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Grey Matters, April 28, 2014; Volume 2, Number 31

posted Apr 27, 2014, 8:43 AM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jun 26, 2014, 11:08 AM by James Marcotte ]

As usual, school vacations go by too quickly. I hope that during the break you had the chance to engage with your kids in some meaningful face-to-face activities.  Early last week, I went out to lunch with my three kids and when the conversation waned, or when I needed respite from some of the nudgy sibling fighting, I found myself escaping via my smartphone - checking emails, and checking the news.  It later dawned on me the degree to which I had succumbed to the trappings of being “wired in” and what messages I was sending to my kids- subtly and perhaps quite dramatically - about how our time together is best spent.  With that issue still on my mind, I came across two articles on what MIT professor Sherry Turkle calls “being alone together” and the impact of digital devices on how we interact with those around us. The first is a New York Times article from 2012, called “The Flight From Conversation.”  My favorite line from the article is, “Face-to-Face conversation unfolds slowly. It teaches patience” and my sense is that patience was the exact opposite of what I was modeling at lunch last Tuesday.  The other article was published more recently in The Atlantic with the fairly straightforward title:  “My Student’s Don’t Know How to Have a Conversation”, and focuses on the importance of helping students engage in, and practice, “real time talk”, and explaining the nuances, benefits (and maybe even joy) of face-to-face communication.  Anyway, a moment of parental confession reflection that I thought I would share in case any of you have sometimes found yourself and/or your kids wrestling with this similar temptation of being there without fully being there.

There are now 7 ½ weeks remaining in the current school year - a little hard to believe.   With the end of the year around the corner, we will also soon be sending home with students permission slips for the end-of-year field trips (stay tuned). On the second-to-last day of the year, our 7th graders enjoy a class trip to Kimball Farms, and our 8th graders take a trip up to Canobie Lake Park (New Hampshire) for the day.  

Also, and a bit more immediate, on Wednesday, May 7th (after that day’s MCAS session- more on that below) we will be taking the annual 8th Grade class photo. This is a panoramic photo that we take outside on the hill by the football field.  Order forms will be distributed to 8th grade students later this week/early next week.  If you would like to order a copy, please have your student bring the order form with him/her when we take the photo.  If you have any questions or need any sort of financial assistance for either the field trip and/or class photo, please contact Jim Marcotte at  Please know that we are very committed to never letting finances interfere with any student’s ability to fully participate in these school events, and want everyone to enjoy these moments without having to think twice about potential financial impact.  

Our next (and final) round of MCAS testing takes place next week, starting on Monday, May 5th.  That means that I’ll be making another pilgrimage to BJs at some point in the next few days, and loading the car up with juice boxes and breakfast bars.  Below is the schedule for which grades and which subjects are scheduled for each day:  

  •         Monday, 5/5 7th Grade Math MCAS
  • Tuesday, 5/6 7th Grade Math MCAS
  • Wednesday, 5/7 8th Grade Math MCAS
  • Thursday, 5/8 8th Grade Math MCAS
  • Friday, 5/9         8th Grade Science MCAS
  • Monday, 5/12 MCAS Make Up Day
  • Tuesday, 5/13 MCAS Make Up Day

I hope most of you received and had a chance to briefly read the email that I sent to all families regarding the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children.  As I noted in the email, we are being asked to develop records that will help in the implementation of this effort to support children of military families (whose schooling is often peppered with frequent moves).  If your family does meet the parameters outlined in the email, we would appreciate it if you sent me a quick email confirming this status.  You can view information about the Compact by clicking here

Along with the email that I sent about military families, my understanding is that you also received a message from the District about some updates and changes to the “Parent Portal” and how families can manage their username/password and link each of their student’s profiles to a single account (also known as “Single Sign On”). Starting April 23rd, families can create their own username and password (each parent/guardian can create his/her own), and you can click a link to get a “recovery” email that will help you retrieve a forgotten username or password (as opposed to calling the school).  The email included a link to a short video for how to set up your new account, which you can also access by clicking here

This week, we are welcoming 6th grade families to the RJ Grey community with a variety of activities, including our annual Curriculum Night which is taking place this Wednesday evening in our auditorium.  We’re actually changing the format a bit - shortening the presentation itself, and then setting up tables throughout the lobby where members of each department will show samples of assignments and student work, and be available to answer questions.  If you have friends or neighbors who will be joining RJ Grey for the first time next year, please encourage them to attend the Curriculum Night and/or the tours that we offer during the day (9am to 1pm) on Thursday and Friday.  

Have a great week, everyone.