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Grey Matters, October 21, 2013; Volume 2, Number 8

posted Oct 20, 2013, 7:29 AM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jun 26, 2014, 11:16 AM by James Marcotte ]

That the Red Sox are returning to the World Series for the third time in ten years is a good thing.  As someone who experienced his formative teenage years living in and around Boston during the 1990s, I occasionally have the urge to explain to this current generation of teenagers that when it comes to cheering for our local sports teams, it’s really been an embarrassment of riches for Boston these past ten years.  If this were 1994 and the bases were loaded in the bottom of the 7th of the ALCS, the Red Sox right fielder would have probably hit into a triple play, rather than hitting a grand slam.

So the World Series starts this Wednesday and Thursday night; if necessary, Games 5, 6, and 7 would take place the following Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  What do those games have in common?  They are all school nights!  I would be the first to agree that these games represent unique and fairly special circumstances, so I am not going to tell you what to do when the game still isn’t over at 10:30pm, or 11:00pm, or 11:30pm and your child is saying, “I just need to watch one more inning!” However, it might be a good idea to keep in mind that a day of school, plus perhaps an afternoon practice of some kind, on top of some daily homework, already makes for a full schedule for kids whose bodies and brains are still developing.  

Most research about teenagers and sleep says that the average teenager gets between 7 and 7.5 hours of sleep, when they really need closer to 9 ¼ hours.  If your kids (and you, and me) watch these games to the end and go to bed around 11:30pm, and wake up at 6:00am, they’re now getting even less than the already not-enough average.  If you’re interested in reading a bit more about studies and research about the impact of sleep on learning and memory of teenagers, you can review a PBS Frontline report by clicking here, as well as an overview provided by the National Sleep Foundation by clicking here.  On a side note, if this discussion leads any of you to wonder about the issue of start times for schools, it’s a topic I’ve been casually exploring for a few years.  Most of you can already imagine the complexities associated with setting the start and end times of the school day within an 8-school district, so any potential discussion would certainly need to include considerations beyond this issue of teenage sleep patterns.  In the meantime, if you’ve got thoughts on it, I’d welcome the opportunity to hear them to help inform my own view on the topic.  

In last week’s Grey Matters, I shared some articles looking at the challenges and opportunities of competitive youth sports.  Just now, I offered some general thoughts on the issue of teenage sleep patterns.  It’s almost serendipitous (maybe?) that I read an article last week called, “Overscheduled Children: How Big a Problem?” (click on the title to read it).  It offered what I found to be a pretty thoughtful, albeit brief, look at the dilemmas that many parents like you and I encounter when it comes to the opportunities and childhood experiences we hope to provide for our kids.  While the author included some varying perspectives about the different dimensions of “extracurriculars”, he did note that the common theme found in every response was “I should worry less about the amount of time my children spent on activities and more about the messages I sent about those activities” which in and of itself is some interesting food for thought.  If this is a topic that interests you, I’d suggest taking a few minutes to read the article.  

Now that I’ve burdened you with all these deep and complex issues of time, and the commitments our kids have as part of their day, let me offer some news about the after school clubs and activities that we have at RJ Grey (I don’t think we’d call this irony, perhaps just a little oddly placed).  Most, if not all, of our clubs and activities are under way.  The Chess and Board Games Club has been resurrected, and will now meet on the same day, and in the same room as the Magic the Gathering card club.   We also recently added a new club called the Radix Endeavor, which is being advised by Mr. Warner.  The Radix Endeavor is a project being led by the MIT Education arcade and is described as a “massive, multiplayer, online game” that promotes STEM learning in high schools (and middle schools).  You can learn more about the program by visiting the MIT site here.   The first meeting will be on Thursday, October 24, in Computer Lab A from 2:15 to 3:30. For more information, contact Mr. Warner at  

I might as well finish this edition of Grey Matters with another topic that is related to time - and that is a reminder about our daily Silent Reading period.  I would encourage parents to occasionally ask their children about what they might be reading, and to also see if the time they spend reading overall is increasing (and if it is, please let me know).  Remember, it’s not necessarily about needing kids to read epic novels and the collected works of William Faulkner.  Our more immediate goals center around their comfort, engagement, and enjoyment of reading itself (like anything else, you need to practice reading to get better at it).  This means that if our students want to read a magazine or a newspaper during Silent Reading, we’re all for it.  Last week, I myself pulled out one of my many Calvin & Hobbes comic books and and re-read some storylines from the series, and it was 20 minutes well-spent.  Incidentally, if any of you are also big Calvin & Hobbes fans, I recently learned that there is a documentary coming out in less than a month about the influence of that series, called “Dear Mr. Watterson” and you can see the film’s website and a trailer by going here.  

Have a great week, everyone.  



P.S. If you do elect to send your child to bed before the end of an upcoming World Series game, you are forbidden from defending yourself by saying that it’s because Mr. Shen told you to.