Dr. Laura Palka- Principal Contact by Email Mr. John Fitzpatrick- Assistant Principal Contact by Email
Our Student Dining Room 2013-2014
From Dr. Laura Palka
Having received a few calls and emails, I find it necessary to address the changes in our student dining room this year. We have been very thoughtful and deliberate in the changes we have made. We fully recognize that with many changes, comes adversity. We would ask that you maintain your sense of understanding and adult alliance as we maneuver through what is a very fair and proactive approach to middle school dining. We have three lunch periods- one for each grade level; this is not a change. We must provide a safe and calm lunch period for up to 325 students within a very short period of time. We provide 30 minutes with students returning, with their assigned lunch teacher, to a classroom for announcements that were typically read at 7:40 every morning. This small change has added one minute per class which over time provides three hours of additional instruction over the year. Thirty minutes is the correct amount of time for student lunches- 22 minutes was too short and 40 minutes was too long. It is working very well. We have ten minutes between lunches in order to clean the student dining room for the next group. It is healthier and better for everyone. A teacher is assigned to each homeroom during lunch. With this positive change, the teacher is responsible for taking attendance, assuring all students have something to eat and are included, and then providing the opportunity to hear announcements following lunch. Students do not exit the dining room any longer and run throughout the school. It is quiet and orderly. The teacher is also aware of his or her student’s medical alerts and in the case of an emergency, such as a fire, can provide an immediate accounting of every child’s whereabouts. Our change provides the safest environment possible in a large group setting. The issue that appears to be causing anxiety with a handful of parents is the issue of seating. We are having all students sit at tables with classmates from their homerooms; they are no longer permitted to enter the dining room and find their own table. This may seem“unfair’ because you have immediately determined it as punishment. It is not. It is a learning experience, a pro-active, anti-bullying procedure and a method to make all children comfortable, unconditionally included and belonging to their school. No one has to be uncomfortable entering a situation and finding no one wants to sit with him or her. Here is reality. At this age, students very quickly draw social lines and have no problem excluding others. When only 6 students sit at a table, year after year we have observed groups of students sending others away as not belonging in their most inner circle of friends. We have observed so many children not being able to find a group of friends and being sent from place to place to find a table. We have observed children limiting their circle of friendship, pre-determining which people are similar enough to sit alongside. For many students, lunch time causes the most anxiety and distress during the day; middle school aged students are self-conscious and unsure. Entering a room with 325 and not knowing where to sit or if you will have someone to sit alongside can be upsetting and demeaning. This alleviates the problem. If your child has many friends, we are so fortunate that he or she will serve as a catalyst of friendship and kindness during lunch, helping others to form new friendships and feeling part of the group!
Let Them Grow!
Welcome to 2013-2014
From Dr. Laura Palka, Principal
The 2013-2014 school year is almost ready to begin! We fully anticipate a fabulous beginning to our year and as we continue to make final preparations, we thank you in advance for your patience and support! Each year, our students demonstrate their enthusiasm, energy and passion to learn and belong; this year should be no different.Please remember that in the start of every school year, we make adjustments to schedules, however teacher changes are very unlikely to happen. Your child will make new friends, rekindle former friendships, perhaps heal past relationships and take important steps in adapting to new situations and challenges.
As a parent, when our child cries or whines, our natural inclination is to want to make everything "better" by jumping in, however, sometimes too quickly. In reality, we may fix the immediate perceived crisis but in doing so, we miss those crucial opportunities to allow for real growth and maturing. Our role is to guide our children as they grow, not fight every battle. We want to help our children learn to prioritize, advocate, cope and become courageous. Middle school years are filled with drama and excitement. Our reactions can either aid in making these some of the best years for your child or some of the most difficult.
Start and end every day with positive family sharing. Do not rush to hear the "bad news". Do not promote the drama. Do not speak negatively about teachers, other children or their families, as you are adding fuel to the fire and not helping your child. You are allowing yourself to be part of the systemic problem (bullying or creating a victim). More often than not, if you listen with empathy and allow him or her time to express what is upsetting, your child will actually figure out how to remedy the situation without any further help... and really, isn't that what we hope to have happen?
To become well-adjusted adults, we had to learn, through experience, to look at any given situation and determine a course of action, knowing all action results in consequences. Yes, middle school can be difficult on parents. We have to gradually release our children and recognize that they make decisions- right or wrong- without us. They have to learn the variables of consequences. When they make a poor choice or feel anxious- they turn to home for help (as it should be). Teach your child and the entire family the 24 hour rule....no decision- no reactions for 24 hours....and to a middle school student....24 hours is a whole lifetime away!
Looking forward to a wonderful, fun-filled year together!
A Message Regarding Bullying
Everyone is concerned about bullying and harassment. It is part of the way some people in our society have learned to cover their unhealthy social and emotional issues. It has to do with people who are unhappy, feel a lack of personal, self control and cannot figure out how to appropriately deal with others. Bullies lack self respect and attempt to find it through threatening others. Bullies lack personal coping skills and are fearful they themselves will not measure up. Often, they will resort to finding others with similar fears and problems. Forming a group mentality and constantly harassing and belittling others can give the group some false sense of power and control. We are not talking about the occasional upsets that everyone deals with at some level throughout life. We are talking about a person or group targeting another individual or group. It simply cannot be tolerated at any level.
As a school, we attempt to do whatever we can do through counseling, mediations, and consequences. Sometimes we do not get information until much of the damage has been done. People need to use their voices and actions to stop bullies. We need to teach our children to stand up for what is right and not be silenced by fear. It is difficult and requires constant role modeling. As a school we recognize that the relationships we build with students can make all the difference. We recognize we must give a voice to students. We also expect parents, not only to be their child’s advocate, but the moral compass from which words and actions become a reality. So much of bullying and harassment occur through the very technology we have provided to our children at much too early an age. It is so easy to Facebook, text or Twitter messages that can destroy another person’s self esteem and reputation. Parents must take a stand when their own child misuses technology. If your child uses these avenues to hurt another- take away the computer, get him or her off Facebook, and take away the cell phone. Your child is not mature enough for these responsibilities. You would take away the car; why not technologies?
As a school we have several positive ways to deal with bullying. We utilize Falcon Fundaments as the basis of how we need to act responsibly at school. Falcon Fundamentals are announced during Homeroom and taught by educators. We recognize students who practice the Fundamentals on a monthly basis. We use a Reflection Form connected to Counselor mediations as well as one for In School Suspension. At the Middle School we offer students a Bullying Stops Here Form to report bullying. We additionally hold a Leadership Lunch Program as well as assemblies on bullying, disability awareness, and student celebrations.
Most importantly, we want a partnership between parents, students, and the school in order to stand committed to stopping the hurt and anger that results from bullying. Every person has the right to come to school and work feeling safe. Harassment or violence related to race, color, sex, national origin, disability, religion, or socioeconomic status is discrimination. Those who discriminate are bullies. It must end.
ETMS... Where Falcons Earn Their Wings!