Friday, January 29, 2016


It is so important to celebrate with each other what is good and right with the world.  At BCEMS we have so much to celebrate each day, but every once in awhile, we are honored to celebrate special recognition for students and staff. 

Two BC middle school staff members have been honored recently for their work. 

Dawn Poitras, our Student Assistance Program provider and Students on the Move adviser was honored earlier this week at the Vt State House by Prevention Works VT. In 2013, Prevention Works VT initiated the Prevention Champion award to highlight the extraordinary professionals and volunteers who contribute to the success of Vermont’s prevention coalitions. Dawn was recognized as someone who has helped provide support for a healthier  life in our communities by helping to reduce risk factors for alcohol and drug abuse and build assets and protective factors for our youth and other community members. Congratulations to Ms. Poitras!

Gillian Fuqua, team Ujamaa's ELA teacher, has been selected as a Vita-Learn IGNITE educator.  She has been recognized as a transformative and innovative educator because of her work with technology to transform the learning environment in her classroom.  Gillian was recognized specifically for her use of Google Classroom and her use of Google Sites to create single locations where students can access materials for a unit. The goals of Project IGNITE are to:Identify innovative educators, Gather teaching artifacts to share with other educators, Nourish the spirit of innovation, Increase innovation, Transform learning, and Educator networking. Congratulations to Ms. Fuqua! 

8th grade student Kai Morse was recognized at our whole school assembly this morning with the Principal's monthly citizenship award. Kai was selected for this award for upholding the standards that are aligned with our middle school motto.  She exemplifies what it means to S.T.A.N.D. U.P. Congratulations Kai! 

Here are some fun moments from our assembly this morning. 

Whole School Assembly

Music Explore Block Update - an opportunity for community building

It is now half way through the school year and we have got our sea legs - students and teachers alike. Our new exploratory classes afford our middle school students the opportunity to experience subject areas that are new, exciting, or possibly intimidating or daunting - completely outside of their comfort zone. From my perspective, exploratory classes require stepping back and guiding more than teaching. Often times this means going into a class with an outline of student-led activities planned and coming out the other side with an entirely different set of accomplishments and experiences based on student ideas, interest, and motivation.

Over the course of the past five months I have had the pleasure of facilitating students in writing (and filming) short screenplays with original music scores, leading percussion ensembles, and experimenting with laying down dubstep dance tracks using an online composition program (introduced to me by a student, I might add!). The project I wish to share with you stemmed from my second quarter 6th grade enrichment class - a wonderful crew of six fabulously unique students. One day a member of the class was feeling really down about growing up within the city limits of Barre. He talked of the things that were upsetting about his neighborhood, feeling that his opportunities were limited. This sparked a conversation about how our own actions and attitudes impact the community as well as outsiders’ impressions of Barre.

Ms M: How did this project start?
Justice: One of our classmates saying how terrible a place this is. (Barre)
Ms M: What did I say about people from the outside?’
Justice: How people here are making it seem like a terrible place and how people don’t want to be here.
Ms. M: So that if the attitude from the inside is that it is terrible, then people from the outside are going to think that it is terrible, too.

And so the project commenced. Six extreme personalities came together to compose a song about their common ground...growing up in Barre City. They began with the negative things and feelings surrounding them. However, the group was quick to share the things they wished for their future and their community. The song’s dark beginning led quickly into an optimistic and hopeful finale.

Ms M: What was the easiest part of making the song?
Justice: Making the lyrics first.
Ms M: What was the hardest part of making this song?
Matt: Probably getting everyone to work together.
Justice: And putting it together to make sense.
Ms M: What made it difficult?
Matt: Different people wanted to do different beats.
Ms M: What helped us get through that and complete the project?
Seaaira: Probably teamwork.
Ms M: In other words, giving everyone a chance?
All: Yeah.
Ms M: Is there anything you would do differently next time around?
Matt: I would probably make a longer song.
Ms M: How about the form of the song...does it sound like a real song to you?
All: Yes.
Justice: Maybe next time we could try pairing different voices together and see how that sounds…
Ms. M: Did you have a favorite part of making the song? My favorite part is having the end result and hearing all of our work come together.
Matt: I like hearing it...we’re going to be getting our own CD. I’d like to hear how good I was singing…
Ms M: You actually are kind of interested in music as a career?
Matt: Yes.
Ms. M: For me the hardest part was maintaining my own focus and helping you all maintain your focus when we were recording...I counted - we took 39 takes (to get the final product).
Matt: What!?! It felt like 10.
Justice: Yeah!
Ms. M: The hardest thing was keeping you all excited and motivated to finish project, but it was worth it. It’s a really nice song and it has a really nice message.
Matt: We made a song within a month, and that was pretty cool.
Justice: You can come up with the lyrics in an hour, but then you have to add everything and then fix it, and then add things and then fix it…
Seaaira: To make it sound however you want it to…

And that is exactly what they did...they made it sound how they wanted it to sound - only 39 takes later. In this great effort, the students built their own community. One can only hope that this experience extends beyond the classroom.

Barre City
Sampling of lyrics

Let’s work together, make a safe place
Don’t let our sense of community waste
United we stand, divided we fall
People helping people is the heart of it all

Ridin’ bikes through the town
Seein’ who’s around, hopin’
Nothin’s goin’ down
No thorns in my crown
Buildin’ a bridge
Between family and neighbors
Sense of community
Fruits of our labors
Havin’ someone to lean on
When times are getting tough
Or celebrate successes
It’s all good stuff
So we turn to each other
To change the tune
The sad and sorry image
Will disappear soon


Lyrics by Ethan Bernier, Matthew Gustaveson, Hunter Roya, Trace Tassie, Seaaira Turner, Justice Womer, and Ms. Matthews
Music Tracks produced by Hunter Roya and Trace Tassie
Rap performed by Trace Tassie and Hunter Roya
Vocals performed by Matthew Gustaveson, Seaaira Turner, and Justice Womer
Production coordinated by Ethan Bernier and Ms. Matthews

Many thanks to Morgan Matthews, our choral and band director, for this post! 

I had the chance to sit in and observe one of the classes when the students were fine tuning their lyrics and tracks.  It was truly an inspiring learning opportunity for our students!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

BCEMS Middle School Mentoring

As adults, many of us can think back and probably name a person who had a positive influence in our lives. Perhaps this person volunteered as a mentor. Mentoring is a time-proven strategy that can help young people of all circumstances achieve their greatest potential. Mentors are caring, invested individuals who, along with parents or guardians, provide students with support, guidance, friendship, reinforcement and a positive example.

Research shows that these relationships have many positive benefits for our students. A 2002 Child Trends report titled "Mentoring Programs and Youth Development: A Synthesis" summarizes the benefits of mentoring relationships:
  • Positive academic outcomes
  • Prevention of youth risk behaviors
  • Enhanced social and emotional development
At BCEMS we know that in terms of academic achievement and personal responsibility, our mentoring program helps students have better attendance; an understanding of the importance of going onto higher education; and positive attitudes about school. Mentoring also appears to help reduce some negative youth behaviors and helps to encourage pro-social attitudes, personal responsibility and relationship building.

On January 14th, four mentor pairs from the Barre Youth Mentor Program traveled to Montpelier to participate in Mobius’ 2016 Mentoring Celebration at the Vermont Statehouse. Mentors and mentees attended a morning gathering in Pavilion Auditorium to listen to presentations given by Vermont Secretary of Education, Rebecca Holcombe and a reading of the Governor’s Mentoring Month Proclamation. Mentor pairs received tours of the Statehouse and enjoyed lunch in the Statehouse Cafeteria. It was a fun day learning a bit of history about our Statehouse and seeing the grandeur that is contained under the “Golden Dome”. They even had a lucky encounter with Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott who took time out of his day to have a picture taken!

I was able to briefly join the mentor pairs for part of their tour, and as I listened and watched I was so thankful for all of the mentors who volunteer their time to our students at BCEMS. I am so glad that some of our mentor pairs were able to get to the Statehouse last week, but am even more grateful for the relationships that I know will have an enduring, positive influence on our students.


Sunday, January 3, 2016

Happy New Year!

The school year is a cycle of promise and new beginnings. The patterns are familiar and full of hope and challenges both known and unknown. The best learning communities use a mindset that helps to propel students and each other forward through the year, address and move through challenges head on and celebrate successes. 

The second quarter principal's challenge asked each classroom to brainstorm a possible BC middle school acronym motto. A motto can point us in a direction and remind us of that direction when sidetracked by other, perhaps less important things. Once the individual classroom work was done, students
 then voted as a team on two per grade level.  The top acronyms from each team made it into the school wide challenge and put to vote.I was so proud of each team as I read the possibilities and the words that our students came up with. All of the entries showed vision, creativity and reflective and purposeful thinking. The entries also showed me that BCEMS students care about themselves, their education, each other and their community. Any of the acronyms created would have represented our values well. After voting over a few days, the motto chosen by staff and students (with a total of 99 votes) was S.T.A.N.D. U.P. The acronym was revealed at our December whole school assembly. This acronym stands for Self respect, Tolerance, Achievement, Never Quit, Do good, (with) Unity and Positivity This represents the ideals of what we want our learning community to be, the characteristics we want to exemplify and the message that we we want to convey to our community as a whole. 

I am confident that 2016 will bring great opportunities and strong teaching and learning to us at BCEMS. We will continue to advance our mission of doing whatever it takes to ensure success for every child. We will do this by working together as a learning community that supports all students in realizing their greatest potential. As we welcome students back from the holiday break, we must remember that our school has a wonderful opportunity and a tremendous responsibility to create for our students an environment of universal acceptance and high expectations. We are the ones who create the feeling of being welcomed in a place where success for all will happen. Our new Middle school motto will help to support this mindset.

S.T.A.N.D. U.P. and welcome to 2016!