Gina Flanagan- East Longmeadow High School

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Good Vibes Only: A Focus on the Social-Emotional Well-being of Our Students

Spartan Acoustic Jam brings teacher & student musicians together.
      We began the school year promoting the theme, Good Vibes Only, to promote the importance of how positive relationships in the school setting builds a foundation for trust, community, communication, general wellness and  academic success.  During the first three days of school, we put off the syllabus and textbooks and participated in activities to get to know each other better.  
     Some might see this as a bit "unconventional," but here we are in February and I can tell you that the approach to make the social- emotional well being of our students our top priority has made the most positive difference in our school culture.  The theme allowed us to stay focused on an important goal that drove everything we did.  
     Our newly designed Spartan Block has been so successful that we have had teachers and administrators from other district coming to visit to see how they can replicate our model of student voice, choice and passion.  Currently, we are looking to strengthen the services and support we offer through our guidance department as well through a system of life coaches, transition coaches, etc..  Recently, our P.E. department all received official certifications in yoga and mindfulness instruction to share these skills with students and teachers alike.  
     We have developed a course entitled, "Personal Wellness" to give our students a safe place to discuss issues that are relevant to their age groups.  Our newly formed Social Emotional Classrooms help struggling students catch up and/or take a deep a breath.  Our Wellness Committee that consists of students, staff and partnerships with Baystate Medical Center, the East Longmeadow Health Department and the East Longmeadow Police Department, works to provide our students and parents with information on how to develop and maintain healthy mental health habits as well as resources for support.  
     As we move into the second part of the school year, we will continue this focus so that our students feel supported and valued.  ELHS continues to thrive academically (every single student passed the MCAS in ELA and Math this past year!), but we can only continue this wonderful trend if we continue to work on making these special connections with our students. Below are two great articles on our efforts this year for you to enjoy.  

Good Vibes Only News Article

First Three Days News Article

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Anxious Kids- Anxious Parent Workshop Coming to ELHS!

     On March 7, 2017 from 6-8pm in the ELHS auditorium, we will be hosting a very meaningful parent workshop entitled, "Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents.''  Author Lynn Lyons, author of the book with the same name, will provide us a variety of valuable strategies on the following topics:

  • Interrupt the Worry Cycle
  • Prevent Anxiety and Depression
  • Managing Anxiety in the Classroom
  • Bringing the Changes Home

     With anxiety being the #1 mental health disorder in the world and with the pressures our young people are facing today, we hope this workshop will serve our students and their families with some helpful ways to cope with life's challenges.

February Marks National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

ELHS students gather positive thoughts on love and respect.  

     This month marks Teen Violence Dating Awareness month throughout the United States.  ELHS students have worked hard in the last week to bring awareness to an issue that effects over 1.5 million teenagers each year.   Sadly only 33% of these victims report these incidents to people who can help.      As a way to promote healthy dating relationships, students from our Health Seminar class encouraged the student body to take part in's campaign to define love and respect in the most positive ways.   Students were asked to post their thoughts on love and respect throughout the cafeteria.
     The topic of cultivating healthy dating relationships will also be discussed in our Advisory periods in the coming months.  Students will be given the opportunity to discuss in small groups the signs of both a healthy and unhealthy relationship and be provided tips on how they may help someone in need.
     Love is Respect.Org is an organization that provides a 24 hour National Dating Abuse hotline for those teens who are experiencing dating violence or are involved in an abusive relationship.  Listed below are some of their posted statistics and facts on teen dating violence.  I am so proud of our students for their participation and attention to this very important topic.

Statistics and Facts Related to Teen Dating Violence:  

  • Young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of partner violence which is  almost triple the national average.
  • Violent relationships in adolescence can have serious ramifications by putting the victims at higher risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior and further domestic violence.
  • Being physically or sexually abused makes teen girls six times more likely to become pregnant and twice as likely to get a STD.
  • Half of youth who have been victims of both dating violence and rape attempt suicide, compared to 12.5% of non-abused girls and 5.4% of non-abused boys.
  • Eighty-one (81) percent of parents believe teen dating violence is not an issue or admit they don’t know if it’s an issue.
  • Though 82% of parents feel confident that they could recognize the signs if their child was experiencing dating abuse, a majority of parents (58%) could not correctly identify all the warning signs of abuse.
For more information, visit  If you are someone in an abusive relationship, you can all the 24 hour hotline at:  1-866-331-9474

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

ELHS Develops a New Schedule

     For many years, East Longmeadow High School has operated under what is known as a "block" schedule.  Students participated in up to 5 classes a day for 84 minutes each.  These were semester based courses, so in January, students would get an additional new set of classes.
     The block was effective in courses that required longer times to develop learning activities such as science labs, physical education, etc.  However, due to the semester format, students could go up to year without participating in some sequential core classes, such as English, Math, Science and Foreign Language.  This format created learning gaps in content and skills in which some students struggled to overcome.
     For the past three years, our administrative team has been soliciting the feedback from students, teachers, parents and colleagues in terms of what schedule makes the most sense for effective student learning.  Earlier this year, our team also attended a seminar in schedule building to increase our understanding of the schedule development process.
     Our goal throughout this whole process was to create a schedule that maximized student learning and created more opportunities for students to take the courses that interested them.  We created a committee this year to help us develop a new schedule for ELHS students.  This committee consisted of teachers, administrators, parents and students.  We began by outlining what we valued in terms of learning and our current courses/programs.  It was very clear from the start that we wanted to create a schedule that gave students the opportunity to participate in full year courses in key academic areas.
     We then outlined which courses would be appropriate to remain semester, 84 minute courses.  This "hybrid" schedule was recently presented to our staff  and overwhelming met their approval.  We are currently educating our students on the new schedule through group and individual course selection sessions with our guidance counselors.
     It is our hope that by changing our schedule for next year, we will be able to more effectively meet the needs of our students.  Listed below is a sample student schedule that reflects the new hybrid model.  Notice that is broken into semesters, but that sequential, year long courses are in place. Year long courses will mostly take place in English, Math, Foreign Language and Science.

Friday, November 13, 2015

 in Education

     All throughout the history of public education in America, there has been a plethora of best practices for teaching and learning and initiatives that have come and gone.   In today's educational landscape, we are seeing several consistent themes nation-wide.   Just as the 1957 Russian launch of Sputnik prioritized the need for more rigorous science education in the United States, we are now seeing the need for the U.S. to remain on top of the global economy.  This has caused a national focus on preparing students to be creative problem solvers in the work force.  You've probably heard the term "21st Century Learner" a great deal.  Put simply, 21st Century Learning focuses on providing students as many opportunities as possible to apply critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creative skills in "real world" scenarios.  The hope is that this focus applied to all content areas will develop students who have a firm grip on global awareness, business and financial matters, active citizenship, use of technology and promote innovative thinking.

Here are some other "buzz" words floating around the world of education these days that you may be curious of their meaning:

College & Career Readiness:  Due to what has been seen as a gap between what students are being asked to do in the classroom and what they asked to do in the workplace, schools are now focused on developing more real world applications.  This is closely related to "21st Century Learning Skills" that are defined above.

Common Core Standards:  Springing from the need to push for stronger college and career ready students, state leaders from across the nation developed the CCS  to provide standards to define what all U.S. students should know and be able to do in order to maximize their fullest potential.  These standards are guidelines to help schools and educators develop effective direction for teaching and learning (curriculum guides) in there districts.

PARCC: In line with the development of the Common Core Standards (which sets guidelines of the content and skills that all U.S. students should know and be able to do), many state educational leaders felt there was a need to develop a common assessment that provided consistent feedback to help educators identify strengths and needs of their students.  To date, eleven  states have adopted the PARCC as their standardized state assessment.  While Massachusetts initially seemed in line to adopt the assessment to replace the current state standardized assessment (MCAS), they are now looking to create a different and new state assessment that would blend PARCC and the current MCAS assessments (Next Generation MCAS).  This assessment would be aligned to the Common Core Standards.

BYOD:  One of the elements of 21st century learning involves developing strong technology and information skills in students.  To that end, many schools are working to integrate technology in o the learning process on a regular basis.  Due to the high costs involved with providing more technology in schools, many districts have initiated "Bring Your Own Device" programs to encourage more technology in the classroom.  Students utilize their own laptops, pads and other technology tools to engage in all sorts of research, writing, reading and problem solving skills.

Friday, August 21, 2015

As we get ready to kick off the new school year, it is always important to establish some goals for the year.  At ELHS, we take a collaborative approach to developing what we call SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-focused, and Timely). Our goals are designed with the best interest of our students in mind.  Here are the 2015-16 ELHS SMART goals:  

SMART GOAL #1:  ELHS will work to remain above the state MCAS target for ELA and improve MCAS achievement scores in the area of Math.

While this goal is targeted toward improving MCAS scores, we believe that the actions steps we put in place to achieve this goals will benefit ALL students in improving their literacy, computation and problem solving skills. Our newly developed common assessments in ALL content areas will give our teachers detailed information on how students are progressing in their mastery of their course standards both on an individual, class and school  level.

SMART GOAL #2: 100% of our instructional staff will collaborate to provide a solid core instructional block that consistently includes the effective, research- based instructional strategies related to objectives, activators, student engagement activities, mini lessons and wrap ups to support standards-based curriculum planning.

Our district has adopted a common instructional block format that has been proven to increase student engagement and critical thinking.  We also encourage our teachers to be members of professional learning communities (PLC) that are focused on improving student achievement in our building.  These PLCs meet regularly throughout the year and then present their findings to the full staff at the end of the year.  ELHS continues to explore the use of technology to support student engagement and other 21st century learning skills such as creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication.  Lastly, we have adopted the Understanding by Design model for our curriculum guides to ensure that we provide a relevant and rigorous curriculum.

SMART GOAL #3: All ELHS staff will foster a safe, positive, and respectful learning/working environment resulting in an increase in stakeholder (staff, parents, students) satisfaction. 

ELHS maintains several collaborative decision-making groups that work together to improve all aspects of school climate.  These groups include our school council, principal's advisory committee and department chairs.   We utilize school data, student surveys and other input from our stakeholders to establish various policies, procedures and practices. Additionally, we are in the process of creating advisory groups for our students 

Friday, January 30, 2015

Hang in There Seniors & Senior Parents


     As we enter second semester, our seniors (and their parents) will soon be finalizing post high school plans.  Speaking from personal experience, this can be a very emotional and stressful time for both.  Between waiting to hear about college acceptance, taking SATs and keeping grades up, many seniors can easily experience heightened levels of anxiety.
     Additionally, once seniors have been "accepted" into colleges, many become increasingly bored with their school year and tend to "slack off."  Bad idea.  With the college admission process become more and more competitive, many schools withdraw acceptance letters if a student's final grade report reflects a lack of effort at the end.
     As parents, we may be tempted to increase our "motivational speeches" with our children in our attempt to keep them on track.  Our children sometimes may translate our attempts to help them as increased pressure and may react negatively to our guidance.  An article I recently read summed up this dynamic best by stating, "Remember that during this time, your children don't hate you.  They are afraid of leaving.  Try to stay calm at all times."
     With all the pressure that our seniors face, they can easily forget to live in the present moment and enjoy their last days of high school.  Between senior semi, senior banquet, senior prom and graduation, ELHS offers many opportunities for our 12th graders to bask in the celebration of all their hard work thus far.  To all our seniors...stay focused, be safe and have fun.  To all our senior parents...hang in there and stay calm.  I look forward to celebrating graduation day with this great group of young adults and their families.