Holiday Wishes…


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November 26, 2015 · 4:45 am

New Course Available Soon!

Substitute teacher class “alumni,” school employees and volunteers take note!

Maine is ranked fourteenth in the United States for deaths by suicide. Suicide in Maine occurs 7-9 times more often than homicide. The State averages 196 deaths by suicide each year; in 2009 alone, 2,800 high school students and 4,000 adults attempted suicide while 6,700 high school students and 27,000 adults considered suicide.

In part for those reasons, the Maine Legislature passed LD 609 several years ago. The bill, simply stated, requires every employee of all school systems to receive one to two hours of Suicide Awareness Training.  “Every employee” means anyone who receives a paycheck and includes substitute teachers, bus drivers, custodians—in fact, it is strongly recommended school volunteers receive the training as well. The training must follow research-based national guidelines.

For the past year, I have been working towards and am now fully qualified to conduct this training. I have completed the NAMI Adult Mental Health First Aid Specialist Training, Youth First Aid Provider Training, Gatekeeper Training, and Train the Trainer training—more than was required to qualify. I did so in part for the very same reasons the Maine Legislature enacted this requirement.

From 2007 through 2011 there were 116 youth (under age 25) suicides in Maine. Of those, 49 were between the ages of 10 and 19. During my training, I learned that the youngest confirmed suicide in Maine last year was an eight-year-old girl—that is almost unimaginable to most people. Those of us who work and play with these kids have a special opportunity to prevent these tragedies.

Hotline NumbersThe workshop will last about two hours and is truly designed for anyone—not just school employees–although the focus will be on youth. The first step in suicide prevention is awareness and understanding of risk factors. The program will also provide an understanding of basic prevention strategies and help attendees become more confident in the some of the basic steps they can take to assist others who may be troubled. There will be ample opportunity for questions and discussion. Attendees will also receive printed resources and information. Training is offered in conjunction with the Maine Suicide Prevention Program, an initiative of the Maine CDC in partnership with NAMI Maine.

PVAEC (Piscataquis Valley Adult Education Cooperative) has already agreed to sponsor the workshop during the winter/spring semester. The program will likely be offered in other adult education programs throughout the area. (Check back for dates!) Also, if any schools or organizations are interested in a program at your location, please let me know. I’ll be happy to work with you. Suicide Prevention is up to all of us.

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Filed under Classes and Courses, Maine Life

MSAD 4 Veterans Day Celebration Planned

Guilford—The students and staff of MSAD 4 are inviting area Veterans and the general public to attend their Annual Veterans’ Day Celebration on Tuesday, November 10th at 1:00 p.m. “We’ve certainly created a tradition,” noted John Keane, PCSS Principal. “We’ve been hosting these celebrations for at least a decade. But it’s a tradition that seems to have more meaning every year and it’s anything but a habit—every year we create some differences.”

File photo by Mr. Boomsma, 2014 Celebration

File photo by Mr. Boomsma, 2014 Celebration

Organizers note that this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the United States’ military involvement in Vietnam and have included Vietnam Veteran and former state representative Peter Johnson as a guest speaker to commemorate the occasion.

The Marine Corps League, Bangor Detachment 1151 will open and close the program by formally posting and retiring the colors. The celebration includes the traditional patriotic music, student presentations, and selected readings that will feature students and staff from grades three through twelve. The Armed Forces Medley Salute performed by the PCSS Band typically brings the entire audience to its feet as the school and community honors veterans and those who serve in each branch of the service.

Thanks to technology, Katie Haley, a graduate of PCSS who is now on active duty with the Maine National Guard will appear “on screen” to converse with the audience about her service.

The tribute will be held in the Piscataquis Community Secondary School Gymnasium on Campus Drive in Guilford in order to accommodate the anticipated crowd. A local resident who has attended for several years commented, “This is one school program you don’t want to miss. There is some obvious sadness over the sacrifices that have been and are being made by our military. But that sadness is balanced with a deep sense of pride and appreciation. Experiencing that with children of all ages, Veterans, friends and neighbors means moist eyes and going home with a deep sense of community unity.”

Veterans and friends, parents and the entire community is invited to celebrate are encouraged to attend. Refreshments for Veterans, visitors and guests their friends will be served in the cafeteria following the program. For those unable to attend, the program will be live streamed from the school’s website ( Long distance guests are encouraged to visit the site fifteen minutes prior to the event to establish a connection.

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Filed under Causes and Friends, School Programs

Happy World Teachers’ Day!

SeDo Dictionary_34SM

Third Graders learn the “Dictionary Race” during a Dictionary Day Presentation.

Bet you didn’t know today is World Teachers’ Day! Empowering teachers, building sustainable societies,” is the slogan for 2015.

By sheer coincidence, today I will be working with eighty third graders as part of the Valley Grange Words for Thirds Program. The program is designed to give third graders their own personal dictionary. I have the honor of facilitating the process and teaching the kids a little history and some basic dictionary skills.

Another coincidence was that one of the email newsletters I subscribe to included a very appropriate quote by thinker Friedrich Nietzsche (October 15, 1844–August 25, 1900).

Your true educators and cultivators will reveal to you the original sense and basic stuff of your being, something that is not ultimately amenable to education or cultivation by anyone else, but that is always difficult to access, something bound and immobilized; your educators cannot go beyond being your liberators. And that is the secret of all true culture: she does not present us with artificial limbs, wax-noses, bespectacled eyes – for such gifts leave us merely with a sham image of education. She is liberation instead, pulling weeds, removing rubble, chasing away the pests that would gnaw at the tender roots and shoots of the plant; she is an effusion of light and warmth, a tender trickle of nightly rain…

There may be other methods for finding oneself, for waking up to oneself out of the anesthesia in which we are commonly enshrouded as if in a gloomy cloud – but I know of none better than that of reflecting upon one’s educators and cultivators.

And therein lies a wonderful way to celebrate this relatively unknown day… thinking about those who have educated and “cultivated” us. We are all teachers and educators. We are all learners and students. I expect to learn something from these kids today. And I hope they learn something from me and the experience they have.

As I read Nietzche’s thoughts I was most struck by his suggestion that educators are liberators. Dictionary Day today will have, for me, a slightly different meaning today. I will be considering how today’s lesson and the book each child leaves with will be freeing and surely contribute to the person each becomes. As the kids would say, “Awesome!”

World Teacher Day

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Filed under Causes and Friends, Learning, Personal Growth, Teaching

The 8 Minutes That Matter Most | Edutopia

Like a story, lessons deserve compelling beginnings and endings. From pop culture connections to finishing with a level-up, here are eight strategies for holding students’ attention.

This is a great post about… well, getting and holding students’ attention. As a writer, I particularly enjoyed the quote from John Irving.

Source: The 8 Minutes That Matter Most | Edutopia

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Filed under Learning, Teaching, Writing Skills

A Great Teacher…

Tomorrow I will be teaching a course for substitute teachers. Yesterday I happen to talk to someone I believe is a truly great teacher. We bumped into each other in a grocery store. Since she looked troubled, I asked what was wrong. She replied, “I’m trying to do some math in my head.” We had a lot of fun with that. (She was buying some supplies for a class project that sounded really awesome.) Of course we ended up comparing notes and sharing “war stories.” People didn’t seem to mind going around us, standing in the aisle and laughing over some of the things we’ve experienced.

Towards the end of our conversation, we talked about some folks we knew who have recently retired. This great teacher said, “I’ve been teaching forty years.” We did some more math to estimate how many kids she’s taught. Then she added, “I really should be thinking about retiring, but I can’t.”

When I asked her why she replied, “Because I’m having way too much fun!”

The folks I’ll work with tomorrow may not be “teachers” in the formal sense of the word. But they will be teaching. My hope for them and the students they have–if only for a day–is that they will find the business of learning fun. It won’t always be easy. But it should always be meaningful. When we start to forget that, here’s a short reminder.

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Filed under Causes and Friends, Classes and Courses, Teaching

It’s a Question of Value…

Here’s a video that’s definitely worth the four minutes or so it will take to watch:

Please note this is not just about what we pay teachers. I’m not sure it’s supposed to be about how much we value teachers. It might be about how much we value our kids, their education, and all of our futures.

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Filed under Causes and Friends, Teaching