Friday, January 29, 2010

But I didn't mean it!

Sex! Sex! Sex! Aargh! I am sick and tired of seeing pictures of APS teachers making headlines for admitted or alleged sexual activity with students. Other New Mexico educators have also been accused of having sex with minor students. Last weekend’s Albuquerque Journal had an in-depth article on this disgusting and troubling trend. While what these teachers did to their students is criminal (if true) they aren’t the only people in our schools misbehaving when it comes to sex. I am saddened to report that an increasing number of your children behave badly in the related area of sexual harassment. The new APS website ( has a link to the district’s handbook on sexual harassment which I excerpted below:

“Physical sexual harassment is any unwanted sexually oriented physical act:
 Purposely bumping or rubbing against someone
 Kissing or holding a person against his or her will
 Blocking someone’s movements or preventing someone from moving freely
 Grabbing or touching someone, especially his or her private body parts
 Tearing or pulling at someone’s clothing”

“Verbal sexual harassment means offensive words and comments, spoken privately to someone or in front of others:
 Comments about body parts or rating someone’s body
 Sexually suggestive jokes
 Using sexual orientation (homosexuality or bisexuality) as an insult
 Sexually suggestive threats
 Spreading sexual rumors or stories”

“Nonverbal sexual harassment:
 Displaying obscene sexual material or placing it in someone’s locker or on someone’s desk or computer
 Writing someone’s name along with sexual remarks, suggestions, or drawings in public places, e.g., bathrooms or desks
 Staring or pointing at someone’s body or body parts
 Making obscene gestures”

In the past few weeks, I have suspended a number of male students for both verbal and nonverbal sexual harassment to other male students. Typically this involves one of more of the bulleted items listed above. The most frequent complaint we receive is from boys who are being called names referring to sexual orientation, making fun of body parts, or intimating lewd acts. When confronted by a principal, the boys often admit the behavior adding “But I was just kidding, I didn’t really mean it”. When I explain to the child that this is sexual harassment whether he meant it or not and the consequence is a one day out-of-school suspension the boys often panic and start to cry. I then call their mother with the child present and read the exact words or remarks their child said to the victim. Then the mothers start to cry or become very angry or embarrassed at their child’s behavior. I explain to parent and child that sexual harassment is against federal law (Title IX) and APS policy. I have yet to have a parent question my decision to suspend their child for this behavior. I suspect this is because we as adults know how demeaning it is to be harassed.

As I said in the beginning, we know this behavior is becoming increasingly prevalent among middle school students. The reasons why harassers do this are as individual as the harassers themselves: ignorance, poor formation, and peer pressure. But one 6th grade boy told me that he did it because he “wanted to be seen as cool by his friends and the older kids”. He tearfully told me he “was stupid for talking like that and had learned his lesson.” That is good and well and I certainly hope he did learn his lesson. But if it is true that up to 35% of students nationwide have been harassed, Mrs. Meyer and I are only scratching the surface. We need your help to deal with this behavior. Please talk to your child about sexual harassment and its consequences. Remind them it is against the law and the consequences if caught will be severe. Let them know it’s never funny and that the excuse that “I was just kidding” or “I didn’t mean it” will never hold up when they visit my office.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti Fundraisers in the works

I am so impressed by our staff and students! This morning Mark Williams, our illustrious 8th grade science teacher, approached me with a proposal from some kids to sell cupcakes to help Haitian earthquake victims. Then a few minutes later, Alyssa came by the office with an idea she dreamed up. Her idea is to sell tickets to students for a Dress Down Day with the proceeds going to earthquake relief.

I met with Taylor Student Council officers and sponsor this afternoon and we worked with Alyssa's idea. As we discussed it, we expanded it until we arrived at the following:

1. Students may purchase a ticket next week during lunch for $3 which will allow them to have a dress down day on Monday, January 25.
2. Students may also purchase a ticket for "Hats On for Haiti" for $2 to allow them to wear hats on January 25 too.
3. Student Council members are developing the tickets and fliers to publicize the event.
4. Council members will sell tickets next week during lunch.
5. All funds will go to the Red Cross.

My thanks to our awesome students and teachers who see a need and take action to alleviate it.

Kids say the darndest things!

Is anybody else old enough to remember Art Linkletter? Art was a TV host and author in the 1950’s and 1960’s who wrote a book entitled “Kids Say the Darndest Things!” Anyone who has ever raised kids or worked in middle school knows just how true this title is. I mention this because I was visiting with students about their report cards on Wednesday in the cafeteria. One student proudly showed me his report card with 5 A’s and 1 B. “Wow”, I exclaimed, “That’s a really great report card. Did you know my grades in middle school were never that good?” And the kid stopped, looked at me, and asked, “Then how did you ever get to be principal?”

I laughed as I told him that grades are not always a great predictor of future success. I explained that I was bored in much of middle school and high school and that it wasn’t until college that I finally got serious about learning. It wasn’t until I saw that education had a purpose beyond just filling up reams of notebook paper with notes that I would forget as soon as I turned them in. It wasn’t until I took classes from some passionate professors who ignited my smoldering fuel that I grew to love learning. Thankfully every Taylor student is not the underachieving slacker I was. I can attest to the fact that many of your kids want to learn. And our teachers are eager to teach them. So it is with great joy that we honor our straight A and 3-5-4.0 honor roll students next Friday. I hope you will be able to join us as we celebrate their accomplishments.

“I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity”. - Eleanor Roosevelt

Friday, January 8, 2010

What's new at Taylor?

With spring just around the corner, a not-so-young man’s fancy turns
to thoughts of master schedules, educational plans for student
success, and soccer.

Master Schedule Changes Proposed by APS: Superintendent Brooks
convened a study group in September to look at the feasibility of
having a single master schedule for all APS middle schools. The two
schedules under consideration are a six-period day and a five-period
day. The six-period day would feature:
• Math, Language Arts, Science, Social Studies, and one
elective every day of the week for 60 minutes.
• The sixth class would be known as META (maintenance-enrichment-
tutorial-advisory) and would last 45 minutes.
The five-period day would feature:
• Math and language arts every day of the week for 75 min.
• Science and social studies every other day for 75 minutes.
• Two electives every other day for 75 minutes.
• META every day for 45 minutes.
A selection is expected by the Superintendent’s Office in February.

EPSS: The Instructional Council reviewed the CLASS survey results
from parents, students, and staff. They distilled the following keys:
Parents indicated Taylor’s strengths were: (1) respectful relationships
with parents, (2) stresses importance of student achievement, and (3)
students are treated with equity and fairness. The main opportunity
for improvement was providing timely feedback to parents regarding
a child’s progress. Student surveys indicate the following strengths:
(1) students appreciate how teachers allow different ways to
demonstrate proficiency, (2) Spanish speaking students feel positive
about their relationships with teachers, (3) disciplinary rules are in
place and are stressed, and (4) students feel they are treated
respectfully and fairly. They said opportunities for improvement
were: (1) teachers could do a better job of helping all students
including ELL and special education students to learn, and (2) reteach
content to students who do poorly on tests. Staff members
indicated that they taught Taylor’s strengths were: (1) classroom
based practices, (2) quality of curriculum, (3) content knowledge, and
(4) opportunities to demonstrate proficiency. Areas for improvement
included the need for grade and department level collaboration and
training in continuous classroom improvement practices.

Soccer: Due to popular demand, we will be starting boys’ and girls’
soccer teams this spring. We are finalizing who will coach and the
schedules. We realize we have some extremely talented soccer
players among our students and we want to give them an
opportunity to showcase their talents against other middle schools.
We will be having an after-school meeting in the near future to share
information with students and parents.

That’s it for this week. Next week I will be sharing information about
the projects at Taylor to be funded by the bond. Stay tuned! ;o)