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Grey Matters, November 18, 2013; Volume 2, Number 12

posted Nov 17, 2013, 1:33 PM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jun 26, 2014, 11:14 AM by James Marcotte ]

I was not in the building on Friday morning, so I missed the latest installment of Poetry Fridays.  Mr. Harvey, social studies teacher on 7 Orange, was the reader and by all accounts, he provided a lively rendition of “How to Eat a Poem” by Eve Merriam (click here to read).  Eve Merriam is one of our country’s most revered contemporary poets who, before her death in 1992, authored numerous volumes of poetry for children.  Before reading the poem that Mr. Harvey recited, you should keep in mind what she once said about her passion for poetry: “I find it difficult to sit still when I hear poetry or read it out loud.  I feel a tingling feeling all over, particularly in the tips of my fingers and in my toes, and it just seems to go right from my mouth all the way through my body.  It’s like a shot of adrenalin or oxygen when I hear rhymes and word play.”  

In the same week that Mr. Harvey chose to recite a poem by Eve Merriam, I came across an article in the Atlantic Magazine that, in a different way, echoes some of Eve Merriam’s passion for reading, and that I was already planning to share because of the ties it has to our Silent Reading efforts.  The article, “The Most Important Lesson Schools Can Teach Kids About Reading: It's Fun”(click here to read), implores us not to forget that the joys and pleasures of reading (getting lost in, and consumed by, a story) are critical elements to the growth of young people and their development as thoughtful and engaged individuals.  If you couldn’t already tell from past editions of Grey Matters, I’m really glad that we moved forward with daily Silent Reading this year.  Two of the key principles of Silent Reading are that students always get to choose what they read, and that the school should strive to make available a wide variety of books that will interest our student population. To that end, some RJ Grey staff members recently attended a conference on new books within the young adult genre (I always thought being a  “young adult” was the  30-35 year range, oh well), and our librarian is happily compiling a long list of books for us to purchase.     

We have reached the point in the year where some of our RJ Grey students and families are exploring private schools as options for next year.  Our Counseling Office works with families on the application process, and they have created a number of documents and guides to assist families.  You can download information by going to the RJG Counseling site (click here).  One aspect of the application process that I’d like to highlight is the writing of teacher/counselor recommendations.  Our teachers and counselors are happy to support students in their applications, and take seriously the crafting of a recommendation.  With that in mind, we ask that families honor the request that teachers be approached about letters of recommendation at least 4 weeks in advance of when those letters are due.  In many situations, parents initially reach out to teachers on behalf of their child, which is perfectly fine.   If possible, it’s also helpful for the student to speak in person with their teachers about their interest in private schools.  This is valuable for a few reasons.  First, hearing a bit more about the student’s interest in the schools to which they are applying gives the teacher a better sense of what might be useful to include in the letter.  Secondly, having a teacher find recommendation forms on her desk without any prior explanation from student or parent is never the ideal way to start the conversation about a recommendation. By no means are teachers and counselors expecting students to feel indebted to them for writing a letter, and forever genuflect whenever they enter the room. However, speaking directly to the teacher is, I think, central to showing an appropriate level of appreciation for the task the students are asking their teacher to complete on their behalf.  If you think your son/daughter may be a bit nervous with this task, you might encourage them to speak with his/her counselor, who can offer some tips and even help them practice.  Your child’s counselor is also, in general, a great resource for various aspects of the application process.  

Finally, two calendar-related items that I want to point out.  First, the end of the Fall Trimester is this Thursday, November 21st. Grades close on that day, and then report cards will be distributed to students the week after Thanksgiving.  Secondly, you all should have received an email from me last Friday about the scheduling of parent-teacher conferences.  I hope the Q&A helped, and today (Monday) you should be receiving from Marcia Charter the actual conference sign up form.  If you are interested in a conference, please fill out the form (embedded in the email) and email it back to Marcia (  

Have a great week, everyone.