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

Will Winter Ever Loosen Its Grip on Us?????

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Upcoming Important Dates

March 5 – Spread the Word to End the Word Day at GMS
March 6 – GHS Chorus Spring Concert Tour of the District.
March 7 – Progress reports available on Infinite Campus at the end of the school day.
March 12 – Early Release Day for students, students will be dismissed at 11:10 am.
March 13 – Parent Teacher Conferences 3:00 – 8:00 pm
March 14 – Parent Teacher Conferences 8:00 am – 2:00 pm. No School for students.
March 14 & 15 – GMS School Musical presentation 7:00 pm in the GMS Auditorium.
March 18 – GHS Principal and Department Heads present to 8th Graders
March 18 – 8th Grade Parent Night for all students attending GHS next fall, 6:30 pm in the GHS Auditorium.
March 18 – Southern Maine Middle School Math Meet at GMS beginning at 3:00 pm
March 19 – Drugs 101: What Parents Need to Know, GMS Auditorium 6:00 – 8:00 pm
March 20 – PIE Meeting 6:00 pm in the GMS Library
March 28 – Teacher Workshop Day, No school for students.

Spread the Word to End the Word

100h-Alternate-Logo-DarkWednesday, March 5 marks the fifth annual Spread the Word to End the Word campaign.  Spread the Word is a campaign that was created in 2009 at a Special Olympics Global Youth Activation Summit.  The motivation behind this campaign was to promote the positive contributions of people with intellectual disabilities by making a pledge to stop using the R-word. Most people don’t think of this word as the language of hate, but that’s exactly what it feels like to millions of people with intellectual disabilities, their families and friends. I believe that most of us are fundamentally good and that we’re just not aware that the word is offensive and that it hurts.  Everyone deserves respect and removing the R-word from our everyday speech is one step we can take toward showing them that respect.

In 2009, Jordan Shiers (GHS ’10) attended the Global Youth Summit.  She has been an amazing voice for her brother Cole (GHS ’13).  With admiration and love she produced a video to help Spread the Word.  Her video can be viewed below:

For more info on the Spread the Word campaign, check out their website: www.r-word.org

Something for all Parents to be Aware

At our dance last Friday night, there seemed to some unusual commotion on the dance floor. Apparently, someone had dropped a “pen” on the floor and several of our students made rather dramatic attempts to retrieve said “pen”. Now, this may not sound unusual except that I am really struggling to understand why one of our students would have a “pen” out during the dance and on the dance floor.

This got me to thinking, (which is no small fete) about this, and then it struck me. Is it possible that our students could have been engaged in “Vaping” during our dance. I certainly hope not, but when we asked around at school, not many people knew what we were talking about. So I thought I would do some research and let the parents know about this relatively new behavior with young folks (as my dad liked to say!).

Students are able to partake of banned substances in a very surreptitious manner by using a vapor pen. It looks exactly like a pen and it does not produce any odor or smoke. So a student in the back of the room, pondering a question on a test by seeming to be chewing on the end of their pen, could actually be partaking of an illegal substance.

There are several reports from TV Stations from around the country about this phenomenon but I was only able to download a clip from Fox’s Hannity Show that talks about issue. I encourage all of you to have conversations with you children about this and other substance use as often as possible.

Music in our Schools Month

March is Music in our Schools month and we are so very fortunate, in Gorham, to have very dedicated music educators and very talented music students who make beautiful music Printthroughout our schools every day. In the month of March we celebrate all of this good work and we are very lucky to have Gorham High School students who are willing to perform for the students in the k-8 grades.

The GHS Chorus will perform two concerts at the Middle School on Thursday, March 6, at the end of the school day. We will be the last stop on their very busy day. They will also perform a number with our GMS Chorus during this visit.

Parent/Teacher Conferences

meeting-451-95-115-80-cOur annual Spring Parent Teacher Conferences will be held on Thursday afternoon and evening (3:00- 8:00 pm) and on Friday (8:00 am – 2:00 pm). In the next few days you will be receiving information from your child’s advisor with the times that you can schedule these conferences.

I urge all parents to make contact with your child’s advisor to arrange for this very important meeting time. At each grade level, there will be important information that will be transmitted regarding placement for next and for our 8th grade parents whose children will be moving on to the high school.

As always, you do not need to wait for these days to occur to meet with your children’s teacher. Appointments can be made on any day just be calling or emailing the teacher and expressing your concern.

I look forward to see all of the parents during these two days.

Early Release Days and Teacher Workshop Days

During the month of March, we have a couple of days where the students will be released early or will not come to school at all. These aren’t days where we send to teachers off to a spa to relax (I know you all know that!), these are days when we can dedicate time to explore topics such at Proficiency Based Education, Common Core State Standards and other topics of note, as well as provide time for Parent/Teacher Conferences.

Saying this, I know that this can be an inconvenience to some parents and we do try to limit the days we take for these reasons and we make every attempt to make these days productive for our staff.

As noted above, we have an Early Release Day on Wednesday, March 12. Students on this day will be released from school at 11:10 am. On Friday, March 14, there will be no school for students all day to provide time for our Parent/Teacher Conferences. Finally, on Friday, March 28, students will not have school to allow teachers in the district to undertake activities to further our work at complying with recently passed legislation to requires all school in Maine to award diplomas based upon students reaching proficiency in all content areas.

We will continue our discussions about Proficiency Based Education in the coming weeks. If you have any questions about our work in the area, lease give me a call at school.

Annual GMS Musical Presentation

Emps New Clothes pin designSave the dates of March 14 & 15 for the GMS Student performance of The Emperor’s New Clothes. The presentations will begin at 7:00 pm each night in the GMS Auditorium, admission is suggested at $5.00 and all are welcome to attend.

Each year, I am amazed and thrilled at how well Señora Krohn and all of our students manage to bring a little bit of Broadway to Gorham. The music and dancing, the acting abilities of our students and all of the work that goes on behind the scenes that make the presentation possible. It really is a heartwarming and delightful time of the year. Our students extend way beyond their comfort zones to give to our community!

The Transition to High School Begins

I know i Say this every year, but it truly does astonish me that the youngsters, who arrived here 2 and one half years ago wide-eyed and full of apprehension are getting ready to move on to the high school. Time passes so quickly sometimes!

On Tuesday, March 18th, Chris Record, Principal of GHS will bring the Department Heads at GHS to the Middle School to meet with our 8th graders. They will discuss the requirements for reaching graduation and give a brief description of what courses will be available to them as Freshmen. Each Department Head will explain the courses that they will offer during each year of their GHS career and what the requirements will be for entry to they more advanced classes.

Later that evening, Chris and his Department Heads will welcome the parents and students to an evening affair where he will inform the parents of the process of registration and how the students will be welcomed to the High School. The event will happen on the evening of March 18, beginning at 6:30 pm in the GHS Auditorium.

Drugs 101: What Parents Need to Know

Substance Abuse Counselor Claudine Emerson will reprise the very popular and highly informative session for PARENTS ONLY on Wednesday evening, March 19th in the GMS Picture 16Auditorium. The evening plans to educates parents about signs, symptoms and current trends of alcohol, tobacco, inhalants, marijuana and other drugs adolescents may use. A highlight of this program is a mock teenager’s bedroom set up for parent’s to observe and attempt to identify the obvious and not-so-obvious drug related paraphernalia. Throughout the presentation, more than 50 drug and alcohol indicators will be unveiled to show how some adolescents hide drug and alcohol use from their parents.

The Bedroom viewing will begin at 6:00 pm and the presentation will begin at 6:30 pm. I hope that you can make it.

For more information or questions, please contact Claudine Emerson  claudinee@gorhamschools.org or 222-1193.

March PIE Meeting

Above, we talked about our 8th graders making the transition to the High School, so that is our cue to begin the planning process for the 8th Grade Celebration of Middle School. This is an evening where we celebrate our 8th graders and give them a real great send off from the Middle School into the summer vacation and then off to the High School.gradclip6

We have, in the past, offered the students a cookout when the return from Step-Up Day at the High School, a viewing of a video of all of the highlights of their time at GMS and then have a huge celebration in our Gum for the parents to enjoy and, finally a dance in the Cafeteria complete with food and drink.

All of this takes planning, so we usually use the March PIE meeting as the kick off to our planning. We will meet in the GMS Library beginning at 6:00 pm. I hope that you can all join us and share your ideas for making this a great event.

More on Proficiency Based Education

For the past few weeks I have included a little a bit about how education in Maine will be changing in the next few years especially for our Middle School students. I have mentioned the  advent of the Common Core State Standards, the new Maine legislation regarding students achieving “Proficiency” before they will receive a diploma and the methods by which we will assess all of this.

I came across a video, about 15 minutes in length, that talks about all of these issues from the prospective of someone who has real questions about whether this is good for our students, or not. I will express that I am still working all of this through. I have reservations about our current course, I will admit. However, I think it is important to get all of the information out.  So, here is a video by Chris Tienken, and Assistant Professor of Education at Seton Hall University. He raises some real questions and offers some solutions to think about.

OK, I Have Had Enough Snow Already!

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Upcoming Important Dates

  • March 1 – Music in Our Culture Day at GMS 8:00 – 11:00 am
  • March 1 – Early Release day for students, students will be dismissed at 11:15 am
    March 1 & 2 – Southern Maine Honors Chorus and Band at Westbrook Middle School
  • 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.
  • March 8 – School Dance sponsored by the Odyssey of the Mind, Pan Group, Garden Club
  • March 28 & 30 – The GMS presentation of the school musical Peter Panic
  • March 28 & 29 – Parent Teacher Conferences

Spread the Word to End the Word

For the past several years Gorham Middle School students and staff have made the pledge to “Spread the Word to End the Word”, the use of the R-Word as a derogatory comment towards another. On March 6, we will celebrate the day and request that our students again pledge to not use that word again.

I could talk about this cause forever, but I think that Eric can say this far better than I, and in a much shorter time, with far more clarity.

If you would like to take the pledge to End the Word, you can do so at: http://www.r-word.org/Default.aspx

Friday, March 1 Music in Our Culture Day

Thanks to the very hard work of Tracy Williamson, our Music and Chorus Teacher, we will be presenting to our students a day filled with all kinds of different music and dance. Music affects our lives in so many ways and in such subtle ways, that we sometimes don’t know it until it’s gone. Artists like Irving Berlin, who made much of America remember our soldiers who were fighting on all fronts in the World Wars and kept their memories close to the homefires. Bob Dylan became the conscience of a whole generation in the 60’s with his music. Bluegrass music tells the story of a large portion of American history. Music is present throughout our nation’s history and woven into our fabric. I am hopeful that our students will gain a greater appreciation of the cultural aspects of their music traditions.

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.

Southern Maine Honors Band and Chorus

We have more students attending this year’s Southern Maine Honors Band and Chorus event than we have ever had, almost 40 band and chorus students will be attending. The students will join students from several other schools in the area, they will hold a day of rehearsals, learning new songs and then the will perform on Saturday afternoon at the Westbrook Middle School in their beautiful new auditorium.

Congratulations to Mrs. Mathieu and Mrs. Williamson for their great work and a huge congratulations to all of our students for this great accomplishment and for attending this “once-in-a-lifetime” event.

GMS School Musical

PETERPANICPlease set aside the dates of March 28 and/or March 30 to come to the GMS Auditorium to see 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.

Bullying Behavior On CNN

showpage.logoAs I mentioned last week, bullying is again on the front burner and there are lots of folks delving into this problem within our society. Tonight, on CNN, Anderson Cooper takes a look at the problem with the help of Lee Hirsch, producer of “Bully” the groundbreaking movie released to theaters last spring. AC 360’s “The Bully Effect” airs tonight at 10:00 pm on CNN. I know I can’t stay up that late, but I am going to DVR it.