Ruth’s Truths – Ruth Morris


“Self-Actualization” is a concept defined by Abraham Maslow which states that people are at their happiest, and most creative, when they achieve their potential. In our middle school grading program, we can select various pre-selected comments to put on a student’s report card. One of them is “not working to potential.” I’ve used this from time to time, when I have a student who I know to be capable of success, according to prior test scores and other empirical information we possess about a student, yet, they are not using their gifts toward the traditional definition of academic success, meaning, earning a B or above on a report card. In the business world, we might speak of success as the attainment of positions of leadership in organizations, which are often accompanied by financial rewards. For entrepreneurs, this translates to money as well. In your personal life, it can mean owning a house, having a family, or, just being able to pay your bills comfortably every month.

I’ve had the opportunity to witness student self-actualization, student leadership and what I’d call student success in its highest form, at our very own Culver City Middle School. I’ve spoken of what we’re doing in some of my prior articles for this publication, but, a month after our so-called “AEIOU” program has begun, an update is in order.

While many schools long ago gave up the concept of a 20 minute “silent sustained reading” session in favor of double English or Math periods, our school took an entirely unique approach to the educational day. We decided to give students two hours a week to pursue “real-life” interests and/or activities that would benefit the school and the world around them.

During this slice of time in the day, we have collaborated as a school, and created a comprehensive program tailor-made to each student. We are working toward eradicating bullying, providing a cornucopia of interventions for struggling students, managing advisory programs like affinity book clubs, anime-manga appreciation circles, planning of school-wide activities, running a student court and various recycling programs. We have enrichment programs, where student leaders have created a production company, a publishing company, two entrepreneurial small businesses, a law firm, and a media organization, to name a few. And some of our students have even chosen to use the time to sit quietly, and read books or magazines.

I want to use this forum to record some beautiful things I’ve seen and heard.


“GATE PERFORMANCES” continues in it’s third year since inception. A week after the program started, auditions began in the school gym. We counted somewhere in the range of 170 students. That’s more than 10% of our student body.

At the first audition, the 7th grade producer-choreographer stepped forward and, within the twenty-five (out of 30) minutes left to the period, taught a dance routine to the rest of the students gathered. They left the room at the bell, having learned the dance.

Two weeks later, I was present for the talk given to the group. The producers stressed how hard their decision was to choose, how much time they’d spent on the difficult decision, and how much they respected and appreciated everyone’s talent. Students who were picked, were reminded not to lord their achievement over others who had not been chosen to be in the show.

Students who will not be part of the cast or crew for the main show next year have now been gathered, and offered an opportunity to take leadership to create something on their own. I told them I wanted to create a dance troupe, and a sales and marketing department for our shows. They divided themselves into what we are calling the CCMS Dance Troupe, and the other group wanted to be called “The Money Makers.” Both groups immediately understood their missions. As people came forward as leaders, one child said, “Shouldn’t we take a vote for who is in charge?” Another student said to her, “No, we want everyone to have a chance to be involved.” By the end of the thirty minute period, I was just sitting back and watching.


In it’s second year now, Student Court is ready for business, but in an inevitable holding pattern, waiting for “cases” of misbehavior referrals from teachers, counselors or administrators. In the meantime, they practice organizational aspects like room set up, and they’ve begun to practice timed arguments. I overheard one student say, “It’s better to have a court without cases, than a case without court.”


One student came to me asking to switch out. He told me, “I signed up for fantasy genre, but it seems a mix of all kinds of genres, and we can’t figure out what to read. I suggested that he try to step forward as a leader before looking to switch out. He came back later in the week with an ear-to-ear grin. He had spoken to the class. They decided to introduce themselves, and their reading preferences, to each other. They had a discussion and were in the process of deciding whether to agree on one book for the class, or to form smaller groups. He reported that the experience “felt great.”


“Anime” is an abbreviation of the Japanese word for “animation,” and “Manga” denotes “Japanese style comic books.” After haiku and sushi, this is one of Japan’s greatest contributions to world culture, and our students love it.( See picture of Hatsune Miko, above)  It’s been perhaps the biggest cause cited for drawing students of all ages to study Japanese language in recent years. Students had been clamoring for an elective, even an after school class, but, one thing or another hadn’t worked out. We put it on the menu for our new Advisory-Enrichment program this year, and over 80 students signed up!

Two teachers stepped forward to supervise four classes: two on Tuesdays-Thursdays and two on Wednesday-Fridays. Students have varied interests, however. Some want to draw, some want to learn how to draw, some want to read manga, and some want to watch anime films. I encouraged a particular student to create a survey. She managed to survey all four classes in two days. While she was at it, she asked for (and has received) donations of films, books and art materials for the classes.

A word about a teacher’s role in all this: we are facilitators. We are in a support role, working for the students. We take roll, sometimes offer ideas or re-direction, edit copy, make copies, sign off on official documents when required, write passes, occasionally approve transfer requests in or out, which are in turn processed by our magnificent counseling department, who work cheek-and-jowl with us and were instrumental, no, essential, in setting up this whole program.

So, in the end, it is not just student self-actualization that we are seeing or experiencing. All of us involved, in fact, are experiencing the self-actualization of joy, ah ha moments, and breathlessness in the presence of greatness. As I’ve mentioned in another of my articles, I’ve managed to (so far, and more than last time I wrote) lose over 15 pounds since June. I feel so productive, energized, and engaged in my job, and in life in general, that I’m not actually having to “watch my weight” in order to do it.

And I’m sure my potential, and that of our students or my colleagues has not even been “reached” yet. We’re simply all traveling together on an amazing journey.

The Actors' Gang


  1. I would like to invite all students who read this article to share stories of their experiences during the “AEIOU” period at CCMS!

  2. That was a great summary of AEIOU and the different classes it contains. I am in Student court and as the description says we have everything organized(thanks to Ms.Morris and our student leader)but we need a case. So hopefully teachers can send “active kids” to our room so we can put them in student court.

  3. For my enrichment period, I chose to participate in scare band. On Wednesdays and Fridays, I get to do actual S.C.A.R.E.(Student Conducted Advanced Reading Ensemble) In S.C.A.R.E, we get to conduct the band. Most people use their pencils to conduct, but I have my own baton. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I do jazz improvisation. We learn how to swing and improvise.(Hence the name Jazz improvisation) Last year during my enrichment period, I took part in a play called Once on this Island. I had a main role in the play, as Tonton Julian, the father of the main character. On stage, it was fun to perform. For the first song, I was really scared, but when they started cheering, I loved it. When they cheer, you know that they like you. The only things that I was worried about was being booed by a lot of people, sneezing into the microphone,(and it being super loud) and being electruecuted by my microphone. Something that somebody told me could happen if I didn’t drink my water through my straw. Overall, it was amazing.

  4. My A.E.I.O.U class is 7th period anime. Mr. Gunthrie teaches the class and I am glad because he is a fan of anime too. He has a few Pokémonand a lot of how-to draw anime manga books. When we watch Pokémon, I like to draw some of the pocket monsters; my favorite one is Misty’s main Pokémon. I am glad that the anime class was made. Thank you Ms.Morris

  5. I have A.S.B for my A.E.I.O.U Mrs.Vielman is the advisor. we plan the games and dances for the school. We have a lot of fun.

  6. In my AEIOU period I read or free-draw in Mr. Bilbao’s class. I usually like to draw in there but I like to read sometimes. I like to read my books about zombies by Max Brooks. Usually I draw people or death. Once I drew a really cool grim reaper in that class. I drew a lot of cool things in that class.

  7. For my AEIOU I chose SSR with Mr. Azad. It’s something that I like doing instead of doing a large group activity because it gives me time to sit quietly to read and think.

  8. In my AEIOU I do campus beautification with Mrs. Dagett and SSR with Mr. Kelner. In campus beautification we are in groups of four and we clean the school for everyone, and if I do says myself I cannot believe how many girls reapply make-up in half a day. My group cleans the girls bathroom, mirrors and sinks, we fins lipstick on the mirrors and any powder make-up in the snicks.

    In SSR my friend and I help set up for period six, grade papers, alphabetize papers, and staple packets. We always help so that leaves less work for Mr. Kelner. I really enjoy helping him get stuff done.

  9. In AEIOU, I am one of the leaders of Performances. We spent weeks holding auditions and now have our cast and crew. We have jumped into the work for the show. We are almost finished with the HUGE opening number involving all 43 cast members. Everyone is doing so well, but what really is the best part is that we’re all like a family already. Everyone is very supportive of each other and it is just amazing. In my opinion, the best part of AEIOU so far wasn’t even while working on the show. It was one of our cast members’ birthday so we all sang happy birthday to her. It was cold and rainy outside so instead of going outside, we sang happy birthday in as many different languages as possible. Those included, Spanish, Japanese, Hebrew, and even gibberish! Everyone was laughing and having fun and that was when we all felt like we were a group, a team, working together and having a great time!

  10. For my aeiou period I picked performes.for my part of the I am part of the thinks that means I don’t only do stuff for the school play . Ido fundraising and advertising and that for the dance troop too,etc. I think it is a big part it might not sound as a big part but it is . If it was not for us there will not be money too have the shows at my school . Even if it is a big job or a work that is good and I like that that why I choose this too be my aeiou period

  11. The a,e,i,o,u periods are nice to have because we get choose what we want to have for our enrichment periods. There are so many different choices of enrichment classes they vary from silent sustained reading to recycling. Trying different enrichment periods every year helps you learn new things. You might like your new enrichment class more than the class you had the previous year. I like silent sustained reading a lot. I get to read different books.

  12. I think our AEIOU program is a very good idea because it shows us where we are. For my AEIOU I sadly have Zap and I’m planing to get out of it. AEIOU shows us new things like what student court is about or being in book club. As the year passes they switch your AEIOU so you can learn something different. Sometimes your AEIOU can just be sitting there so you could free draw or read quietly. Student court sounds interesting, I’m looking forward to sign up for it next semester!!!

  13. I love the fact that AEIOU period doesn’t just expand our learning but it also gives us experience with people in the big world too. For AEIOU period I trumpet around with the SCARE group. Some people don’t realize how important music is. Music inspires the world to do great things.As Mr. Witt says,”Without music life would Bb(be flat)”.

  14. I love both my AEIOU periods. I love how this extraordinary, 20-minute period, not only gives us the chance to learn more. But it also gives us the chance to have fun in what we love to do. For my AEIOU period, I have SCARE band for both 7th & 8th. This program really helps me with pretty much everything in music. Such as reading music and especially playing it. Like Kyle said, “Some people don’t realize how important music is.” And that’s completely true. Music is powerful, strong, and a great way to say something to a person you either love, hate, or miss. Music helps me everyday in life. I always wake up with a drum beat, or rhythm in my head. Almost everyday I practice with my drum set(when I have time, that is).

  15. For my AEIOU period I have SSR. In the beginning of the year when we filled out the pink papers I was concedering about other classes. But I just choose SSR. Now I kind of regret it because all the other classes are having so much fun. Although I’m just in boring SSR I still have fun. For example, it gives me time to rest before 5 of 6th period,which is nice. I also get to read a good book.

  16. For my AEIOU period I have SSR. In the beginning of the year when we filled out the pink papers I was concedering about other classes. But I just choose SSR. Now I kind of regret it because all the other classes are having so much fun. Although I’m just in boring SSR I still have fun. For example, it gives me time to rest before 5 of 6th period,which is nice. I also get to read a good book.

  17. In my AEIOU class I try to make a dance for performances. We’re called the things. We’re divided into 3 groups the believers, the dreamers, and the inspirers. I’m a dreamer because the funny thing about my life is that I don’t remember my nightmare’s I only remember my dreams. That’s why I chose to be a dreamer. My AEIOU class is SSR with mister Kelner. The teacher is fun, but reading not so fun. If I had to chose my AEIOU class I would choose Performances.

  18. For my AEIOU period, 7th period, I chose scare. I chose it because I love to play music. I’m in advanced strings. I chose it because I want to play jazz. I didn’t change my 8th period,but instead of reading my friend and I help my teacher grade tests and etc. I have fun in both.

  19. For my seventh period I have recycling, some people join because they think it’s a time to fool around, but I take it because no one realizes how important it is to recycle. If we want to keep this world healthy we must recycle In the class we try to raise awareness about recycling and we pick up trash around the school. So I’m asking everybody to put your recyclables in the recycling bins and throw your trash away to keep the school clean.

  20. For my 7th period, I have media with Mr.Kim. I kind of like using all the technology in his class to to create something out of a video or even something written on a piece of paper. It kind of helps me get prepared for when I really need to use real technology and softwares to edit or create a video from many clips. I find the class very fun and interesting, although sometimes things will go wrong on the computer, and it gets frustrating. What we usually do during the period is to get into our small groups and work on our project. An average project can take about two to four weeks, depending how long or short the project is. But, I really like that we get to have a half hour to learn about something we probably didnt know what it was about. I like media,so I thank you Ms.Morris, for creating an AEIOU period for us to learn something other than than the usual school material.

  21. So far A.E.I.O.U has been awesome I got put into book club and I wanted to switch out. A few days later what do ya know…I became the leader of the bookclub. It is awesome. We had some kids who have read the book “The Invention of Hugo Cabrét” by Brian selsnick (who is a wonderful author) to explain kind of like the setting and theme and all the other good stuff we are learning in class. Then a week later i asked the teacher if we could get the movie and she said that she already had it so for the next two weeks we watched and talked about the movie and showed how it was like the book.and now we are all reading “bridge to terribethia” and in Fridays we are going to watch a little of the movie. Another thing we are trying to do is to get people to bring short stories and poems to recite. Another class of AEIOU I got was anime and manga. It’s really fun and I love the Japanese culture.

  22. so far this year AEIOU has been quite interesting for example i have SSR for 7th period and recycling for 8th so in recycling the first day we had 8th period we had to make up some rules. the rules where pretty basic like:no running in the halls, no yelling, etc. after that we had to choose our groups and i knew a lot of people in that class but i knew the decision wasnt going to be hard. i choose two of my best friends Giselle amd Jessica. i also have Jhonae and Lilliana in my group. so far this semester has been great, i have had so much fun. i do wish i was in performances tho. my other bestfriend Haleena said she is having so much fun. i am glad she is. i am having fun in this class tho.and i am glad that i choose these classes because if i didnt i wouldnt have gotten closer to Giselle and Jessica. these are some of my AEIOU experiences so far.

  23. Hi Ms. Morris,

    So far AEIOU has been GREAT for me! And I really enjoy being in performances. I feel so lucky and thankful for getting a role in Seussical. I really like acting and dancing and singing and Performances includes all of this. I’m very happy for my AEIOU class! At the beginning it was really nerve-wracking and I was so nervous if I was going to get in and what role I’d get if I did. When I found out I got the Mayor I was thrilled and still am. I really enjoyed your blog. Thank you:)
    Ethan Schyman

  24. Hi I’m cole and you guys wandering what I think about my AEIOU classes is l like both of them because on periods 135 it my quiet time before I have ms Yarbrough oh

  25. My 7th period AEIOU is recycling class. I chose it because it helps the school. It is something i enjoy doing at home and at school because it helps save our environment. it also makes me feel good when i wearing my badge. 🙂

  26. My 7th period AEIOU is recycling class. I chose it because it helps the school. It is something i enjoy doing at home and at school because it helps save our environment. It also makes me feel good when i wearing my badge. 🙂

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