.

Early Release Day Activities

On Wednesday, September 24, the entire school will be working to produce a Lipdub for the Macy’s Lipdub competition. As I mentioned in our last post, our students will lip dub to Beach Boys all time favorite, Be True to Your School. We hope to have all students, through their advisories, join in the making of this video. Just as a short reminder, here is our last Lipdub done 3 years ago to our great friend Flo Rida.

School Picture Day, Tuesday

a=school pcJust a short reminder that all students will have their pictures taken on Tuesday, September 16, by Life Touch Studios. The pictures will be available for purchase by parents either in the package plans they offer or on an a la carte basis. If you want pictures, but don’t want one of the packages, just call the customer service line and order what ever pictures you want.

NWEA Testing

Over the next 3 weeks, each grade will participate in the administration of the Northwest Education Assessment (NWEA) tests. These assessments are nwea_logo_twittersquare_biggergiven on the computer and they serve to assist us in planning for what students may need in the coming school year. The results of the assessments do not have any weight on the students report cards but they do give a fairly clear picture about the strengths and weaknesses of each student.

Usually, the testing last about 3 to 4 class periods for each students, so there should not be a great disruption to the normal student day.

US CapitalWashington, D.C. Information Night

Any 8th grader interested in traveling to our Nation’s capital with a group of your classmates during the April school vacation, April 20 -25, 2015. The meeting will last approximately 30 minutes. For more information, contact Melanie Doran at melanie.doran@gorhamschools.org

First School Dance of the Year

DancersIt is that time again for the clock to creep to an alarmingly slow speed.No, not really, the two hours of the dance seems to travel incredibly fast for the students and equally as slow for the adults who monitor these dances. In any event, the evening is filled with lots of fun for the kids and our DJ Parfecta (Mr. Parvanta) always finds the perfect combination of slow dance music and not so slow dance music to keep all of our kids entertained.

Truly, we look forward to seeing our kids enjoy their time in school, which they seem to do at the dances. Now, if we could only figure out how to get that much energy from them during the normal school day!!!

Fall Sports Schedules

We have, hot off the presses, our Fall Sports Schedule for all to cut out and put on the refrigerator door. As with all sports schedules in the Northeast, we are subject to some strange weather and that weather can wreak havoc on our best laid plans. I would advise all to check our daily notices, published to the Middle School web page for any changes or updates to this schedule, as well as the practice schedules put out by each coach.

 

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Odyssey of the Mind Awareness Night

There will be an evening meeting for all folks interested in learning more about how OM works and what kinds of great adventures students can experience when that participate in this activity. Join Diane Knott in the Library of GMS at 6:00 pm on Tuesday, September 23 to learn more about your child could expect. For more information about OM, email Diane at diane.knott@gorhamschools.org