Making Learning Irresitable for Over 25 Years. Making Learning Irresitable for Over 25 Years.
Season of Thanks

I want to wish all of our students and their families a wonderful celebration for the Thanksgiving holiday season. This is without doubt my favorite holiday. We often get too busy and forget that we are immensely blessed.

Take time to be with those you love! Return safely on Monday!

posted on: November 21, 2006

As Spring Gets in Full Swing


As the weather warms up I want to solicit your support in making sure that your son or daughter is dressing within our school dress code.  We have many competing energy's for our students' attention, especially in the Spring, and our focus must remain on student academic achievement, especially as testing approaches.  The school dress code is designed to emphasize attire appropriate to the formality of our educational setting.  Anything that would distract anyone from learning is not appropriate.

You can review our dress code at this link.  Your support is appreciated.

posted on: March 31, 2006


I am a preservice teacher at the College of William & Mary in Virginia and I just wanted to compliment you and your school on the way you've utilized technology! Your website is amazing and I love the community approach to blogging. What a wonderful way to keep students and parents involved. Thanks for setting a great example.

Posted by: Lesley at April 20, 2006 6:34 PM

Mabry Marque to Come Down for Work

The marque in front of our school will be repaired and refurbished thanks to the generosity of our PTSA. We anticipate that it will be removed around the week of my birthday (not-so-subtle hint), April 13th. The sign will be down for about a week.

posted on: March 15, 2006

Board Member Forum

A forum will be held with our board member, Johnny Johnson, on Monday, February 13, 2006, at Hightower Trail Middle School at 7:30 AM. School Superintendent Fred Sanderson will also be in attendance. A light breakfast will be served. If you are interested in attending, please RSVP to Donna Rumrill, 770-578-7225, or

posted on: February 6, 2006

An Interactive Desk?

On January 10, 2006, we announced that MabryOnline was going interactive. We now have students posting to their teachers' blogs as scribes or note-takers. I can't tell you how excited these students have been to take on this unprecedented responsibility. They are doing an excellent job!

And we are slowly beginning the Mabry Global Learning Collaborative. In fact, Mrs. Abrams' Virtual Language Arts class started yesterday with about 15 participants. I know it's hard to believe students wanted homework that night, but each student was just that eager to get started posting their work online. They are off to an enthusiastic start. They are eager to see how people from around the world reflect on their work. Mrs. Abrams has already lined up adults, authors, and educators from all over the US to follow and respond to the students work. Extended family members around the world will also be able to begin participating in their student's school work. The Global Learning Collaborative has such unprecedented possibility!

So, naturally, I thought I could explore making "From the Desk of Dr. Tyson" interactive as well. From time to time I will post reflective information that I think can be a seed for deeper thinking, a way for our broader community of parents, educators and learners to share a collective wisdom that is greater than I or you, one of our readers, can create alone. So, from time to time, I will open a post to accept comments from you, our readers.

To be honest, I have no idea how well this will work. All posts come to me for approval before being published to our site. Naturally I welcome comments that are positive, empowering, insightful, and focused on the topic presented. With all of the divisiveness in our world today, I am eager to embrace some kindness and wisdom that will serve to enable us all to be just a little bit better than we were. I want us all to be able to influence the space around us (virtual, emotional, or real physical space) in positive and supportive ways.

How do you participate?
If the post is open for comments, you will see a link near my name. The link will read "Comments (#)" where "#" represents the number of comments at that time. If you wish to read the comments or add a comment, simply click on the link and follow the directions that appear. I reserve approval rights and will pass on or edit any comments that have any contact information, links, or information inconsistent with the focus I have described above.

We will explore this possibility to see if it can help us soar even higher.

posted on: January 25, 2006

I Heard It on the Radio

An author was speaking with an interviewer on the radio this morning as I drove in to school. The quotation she made from her book made me stop and think--which is almost always a good thing. I invite you to stop and think about the quotation as well.

Perhaps you want to share your reflections as comments to this post. What does the quotation mean to you as a student, a child, an adult? You might give us some example, offer clarification, or in some other way shed more light on how this quotation could help us all be better parents, educators, students, and people in general.

The quotation:

"Caring and criticizing are bought with the same coins."

posted on: January 25, 2006


Yes they are bought with the same coins, however I think caring can be more valuable unless the criticism is positive!

(Enjoyed browsing your children went to Mabry and I was your bookkeeper and field technician at one residing in Florida.)

Hope your students and teachers continue to benefit from blogging!

Posted by: Mary Jo at January 25, 2006 9:07 PM

Upon first evaluateing this expression I think to myself I must first understand it piece by piece. I assume that the coins are refering to what you say effect on others. So giveing care and critcizm is of equal cost to you. So in the end I personaly would disagree, as some people may not very much feel comfortable giveing criticizm and may be more accustomed to not voiceing such thoughts and oppinions but still will show that they care about whatever it is which evaluation is possible.

Posted by: Anonymous at January 29, 2006 10:10 PM

Caring and criticizing are not bought with the same coins. Criticism is cheaper because the one doing the criticizing does not offer constructive or directive advice. Criticism is worthless.
Caring is more expensive and more valuable requiring one to become more involved with understanding the needs and perspectives of others. Caring is an ongoing process that is priceless.

Posted by: Kabari at January 30, 2006 4:45 PM

As a mother and teacher I can see the authors' point of view. I think we must remember that constructive criticism is easier to receive, and is best given with love and in small doses.

Posted by: Barbara at January 31, 2006 4:57 PM

Excellent points made regarding disparity in investment and worth between the two. Have also seen this expression worded slightly different used specifically to advise use of caution, reflection, and love before speaking.

"Caring and criticizing are bought with the same verbal currency"

Posted by: Richard at February 1, 2006 1:43 PM

I understand that quote. Caring can be confused with critizim (as I saw on Good Morning america this morning.), mainly when someone comments on something another worked so hard on.

Posted by: Barb at February 2, 2006 6:28 PM

Wow, this is quite a powerful phrase. I will keep it in mind!

Posted by: vla001 at February 8, 2006 12:38 PM

Constructive criticism is always good when used as a method of caring, such as "honey, the shirt you picked out doesn't look very good with those pants" or "your hair is getting very long and doesn't look good in your eyes." This all means I care about you very much and want to help you with your appearance (or whatever the criticism entails).

Posted by: Mom of 6th Grader at February 13, 2006 9:54 AM

If you don't care, you won't constructively criticize; if you don't constructively criticize, you probably don't really care. It's the same currency, but the question is how well that currency is used. Caring is the asset, criticism is the debit; the trick with any criticism is to come out with a positive balance.

Posted by: Sylvia at February 22, 2006 12:10 AM

It's interesting that most of the responses to the quote interpret the word, "criticism", as having a negative connotation.

In what areas of Society does criticism not play a vital role? Thank Goodness for Restaurant Critics and Movie Critics! What would I have achieved if my Parents and my Teachers hadn't taught me to look for areas of needed improvement within myself?

Understanding "criticism" is to recognize that X can be better: X can improve, X can do more, X has the ability to achieve greatness.

Consider the world without criticism: X can never be better, will never improve, can't do more, and doesn't have the ability to achieve greatness. Would you want to live in such a static and hopeless state?

Whithout critical thought, would Benjamin Franklin, Henry Ford, G.W. Carver- or even the United States of America- ever been possible?

The use of the word "coins" in the quote indicate that caring and criticism are products that are for sale, meaning that an exchange of equally valued items is made. "Caring and criticism" are what the consumer needs or desires.

"You gotta give something to get something."
"Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained"
"You get out what you put in."

Making the decisions to GIVE your time, your thoughts, and your diligence to the completion of a task are the ideas that PRODUCE a heartfelt desire for the task. When we care about something, don't we want it to be the very best?

How do we know if it's not the very best, yet?

Through critical analysis.

What, then can

Posted by: Melissa at April 27, 2006 1:35 AM

My Best Wishes

In respect for everyone...
(Click to enlarge)

posted on: December 15, 2005

My Favorite Season

I shared with our guests at the celebration dinner this week that Thanksgiving is my favorite season of the year. We too often get so busy, so narrowly focused, so driven, that we miss the very things that actually matter the most to us. I want to encourage everyone to take just a moment this week, collect your conscious awareness of how blessed we are, celebrate the wonder of life, family, faith, hope, opportunity, and bounty. Breathe.

Have a safe holiday.

posted on: November 18, 2005

Teaching Children Persistence

Everyone who has ever been around an adolescent child knows how stubborn and unyielding they can be. This is such typical adolescent behavior, and I think that adolescent stubbornness is also frequently accompanied by the following comment, "But that's not fair!" We have all heard it many times.

However, when an adolescent is confronted with a difficult challenge they find to be less than desirable, their unyielding persistence and stubbornness can quickly evaporate. Suddenly, motivating them to achieve the goal becomes an enormous, even monumental task. They can be among the first to give up. We have to be honest and admit that life can present some enormous challenges that simply can not be solved with ease.

One of the important attributes of intelligent, successful people is their persistence, especially when working to achieve a goal that proves to be illusive, difficult, demanding, and just plain hard. This habit, persistence, is essential to success. Successful people know how to work well with ambiguous problems. They are comfortable with trying to strategize solutions from various perspectives. They can sustain working on a problem over extended periods of time without giving up.

I am convinced that our coaches and performing arts teachers intrinsically understand how to instill persistence in our children. These amazing teachers and coaches have mastered the art of taking each individual team member, performer, and student to the very edge of his/her ability and then pushing him or her hard to go further than s/he has ever gone before without giving up.

They push them to work more. They push them to work harder. And they know exactly how far to push students before they reach the point of giving up. They are literally building the very nature of excellence piece by piece. Every time they work with students, they get more out of them. These amazing teachers know how to build persistence in children.

So how do they do it? What is their magic? I just sat down with our coaches and music teachers and asked. What follows are some of their suggestions on how to work with your child to help them habituate persistence.

"I let them know how learning happens, that it's not a steady climb. It's not linear. I let them know that learning is hard work. Sometimes learning is messy. Sometimes you get frustrated, but if you don't give up then the skill you are learning becomes your own, and no one can ever take it away from you. I tell them that they can give up now if they must, but maybe with just one more try it will be theirs forever!"

"What we do in class is just like sports. It's all about reps, physical motion. You have to increase the number of correct reps. It's the same thing with math I'm sure. Whether it's learning in school, in music, or whatever, I relate it to something they all can understand: sports."

"We don't have mistakes in my classes. Each so-called mistake is really an opportunity for learning. If you learn from your mistakes, if you study them and analyze them, you're never a loser. It's like the old saying, 'You miss 100% of the shots you never take.'"

"We have to set short attainable goals on the way to the super goal. We have to work them hard with those short goals, really hard. We then really celebrate their achievement of the goal. We keep them focused on achieving the goal, not on winning. And I'm talking about significant, meaningful goals. Then the praise is earned. It's noteworthy. They did something worth doing. So when we celebrate their success, they can feel good about it. This is what really builds self-esteem and confidence--not saying they did something great when they didn't or when it wasn't a worthy goal to begin with. They're not stupid. They know the difference. They have to see immediate worth in what they are doing."
"I think we also have to teach students to take the long view. It's not always about right now, or today, or even this month or year. We have to teach students to look at the long term benefits."
"Competition is not far removed from persistence. It's about being the best you can be, competing against yourself. You take the energy from failure and turn it into the energy of success"

"We highlight the fact that they work individually to do their personal best but are contributing to the group as a whole. By working together, they build something greater than they alone can build."

I appreciate the excellence these teachers bring to their students' achievement. We all need to emphasize that excellence is attained by pushing ourselves, by striving. The more worthy our goal, the more difficult it is to attain, the greater our sense of accomplishment when we achieve it. In other words, the experience of suffering is not wasted but serves to build character and achievement. By teaching our children to make a habit of persisting, even when it's hard, we help them be successful in all of their future challenges.

posted on: September 20, 2005

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.


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, 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

The New Mabry Web Presence

Well, as you can now see, I've been really busy the last several weeks rebuilding our entire web presence. We are now officially launching as part of our ongoing commitment to facilitate communication between our school and your home.

This has been an enormous undertaking that is still very much in development. In fact, unlike your typical website, is dynamic. The front page is a collection of blogs that different staff members will be managing throughout the school year. Additionally, each teacher at Mabry will host their blog for students and parents on our site as well.

Therefore, the website is always growing and changing. New information is being added. Once school starts, new information will be posted to the site every week.

As part of the site's development, I want to thank Mrs. Hartnett, Mrs. Collins, and all of their students who contributed to the content of Sixceed! This was a huge venture for their classes. They did a great job.

Well, become deeply familiar with our website. We anticipate that over the next several months, this site will become comprehensive--everything Mabry, online! (dot org)

posted on: June 18, 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 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

8th Grade Dance

The 8th Grade Dance last night was a tremendous success. I want to thank the many parents who assisted in decorating for the event. Everything looked spectacular. I think we had more parents attend the reception than any past dance. Our students looked fantastic and had a wonderful time. Truly, the dance was an event they will always remember. Thanks to everyone for making this so special!

posted on: May 20, 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

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.

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.

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.

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

Film Festival News

I hope you take the time to view the Best Picture category movies and student interviews posted on the Mabry web site. All of the movies this year were incredible. So many of them are absolutely broadcast quality. At times I felt like I was watching the Discovery channel as many of the movies are nothing short of true documentaries. All of our movies this year are directly related to what students are studying at Mabry--are right out of the Georgia Performance Standards. Stay tuned to Cobb Education TV. Our movies will be aired soon.

I have been disappointed recently with how we as adults tremendously underestimate what our children can accomplish! And, regrettably, I have to be honest with you and include myself in this group as well. When I watched the 6th grade movies that were submitted for the film festival, I must admit to sarcastically commenting to our ILT that the 6th grade teachers had done a really, really good job this year--an unbelievable job. I thought that the teachers had done the work and not the students and was therefore aggravated.

Our ILT was quick to tell me that she had personally witnessed the students working on these movies--the teachers only guided them and directed them through the learning and creating process, exactly as good teachers should do. When I talked with the various teams of students about the details and intricacies of their movie-making process, I quickly realized that indeed they had made the movies themselves from start to finish. I too was guilty of what I have observed in our county: adults underestimating the potential for the highest levels of excellence that children possess when provided with unparalleled adult guidance and the required resources.

If we are going to say we expect children to do their best and excel at the highest levels of performance and then deny them the resources to actually accomplish that which they are completely capable of accomplishing, then we are at best ignorant and foolish, or, even worse, we are hypocrites or mean spirited. For children to attain at higher levels, adults must contribute at higher levels. Support our students! They are unquestionably highly capable and deserving.

posted on: May 8, 2005

Mabry’s third International Night was held on Thursday, January 27, 2005.  The Lassiter Dance Team, Otto of the Tahino Trio, and Mabry students provided entertainment.  Students, parents and staff members sampled food from different countries and viewed exhibits of items from around the world.  A number of participants wore native costumes and attire.

At Mabry we do not just value the cultural diversity represented by our community, we celebrate it!  Special thanks go to one of our Spanish teachers, Mrs. Ruthie Rivera, who planned this celebration, as well as all of the teachers, students, and parents who supported her efforts.

posted on: January 28, 2005

PTSA Meeting

This morning I met with the PTSA and shared several items. Below is a very brief summary of each of the items.

  1. The SPLOST construction will add 50,000 square feet to our school. We will now have 150,000 square feet at Mabry!
  2. I have a meeting this week to explore the purchase of furniture and equipment for the new classrooms.
  3. Students are now taking the Performance Series, a nationally normed computer adaptive test that is correlated with the CRCT and should allow us to predict success on that state test.
  4. The 8th Grade Writing Assessment is scheduled for Wednesday, January 19th.
  5. Early Release Day is scheduled for Wednesday, January 26th.
  6. Buddy Pictures are scheduled for Friday, January 28th.
  7. The 7th Grade Science students will take a fieldtrip to Jekyll Island the week of January 27th.
  8. The changes in the federal overtime regulations are impacting schools. (See my post on January 6th.)
  9. The Power to Learn (1 on 1 laptop initiative) appears to be scheduled to go before the board during the first part of February.
  10. I have joined with those teachers who are now blogging as a communication tool for parents by starting this blog.
  11. All who are interested can take a tour of the construction immediately after your meeting today.

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(Click to enlarge)

posted on: January 10, 2005

Volunteer Help

We have such wonderful staff at Mabry. They are always very quick to go above and beyond to help children. We have several paraprofessionals who have come in early or stayed late to help children prepare for up-coming tests or projects. Recent changes in federal law will prevent them from doing this. No hourly employees may work beyond their 8 hour work day. No hourly employees may volunteer at their place of employment beyond their regular work day.

It was very difficult for me to tell these wonderful ladies this news. They were all very heartsick. If you have strong feelings one way or the other about this new federal law, I would encourage you to let you Congressmen and Senators know. I do not think anyone saw the adverse impact this law would have on children at school.

posted on: January 6, 2005

Welcome to My Virtual Desk

First Semester Ends
Today we brought the first semester of the 2004 - 2005 school year to a close. Energy and spirit were high as students and staff looked forward to the beginning of the two week holiday season. The week was punctuated with various ensembles from band and orchestra performing in the skylight. Additionally, the chorus performed today for the students. A parent stopped me in the skylight to comment on how bright and festive the school was today.

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(Click to enlarge this holiday gift)

My Virtual Desk
This also marks the first post on this new blog, "From the Desk of Dr. Tyson." I hope to join with those teachers who are using blogs to communicate with students and parents. Our hope is to have everyone on the staff comfortable with this rather new technology by the end of the year. Some of our teachers have been brave souls and are actively posting to their blog already. Others are practicing with them behind the scenes.

Our plan is move toward every teacher using a blog or a website to communicate with parents and students next year. This will be a growth process as we experiment with what categories are most useful and how to best structure the information.

posted on: December 17, 2004

Making Learning Irresitable for Over 25 Years.
Celebrating over 25 years of academic excellence
Working to attain world-class student achievement