Making Learning Irresitable for Over 25 Years. Making Learning Irresitable for Over 25 Years.
2006 Parent Open House Meeting

Last week we held our annual Open House meetings. The weather just before the 6th grade meeting on Monday (during rush hour of all times), was terrible! I know many parents were not able to attend as we had power outages and traffic problems caused by non-functioning traffic lights. Our 7th and 8th grade meeting on Tuesday was packed.

I always enjoy our Parent Open House meetings as they provide me with an opportunity to meet many of you. We began our general session with a self-running Keynote presentation, Did You Know, about our resources at Mabry and the global challenge our students will face when they enter the job market. I presented about our focus and mission here at Mabry. And this year I took a bold step and did that presentation using one of our new interactive whiteboards. Parents used ACTIVote, a wireless, handheld assessment device, to provide us with some survey information for our future planning. I wanted you to see a live demonstration of how this technology can be used in your child's class to empower learning.

Even if you were not able to attend, don't worry, we prepared a total of three podcasts of the general meeting on Monday. The first podcast is a video podcast of the self-running Keynote presentation, Did You Know. The second podcast is an audio only podcast of my presentation to the parents. And the third podcast is a video podcast of the survey results from that presentation.

You may click on the images below to view, or, in the case of the audio-only podcast, listen to these podcasts. You will also find all three of these at Podcast Central for download. You can also find them at the iTunes Store, in the podcast section. Simply do a search at the iTunes Store for "Mabry". Once you find our collection of Mabry podcasts, you can subscribe to them by clicking the "Subscribe" button. After you subscribe, as we post new podcasts they will automatically download to your computer and sync to you iPod! And it's all free!

If the slide goes by too quickly for you to read it, simply press the "Pause" button.


Click the play button above to watch Did You Know?


Click the play button above to listen to my Open House presentation to 6th grade parents.


Click the play button above to see the parent survey results from both Open House meetings.

posted on: September 5, 2006

Beginning a New Year of Opportunity

I know everyone is excited about beginning a new school year, and I know that this excitement always comes with at least just a bit of anxiety. "Will we have a good year this?" "Will my child have a successful transition from elementary school?" "Will my child make good grades, have the right friends, and have great teachers?" These are just some of the unspoken worries that may be on your mind.

I want to assure you that at Mabry we have an excellent staff of caring teachers, counselors, and administrators that all want the very best for your child. Raising children today is certainly one of our most challenging, rewarding, and complex efforts. We all want so badly for our children to enjoy every opportunity and have every advantage.

One of our teachers just referred me to two articles printed this summer in the Atlanta Journal Constitution that are worth the quick read and some pondering. The first is Teens of Means, which introduces Madeline Levine's work, and the second is a Question and Answer session with Madeline Levine. Ms. Levine has recently published a book, The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids. I have not read the book, but here are a few quotations from the articles that are of interest. (For those who have read her book, I would be interested in getting your perceptions of it.)

From the Q&A, "Psychologist Madeline Levine says the things children need the most are not material: 'Happy kids are formed from strong family ties, from good discipline, from being part of a community, from an emphasis on conscience and good values.'" She says, "We emphasize the wrong things. We emphasize performance over effort, which is a huge mistake; we emphasize competition over reciprocity. It's parents, but it's also the larger culture that has said that it's more important to win than to cooperate; it's more important to be an individual than to be part of a community; and it's more important to have lots of stuff than to be connected to people."

A team of 8th grade students actually created an iMovie last year about this very issue: having lots of things but becoming disconnected from other people. They specifically talked about how their cell phones, ipods, video games, and instant messaging actually put distance between them and their family and friends. Their movie project is really excellent, moving, and will make you think. Move the playhead to the last two minutes of this movie link from last year's film festival. I encourage you to view it and see this issue from their perspective.

Additionally, last year I asked students in six different classes (two sixth, two seventh, and two eighth grade), "If I were to walk into the best school in the world, what would I see? What would be going on?" I was stunned at their answers. In fact, I found them so meaningful, we made a podcast of what they said. They talk a great deal about technology, but they also emphasized connectedness with their peers (in the physical classroom and all around the world) and with their teachers. Several mentioned a significantly reduced class size so they would get more individualized instruction and attention.

Becoming a teenager in our American culture today is a messy and difficult process under the best of circumstances. During this time of being an "in between ager" our students are trying to sort out who they are and what is important to them. They are working through balancing becoming an individual while at the same time fitting into a group. (I'm sorry if I am bringing back some tough memories of this time in the lives of our parents when you were this age!) But we all know the challenge that is this age. But we often don't realize the challenge of being this age today.

As your principal at Mabry, I will continue to stress with our students, their doing their best work--not making all "A"s. I tell our students that school is not about grades. Unlike No Child Left Behind, which emphasizes attaining low level basic standards, our emphasis, our school goal, is to maximize student achievement–for them to do their best work. I invite you to support us in our efforts to help your child achieve their best in school by reaffirming this goal at home each night. I am confident that we all share the same vision of excellence and will team together to encourage our children to perform at their best, to do just a little bit better today than we did yesterday, to work as hard as we can.

Our PTSA joins us each year in rewarding our students' best effort and hard work with special celebrations of our students' achievement. We want to celebrate their successes to build a sense of self esteem that is meaningful, is deeply rooted in personal satisfaction built from working hard to achieve demanding but attainable goals of significant value. Patting students on the back for trivial effort or insignificant accomplishment actually demeans their self esteem and is counterproductive to their development.

I will also continue to stress with them the need to make good choices in what they do and in the friendships they develop. I will stress to them the fact that we become like the people with whom we associate. I believe that our parents have done a good job raising students who know the difference between what is right and what is wrong. At Mabry we will support that hard work by stressing to every student the need for him or her to make choices that will open doors of opportunity for them in the future.

And I encourage all of our parents to get to know your grade level guidance counselor. Mrs. Jackson and Mrs. Haag are an excellent resource and are here to support your child (and you) as you face challenges. You can also visit their blog throughout the year for updates and important information.

SolstrandI spent a couple of weeks in Norway on vacation this summer. One morning at breakfast, with this dramatic view of a glacier and fjord in the distance (click to enlarge), I found a card with this quotation next to my plate, "How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives." –Annie Dillard

I was reminded that, despite the tumultuous world in which we live, these are precious times, that each day we live we must consciously celebrate and affirm those we love. Each day we create the meaningfulness that is our lives–or, we don't. It's a day-to-day affair. It's a conscious effort. We can become swallowed up in thoughtless routines and endless distractions, or we can consciously savor the time we have with those we cherish. We can worry about all of the things that could go wrong, or we can deliberately attend to each of the life experiences that brings rich reward into the lives of each person in our families. I want to encourage us all to make this a conscious, daily practice.

I am confident that as we all work together we will find tremendous success for our students. At the end of this school year we will look back and celebrate Mabry's 28th year of academic excellence. You see, I'm very fond of saying, and in fact actually believe that, "The future's so bright, ya gotta wear shades!"

posted on: August 2, 2006

Comments

That is a great photo you took in Norway. You are doing a spectacular job at what you do.

Posted by: David at August 9, 2006 8:31 PM

Teaching Children to Think

Sometimes I think we as adults need to spend more quality time with our children consciously teaching them explicitly those critical life skills that we assume they get somehow by just growing up. The problems and issues that prevent us from doing this can be many, and perhaps setting aside the time is at the top of the list. But I want to share with parents over the next several weeks some simple tips that are easy to use--tips that you will hopefully find helpful with your children.

Today's tip focuses on helping your child think. If you have ever stopped to think about it, thinking and language (using reading and writing with words, numbers, musical notation, etc.) go hand in hand because they are closely intertwined. If you want your child to be seen as intelligent and competent, your child must think and communicate with clarity and precision.

I must admit that in the deep south, where I grew up, we are masters at generality and ambiguity. And perhaps the most vague and general among us are adolescents! I'll give you a brief but conclusive example. Presented in the next paragraph is a complete thought, from beginning to end, deeply and meaningfully articulated by one of our 7th graders this week. I overheard him myself. This complex ideation demands a complete line all to itself to help explicate the subtle nuances of meaning found in the subject, verb, and objects in each of the intricately constructed clauses and phrases.

"Dude!"

Parents, you know exactly what I am talking about. Now, the child who spoke this did in fact communicate a great deal in that one word. His statement was so profound and sophisticated that no one would argue he was wrong. In fact, everyone around him agreed! But what did they mean when they all ponderously nodded their heads in affirmation?

Simple strategy: question your child for clarity and precision. Doing so will force greater depth in thinking and expression. Be alert to vagueness and help your child become more specific by asking clarifying questions. This simple strategy will not just enhance meaningful conversation between you and your child, but will force your child to think more deeply, to re-think what he or she wants to say but didn't, to find a better way to express him or herself.

Here are a few examples:

By using this one simple strategy, your child's language (which is a reflection of his or her thinking or lack thereof) will become more precise. In time your child will begin to use more descriptive words to clarify what he or she really wants to communicate to you but didn't think through carefully enough to actually accomplish. Your child will begin to use more labels, more carefully chosen vocabulary, correct names, criteria for their value judgments, and supporting evidence for what they are thinking.

By helping your child elaborate and provide meaningful comparisons (similarities or contrasts), you are forcing their little brains to create more neural connections that will, in time, become patterns for thought and explication. You will actually help develop your child's brain! This strategy is just too simple and too powerful to not use regularly!!

posted on: August 19, 2005

Highly Recommended!

I've had an incredible and extremely busy summer. As probably everyone in our school community now realizes, I began the summer by re-writing our school's web presence. I was then unexpectedly called upon in California to present to educators and technologists from all around the world about the technology running under our web site's hood. They were eager to learn what I used and how I pulled it all together into one site. Perhaps as a result of that presentation, MabryOnline.org has now had 400,380 hits! Since the site began we have had an average of 6,096 hits a day, with an average of nearly 13,000 hits per day in the last 7 days. These hits are coming in from all over the world! Wow! But this isn't why I wanted to write to you!

As I mentioned, I was in California this summer. I attended a conference focused on technology in education. This was without doubt the most profound professional event I've ever attended. I averaged about 3 to 4 hours of sleep per night as I had too many brilliant, creative people with whom to talk, pick their brains, and begin the development of international collaborations that I anticipate will benefit our students at Mabry. But even this isn't why I wanted to write to you!

During this conference, I heard about a book. This book is essential reading for every parent of every child at Mabry Middle School. It should even be required guided reading for most of our students, at least in 8th grade. (I personally do audiobooks on my iPod and therefore ran for record lengths of time at the gym, which I need to be doing!, because I couldn't stop listening.)

I am requiring every subject area coordinator at Mabry read this book. We will then pass the books around the whole staff. In a very easy and assessable writing style, this book presents some rather sobering and substantive ideas with which everyone should grapple and give careful thought, whether you see the patterns in world events he proposes in his book or not. But my guess is, the book will ring true to what you are reading and seeing in the news, what may well be happening in your workplace or that of your friends and colleagues. "Well, what is this book?" you demand!


"The World Is Flat" by: Thomas L. Friedman

I encourage you to read it before we have our Open House parent nights so you will have a deeper insight into my remarks about what we are doing at Mabry Middle School to begin preparing your children to be global life-long learners and collaborators who will be competitive in the global job market. After all, I know we all love our children, but who among us wants them to be raising their families under our roofs? :o)

I was recently asked why I am so excited to begin another school year in a world with an increasing number of complex and demanding challenges. My response is simple: each challenge is an opportunity for contribution and economic empowerment that did not exist before! As I am so fond of saying, "The future's so bright, ya gotta wear shades!"

Click here to listen to a podcast interview with the author!

posted on: July 31, 2005

Medications and Health Care at School Q&A

1. Does the school provide medications?

No, the school does not provide medication. Medication must be brought to the front office or school clinic by the parent/guardian. An “Authorization to Administer” medication form must be completed.

2. May the parent/guardian bring and give medications to their student?

Yes, a parent/guardian may come to school and give their child medication. Appropriate visitor sign in procedures should be followed.

3. Where can I find authorization forms?

Authorization forms are found in the front office, school clinic, or online. To find forms online go to www.cobbk12.org. Locate “Superintendent” on the left hand side of the page, and then click on “Administrative Rules.” Click on Section “J-Students.” Find Administrative Rule JLCD (Student Welfare: Medication). Click on the Form needed.

4. Why do I need a doctor's note for adult strength over-the-counter medication when my doctor has told me this is appropriate for my student’s weight (or condition)?

The school nurse wants to protect your child and must follow guidelines for dosage recommended by the manufacturer.

5. How do students get their medications at the After School Program (ASP)?

The principal, with input from the licensed school nurse, and the After School Program Director, will determine by whom and how medication will be secured and administered at ASP.

6. Why do medications have to be in the original container?

The original container provides information from the manufacturer about over-the-counter medications, including the name of the medication, the proper dose, how the medication should be given, how often the medication can be given, possible side effects, and when the medication is no longer effective (an expiration date).
The original prescription container includes the name of the medication, the patient’s name, the prescribing doctor, the proper dose, how and when it should be given, how long the medication shpuld be given, when the medication expires, and the pharmacy where the medication was purchased. All of this information is necessary for the school nurse to administer medication in a safe manner.

7. What if my child’s medication or dosage changes?

Parents/guardians must inform the school nurse of any medication changes. New medication or different doses will not be given unless the parent completes a new medication form. The information on the prescription bottle label must match the new consent form.

8. Can my child take herbal medication at school?

No. Over-the-counter diet pills, vitamins, dietary supplements, including minerals or herbs will not be given.

9. May my child carry cough drops at school?

All students may carry cough drops and throat lozenges as long as an “Over-The-Counter Medication Permission” form is completed and the school nurse has the original completed form on file. The student should carry a copy of the form with the medication. The medication must be kept in the original container.

10. May my child carry over-the-counter medication at school?

Middle and high school students (grades 6-12) may carry certain over-the counter medications: ibuprofen (i.e.: Advil, Motrin, Midol), acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspirin, antacids, cough drops and throat lozenges with a completed “Over-the-Counter Medication Permission Form” on file in the clinic. The student should carry a copy of the form with the medication. The medication must be kept in the original container.

11. Can my child carry his asthma inhaler at school?

Yes, students may carry inhalers, Epipens or insulin with a completed “Authorization for Student to Carry a Prescription Inhaler, Epipen or Insulin” form on file in the clinic.

12. Why is there a place for the health care provider to sign the authorization form for my child to carry their inhaler at school?

The health care provider’s signature indicates that your child has been instructed on the proper use of their inhaler and that your child is responsible for administering it to himself/herself without supervision. The form can be faxed to the doctor and then faxed back to the individual school nurse.

13. Why do I have to have a prescription label on the inhaler?

The prescription on the inhaler includes the child’s name, how often it is to be used and what dose is appropriate for your child. It is difficult to keep the label directly on the inhaler. You can write your child’s name on the inhaler and bring the labeled prescription box to the school nurse.

14. If my child is sick, why can't I bring them medicine and send them back to class?

You can, unless your child has a fever, vomiting, two episodes of diarrhea, a rash that may be contagious, or any other condition that the school nurse or administrator believe may be contagious or disruptive to the class or teacher.

15. If I give my child Tylenol for a fever, can I still send them to school?

If the fever is more than 100.9 degrees F before you give them Tylenol, then your child cannot come to school. Your child may return to school when his/her temperature is below 101 degrees F without Tylenol or any other fever reducing medication for 24 hours, if s/he feels well and is not showing any signs of illness.

16. If I give my child Tylenol for aches and pains can I still send them to school?

Your child is welcome at school while taking Tylenol and any other over-the-counter medication for an injury, dental work, etc. However, if the medication is for a sore throat, earache or flu like symptoms, please keep them at home.

17. Why can’t I put medicine in my child’s lunch box if he/she has to take medicine at lunch?

Medication in a lunch box could be lost or taken by another child. If a staff member found the medication it could be considered an illegal drug with consequences according to the Code of conduct. Medications must be brought to the front office or school clinic by parents/guardians in the original and properly labeled container.

18. If I treat my child for lice can I send them back to school the same day?

Yes. Please bring your child back to the school nurse to be rechecked.

19. Why do I have to bring in a box top to verify lice treatment?

A box top from the product provides the school nurse with the type of treatment that was used and confirms that treatment was provided for the child since a prescription is not necessary for treatment of head lice.

20. How much time do I have to get to the school if the nurse calls me to pick up my child because he's sick?

You, or a person you designate, should arrive within one hour of being called. Most school clinics have an area where your child can rest for a short period of time. You, or a person you designate, must arrive within 15 minutes if your child has a fever of 104 degrees F or higher. Otherwise, 911 will be called.

21. How long will my child’s over-the-counter medication be given at school?

Over-the-counter medication may be given with parent/guardian permission as needed through put the school year. A doctor’s note is required for over-the-counter medication that is given for more than 10 consecutive school days.

22. What happens to my child’s medication at the end of the school year?

All medications not picked-up by parents by the last day of school will be destroyed.

Should you have questions about medication at school, feel free to contact our school nurse or your child's guidance counselor.

posted on: May 20, 2005

2005 - 2006 Supply Lists

Please download the supply list(s) that you will need for next year. Adobe Acrobat (a free download) is required to read these files and is already installed on most computers.

6th Grade Supply List

6Thsupplylist-1
(Click the "page" above to download the pdf file.)

7th Grade Supply List

7Thsupplylist-1
(Click the "page" above to download the pdf file.)

8th Grade Supply List

8Thsupplylist-1
(Click the "page" above to download the pdf file.)

posted on: May 19, 2005

Summer Reading List

Improving reading and writing are important goals at Mabry. Research has shown that the amount and quality of student reading and writing is a major factor in student achievement. Georgia and Cobb County require all middle school students read at least 25 books for 2005-2006. The 3 books you read this summer will count as part of this requirement. All written work for the required summer reading assignments will be collected during the first week of school in August. Writing pieces should be neat, legible (you may write in cursive or use word processing), and stapled together. Be sure to put your name on your work.

A copy of this information was sent home at the end of the school year. The required reading for each grade level is linked to Amazon.com for your convenience. However, this is just one of the assigned readings. Don't forget to download the PDFs for the other readings and assignments.


Rising 6th Grade


"The Cay" (THEODORE TAYLOR)

Grade6Summer2005 Grade6Summer2005.2
These are both PDFs, so you will need Adobe Acrobat, which is free. Most computers already have this software.


Rising 7th Grade


"The Tiger Rising" (KATE DICAMILLO)

Grade7Summer2005 Grade7Summer2005.2

These are both PDFs, so you will need Adobe Acrobat, which is free. Most computers already have this software.


Rising 8th Grade


"The Pearl" (John Steinbeck)

Grade8Summer2005 Grade8Summer2005.2

These are both PDFs, so you will need Adobe Acrobat, which is free. Most computers already have this software.

Also, let me take a moment to recommend the Media Center Blog to you. Bookmark it, or, better yet, subscribe to it's RSS feed! This same information is located on the Media Center blog as Word documents, not PDFs.

posted on: May 19, 2005

Charger Day Tentatively Scheduled

What Is Charger Day?
Charger Day is our effort to provide you the convenience of getting many of your beginning of school tasks done in one place at one time. During Charger Day at Mabry, you may:

When Is Charger Day?
We have tentatively scheduled Charger Day for Monday, August 8, 2005, from 11:00AM until 1:00PM. Please note that this is tentative--pending completion of construction. Please continue to check this blog throughout the summer for confirmation of the date and time.

Where Is Charger Day?
Currently, we plan to host Charger Day in the Mabry Covered Play Area and the new Mabry Cafeteria. Parking is always an issue for school-wide events. Parking is available behind the building (entrance from Steinhauer Road) and limited parking will be available in the front of the building (Jims Road). I would suggest carpooling.

What Should I Expect on Charger Day?
The doors will not be opened until 11:00AM. Last year there was a long line to get into the building for those who came early. Toward the beginning of Charger Day there were long lines at each station (PTSA, Pictures, etc.). Those who came later had shorter lines or no lines at all.

The PTSA will have a checklist for each parent when s/he arrives with his/her student. The checklist will also be posted on this blog for download. The checklist will assist you in making certain you get everything done that is available to you. It will also help you find where things are located as we plan to spread stations out to avoid congestion and confusion.

The checklist will contain a list of the supplies you can purchase in the school store, which will be open during Charger Day. Additionally, information as to whom checks should be made payable and for what amounts will be on this sheet. Using the downloadable sheet as your guide, you may have your checks prepared in advance--made out to the correct organization (LifeTouch, Mabry Middle School, Mabry PTSA, etc.) for the correct amounts. Pre-prepared checks will speed up the lines and reduce wait time significantly.

Volunteers will be "labeled" so you can seek them out to ask for assistance if needed.

Students are not to be dropped off at school or left unattended. You will want your child to be dressed appropriately for school pictures. Only sixth grade students and students who are new to Mabry will have the opportunity to find their homeroom in the building.

Why Is the Date for Charger Day Tentative?
We are hopeful the construction inside of the building will be completed on time. If it is, Charger Day will be held as scheduled. Otherwise an alternate plan will be implemented.

posted on: May 18, 2005

Rising 6th Grade Immunizations

Georgia law requires that each child entering the sixth grade show proof that he/she has received a second dose of measles vaccine or has immunity to measles. In addition, starting with the 2001-2002 school year, children entering sixth grade must also provide documentation that they have had the chickenpox disease or the vaccine.

Most children entering the sixth grade have had two doses of measles vaccine, and many have had the chickenpox disease. If that is the case, you will need to get this documented on a new supplemental vaccine certificate, Form 3189 (rev 8/00), or a new school certificate, Form 3231, before school starts in August. Both of these forms are available through your child’s pediatrician or your local Board of Health.

This is law. As a public school we must abide by all Georgia laws. Unfortunately, if your child does not have the above-mentioned documentation, your student will be withdrawn from Mabry and will not be able to attend until such documentation is provided.

The purpose of this letter is to inform you so you have time over the spring and summer to review your child’s records with your private physician or visit the community health center in order to secure the proper documentation. As always, my intention is to avoid situations where a child is unable to attend school due to lack of vaccination.

posted on: May 17, 2005

Mabry Dress Code, 2005 - 2006

Plans for a wonderful 2005-2006 school year are already in the works. As you and your students relax over the summer and then begin back-to-school shopping, the following information should assist you in our efforts to promote the most effective learning environment for our middle school students.

In middle school, students are making the transition from childhood to young adulthood. Hair styles and clothing should not draw undue attention so as to distract from learning. We want to have a dress code that is conducive to the formality of the school learning environment. Our primary focus is maximizing student academic achievement.

Unacceptable attire:

I appreciate your cooperation and support of the Mabry Middle School dress code. Again, middle school students can so easily be distracted from learning. Our focus in every regard must be academic performance.

posted on: May 13, 2005

For Rising 6th Grade Parents

Last Monday we had the Rising 6th Grade Open House for parents. I always enjoy meeting and talking with the parents of our rising sixth graders. We had several important things to share which I will include summarized in this post. Additionally, I am presenting a few other items for you.

Safety
As your principal, I consider safety as my foremost responsibility. I want to be certain that every child and staff member is safe at all times so that all of their attention can be focused on maximizing academic achievement. In this regard, I ask that every adult always sign in when arriving at the building. Please do not be offended if you are stopped in the building and asked to identify yourself and return to the front office if you inadvertently enter the building without signing in.

Weblog
Naturally, since you are reading this, you are aware of my blog, From the Desk of Dr. Tyson. I will post to this blog throughout the summer and the school year to keep you informed of various important matters. Additionally, next year, all teachers at Mabry will have a blog to facilitate communication with parents and students.

At the beginning of the year I will host an evening meeting at Mabry to teach parents how to set up what is called an RSS feed for all of your student's teachers' blogs. Using RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds, you will be able to have any new information posted on a teacher's blog come to you. This should prove to be a convenient and effective way to remain "in touch."

Summer Camp
Because we will have a significant amount of demolition and renovation in our building throughout the entire summer, we will not be able to have our summer camp for rising 6th grade students. Hopefully, if funding allows, this wonderful program, which we started 2 years ago, will return next summer.

Construction Information
Once the construction project is completed at Mabry (about $8.8 million in work), our school's physical plant will have increased from 100,000 square feet to 150,000 square feet. The construction company has really done a very good job of minimizing disruption to the learning environment. They delayed doing all of the interior work until this summer. Additionally, this summer the back parking lot will be repaved and the front entrance and parking area will be completely redone. I am hopeful everything will be completed by the time teachers return from summer vacation.

Please visit my blog from time to time as I will keep you posted as to how things are progressing.

Charger Day
Last year, just before school started, we held Charger Day, a time for parents to bring their student(s) to Mabry to have their school pictures taken, purchase their school picture package, a yearbook, school lunches, school supplies, etc. We wanted it to be as much of a back-to-school, one-stop-shopping event as possible. Aside from having to manage in a large crowd of people, we received tremendously favorable responses to this event.

We plan to have this shop-till-you-drop event again just before school starts. I will share the date with you here on my blog, on the school website, and on the front sign (if it is still there) once we feel more confident that the construction completion dates will actually be met.

I also want to let you know that the school supplies made available to you for purchase from our PTSA during Charger Day are typically substantially less expensive than you will find in the stores. The PTSA purchases them in bulk quantities and passes that savings directly on to our school community. We know having children in school is expensive and want to help you in every way that we can. Several parents commented to me last year that they wished they had not already purchased their school supplies before Charger Day as they paid more for them.

Challenging Students
Before school starts parents of 6th graders often express a concern to me that they fear our 6th grade teachers will not adequately challenge their child. Let me allay your concerns. The transition to 6th grade is significant. The new 6th grade curriculum is rigorous, and the math curriculum is substantive. (See my previous post on the math curriculum.)

Our teachers will work diligently to help your son or daughter successfully transition into 6th grade. In the meantime, I hope you will join me in emphasizing to your child the need for him or her to do their best work. I will stress to our students on the very first day of school that each of them needs to do their personal best, needs to see how far they can go, and needs to attain more than they think is possible. Working together elicits the success we all want to see at Mabry Middle School.

Our mission here is simple and direct: maximize student achievement in a culture of caring.

No Child Left Behind
By now I think everyone is familiar with some aspects of this federal legislation. I want to be certain you are aware of some very important information related to the law. The federal government requires all schools in the nation to be labeled as passing or failing. Each state was required to enact legislation that met the federal criteria. In the state of Georgia every school must meet the following criteria or will be labeled a failing school:

Stealth Parenting the Adolescent
When students reach middle school they want mom and dad to give them more freedom and responsibility. In other words, they want you to "back off." What their peers think tends to become more important to them than what the adults in their lives think. If you don't believe me, just suggest to your child that you will be having lunch with him or her in the cafeteria one day. Most would rather die. Since we want children to grow into responsible adults, this is not necessarily a bad thing--as long as their peer relationships are positive, supportive, and deeply rooted in your families values.

Children at this age begin to search out their identity and form a sense of self. Often this is a time of experimentation. There are times when mom and dad need to say and mean "No." I can not suggest strongly enough to our moms and dads that you must be far more involved in your child's life, knowing who s/he is associating with, where s/he is, and what s/he is doing, than you ever have before. Simply give the appearance that you are giving them more "space," allowing them to make more decisions. I call this stealth parenting. Be especially attentive to the music they have playing through those headphones! Listen carefully to the words. Are they consistent with your values?

Research tells us that what (and who) they are listening to literally will affect how their little brains wire up--the neural connections that are formed. Years ago we called it: "Garbage in, garbage out." What they listen to and whom they associate with will affect how they think, what they do, and who they become. Adolescence is a critically important time in their lives.

Recently a mom said something I thought was really significant, "We need to remember that cell phones will only tell us one thing: they're alive--not where they are, who they are with, and what they are doing. These cell phones are giving us parents a false sense of security." Appropriate supervision, especially after school, is essential. Too often my heart gets broken when I hear parents say to me, "Dr. Tyson, I just didn't see this coming."

OK, I'll get off of my soap box. I just want every single child at Mabry to have every opportunity for success. I want them to really be the bright hope of tomorrow. This necessitates more time and attention be spent with them today than ever before--from all of us. As the expression goes: "The future just isn't what it used to be." We accomplish our best work when we are all working together for these children.

If you would like more information on effective parenting strategies for adolescents, study skills parents can use with students, or have some specific concerns related to your child, I would encourage you to contact Mrs. Cindy Jackson, your 6th grade counselor for next year. She is wise and wonderful.

Dress Code
You should receive a copy of the Mabry dress code from your elementary school at the end of the year. We will also post it on the website. I involve students, parents, teachers, and administrators in providing me with input for the dress code. I want students to be comfortable at school, but our school dress code must reflect our commitment to maximizing student achievement, which requires a level of formality consistent with a learning environment that promotes attention to learning and academics. We enforce the dress code at Mabry Middle School.

You will want to carefully review the dress code, but here are just two items of note as you purchase for school next year: no flip flops at school, and no tummies showing. With hormones raging we want to focus on textbooks, not tummies, etc.

PTSA
Join! Volunteer!! Make a difference at your child's school.

As I Close: School Mission Gains Increasing Recognition
I want to reiterate our school mission: maximize student academic achievement in a culture of caring. We are doing wonderful things here with students. Children are finding success, and people around the metro area, the state, and the nation are taking note of what we do.

From the over 3,300 schools who applied, Mabry is one of 60 finalists nationwide for the significant National Schools of Distinction Model Schools Award. I encourage you to read my post about the recent site visit. This is a significant accomplishment and recognizes the wonderful things our students and teachers accomplish.

The Georgia Movie Academy, a statewide competition for students and teachers, designed to promote technology and information literacy, was started because of and patterned after the Mabry Film Festival. They recently presented our students' work in the Best Picture Category at their statewide event.

This year we had a team of teachers and academic leaders from one of the most prestigious private schools in the metro area spend a day with us. They want to replicate in their school setting some of the innovative, highly engaging and effective programs we have in place here at Mabry.

And, finally, last week we were invited to be featured in the National Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence Conference next year.

The recognition is wonderful. But what really matters to me is that we keep our focus on what makes Mabry worthy of the recognition, working together every day as a team to achieve our mission: maximizing student achievement in a culture of caring.

I am delighted that you and your child will be joining us next year.

posted on: May 8, 2005

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