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  • Writer's pictureMr. Masterson

TSMS Newsletter: Tuesday, December 20, 2016


Hello TSMS families! We are in the final stretch before we get to take a nice long week off to celebrate the holidays, our loved ones, and the year that we've successfully made it through! While we know the holidays can be a joyous time of the year, we recognize that for some in our community, the holidays can be challenging. We hope that everyone's holiday, whether a joy or a challenge, can be a time for reflection and growth. We encourage all of you to sit down with your families and think about what your goals are for the new year. What do you hope to accomplish as a person? a friend? a colleague? With the new year comes great opportunity! We encourage all in our community to use this fresh start as a time to become the person that you hope to be and put into action those shoulda, woulda, couldas. Call that friend you haven't spoken to in awhile. Send a card to your grandma or aunt. Take a moment to hug your children or smile at a stranger. Small acts of kindness can mean the world to someone in need.



Today, December 20th, the TSMS PTA had a Happy Holidays Bake Sale at lunchtime from 12pm-1:30pm on the 3rd floor in front of the Main Office. Thank you to families who have sent in items for our previous bake sales and this one. You have made them such a success! TSMS has AMAZING families!


Our Boys' and Girls' basketball teams will compete at home against PS 34 on Thursday and away against LMC on Friday for a chance to add another victory to their season's record. Please come out and support our teams! Games begin at 4 with the girls and last until about 6:30 concluding with the boys. Check below for games coming up in January.


On Friday, December 23, we invite sixth grade families to our science celebration (times below). Students have been working in pairs to research and produce documentaries about science topics of their choice. Families will be able to screen the documentaries and also check out our awesome Pulley Design Projects. (And as an added bonus, parents can check out the Planetarium that sixth graders designed in the math classroom across the hall!) We hope you'll join us for our end-of-2016 celebration! Food donations are welcome -- please have your child bring any food/drinks to room 313 labelled with your child's name and team.

Friday, December 23, Room 313

Team Insight: 8:45-9:33

Team Balance: 10:25-11:13

Team Empathy: 11:15-12:03

Team Diversity: 1:47 - 2:35

*Correction: NO JV games scheduled.


On Monday, January 9, our PTA and SLT will meet from 5-6 (SLT) and 6-7 (PTA). All in the community are welcome. We have been exploring some interesting topics that impact our community. Please take some time to join us. More information to come on what's on the agenda this month.


On Monday, all NYC DOE public schools will be closed in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. We hope you have a wonderful three day weekend. Take some time to think about social justice and your civil rights. Talk to your kids about their own rights and positive ways they can affect their community through social activism.


On Wednesday, January 25, we will have our "monthly" Early Dismissal Day for professional development. All students will be dismissed at 12pm, or 12:50 after a bag lunch, depending on how you filled out the form. If you would like your child to stay until our regularly scheduled dismissal time at 2:35, please reach out to Shirley via e-mail or phone at 347-563-5303.


Friday, January 27, marks the end of Module 2. We are officially half way through the year! Now is the time for students to start thinking about their goals for the spring. What have they been doing well? Where have they seen room for improvement? Encourage your child to reach out to their teachers to reflect on their successes and make a plan for the second half of the year to finish strong. 7th grade families should expect to see a mid-year transcript in this report card mailing to get a sense of how JumpRope is going to translate to high schools during the application process. Please reach out to us if you have any questions.


Highlights and such...


As a school community, we value academic rigor, but we also understand an adolescent's need to get outside to play, be young, and get exercise and fresh air. As the winter weather seems to be upon us for the unforeseeable future, please make sure to send your children to school with coats, gloves, hats, and whatever other warm weather gear they may have. We go outside in the cold winter weather provided that conditions are not unsafe. Please make sure your children are coming to school dressed for fun in the outdoors.


I recently received the following comment from a sixth grade math student that caught my attention. She stated rather confidently, “I already know how to do long division, so why does it matter if I know why it works?” I respect this student’s concerns, and as an educator, I believe it’s my responsibility to explain why it matters.

The following day in class, I posed this question to our students: When I’m splitting the bill at my favorite restaurant, do I really jot down long division decimal problems on a cocktail napkin? No, of course I don’t! I either use my best estimate, or I use the calculator on my phone if I need to be precise. So what is the point of learning long division and why it works?

Well, I explained, first, I think it’s really neat why it works (Please ask your 6th grader if you’re interested in the answer!). Second, it’s analogous to an NBA or WNBA basketball player completing strength-training drills in the off season. These exercises don’t actually make the basketball go through the hoop and earn points. What they do, however, is make the player much stronger and more adept on offense and defense when he or she is in an actual game.

Our goal at TSMS is to create independent thinkers and problem solvers. Sara Garner, my co-teacher and I, as well as the entire math department, share that goal for all TSMS math students. My primary concern is not if students can solve 53.768 ÷ 5.2. What I do care about is that when students are faced with a new mathematical obstacle outside of school, they have the tools to think creatively about how to tackle the problem. If they can do that, they are well on their way to becoming great mathematical thinkers.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts and would love to hear from you. Please feel welcome to email me, Jackie Brown, at:


Thank you to all of our parents that generously donated supplies to our Art Department at the beginning of the year! We are once again in need of Clorox wipes to keep our Art Rooms tidy and clean. Any donations would be deeply appreciated!


TSMS is an Urban Advantage school. This program connects middle school science communities to the many amazing scientists and institutions of NYC. Among the benefits of our work with UA are the Student and Family Vouchers we receive each year. Each voucher is good for FREE admission for a TSMS student AND three guests to any of the eight Urban Advantage science partner institutions (including the current Holiday Train Show at the NY Botanical Gardens, as well as the Bronx Zoo, the Museum of Natural History, and more). Vouchers are coming home in backpacks this week for all three grades. Use them! The Winter Break is a GREAT time to go explore what NYC has to offer!


Students in 7th grade Humanities (Suspense and Mystery) have formed coalitions around topics that invite in depth research and debate. Watch Jewlz and India debate the pros and cons of beauty pageants in this clip to the left!


Keep collecting your box tops and get them to Frances Quezada in Room 335.

Any little bit helps! Each box top is worth 10¢ for our school!


The Fifth Street Farm is wrapping up and cleaning up for the winter. Thanks to tremendous help from Board Member Grif Iffith and parent volunteer Ron Parks, those rotting wooden benches have been cut up and hauled away. The irrigation has been shut off, Spring bulbs have been planted and tools put away. Most hardy perennials will winter over in their mulch-covered beds and tender ones are being transplanted and brought inside. But before you think that a roof-farm in winter is all cozy socks and hot cocoa, know that seed cataloguing and planning for Spring planting has already begun! There are many cold-loving vegetables that will be able to be planted as early as March, which is truly just around the corner.

Want to get your class involved in Spring planting? Contact: Frances Anderson


To help us conclude our study of Ancient Egypt 6th graders traveled up town to the world famous MET museum. Students observed artifacts, tombs and writing from this Ancient civilization.

We will soon be moving on to our study of Ancient China!


In recent weeks, our School Based Support Team has been receiving phone calls from families asking for support with various topics not related to the work they do with us. We wanted to clarify that the SBST team is comprised of our School Psychologists and School Social and Family Workers. They support TSMS with students who have or are in the process of testing for an IEP. If you have questions about your child at TSMS in regards to something specific to school, please reach out to Madga (ext. 3182) or Lillian (ext. 3183) in the main office, Frances (ext. 3511) or Matthew (ext. 3512) in the Dean's Office, or Shirley (ext. 3371). If you aren't able to get in touch with either of them, please leave us a message and we will get to back to as soon as we can.


Happy Holidays from the Speech Room!

A huge part of having a successful relationship is having the ability to communicate effectively! This is something that we work on every single day with our students. Some students with social communication challenges struggle to understand the concept of conversational give and take. Some students tend to dominate the conversation by talking a lot about a topic of interest to them, while other students do not participate enough. As speech-language pathologists, we offer guidance on effective ways to be a successful communication partner. These strategies include asking questions, engaging in active listening, and looking at cues to determine if our communication partner is still interested in what we have to say. To teach this, we engage in "daily discussions" and allow the students to take the lead, cueing other students to engage by asking questions and showing that they are interested by looking at the speaker. Having a less structured environment for discussion allows the students to generalize these skills in their life outside of the therapy room. With this in mind, we hope you have tons of great conversations this winter break. Wishing you all the very best for a happy and healthy 2017!


‘Tis the season for giving, but don't forget to give to yourself! This is the time of year when we all need to dig into our self-care routines. Self-care is the compilation of the healthy life habits we have developed over our lifetime. These habits become the keys to our stress relief, productivity, confidence and happiness.

Self-care encompasses our nutrition, exercise, sleep, recreational activities and social relationships. It is important that we check in with our own habits, because our children are looking to us for the example. Take an inventory of your self-care repertoire: Are you getting enough sleep? Are you eating healthy foods? When was the last time you enjoyed some time with friends and family? Are you engaging in positive self-talk?

These healthy habits are the ones that we want to instill in our children. We want to show them our good habits and encourage them to discover and hone their own self-care routines.


“Navigating Your Child’s IEP (Individual Education Plan)

Thank you to the parents and staff who shared their knowledge with our group including Mary-Margret Little, District 75 staff involved in IEP training and TSMS parent, Jia Lee, Earth School Special Education teacher and TSMS parent, and Matthew Masterson, Assistant Principal. I appreciate their professional knowledge and also the candid stories shared by TSMS parents of their experiences working with their child’s IEP. I want to give a brief recap here to share what we discussed in hopes that it can help parents and students:

  • 19% of all students in New York City public schools currently have some form of an IEP (Individual Education Plan). At TSMS, we have 26% of students with an IEP.

  • The IEP starts with either a teacher or parent referral. A teacher or parent may recognize that a student is not able to work at grade level for many reasons and starts the process to evaluate the student’s needs. Matthew Masterson commented that this can unfortunately be viewed as bad news for a family and those meetings are often very emotional. The goal is to make the process work for that student to get them the help they need without stigma.

  • The process of evaluating students after they have been identified can be very challenging. Teachers are expected to write detailed reports which are time consuming and can cause delay in the process. Many learning differences cannot be evaluated by school staff and will need outside psychologists or other professionals. This outside evaluation can be very expensive! However, there is a way for this outside evaluation to be free, by using certain Department of Education approved professionals. Unfortunately, some common student issues like dyslexia and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) are not part of the free DOE approved professional’s evaluation.

  • When your child's services begin after being evaluated, they will receive a detailed report within the IEP called a PLOP (Present Levels of Performance). This is written by a Special Education teacher or case worker in conjunction with all team members input. It should be several pages long and written in parent-friendly language.

  • Every school has a SIT (School Implementation Team). This team works together to ensure quality IEPs and must have input from all teachers, parent and student.

  • Pay attention to goals within the IEP. You should be meeting regularly and receiving progress reports to show progress and identify further needs.

  • An IEP is updated annually, and every 3 years there is a Mandated 3-year review which would include a psychologist in the SIT as well as updated testing.


That's all for our last newsletter of 2016! After this edition, we will be decreasing the frequency of our newsletter for the rest of the 2016-2017 school year. Instead of sending our newsletter every 2 weeks, we will be moving to a less frequent, every 4 week cycle. We will be sure to continue our e-mail communication about anything that comes up in between the newsletter publishing. We hope you all have a wonderful winter break! And we wish you joy, love, and good fortune in the new year! Happy holidays to all who celebrate any holiday traditions and abundant love to our community of amazing students, families, teachers, and staff! Here's to a fruitful 2017!

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