Sunday, May 30, 2010

Facebook: Impact, Challenge, Opportunity?

Recently, I was attending a Principal Meeting where we were discussing the challenges that Facebook is causing school administrators. Specifically, the fact that some middle and high school students are using this site, as well as others, to communicate rumors and hateful information about each other. As a result of this mean-spirited cyber bullying, students come to school enraged and ready to fight. I deal with at least one issue a week that can be traced back to information that was shared on Facebook. Ironically, I can't access Facebook at my school because it is not an approved site.

As a middle school principal, it is alarming to me that so many middle schoolers have Facebook accounts when the requirement is to be at least 14 years of age. To be blunt, this means that most middle schoolers on Facebook obtained their account by lying about their true age. It seems that our character education piece on honesty and integrity is not being applied on the net where it is reported that students between 11-14 spend at least 3 hours each night during the school year. Obviously, my students are not alone. It is estimated that nearly 40% of middle schoolers nationally have access to Facebook and/or other social networking sites.

Despite the dangers of social networking sites, or maybe because of them, I believe middle school educators should be actively helping students think about how to use these powerful social sites to do good in the world. I believe there are huge benefits that can be derived when students are taught to use social networking tools responsibly. Instead of running away from the most popular way to communicate by our current students, or wishing them away; we should be engaging our students to apply their need to network, research and innovate with our responsibility to teach honesty, integrity and the importance of maintaining a positive online profile that they can be proud of for years to come.

With this in mind, I am hopeful that we will begin to explore ways to incorporate the latest social networking ideas in school and use them to inspire and motivate our students. As well as, develop relevant programs that help to teach students cyber safety while using social networks and other online tools. At the middle level, I am not advocating for the use of Facebook, but there are other sites that could provide similar services in a more secure environment. Here is a link to some innovative thinking...

What do you think?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

End of the School Year Teacher Tips

Engage them not Enrage them!

Our Voice Introduction Received Well!

I want to extend my congratulations to Andrew Johnson for his amazing introduction of the 2010 edition of
Our Voice, The Middle School Literary and Art Magazine to the Howard County Board of Education members during their regularly scheduled Public Forum. In all the years that our students have presented to the Board as part of the Public Forum, this is the first time that I remember the members giving our students a standing ovation.

Wilde Lake Pride...Way to go!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

No More Drama Day Is A BiG Success!

This week was designated as Bully Awareness and Prevention Week here in Maryland. All schools were encouraged to heighten the awareness of students and develop strategies to eliminate bullying behaviors.

Thanks to the vision, creativity and hard work of our very own Ms. Swank, the second annual No More Drama Day at WLMS was a BIG success. Our 7th grade students participated in a series of sessions designed to have them reflect on the drama they may have caused by their words and deeds here in school. Ms. Swank stated, "Our ultimate goal is to have our students help us create a safe and welcoming environment for our school and to make a pledge to rid our school of the drama that plagues us each and every day. This will give us a peaceful end of the year and a fresh start for next year!"

Ms. Swank was inspired to educate our students about the devastating and long term effects that the actions of bullies can have on a person who is targeted. Ms. Swank saw the video below and decided to develop a program that would help students realize what damage is done when we are unkind to each other. Click below to view a clip from The Bully Solution video that was created in Canada.

No More Drama Day Activities

Session 1: The Day's Warm-up:

  • Students completed a brainstorming activity centered around the topic of Who's a Bully?

Session 2: Town Hall Assembly

  • Student leaders shared the opening slide show
  • Student leaders showed last years' humorous Imovie skits (release tension) about bullying situations and facilitated a discussion
  • Student leaders discussed the article ‘Bullied to Death’Student and showed the video ‘The Bully Solution’

Session 3: Reflection and Confession

  • Students were asked, "What would you say to the person who has been affected by your drama if you had the chance to apologize?"
  • Students were given the opportunity to Apologize and ask for Forgiveness

Session 4: Expectations

  • Student leaders explained what they expected for the rest of the year and for the coming year, they talk to the students candidly about what they wanted for our school and what they do not want to see.
  • Student leaders asked for volunteers (teachers and students) to ask what positive changes they wanted to see for their class next year. Someone from the group recorded the ideas for the leaders to consider and to work on over the summer.


Session 5: The Pledge

  • Students were asked to make a pledge in front of the group and sign the ‘No More Drama’ banner. Students were given “No More Drama!” stickers.
  • Student leaders debriefed and restated the objective for the day and reflected on what they had learned.

Session 6: - Keeping No More Drama Day Alive

  • Students made posters for teachers to put in their classroom based upon the principles of No More Drama Day.

Session 7: The Challenge

  • Students completed the No More Drama Day challenge. This challenged them to carry along today’s message and lessons into their own lives.
  • Students created envelopes for their peers with positive comments to boost self-esteem and community.

Congratulations to Ms. Swank and all of the students and staff that have decided to be the change we want to see in the world. I was truly inspired by the transformational power that was on display this week.

If you would like to find out more information about this activity, please feel free to contact Ms. Swank at

Friday, May 21, 2010

Wilde Lake Middle Earns Healthy Howard Innovation Award

Innovation Award Winner

In April 2007, Howard County launched the Healthy Howard Initiative, a six-phase initiative that encourages institutions including restaurants, schools, workplaces, and recreation programs to incorporate healthy activities and healthy products into the lives o f County residents. Healthy Howard is strengthened by participation and collaboration with the public and private sectors.

Recognizing that schools are an integral part of our children’s development as well as an invaluable asset to parents and the community, Healthy Schools was developed to recognize schools that have displayed extraordinary commitment in the areas of Nutrition, Physical Activity, Mental Health, Safety and Environmental Health. This year, Wilde Lake Middle was honored with the first-ever Healthy Schools Innovation Award for Safety. (Source: Howard County Health Department Website)

Our school was recognized for our implementation of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) initiatives, including our "gotchas" program. Gotchas are coupons that students earn when they demonstrate the Wilde Lake Way of being respectful, responsible, ready and safe. The coupons can be redeemed at our monthly Gotcha Store or at our quarterly socials. Teachers can earn rewards, too. The carbon copies of the gotchas are entered into a monthly drawing for fabulous prizes, including donated gift certificates and a special parking spot at the school.

I want to thank Ms. Carmean, Ms. Deforge, Ms. Smithson and Ms. Mussaw and for leading our PBIS Team and for the incredible support by our PTSA.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Wilde Lake Middle School pilot program tries laptops

By Medina Roshan

Posted 5/20/10 in the Howard County Times/Columbia Flier

U.S. History teacher Laura Attridge remembers the days, not so long ago, when Wilde Lake Middle School teachers had to struggle to reserve time in one of the school's three computer labs.

"It was very competitive," Attridge said of attempting to schedule instructional time using computers.

Those days are long gone thanks to a new pilot program that has provided more than 300 laptop computers for the school, which enrolls 480 students, according to Principal Tom Saunders.

One set of laptops has been allotted to each department, replacing older desktop computers.

On May 13, the school held an open house to showcase students' use of the new laptops, along with the school's new wireless Internet system -- the first in the county, Saunders said.

Saunders participated in a technology task force that worked since last fall to identify cost-effective and appropriate computers for the school system and created the pilot program.

The pilot program also dovetails with the school's technology goals -- dubbed H.E.A.T. -- which stands for higher order thinking skills, engagement of student learners, authentic problem solving and technology use. This framework was first introduced by Chris Moersch.

After reviewing Wilde Lake Middle School's use of the laptops, the task force will submit its findings to school system officials, who will then decide whether the program is acceptable to implement across county schools, according to Terry Alban, the school system's chief operating officer and head of the task force.

During the May 13 open house, 14-year-old Ruby Fishbein used a laptop to research information for a debate about the Civil War in Attridge's class.

Ruby said she liked the size and convenience of the laptop.

Attridge agreed the laptops were more convenient than the previously used desktop computers, but noted that the small screens were difficult for some students who have vision problems.

Overall, however, Attridge said she is a fan of the laptops.

"It (enables) us to tap into the students' interest in technology ... and their skills in technology," she said.

In addition to classroom tours, visitors at Wilde Lake's open house listened to teacher and student panels and were able to try out the laptops. Participants included school board members and central office personnel.

During the student panel, secondary language arts coordinator Zeleana Morris asked the students what implications more frequent use of laptops would have on penmanship.

Seventh-grader Anna Haase suggested the idea of having a mandatory handwriting refresher course for students to ensure that they are still able to write legibly.

Task force member George Hudgins, a retired engineer whose children attended county schools, said that while he is a proponent of technology, he wants to make sure that it is used wisely. He said he considers the overuse of text messaging to be an abuse of technology.

He also expressed concern for the cost to taxpayers of retaining the more expensive, older computers, which cost about $1,300, rather than the $350 or so for each laptop.

The task force will submit their findings to the school board June 24.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Evening Netbook Workshop Held at School

In an effort to have parents and community members see and use the latest technology being employed by WLMS staff and students, we held our first Technology Workshops. We developed two workshops: Beginner Netbook User and the Advance Netbook User. While the attendance wasn't very high, the participants were very pleased to have an opportunity to see and use the netbooks and gain a better understanding of what their children are doing in school.

I want to thank Ms. Dye and Ms. Chanhatisilpa for planning and organizing these workshops. In addition, I want to thank Mr. Spicher, Ms. Vernon, Mr. Rose and Ms. Dye for facilitating these workshops. Great job! We plan to have more tech workshops next year.

Computers, wireless Internet access a first for Wilde Lake Middle

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Saving the Google students

Sara Scribner is a librarian at Blair International Baccalaureate School, a public middle and high school in Pasadena.

To read the entire op/ed:

Thanks Aimee for sharing this with me.

Four Years of High School Math Considered for Graduation Requirement

Currently, high school students in Maryland are only required to earn 3 credits of mathematics in order to graduate and earn a diploma. Should these requirements be increased? According to the University System of Maryland the answer is yes! This recommendation would impact current 7th graders.

“Students who are enrolled in math all the way through their senior year are much more college ready,” William Barnes said, adding that they tend to score better on the SAT and ACT college entrance exams.
William Barnes, Secondary Mathematics Coordinator, HCPSS

For for more information, read the attached Columbia Flier article written by Lindsey McPherson.

What do you think?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Arts at the Lake!

Congratulations to Mrs. April Motaung!

This past month, our GT Resource Teacher, April Motaung, was honored by the Howard County GT Advisory Board for her contributions she has made to enhance our advanced programs for students and for being an outstanding teacher. She was nominated by WLMS parent Ms. Davidson. Way to go Ms. Mo!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mom of the Decade Honor Awarded

Congratulations to Julie Prince for being named Mom of the Decade! An amazing accomplishment, accomplished by an amazing woman. Click below to see the special video.

http://Mom of Decade Award Video

Happy Mother's Day to all of the moms
who happen to read my blog
and to those who don't! : )

Saturday, May 8, 2010

An Act From Our Talent Show - Way to go Josh!

Thanks Ms. Swank for sharing this video with me!

Talent Show Is A Big Hit!

Last night, I had the pleasure to attend the 2nd Annual WLMS Talent Show. The show was amazing and the talent on display was truly remarkable. I am happy to report that a portion of the proceeds raised last night will be donated to the American Cancer Society and the rest will be used by our Family Involvement Team (FIT). The FIT members work to engage parents and students here at WLMS. For more information about this great group, please contact Ms. Berla or Ms. DuPree at our School.

Congratulations to all of the performers and a HUGE thanks to Ms. Lebowitz and Ms. Deforge for directing the show.

I also want to thank Ms. Berla and her Lady Gaga Dancers (Ms. Warner, Ms. Drakes, Ms. Simpson, Ms. Hughes and Ms. Gadziala) who performed last night. It just goes to show that not only can our staff teach...but they also have incredible dancing talents, too.

Way to GO!!!

The Power of Blogging...

I have become virtual friends with a middle school principal in Pennsylvania. We have never met in person, but collaborate online using our blogs and an occasional phone call. In addition to being a talented administrator, he is a Redskin fan. This makes him talented and very intelligent! ;)

It is awesome to have made a friend through blogging. Here's to my friend Mr. Nunkester...Check out his blog, Nunk News at Also check out this article on Nunk News and other principals who are using blogs to increase communication with their school communities.

Education World ® Administrators Center: Principals Blog to Share and Archive School News

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Google's Philosophy - Modified for Educators

Google’s Philosophy

Ten things Google knows to be true

1. Focus on the user and all else will follow.

2. It's best to do one thing really, really well.

3. Fast is better than slow.

4. Democracy on the web works.

5. You don't need to be at your desk to need an answer.

6. You can make money without doing evil.

7. There's always more information out there.

8. The need for information crosses all borders.

9. You can be serious without a suit.

10. Great just isn't good enough.

If we take Google's philosophy and morph it to an educational setting, it would look something like this:

An Educators Philosophy

in the

Information Age

Ten things we know to be true

1. Focus on student needs and all else will follow.

2. It's best to teach a few things really, really well.

3. Fast is better than slow.

4. Collaboration, commitment, curiosity and creativity are important traits to foster in our students.

5. You don't need to be at school to learn.

6. You can make a lot of money if you get a good education and are creative.

7. There's always more information out there.

8. The need for information crosses all borders.

9. You can be serious without a suit.

10. Great just isn't good enough.

Do our schools reflect our best thinking and do we put into practice

what we know to be true? If not, when will we start?

What do you think?

Source: Modified from Google and the Principal's Blog

Catching Up or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization

This past Friday, I had the good fortune of attending the annual Maryland Society for Educational Technology conference in Baltimore. At this conference, I got to hear Dr. Zhao speak about the importance of celebrating what is working well with American education and he provided a warning to those who are leading reform efforts here in our state and beyond. We need to make sure in our effort to nationalize education goals and programs, that we don't eliminate opportunities for our students to engage in meaningful problem solving and opportunities for them to practice critical thinking skills. Here is an excerpt from the MSET program about Dr. Zhao's presentation:

Yong ZhaoAt a time when globalization and technology are dramatically altering the world we live in, is education reform in the United States headed down the right path? Are schools emphasizing the knowledge and skills that students need in a global society—or are they actually undermining their strengths by overemphasizing high-stakes testing and standardization? Are education systems in China and other countries really as superior as some people claim?

Dr. Yong Zhao addresses these and other questions in his new book of the same title. Born and raised in China and now a professor at Michigan State University, Zhao bases many of his observations on extensive research and firsthand experience as a student in China and as a parent of children attending school in the United States. His unique perspective leads him to conclude that “American education is at a crossroads” and “we need to change course” to maintain leadership in a rapidly changing world. To make his case, Zhao explains:

  • What’s right with American education;
  • Why much of the criticism of schools in the United States has been misleading and misinformed;
  • Why China and other nations in Asia are actually reforming their systems to be more like their American counterparts;
  • How globalization and the “death of distance” are affecting jobs and everyday life; and
  • How the virtual world is transforming the economic and social landscape in ways far more profound than many people realize.
Source: MSET -

Information from

Congratulations to Julie Prince - HCPSS Middle School Counselor of the Year!

Congratulations to Julie Prince, one of the Clarksville Middle School Counselors, for always doing an outstanding job in her role as counselor, mentor, program developer and mediator. You are so deserving of this special recognition and honor.

This past Wednesday evening, I had the privilege of attending our county's Student Services recognition celebration. During the reception, each recipient of an award had the opportunity to speak to the entire group assembled. When it was Julie's turn to speak, she began to share how she took inspiration for her job from the 1970's TV show The Love Boat. She explained that she considers herself "Julie, the Cruise Director" of her middle school. Just like the character Julie on the Love Boat, she welcomes her new students when they come on board in 6th grade, she helps students and staff feel comfortable with the programs and events that take place in the school, she plans and coordinates activities to promote positive relationships, she checks-in with students to make sure they are being successful, and at the end of the three year journey she makes sure her students depart happy and healthy and prepared to face new challenges.

I can honestly say I never thought of school counseling in these terms, but I think this analogy is very fitting. I am a huge fan of school counselors and know just how important the role they play is in a successful middle school.

Way to go Julie...I love you and I am very proud of you!

Blogger Note:
Julie is my wife! ; )