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

Countdown to Summer!

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Upcoming Important Dates

June 9 – Referendum on the School Budget, GMS Gym & Municipal Center, all day
Tuesday, June 9 – 8th Grade Step-up day 9:00 – 10:40 am
Wednesday, June 10 – Open House for retiring Superintendent Ted Sharp 2:30 – 4:40 GMS
Thursday, June 11 – GMS Band Concert 6:00 pm Auditorium
Thursday, June 18 – Step up Day for 6th & 8th Grade, 9:00 – 10:45 am
Thursday, June 18 – 8th Grade to High School 9:00 – 10:45 am
Thursday, June 18 – 8th Grade Celebration 6:00 pm GMS Gym
Friday, June 19 – Last day of school (barring any snow storms!)

Municipal Referendum

If you do nothing else on Tuesday, June 9th, Please,make you voice heard by voting on the School Budget Validation Referendum. Regardless of how you vote on the budget, up or down, it is important that your voice be heard! Voting will open at 7:00 am and remain open until 8:00 pm. Please get out and vote!

Step Up Day

Our 7th & 8th Grade students will meet their new teams and their new advisors on Thursday, June 18. Over the course of the past 3 months, we have collected information from parents and current teachers about each of our kids. We have used this information to make decisions that we feel create teams and classrooms that are similar in make up to the entire grade level.

As happens every year, some students will be disappointed that they are not with a particular friend, or group of friends, or that they did not get a particular teacher or team. I want assure you that we read every parent input sheet and listen and read all of the input from this years teachers in making pour placements. Once we have placed students, we are very restricted in making changes and we will not make changes to accommodate being placed with friends.

We do have 4 possible conditions where we will make changes.

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

If, for some reason, we may have missed this information, please give us a call. If we were not aware of any of these condition existing, we will need to have the details before we can act.

8th Grade Celebration

The 8th graders will have a very busy last day of school on Thursday, June 18. We will begin at 8:00 in the gym with a rehearsal of the evenings ceremony. Students will be given their designated seats and instructed on how the evening will go.

At 9:00 am, they will board buses for the high school where Chris Record and staff will provide information on activities, sports and other extracurricular events that will be open to them in the coming years.

Around 10:45, they will return to the middle school for a final run through of the evening events and then, weather permitting, move out to the recess area for a cookout.

At 1:00, they will all move in to the Auditorium for the first screening of the 8th grade slideshow. They will then head up to their advisory area, conduct a final clean up and clean out of lockers and be dismissed for the day.

The students are expected to be in their designated seats at 5:55 pm on Thursday evening. We will begin the celebration promptly at 6:00 pm with a goal to be done by 7:10, at the latest. From there, the students will dance the next two hours of the night away, rocking’ to the tunes of Adam Parvanta. There will be lots of food and snacks for the students to enjoy their final night as middle schoolers.

The 8th graders are not expected on Friday!

Standards vs. Standardization

Prior to entering the field of education, I worked in private business, first as a banker and then owning my own Bed and Breakfast in downtown Portland, Maine. It was vitally important that our guest experience be standardized from night-to-night. Our guests expected that their ensuing stays with us would at least equal their first stay with us, they need to know what to expect, and they expect a level service that was consistent.

Similarly, in my banking days, I had the privilege of having a few restaurant franchisees as customers, some fast food and some small chains. Of course, this was in the days before ATM and debit cards were accepted at fast food restaurants.

During my time with these folks as customers of the bank, and clients of mine, I learned a lot about the “McDonalds Way”, or the “XYZ Restaurant and Grill way”. Each business, regardless of the size of their bottom line worked and trained their staff in their “way”. Everything from how to answer the phone to how to greet the customer to portion control and recipes. It was all neatly outlined in a manual and it was expected that each would be followed to the “T”.

With my fast food franchisees, I learned that it was critical that each hamburg be grilled a certain amount of minutes on one side before they are flipped, and then a certain number of minutes on the second side. French Fries needed to be in the oils at a prescribed temperature for a prescribed number of minutes, and the appropriate amount of onions, lettuce, pickles and special sauce needed to be applied to each burger. To make sure that the fast food franchisees were keeping the formula in tact, the “Home Office” would send out inspectors to conduct audits of the cooking times and temperatures and woe be the franchisee who decided to change anything in the formula!

If only educating our young folks could be as simple as timing the amount of learning that needs to occur on one side and then know when to turn them over to complete the process in order for a students to be deemed proficient and “college and career ready”. But, alas, we know that’ not the way our kids learn. Kids learn in any number of different ways and in any number of different times. Sometimes, kids see the ideas and get them on first try and sometimes it takes longer.

To be honest, I think many of our problems can be attributed to our own steadfast nature about how the school experience should be for our kids. Within schools everywhere, classrooms are filled with teachers who will quickly state that not all children learn at the same rate and in the same way, and then assign a worksheet with 20 questions to be completed for homework.

We had an interesting conversation about technology in a faculty meeting last week. As you are aware, Gorham Middle School is one-to-one with technology in grades 6 through 8, participating in the Maine Learning Technology Initiative in grades 7 & 8, and 6th grade having the old MacBooks. as part of the image on each of our laptops, students have “Air Drop”, and application where students can literally drop a file onto the laptop of someone in the same room over the air, not emailed or shared, but dropped onto their desk top.

Teachers were saying that one student would complete the worksheet and then it would be “dropped” to other students to “change the font or color of ink and not change any of the wording” and then pass that work in as their own.

Now, on the surface, I’d say “shame on those kids for cheating”! But I think the issue is greater than that. If we only want kids to fill out sheets with only one correct answer for each question, is the problem the kids or is it the teachers? Do we disrespect the time of our students so much that we expect that 50 to 100 kids per class should all be doing the same thing, in isolation, and then come together to share our answers?

Getting our students ready for a future of cross-continent collaboration, inter-cultural understanding and becoming v=creative problem solvers, as well as productive, responsible citizens, don’t we need to ask more of them than to complete a worksheet?

We need our students to reach for these standards that will help make them better at all of the above, but not a standardized approach to learning that requires all students complete all 20 questions on every worksheet in order to demonstrate proficiency.

Someone who can articulate this far better than I can is Will Richardson. Will is a parent, an educator and the author of the best selling book Why School?, something we should ask ourselves everyday. Read this post by Will and see if you have the same concerns I have. I would love to hear from you.