Saturday, August 30, 2008

"And How Are The Children?"

"And how are the children?"
Rev. Dr. Patrick T. O'Neill

Among the most accomplished and fabled tribes of Africa, no tribe was considered to have warriors more fearsome or more intelligent than the mighty Masai. It is perhaps surprising then to learn of the traditional greeting that passed between Masai warriors. "Kasserianingera," one would always say to another. It means: "And how are the children?"

It is still the traditional greeting among the Masai, acknowledging the high value that the Masai always place on their children's well-being. Even warriors with no children of their own would always give the traditional answer: "All the children are well," meaning, of course, that peace and safety prevail, that the priorities of protecting the young, the powerless, are in place, that the Masai society has not forgotten its reason for being, its proper functions and responsibilities. "All the children are well" means that life is good. It means that the daily struggle of existence, even among a poor people, does not preclude proper caring for its young.

This fable begs the question of the effect on our own consciousness if, in our culture, we took to greeting each other with this same daily question: "And how are the children?" One wonders if we heard that question and passed it along to each other a dozen times a day, would it begin to make a difference in the reality of how children are thought of or cared for in this country?

What if every adult among us; parent and non-parent alike, felt an equal weight for the daily care and protection of all the children in our county, in our state, in our country? Could we truly say, without hesitation, "The children are well, yes, the children are all well.”

What would it be like . . .if the President began every public appearance, by answering this very question, "And how are the children, Mr. President?" if every Governor of every state had to answer the same question at every press conference, "And how are the children, Governor, are they well?" Wouldn't it be interesting to hear their answers?

An excerpt from a speech by the Rev. Dr. Patrick T. O'Neill_First Parish Unitarian-Universalist Church, Farmingham, MA

belongs to the people who
prepare for it today.

An African Proverb

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

ELMS Students remove a TON of Trash - Literally!

Elkridge Landing Middle School Students Provide Service to the Community

Last spring, on a bright, sunny, Friday morning, over 200 ELMS students, teachers and parent volunteers helped clean-up approximately a one-mile section of Deep Run located in the Patapsco State Park near Elkridge. This clean-up effort was the culmination of the 8th grade Service Learning Project that included researching the importance of this area and understanding the impact pollution has on rivers.

The ELMS students were organized in various teams consisting of: eight clean-up crews, one first-aid crew and one delivery team. This amazing group of volunteers collected an estimated 7,743 pounds of trash from this section of the Patapsco River watershed. Ms. Garland's clean-up crew won the prize for most trash collected that day - they collected over one ton of trash! Special thanks goes to all of the students, teachers, parents, the Patapsco Heritage Greenway members and the Howard County roadway workers who helped make this event the biggest and most successful clean-up along Race Road ever!

Hit the link below to see a photo album of this Service Learning event. I want to thank Betsy McMillion for helping us organize this event and for taking the pictures for us.

Elkridge Landing Middle School Students Provide Service to the Community

Monday, August 25, 2008

New Beginnings!

New beginnings are always exciting! Today, Elkridge Landing Middle School welcomed 646 students back to school; ushering in a brand new school year for our students, parents and staff! I am happy to report that our first day went very well. The energy and enthusiasm displayed by our staff and students were a great sight to see!

"The beginning is the most important part of any work, especially in the case of a young and tender thing; for that is the time at which the character is being formed and the desired impression is more readily taken." - Plato.

"A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step." - Chinese Proverb

"The control of our being is not unlike the combination of a safe. One turn of the knob rarely unlocks the safe. Each advance and retreat is a step toward one's goal." - Eric Hoffer

"Man would not have attained the possible unless time and again he had reached out for the impossible." - Max Weber

"Quite frankly, I am still in denial a new beginning is upon us...I am still celebrating the fact that last school year ended." Anonymous

I love quotes...What is your favorite quote about new beginnings?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Talking Tech at ELMS!

This week, several ELMS staff members conducted tech workshops to share various tech strategies that can be used in the classroom to engage our 21st Century Learners! Some of the topics presented were:

Blogging - Learn a new and easy way to communicate with students & parents. Creating a blog is a great alternative for your website!

Comic Life - See how iPhoto & PhotoBooth can be used to create stories & comics. Learn tips for using the program with students.

CLC Intermediate - Learn how to use some of the CLC features such as creating a mail list, using the calender tool, and setting view preferences.

CLC Webpages - Learn how to create a basic webpage using CLC. This is a free and easy way to create a website!

Google Earth - Visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Great Wall of China with Google Earth. Learn all of the basic navigation features.

iWeb - Allows the user to create easy to navigate webpages. Great for student projects!

MARKS – The computerized grading program at ELMS.
  • All new teachers must attend
Smartboards - interactive whiteboards help energize presentations and motivate learners. Learn what they are and how to use them.
  • Great for Math teachers.
Smartfind - Sick of calling the sub line and wasting time setting up your sub job? Learn how the substitute management system works. Log in, explore, set up sub jobs.

Podcasting - Use GarageBand to explore the basic features of podcasting & learn tips for podcasting with students.

TeacherEase – An online grading program that allows for quick and easy home-school communication.

Unitedstreaming - A digital video-on-demand and online teaching service. Learn how to create an account, search and download titles, and create your own gallery of online videos.

Wikispaces - you've seen how wikis can be used in administration, come learn how they can be used in the classroom!

Syncing/Server Update - Come see how the new "non syncing" server works.

These workshops were one of the highlights of our opening week. One teacher commented to me, "Thanks for providing inspiration for me and showing me how to turn up the HEAT in my classroom. I feel ready to begin a new school year!" My thanks goes to all of the presenters! Great job!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The HEAT Is On!

Today marks the beginning of another exciting school year here at ELMS! We began the day by welcoming our very talented staff back to work and introducing our newest faculty members! The energy and enthusiasm exhibited today was invigorating and sets the stage for a great year! I especially enjoyed the musical abilities exhibited during our opening warm-up!

During our faculty meeting, I introduced our theme for the year – The HEAT Is On! Our theme is based on the framework developed by Dr. Chris Moersch that places the focus on developing lessons that reinforce 21st Century learning skills that all of our students need to be successful.

So, what is HEAT?

Below is a link to our opening Keynote presentation.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Unlearn the rules, break the boundaries, free the thought process, and rediscover your untapped potential.

These are the words of artist and motivational speaker Erik Wahl, who presented his powerful message on the Art of Vision in Education, during the annual kick-off meeting for HCPSS Administrators. Erik began his presentation today by creating a very large oil painting of Bono, the lead singer of U2, while the song "Beautiful Day" was playing and still photos were being flashed on the screen. He told us that Bono is one of his hero’s for his amazing ability to make beautiful music and how he works to make the world a more peaceful place.

After creating his first painting he talked about the critical need for educators to help students think analytically, logically and also CREATIVELY. He shared that most of our society's great innovators were able to see the world from a different perspective and were not bound by the norms of what is “acceptable thinking”. Focus, Commitment and Adaptability are the skills that innovators are able to harness and use to create positive change. Clearly, we have many challenges today…as educators, are we helping our kids to gain the skills to be able to meet and solve these challenges? In this era where creativity is not valued since it is “Not on the Test”, educators need to intentionally help to develop the left side of the brain where creativity is housed. After all, creativity is what makes someone truly remarkable and valuable!

To finish his powerful presentation, Erik again provided a full sensory show by playing music and displaying inspirational photos while he energetically painted another large oil painting. When the slideshow finished, he stopped painting and flipped his artwork 180 degrees to reveal a portrait of Einstein that he had painted upside down.

Erik's presentation was a great way to kick-off another school year! His words and amazing works of art have reinforced my beliefs that all students should be provided a wide-range of Related Arts to foster creativity and innovation! For more information about Erik, here is a link to his website -

Friday, August 8, 2008

ELMS Achieves PBIS Exemplar Status

This summer, the ELMS PBIS committee received an Exemplar Award on behalf of our students, staff and parents for doing an outstanding job implementing a schoolwide, systems approach to teaching and rewarding positive student behaviors with documented results.

What is PBIS?

As stated on the Maryland PBIS website (, PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) is a process for creating safer and more effective schools. PBIS is a systems approach to enhancing the capacity of schools to educate all children by developing research-based, school wide, and classroom discipline systems. The process focuses on improving a school’s ability to teach and support positive behavior for all students.

At ELMS, our team is made up of a large cross-section of the staff in our building. Members of the team include the Assistant Principal, the Alternative Education Coordinator (who also serves as the PBIS Coach in the building), the School Psychologist, the Math Instructional Support Teacher, and a representative from each grade level team as well as a representative from the related arts team. We are a strong team because of our vision and dedication to the implementation of the PBIS ideologies in our building.

ELMS uses the following schoolwide expectations for student behavior:


Our staff’s goal is to have at least six positive interactions with each student for every negative interaction. One way we try to achieve this goal is by using STAR cards.

When students display the ELMS expected behaviors, they can earn STAR Cards from any staff member including teachers, bus drivers, secretaries, para-professionals, substitute teachers and administrators. Star Cards can be used to earn incentives in each classroom, to purchase items at our school store and during our quarterly socials. In addition, a copy of each completed STAR card is placed in a bin for a chance to win prizes during our monthly drawings.

Since 2001, we have reduced office referrals from nearly 1000 to 257 in 2007/2008.

What have you found works at your school?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

What is Your Theme Song?

When I think about the climate I want to create at my middle school, the Cheers theme song always comes to mind. The words of the song capture the feeling I want all students, staff, parents and visitors to feel as they enter our school - a feeling of warmth, understanding and belonging.

So, what is your theme song?

Where Everybody Knows Your Name Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo Cheers Lyrics

Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.

Wouldn't you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go

Where everybody knows your name,

and they're always glad you came.

You wanna be where you can see,

our troubles are all the same

You wanna be where everybody knows
your name.
You wanna go where people know,

people are all the same,

You wanna go where everybody knows
your name.

Monday, August 4, 2008

What Are the 40 Developmental Assets?

40 Developmental Assets
for adolescents (ages 12-18)

Source: Search Institute

The Power of Assets—Studies of more than 2.2 million young people in the United States consistently show that the more assets young people have, the less likely they are to engage in a wide range of high-risk behaviors and the more likely they are to thrive. Assets have power for all young people, regardless of their gender, economic status, family, or race/ethnicity. Furthermore, levels of assets are better predictors of high-risk involvement and thriving than poverty or being from a single-parent family.

The Gap—The average young person experiences fewer than half of the 40 assets. Boys experience three fewer assets than girls (17.2 assets for boys vs. 19.9 for girls).


Family Support - Family life provides high levels of love and support

Positive Family Communication - A young person and her or his parent(s) communicate positively, and the young person is willing to seek advice and counsel from parents.

Other Adult Relationships - A young person receives support from three or more nonparent adults.

Caring Neighborhood - A young person experiences caring neighbors.

Caring School Climate - School provides a caring, encouraging environment.


Community Values Youth - A young person perceives that adults in the community value youth.

Youth as Resources - Young people are given useful roles in the community.

Service to Others - A young person serves in the community one hour or more per week.

Safety - A young person feels safe at home, school, and in the neighborhood.


Family Boundaries - The family has clear rules and consequences and monitors the young person’s whereabouts.

School Boundaries - The school provides clear rules and consequences.

Neighborhood Boundaries - Neighbors take responsibility for monitoring young people’s behavior.

Adult Role Models - Parent(s) and other adults model positive, responsible behavior.

Positive Peer Influence - A young person's best friends model responsible behavior.

High Expectations - Both parent(s) and teachers encourage the young person to do well.


Creative Activities - A young person spends three or more hours per week in lessons or practice in music, theater, or other arts.

Youth Programs - A young person spends three or more hours per week in sports, clubs, or organizations at school and/or in community organizations.

Religious Community - A young person spends one hour or more per week in activities in a religious institution.

Time at Home - A young person is out with friends "with nothing special to do" two or fewer nights per week.



Achievement Motivation - A young person is motivated to do well in school.

School Engagement - A young person is actively engaged in learning.

Homework - A young person reports doing at least one hour of homework every school day.

Bonding to School - A young person cares about her or his school.

Reading for Pleasure - A young person reads for pleasure three or more hours per week.


Caring - A young person places high value on helping other people.

Equality and Social Justice - A young person places high value on promoting equality and reducing hunger and poverty.

Integrity - A young person acts on convictions and stands up for her or his beliefs.

Honesty - A young person "tells the truth even when it is not easy."

Responsibility - A young person accepts and takes personal responsibility.

Restraint - A young person believes it is important not to be sexually active or to use alcohol or other drugs.


Planning and Decision Making - A young person knows how to plan ahead and make choices.

Interpersonal Competence - A young person has empathy, sensitivity, and friendship skills.

Cultural Competence - A young person has knowledge of and comfort with people of different cultural/racial/ethnic backgrounds.

Resistance Skills - A young person can resist negative peer pressure and dangerous situations.

Peaceful Conflict Resolution - A young person seeks to resolve conflict nonviolently.


Personal Power - A young person feels he or she has control over "things that happen to me."

Self-Esteem - A young person reports having a high self-esteem.

Sense of Purpose - A young person reports that "my life has a purpose."

Positive View of Personal Future - A young person is optimistic about her or his personal future.
This list is an educational tool. It is not intended to be nor is it appropriate as a scientific measure of the developmental assets of individuals._Copyright © 1997, 2007 by Search Institute. All rights reserved. This chart may be reproduced for educational, noncommercial use only (with this copyright line). No other use is permitted without prior permission from Search Institute, 615 First Avenue N.E., Suite 125, Minneapolis, MN 55413; 800-888-7828. See Search Institute's Permissions Guidelines and Request Form. The following are registered trademarks of Search Institute: Search Institute®, Developmental Assets® and Healthy Communities • Healthy Youth®.

How’s It Going With Kids In the Middle?

What Kids Need: Thriving and Sparks

Source: Search Institute

Recently, I heard Dr. Benson, President of Search Institute, speak about how we are currently measuring success in schools? If you measure schools based on test scores, recent results show students are performing better in math and reading. If you assess schools on safety, violence is down in most schools across America. However, if you measure schools on developing students who have Passion and Purpose, we have a lot of work to do because Passion and Purpose are not on the test.

Dr. Benson argues that schools and communities should be places where adolescents feel supported, loved and inspired! In fact, communities and schools should be intentional about providing SPARKS to ignite greatness within our young people! Dr. Benson says:

SPARKS are…the hidden flames in kids that excite them and tap into their true passions.

SPARKS come from…the gut. They motivate and inspire. They’re authentic passions, talents, assets, skills, and dreams.

SPARKS can…be musical, athletic, intellectual, academic, relational—from playing the violin to enjoying working with kids or senior citizens.

SPARKS can…ignite a lifelong vocation or career, or balance other activities to create an emotionally satisfying, enriched life.

And SPARKS get…kids going on a positive path, away from the conflicts and negative issues—violence, promiscuity, drugs and alcohol—that give teens a bad name and attract so much negative energy.

At our middle school, we have adopted the Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets conceptual framework. While we are committed to high academic standards for all students, we are acutely aware that middle school students have more than just academic needs to be addressed, they have social, physical and emotional needs as well. The 40 Developmental Assets have been a great way for us to address the unique needs of our students.

Benson, P. L. (in press). Sparks! How Parents Can Help Ignite the Hidden Strengths of Teenagers. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.