Grey Matters 14-15
Happy Father’s Day to those of you who celebrated the event this past weekend. We went out to dinner in the North End on Saturday night with my wife’s family, and had a joint celebration for the three dads who were in attendance. After dinner, we made our way to the North End staple/tourist trap Mike’s Pastry, where I’ve never seen a line with less than 50 people. As my sister-in-law got in line, I made my way inside to some open tables, and on the way was verbally berated by a fellow customer who thought I was cutting her and 30 other people. I’ve decided that while I enjoy a good overpriced cannoli (4 bucks each!) as much as the next person, it’s not worth the grief (and waiting) that usually ensues. Not sure, however, if I’ll ever convince my father-in-law of Italian descent, and his desert-loving daughter (my wife), to share that conclusion. For those also celebrating Father’s Day, here’s a quick clip from the Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon, where they asked kids in Rockefeller Plaza questions about their dads.
We had over 350 8th grade students join us last Friday night for a really great end-of-year celebration. Watching and interacting with them at these events always reminds us of how fortunate we are to have a school full of great kids. I mentioned to a few parents that evening that only in middle school could you have hundreds of students dancing excitedly to music by Kanye West, and then immediately transition to a group sing-along of “Let It Go” from Disney’s Frozen. A little surreal, and yet completely representative of this particular age group. We hope those of you whose children attended the event heard positive reports about the evening, and that everyone had a good time. To the small cohort of parents who snuck in towards the end of the night to take a few pictures, you were brave souls to risk a response from your teenage child that would probably make my Mike’s Pastry scolding look like a friendly chat between old friends.
An event of this size is only possible because we continue to have parents and families who are willing to contribute their time and energy, and to donate a mountain of food. A big “Thank You” to the many parents who made a commitment to helping make the evening a big success. And a super-sized thank you to Judy Nolan for continuing to take the lead, and managing coordinating all the moving parts and planning involved with a big party for a few hundred teenagers.
Here’s a final list of reminders and notes about this week, please make sure you follow up with your sons or daughters about anything that might pertain to you:
So this is the 39th and final edition of Grey Matters for the year. Before we briefly part ways for the summer, I want to thank you, our parent community, for your continued support of our school. It does not escape me (or us) the degree to which parent involvement and investment changes the landscape of a school, more often than not for the better. We know that parents have high expectations for the school, and that we also have high expectations for the parents. This partnership is indeed what often leads to the great experiences that so many of our students have at RJ Grey. To be sure, those high expectations also means that there will be moments where we aren’t in total agreement on some things. However, I’ll always take passionate debate and occasional disagreements over apathy and disinterest, especially when it comes from a shared interest in how to help our students (your kids) develop into thoughtful and confident individuals. We’ve enjoyed working with you this year, and we certainly hope the feeling is mutual.
For those parents who do not have students returning to RJ Grey, thank you for continuing to engage with me about the different topics of discussion that get mentioned on Grey Matters! It’s tempting to create an alumni edition of Grey Matters, so we can keep exchanging articles about all things bacon, like this most recent one, whose title ends with the phrase, “How to Eat Bacon with Everything”.
As I mentioned at the end of last year, the summer months away from school serve an important purposes for students, families, and teachers. It’s an opportunity to decompress, pursue other interests, and re-charge. Thinking about school 24/7 doesn’t benefit anyone, and we hope that everyone uses these next 8-10 weeks to expand their horizons, try some new things, and sometimes enjoy and treasure those moments where time feels like it moves more slowly while you’re doing absolutely nothing at all. It is always remarkable to see the degree to which young people change and grow, even in these (too short) summer months, and we look forward to reuniting with our returning students, and welcoming our next 7th grade class to RJ Grey. Like last summer, we too will decompress a bit, and spend time dreaming up ways to make next year a great one for our students.
Have a great week, and a great summer, everyone.
I spent a good deal of time this past winter wondering how many of our students (mostly male) could get through the day only wearing shorts. I apparently was not the only one, as several articles like this one appeared online throughout the winter season. Last Friday night, I spent most of the evening wondering how our students attending the 7th grade dance were able to function, and in fact enjoy themselves, in the sweltering heat - some of them decked out in pants, long-sleeve shirts, and even some sport coats. Whatever coping mechanisms they have at their disposal that older people do not, the 250 (maybe closer to 300) students who attended the event seemed to really enjoy spending some time together, as we near the end of the school year. This was the first 7th grade dance that we’ve planned in a few years, having struggled to generate interest in the past. Here’s hoping that the success of last Friday’s dance will generate some momentum into next year and beyond.
The success of any event such as Friday night’s dance hinges on the dedication and hard work of some RJ Grey staff and parent volunteers. This dance, and next week’s 8th grade dance, wouldn’t be possible without the work of Debbie Ahl, 8th grade English teacher and Student Council advisor. Tina Connors graciously took on the task of organizing parent donations and staffing the food tables during the event, and we are enormously grateful for her efforts. Thank you to Tina, and Sangeertha Ulman, Jennifer Mabard, Carol Zeroual, Meg Danisewich-Martin, and Sandra Fullica for spending the evening with us and making sure everyone stayed hydrated. And thank you to the many parents (see list here) who donated food and drink for the dance.
The 8th Grade End-of-Year Dance/Celebration is this Friday at 7pm! This event is held in our (transformed) cafeteria and students enter through the side door (you’ll see it); so parents who are dropping kids off can pull right up to the front of the school. When picking kids up after the dance, we would suggest parking in the lower parking lot and either waiting in the car, or coming up to the entrance to meet your kids (your options probably depend on the degree to which your child allows you to be seen in public with them).
A few friendly reminders about the next two weeks:
We just completed our second full year of all-school daily Silent Reading. While I don’t think we reached a 100% approval rating from the students about having silent reading, we hope that many found those that time every morning at 9:58am to be not only a nice change of pace from the rest of the day, but also developed some additional comfort with/enjoyment with pleasure reading. A recent study suggested a continued decline in the number of kids who indicated a love of reading for fun, particularly after they reach the age of eight. For those of you whose children might be open to some continued pleasure reading over the summer, two resources for you: (1) our RJ Grey Library website includes a number of links to book lists and search engines that provide suggestions based on specific interests; and (2) the High School has released its updated Summer Reading List (click here to view) that it encourages all of its students, including rising 9th grade students (those are your kids, 8th grade parents!), to look at if they’re stuck for suggestions. Please note that the High School does not have any required summer reading for 9th grade English, but they do want to encourage students to find something to enjoy and read. Please note that any book on their list that has an asterisk (*) is a title that will be discussed in an informal, teacher-led book group in the fall. They also want to note that a number of the titles on the list are ones that families could read together.
Finally, those of you who drop your children off at school in the mornings may have noticed another guest appearance by Mr. Brian Crossman, Minuteman Tech teacher, this time filling in for Mr. Marcotte. Since a few of you had the opportunity to have a quick conversation with Brian about Jim’s whereabouts, I hope you all noticed the mischief in his eyes when he told you that Jim was participating in a candlepin bowling championship tournament that day. I suppose the truth (a family commitment) was too boring for Brian. Everyone’s a comedian.
We’ve got 7.5 days left until Summer! Not that anyone in our outside the school building is counting.
Have a great week, everyone.
Those of you who attended last Friday’s high school graduation ceremony for Acton-Boxborough seniors are already aware of what a great event it turned out to be, and all of us there were grateful that the rain showers we experienced earlier in the week decided against an encore performance that night. I’ve always had an appreciation for the significance of high school graduation through the lens of my role as an educator. As my own children start to navigate their journey through school, I am starting to better appreciate the significance of this accomplishment from the perspective of a parent, and why this ceremony is such a joyous and emotional event for families.
Admittedly, graduation also served as a reminder of how, for adults, time feels like it accelerates as our children get older. It was a fairly surreal moment for me to watch and listen to senior Tim Manning deliver a student reflection as part of the ceremony, when it feels like it was only a very short time ago that, as an RJ Grey student on 8 Orange, he was presenting to his teachers and me an idea that that involved a letter-writing campaign he wanted to promote on his team. That he and many of his classmates are a lot taller now, and that some also have full beards, also disrupts my memories of them from only four years ago. I will also acknowledge that the graduation ceremony also served as an unexpected reminder that the students can’t get older without the rest of us getting older too. It didn’t help that earlier in the day, I came across an article that pointed out 1980s movie character icon Ferris Bueller took his famous “day off” thirty years ago to the day. That movie, of course, also gave us the legendary Mr. Ed Rooney, who made the role of school principal look oh-so fulfilling.
The 7th grade dance is this Friday night (June 12th, 7pm), we’re look forward to spending a fun evening with everyone. If you have any questions, please contact Jim Marcotte at email@example.com. And of course, there’s the 8th grade end-of-year celebration/dance, which is Friday, June 19th at 7pm. A friendly reminder that only current RJ Grey 8th grade students are allowed to attend, and students must have been at school that day to attend the evening event - if there are any unique circumstances, send me an email and we can figure it out.
Last week, I made brief mention of textbook “obligations”, and I wanted to provide a little bit more information at this point. Over the next two weeks, teachers will begin collecting textbooks, library books, and other materials that need to be returned. Students who still owe textbooks are provided a form that details what is still missing, and the potential replacement costs. Students must meet their textbook obligations in order to attend the end-of-year field trips! Please work with your children on locating textbooks that might be hidden under piles of laundry, and avoid replacement fees (some of which can reach $75 for a textbook).
A very important note about our end-of-year field trips on Wednesday, June 24, regarding transportation home at the end of the day: 7th grade students will return to RJ Grey before the 2:06 dismissal, and can take the bus home during the “regular” time (or be picked up). Our 8th graders will be returning from Canobie around 3:45pm. Please note that our District’s buses will return to do a second run for our 8th grade students. However, because they are finishing their elementary routes, some buses will pick students up at 4:00pm, and others may start these second runs closer to 4:20-4:30pm. We will stay with the students in the auditorium until their buses arrive, or families are welcome to make other arrangements to pick their children up after we return. We just want everyone to be aware of the timing. For any questions, please contact Jim Marcotte at firstname.lastname@example.org
If it wasn’t already circled and highlighted on your family calendars, the last day of school is Thursday, June 25. It is a half day that concludes with an all-school assembly at the high school auditorium. Please note that we aren’t able to invite parents to this assembly, and this event is for students and staff only. Students will then be dismissed from the high school and will get on buses that are lined up outside the high school entrance at 10:45am, or they can be picked up by parents in the JH or HS parking lots.
Dr. Brand’s office has asked the school principals to make families aware of a subject that will be discussed at this Thursday’s School Committee meeting. I am attaching a letter (click here) that Dr. Brand has written with JD Head, our District’s Director of Facilities and Transportation. The letter summarizes the District’s current policies and procedures involving the practice of issuing bus passes (primarily at the elementary level, but also here at the Junior High), and the changes to that policy that are being proposed. The proposed changes (and the impetus behind the proposal) will be discussed at Thursday’s meeting, and then a vote will likely be scheduled for the next School Committee meeting (which is likely June 25). For those who have an interest in this topic, please take a moment to review Dr. Brand’s letter.
Finally, we had our last round of Everyday Leaders last week, bringing our total number of students recognized through this effort to a little over 60. Congratulations to Andy Guthlein, Olivia Maas, Matthew Fleming, Isabel Maas, Nico Michaelidis, Joseph Park, Sebastien Kerr, Tommy Cullen, Victor Sun, Maria Rofail and Jon Heatley for their selection.
Have a great week, everyone.
I know a few parents (including RJ Grey parents) who have seniors at the High School, and so I am somewhat aware of how hectic, and exciting, this week will be (and already has been). The Senior Prom was last Friday, and then graduation is this coming Friday evening at 5:30pm. My sense is that for many of these families, this week will involve juggling the planning of various celebrations, managing welcoming visiting relatives, and varying degrees of sleep deprivation. My oldest is finishing 4th grade, so I’ve got some time before we approach this particular milestone. In the meantime, I’ll keep my weekends occupied with activities such as watching the aforementioned son misread a pop fly at his baseball game, and having the baseball make a pretty painful and unwanted landing on his face; he’ll be OK, and he apparently wasn’t serious when, while holding a bag of frozen edamame (I didn’t have any ice packs in the house) to his face, he frustratingly declared, “I’m never playing that game again!” Congratulations to the families who have children graduating later this week, and I look forward to seeing them at the graduation ceremony on Friday evening; that is, once we all find parking. I will not be directing traffic for this event. Keeping fingers crossed for low humidity, and a precipitation free sky.
A few weeks after high school graduation, we at RJ Grey also send off our 8th grade students and wish them well as most of them make their way down the street to the high school, while others join private schools, enroll in Minuteman Tech, or are moving out of Acton or Boxborough. This year, we are also preparing to bid farewell to four retiring members of the RJ Grey staff, as they begin new chapters of their lives as well. Tim Nolan (Social Studies), Lillian Ramos (Spanish), Carol Brady (Academic Support Center assistant), and Ginger Kendall (Learning Center assistant) are completing distinguished careers as members of our staff. Celebrating the retirements of our colleagues is always bittersweet; we are happy they’re in a position to pursue other interests, and we’ll also miss them deeply. If you and/or your children have some fond memories of working with any of these teachers and staff members, I would encourage you to drop them a quick note and join us in thanking them for their years of service to RJ Grey and all of its students (some of you already have, and thank you for that).
Last year, members of the high school volleyball coaching staff and current varsity athletes offered a series of volleyball clinics for RJ Grey students interested in the sport. They are offering the opportunity again this year to learn the basics of volleyball and enjoy some opportunities to play. No experience is necessary. Students interested in participating should go to the RJ Grey gym on Mondays and Wednesdays during the next two weeks beginning this Monday, June 1 after school from 3-4:30. If you have any questions, please contact Darren Gwin (he’s a volleyball coach and teacher at the High School) at email@example.com.
This Thursday is our Empty Bowls Ice Cream Social! On Thursday, June 4, from 5:30 to 7pm, families can enjoy an evening of Art, Singing and Ice Cream. Students will showcase their art and singing talents and invite families to a charity ice cream social. 7th grade students made hand-crafted ceramic bowls in their art classes and families that participate will get to take home a hand-crafted bowl as a reminder of the vast number of hungry families around the world and right here in our own community. The money raised from this event will be donated to the Acton Community Supper and Acton Food Pantry. This organization helps to feed many hungry families in the greater Acton area. Last year this event helped to raise an amazing $1000 for the charity! As another treat, the Select Choir will perform throughout the evening in our outdoor courtyard. This event is also an opportunity for 7th grade students to display other artistic works in a non-competitive, communal environment. If you have any questions, please email Sara Haskin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As we enter June, we will need to begin the process of collecting some school materials, such as textbooks. Classroom teachers will begin that process in a week or two; our Library is going to start it’s collection process this week, as it usually takes more than one reminder (and sometimes four or ten) to everything returned. This week, we will be sending out reminders to students that all library books and materials need to be returned to the RJ Grey Library by this Friday, June 5.
A few friendly reminders about upcoming events and deadlines:
Finally, I want to mention that our District has given its website a facelift! Check it out at http://www.abschools.org. Along with this re-design, the District has also created an official Twitter account (separate from Dr. Brand’s Twitter feed), and you can sign up to be a follower by going here. Please note that you are not allowed to sign up to follow that Twitter account unless you are already signed up as a follower of RJ Grey’s Twitter feed. Granted, that is not official District policy, just something I am trying to guilt all of you into following.
Have a great week, everyone.
I learned this week that it’s not uncommon for many of us to confuse the origins and focus of Memorial Day with those of Veteran’s Day. Both are important and share important features (most notably honoring those who serve), and yet still have distinct points of emphasis. I recently found an article in the Washington Post that provides a useful overview of both holidays, and perhaps many of you would also find it to be an informative read.
Along with activities you might have (privately or publicly) pursued in the spirit of Memorial Day, I hope you and your family also had a chance to decompress a bit, and perhaps enjoyed a slightly less hectic schedule. Given that this long weekend is sandwiched between a typically hectic month of May, and a lot of upcoming end-of-year activities (including AB’s high school graduation for some RJ Grey families, on June 5), hopefully many of you took a deep breath this weekend. Along with watching my daughter manipulate my mother into giving her $20 at a little family cookout (which I suppose is part of what grandmothers do), I did find a few moments to mentally escape from work-related thoughts. I recently had a conversation with someone about theater productions of Peter Pan, and it reminded me of a This American Life episode that retold the story of a small theater group’s efforts with this particular play and how, to the horror of the audience (and the delight of those listening to its re-telling), it devolved into a total fiasco, which is also the title of the episode. During a quiet moment this past Sunday, I listened again to this particular episode, which host Ira Glass admitted was one of the few times (if not only) when he had to turn off his microphone because he was laughing/snorting uncontrollably. If you have 20 minutes to spare, and looking for a good laugh, I don’t think this particular episode will disappoint.
A friendly reminder about our upcoming 7th grade dance, being held on the evening of June 12th. Tina Connors is helping to coordinate the plans for this event, and if you are interested and willing to provide some help, we would all be most appreciative. If you can help out the night of the 7th Grade Dance or donate food or drinks for the dance, please use this SignUpGenius link to let us know how you can help. If you have any questions, please contact Tina Connors at email@example.com.
Thanks to those families who have submitted their field trip permission form and payment for the end-of-year field trips to Kimball’s (7th grade) and Canobie Lake (8th grade). These are daylong trips scheduled for the second-to-last day of school (June 24). If you still need to send it in, please make an effort to do so this week. If any families would benefit from some financial assistance for this final field trip, please don’t hesitate to contact Jim Marcotte at firstname.lastname@example.org. Towards the end of the week, we will begin reaching out to families for whom we do not have a record of their plans for that day.
You may recall that students on 8 Gold and 8 Green held a series of fundraising events last week to support relief efforts in Nepal. Along with a weeklong Bingo activity, the capstone event was on Thursday where a group of RJ Grey staff were put through a gauntlet of different challenges that put each of us in some type of compromising position. After a short trivia competition, relay race, and teacher “rap battle” (those in attendance may feel like referring to it as a “battle” is a bit generous), twelve staff members made themselves available to be on the receiving end of a whip cream pie.
Before I comment on the photo to the left, it’s important to note that over $1600 was raised through the hard work of students on 8 Gold and 8 Green, under the guidance of Ms. Mazonson and Ms. Carter, and they deserve much applause for their efforts and commitment to playing a role in what continues to be a difficult humanitarian crisis in Nepal.
Back to the photo for a moment. A few notes, in no particular order: (1) it’s really hard to get whip cream off of contact lenses, just a little FYI; (2) the joy on Ms. Roadman’s face after I was “pied” is considerable, she and I need to discuss this; (3) despite two showers, and some vigorous washing of the hair, I smelled like a dairy farm for another 24 hours; (4) the whole event was great fun, and I can now cross “get pied in the face” off of my bucket list.
Since April, we’ve been deep in the throes of making some initial preparations for next year, and welcoming current 6th grade students and families to RJ Grey. During our various information sessions, we’ve begun sharing/describing aspects of the school - from how teaming works, to different areas of the curriculum. One change that we have shared with incoming families, and I wanted to make mention here (though it only affects future 7th grade classes), is a shift in our 7th grade Exploratory program. Next year, instead of Study Skills, we will be including a Digital Literacy exploratory course, along with Art, Minuteman Tech, and Music. Ms. Roadman, who currently teaches the Study Skills course, will be teaching this new course and we’re looking forward to this new addition to our curriculum.
There are a number of factors that motivated this change, and one of them is our belief in the importance of providing students at this age some sustained exposure to the different digital platforms that are becoming more common and central to their personal and academic lives. As our school continues to focus on the AB Schools platform for communication between and amongst students and teachers, we want to ensure that students have a familiarity and comfort with the tools we are asking them to utilize, including and especially when they enter 8th grade. Along with providing some opportunities to improve basic skills (ranging from keyboarding to the suite of applications in Google Drive), this course will also help students with developing greater comfort and facility with conducting effective online research, which will support their coursework at the Junior High and beyond. Along with our current 8th grade Computer Literacy course (to be renamed Digital Literacy 8), this new course will create a two-year curriculum arc that we hope complements the goals and activities taking place in our students’ other classes.
Many of you have students who had positive experiences in the Study Skills exploratory, and may feel some disappointment with the fact that in order for us to offer the Digital Literacy course, we had to move away from continuing to offer Study Skills. Please know that we recognize that there are still lessons and strategies that need to continue getting “air time” during 7th grade, and our plans next year include two pathways for addressing this need: (1) Ms. Roadman still plans to incorporate various Study Skills “concepts” when there is logical overlap with the Digital Literacy curriculum, in areas such as organization and time management; and (2) the teams and team teachers continue to discuss ways to engage students in developing tools and strategies for those same topics. Most (if not all) of the teams are currently exploring implementation of some organizational strategies that we recently discussed at a staff meeting, and those conversations will be ongoing (including our next staff meeting, actually). I feel good about the plan we have in place, and looking forward to the work that lies ahead in this area.
Finally, Grey Matters ends this week with another nod to the most recent edition of Poetry Fridays. Last week, Mr. Malloy read a poem by Philip Schultz entitled “What I Like and Don’t Like”, which you can read by clicking on the title.
Have a great week, everyone.
If I was a bit more clever, had a bit more time, and it wasn’t so nice outside, I might have tried to make this week’s Grey Matters double as a giant word puzzle, and deciphering it would lead you to the hidden phrase, “Free Tom Brady”. After this intro paragraph, this week’s updates will be free of any references to deflated footballs, or at least more probable than not. Other than science teachers who teach lessons on air pressure and the Ideal Gas Law, I am not sure who else benefits from the non-stop news coverage this particular story is generating. Instead, I encourage everyone to turn their attention to the great weather we continue to have, and start thinking about summer. Here’s an article in today’s Boston Globe Magazine that highlights some New England beach options.
A few activities and events this week that we want everyone to know about, and consider attending. First, a follow up to last week’s brief announcement about some work by our students to raise funds for the relief effort in Nepal (which, sadly, experienced another large earthquake last week). Over the last two weeks, students in 8 Gold and 8 Green have been organizing a series of fundraisers to support Save the Children, which has had a dedicated presence in Nepal for four decades and has a fund specifically earmarked for earthquake relief. Students began collecting donations in the cafeteria during all lunch periods and have already raised over $900 for the cause. This past week, students had an opportunity to buy a Bingo card in their homeroom, and every morning a few numbers were announced during the morning announcements, with the BINGO winner receiving a gift card to Orange Leaf.
The capstone event to these efforts takes place this Thursday, May 21 from 2:30-3:30. RJ Grey will host an after-school where students can pay admission to the gym to watch their teachers perform impromptu performances, answer pop culture trivia questions, and hit each other with pool noodles. And I can now confirm that students will have the opportunity to see their teachers, and their Principal, get (whip cream) pied in the face. This, for only $3 a ticket, so we encourage students to come and participate in the event.
Two performing arts related events this week:
We also want to turn everyone’s attention to this year’s Empty Bowls Ice Cream Social, something that has taken place for the past three years. On Thursday, June 4, from 5:30 to 7pm, families can enjoy an evening of Art, Singing and Ice Cream! Students will showcase their art and singing talents and invite families to a charity ice cream social. 7th grade students made hand-crafted ceramic bowls in their art classes and families that participate will get to take home a hand-crafted bowl as a reminder of the vast number of hungry families around the world and right here in our own community. The money raised from this event will be donated to the Acton Community Supper and Acton Food Pantry. This organization helps to feed many hungry families in the greater Acton area. Last year this event helped to raise an amazing $1000 for the charity! As another treat, the Select Choir will perform throughout the evening in our outdoor courtyard. This event is also an opportunity for 7th grade students to display other artistic works in a non-competitive, communal environment. If you have any questions, please email Sara Haskin at email@example.com.
Some friendly reminders about our two upcoming dances, one for each grade. The 7th grade dance will be on the evening of June 12th. Here is a message from Tina Connors, who has graciously offered to help organize the event: “The Student Council is going to have a 7th Grade Dance this year! This event will be much more low-key than the 8th Grade Dance but will still be a fun end of the year get-together. The 7th graders will have a nice time to socialize with music, games and food. We need your help to make this happen. If you can help out the night of the 7th Grade Dance or donate food or drinks for the dance, please use this SignUpGenius link to let us know how you can help. Thank you!!” If you have any questions, please contact Tina Connors at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And again, the 8th grade Dance is scheduled for Friday, June 19th and Judy Nolan is choreographing that particular event. If you are willing to provide some help with food, set up, or clean up, please contact her at: email@example.com
We continue to accept registrations for next year’s RJ Grey trip to Washington DC! At the end of last week, we had a little of 60 students (all current 7th graders) sign up for the 4-day adventure. If your child is still interested in attending, and you would benefit from a little more information, I would encourage you to do two things: (1) check out the Close Up Foundation’s website; and (2) contact Marc Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I don’t know if any of us needs a reminder that we have the Memorial Day long weekend coming up. We don’t have school next Monday, and then right after that we enter the month of June. A bit hard to believe, but exciting nonetheless.
Have a great week, everyone.
Happy Mother’s Day to any and all of you who plays that role to one (or more) of our students, or to anyone else. With the gift of wonderful weather on Sunday, hopefully many of you took the opportunity to do something outside (perhaps even made a pilgrimage to a beach). For those of you whose children have not yet developed the habits that lead to a clean bedroom and/or clothes and books strewn all over your home, my Mother’s Day present to you is this photo that I took last Friday afternoon to reassure all of you that your child’s penchant for, and comfort with, total chaos, is not reserved just for your home.
In fairness to the students, the lockers at RJ Grey aren’t exactly the widest nor the friendliest in terms of fitting everything one might need into its limited square footage. So having books and binders spilling into the hallways is somewhat understandable and forgivable; and while I myself have developed some strategies that allow me to maintain a fairly clean and neat office, I am notoriously bad at keeping the inside of my car clean, so I suppose I should be grateful that no one has photographed the backseat of my car and sent it out for everyone’s viewing pleasure.
We have now completed MCAS testing for the year (hallelujah). If your child missed any of his/her testing days last week, we will be holding make-up sessions during the first part of this week. If you have any questions, please contact Jim Marcotte at email@example.com. Our students deserve a lot of credit and applause for their effort during our MCAS sessions, and we appreciate their approach to what can be a cumbersome and lengthy process.
Last week I mentioned plans to take the annual 8th grade class picture. We had to re-schedule it, and our plan is to now take the photo this Wednesday. Order forms will be distributed to 8th grade students at the start of this week, and collected from everyone when we gather for the photo. If you have any questions, or if the cost of the photo is a hardship for your family, please contact Jim Marcotte (clearly, I’m keeping him busy) and he can address those questions or requests.
Two events that I want to highlight right now is, first, our Spring band concert, which will be this Tuesday, May 12 at 7:00pm (in the RJ Grey auditorium). Secondly, on Tuesday, May 19, the Spring chorus concert will be held, also at 7pm in the auditorium. We hope to see many of you at each/both events. For any questions regarding the events, please contact Mr. Hickey (Band) at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Mr. Charig (Chorus) at email@example.com.
I also want to encourage families to circle Thursday, May 21 on their respective calendars. Later on this week, we’ll be sharing some of our plans to hold a fundraiser after school to support relief efforts in Nepal. A number of teachers and students are working hard on developing some plans for that event, and rumor has it some of those plans may involve throwing pies at the Principal. Not sure how accurate those rumors are, but I say “bring it on”. Later that evening, our Drama Club will be performing its “Springs Series Showcase”, starting at 7pm in the RJ Grey auditorium (Dragonfly Theatre), so we hope many of you also consider attending that performance, which has recently become a wonderful annual tradition. You can print out this flyer, and post it in your kitchen as a reminder.
In last week’s Grey Matters, I incorrectly listed the date of the upcoming 7th grade dance as being Friday, May 29 (sorry about that). It’s actually being held on Friday, June 12. More info will come regarding volunteer help that might be needed, and when/how to purchase tickets. I also provided last week a “save the date” for the 8th grade End of Year Dance/Celebration, which will be on June 19th. Again, the success of this event is only possible because of the willingness of our parents and guardians to offer their help and support. Parents or guardians of 7th and 8th graders are needed for the following jobs:
Please contact Judy Nolan at firstname.lastname@example.org if you can help with any of the jobs. Thank you, and continued thanks to Judy for her coordination of this event.
Even though the 8th grade Dance/Celebration is a little over a month away, I want to re-share some information at this time about the event - and do my best not to oversell or undersell the atmosphere that exists at this great end-of-year activity. Every year, I mention the below thoughts because sometimes, during some bouts of excitement about the event, a few expectations get generated within our student population that may be a bit on the unrealistic/ambitious/fantasy-ish side-- and then they occasionally get re-articulated to parents as school guidelines. So below is my annual “We’re really excited for this event, but this is not an episode of MTV’s My Super Sweet Sixteen” plea.
We definitely make an effort (and with the help of parent volunteers, are always successful) to make this more than a “typical” or casual dance/celebration in terms of atmosphere -- we’ve got great decorations, a photo booth, and an impressive spread of food (and it’s at night). At the same time, we are not trying to create our own version of a Prom. We want students to come excited and eager to spend an evening with their friends and classmates, and somewhat dressed up for the event. They don’t, however, need to think about “coming with a date” (the overwhelming majority do not, and is not even on their radar), hair appointments, or special transportation. We ask students who attend this event to dress a bit more formally than most would for a regular school day -- be it a dress or nice slacks, collared shirts (some choose to wear ties), and some form of khakis (in other words, not wearing jeans). I’d try and get into more detail about clothing options, but then you’d discover how out of touch I am with current youth fashion trends. Finally, if dancing is not your son/daughter’s “thing”, please assure them that it’s not a required activity for the evening, and many simply come and socialize with their peers.
Finally, I’d like to quickly recognize the Origami Club, one of the new student clubs that has been meeting this school year. I came across a few articles about how origami can help develop certain student skills, and some of the more recent developments in the origami world, and thought I’d pass them along as a form of advertisement for our own Origami Club, which I am fairly sure will be active next year, and would welcome students who have any level of interest in this craft. First, here is an article on “Why Origami Improves Student Skills”; and here’s a widely-viewed TED talk on the “Math and Magic of Origami”.
Have a great week, everyone.
You might have seen all of the news stories this weekend touting the past few days as a “packed sports and special event-filled weekend.” That was certainly the case, though I was a little surprised that the national media was somehow aware of the Shen Family Google Calendar, and felt that it was newsworthy. I sit here at our dining room table with Melisa recovering from 3 baseball games, 4 soccer games, one birthday party, an outing to Roller Kingdom, and attendance at Hayden’s school’s annual school auction. Melisa and I are currently jockeying for who has to gets to take our daughter to her baseball practice tonight. Come to think of it, pick-up and drop-off services to and from all of your child’s sporting events would have been one auction item that would have received a monthly mortgage-sized bid from me. We, and our kids, survived despite the fact that our travel accommodations were slightly less luxurious than the one utilized by Tom Brady and friends for their trip to the Kentucky Derby (click on the link to see a slideshow of this year’s hats) and then the heralded Mayweather-Pacquiao boxing match in Las Vegas. No private plane for the kids, just my Ford Explorer that probably still has Cheerios stuck underneath the booster seats, and several bags of earthworm castings in the trunk that we bought for our mulch beds. We also had another loose tooth finally break free, and so I also spent some of my time on the sidelines researching on my phone the current “going rate” that the Tooth Fairy offers, only to discover that there’s actually an annual survey conducted on this!
One final reminder that the next round of MCAS testing is this week. Here’s the schedule:
If your child is absent for any of his/her testing dates, we will make arrangements with them to participate in the make-up sessions scheduled for early next week. Please remember to encourage/facilitate a good night’s sleep before each MCAS session, and make a point of getting your kids to eat a little something in the morning.
Later on this week, 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 have any questions or need any sort of financial assistance for either the field trip and/or class photo, please contact Jim Marcotte at email@example.com. 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.
I provided a “save the date” last week for our end-of-year 8th grade dance, which is scheduled for Friday, June 19th. I also want to provide 7th grade families with their own “save the date” for a 7th grade dance that we are planning for Friday, May 29th. We haven’t had a 7th grade Spring dance in a few years, mostly because we hadn’t had a lot of success with attendance in previous years. We think there’s reason to think that this year might be different, and so we’re working with the Student Council to plan this event (stay tuned for details).
Back to the 8th grade End-of-Year Dance/Celebration - I’m going to wait a few weeks before I offer some reminders and notes about how we view the event (we want to make it special, and it’s not our intention to make it a mini-Prom). For now, I’d like to pass along some information from Judy Nolan, the RJ Grey parent who (thankfully) is again coordinating the planning of the event. Given that we usually have at least 350 student attend, we rely heavily on the many volunteers who help make the event a special way to end the year. Parents or guardians of 7th and 8th graders are needed for the following jobs:
Similar to past years, it would be great to see parents of 7th graders volunteer to "pay it forward" this year so that parents of eighth graders can focus on their own children's participation in this important event. You'll also get a preview of what your child will be able to enjoy next year! Please contact Judy Nolan at firstname.lastname@example.org if you can help with any of the jobs. Thank you!
We had a wonderful turnout to last Thursday evening’s information session about next April’s Washington DC trip through the Close Up Foundation. Thank you to those who have expressed interest in the trip, and the many who have already submitted an initial deposit. For those who are still interested, please rest assured that there are still spaces available (we will include up to 150 students). Marc Lewis, Social Studies teacher on 7 Green, is coordinating this trip, and would the best contact for those who have questions and would like to learn more. You can reach him at email@example.com.
On a more sobering note, I would imagine most of you have seen and read updates about conditions in Nepal after the significant earthquake that took place a little over a week ago. You won’t be surprised to hear that we have students, families, and RJ Grey staff who are interested in organizing some efforts to collect resources and funds that can be sent to Nepal to support relief programs. I have been working with an RJ Grey family that has offered to facilitate the collection of materials and supplies that can be sent to Nepal, and I know of at least one team that is beginning to develop some student-led fundraising efforts. Please stay tuned for information on these plans as they become more defined - we’ll post updates in our Daily Announcements.
Finally, our latest installment of Poetry Fridays was a nod to Earth Day, which was recently held on April 22 and 45 years after the first Earth Day was celebrated, an estimated one billion people in 192 countries took part. Last Friday’s poem was about the home we all share, and is entitled, “Look it Over” by poet Wendell Berry. Click here to read the poem.
Have a great week, everyone. Rumor has it we might finally hit 80 degrees. Fingers crossed.
Welcome back! I hope everyone had an April Break that was enjoyable and/or restful and/or filled with some adventure. For those who did some traveling, you may have heard that the weather here at home was promising during the first weekend in terms of warmer temperatures, and then for the rest of the week it was fairly cool. However, there isn’t any snow left in our yard, so we are happy campers. One activity for the Shens that didn’t rely on warmer weather was using our firepit to make s’mores, which we did a few times this past week. To the left is a photo of Parker as he prepares to cook his (5th) marshmallow (next week’s Grey Matters will be focused on my many effective strategies for teaching moderation). I took the photo to the left with the intention of using it for this newsletter, and I have to confess - I spent a good five minutes debating whether I should wrap Parker’s marshmallow with a
slice of bacon so that I could take a photo of that just to generate a reaction from the Grey Matters readership. As you can see, I resisted the temptation, and we stuck to the traditional graham cracker, chocolate, and marshmallow combination.
For those who ran the Boston Marathon last week, or who went to the event to cheer on friends and family, I hope it was a great day for all of you. In honor of those running, I ran a quarter-marathon that day (there’s no such thing, but describing it that way makes me feel accomplished), finishing 6.5 miles on a treadmill, in a temperature-controlled gym, while watching a television show. So clearly, my struggle to weather the elements was almost identical to those who trekked up Heartbreak Hill. Of course, given how many marshmallows I ate over break, I probably would have benefited from running a bit more than I did. Ok, on to some news and notes for the next few weeks…..
This week is a busy one in terms of our engagement with current 6th grade families whose children plan to join us at RJ Grey in September. We have our Curriculum Night scheduled for this Wednesday evening, and then we have two days of tours that we offer to parents and guardians on Thursday and Friday; and then on Monday, the PTSO is hosting an event where families can engage directly with current parents to discuss the transition process and the strategies, advice, and reassurances that our parents are most equipped to offer to incoming families. If you have friends and/or neighbors who are joining the RJ Grey community for the first time this Fall, please encourage them to attend some of these programs, as we look forward to welcoming them (and their children) to our school.
Our Spring athletic programs (baseball, softball, track) will hopefully have some warm weather, and dry fields when we return to school this week. For those with children on one of the teams, please know that we’ll share weather-related news about games and practice during our afternoon announcements, and also post it on our Twitter feed. Mr. Maver, our baseball coach (and PE teacher), has challenged invited me to visit the team and throw some pitches during a round of batting practice. I did this a few years ago, and 85% of my pitches were low and away, because I couldn’t get out of my mind what the following day’s news headlines would be if I (accidentally) beaned one of our students. I may take Mr. Maver up on his offer, but those of you with kids on the team shouldn’t be surprised if they come home wondering why Mr. Shen couldn’t get most of his pitches over the plate.
A friendly reminder for families whose children participate in our Band or Chorus programs. The Spring concerts are coming upon us. The Band’s Spring concert is scheduled for Tuesday, May 12 at 7pm, and the Chorus’ Spring concert is scheduled for Tuesday, May 19 at 7pm. Please stay tuned for updates from your kids and/or Mr. Hickey (band) or Mr. Charig (chorus) about details for those evening festivities.
For 8th grade families, a very brief “save the date” for the annual End-of-Year Celebration for 8th grade students. It will be held the evening of Friday, June 19th, so mark it on your calendars. In next week’s Grey Matters, I’ll share a bit more about the event, and also the role that families play in making it a great event to finish off the year (and one’s time at RJ Grey).
Our next (and final) round of MCAS testing starts next week. Here’s the schedule:
Similar to the first round, we begin MCAS testing about 15 minutes after homeroom so we can provide some time to make sure that all students have a chance to settle down and have the chance to eat something. If you have time at home, please think about making sure your child has a good breakfast before leaving. If you don’t have time, please feel free to send your child in with some food that they can eat during that brief period before testing begins. We will again be providing each room with enough food (juice boxes, breakfast bars) for students who didn’t have the opportunity to eat at home, or able to bring something on their own. If your child misses any of the above testing days, we will contact them about the make-up days that are scheduled for the following week. If you have any questions about the testing period, please contact Jim Marcotte at firstname.lastname@example.org
The week prior to the April Break, I met with our fifth group of Everyday Leaders, who joined me for some pizza and conversation, as the students caught me up on how the school year has gone, and some ideas I should entertain for next year. Congratulations to the following students whose teachers included them in this cohort of Everyday Leaders: Alisha Purakayastha, Lisa Zhou, Sam de la Cruz, Jesse Benn, Nick Carmosino, Drew Murray, Drew Dalaklis, Clare Simpson, Arjun Jain, and Kirtana Krishnakumar.
Finally, one last reminder for our 7th grade families about our plans next year to offer a school trip to Washington, DC during the April Break. Up to 150 students will be able to participate in this program, and we will first offer spots to our current 7th graders and then in September open remaining spaces to our newest class of students, as well as those who may not have signed up this Spring. If you are interested in learning more about this opportunity (financial cost, logistics, and programming) for your child, please considering attending an informational session at the junior high school this Thursday at 6pm in our auditorium. This meeting will be led by Marc Lewis (7 Green Social Studies) and a representative from the Close Up organization (and I’ll be there too).
Have a great week, everyone. Welcome back.
I haven’t reversed course on my desire for this year’s long overdue Spring weather to finally make an appearance and make itself at home for the next few months. However, that excitement did get tempered last week when my wife and I sat down one evening to plug in all of our three kids’ sports schedules, including games, practices, and “skills nights” (still not sure how that’s different from practice). If anyone out there has figured out how to be at four different locations at the same time, we’d welcome the advice. My semi-fake complaining aside (and knowing that this “problem” is really of our own creation), looking at these youth sports schedules did remind me of the significant time and energy that all of the volunteer coaches have committed to these programs, and how fortunate the rest of us are for their enthusiasm and patience. Both those qualities were on display Saturday morning during my 8-year old daughter’s baseball team’s first practice which included a 10-minute team discussion about everyone’s favorite candy.
The start of Major League Baseball, and Opening Day at Fenway Park is another way that many of us celebrate the arrival of Spring. This past week’s Poetry Friday offering from Mr. Malloy is a small homage to the hometown team (which is at least off to a decent start). The poem he read is entitled “John Green Takes His Warner, New Hampshire, Neighbor to a Red Sox Game” by Maxine Kumin. Click here if you want to read the poem before Monday’s 3:05pm home opener.
One last reminder that the Discovery Museum is hosting a great event today (Monday) April 13th with columnist Frank Bruni. Mr. Bruni will be in the RJ Grey auditorium, giving a talk entitled “From Diapers to Diploma: A Healthier Way to Navigate Your Child’s Path to College.” For more information about this event, and for the link to reserve a seat, you can view this event flyer. For Mr. Bruni’s most recent New York Times column about this issue, click here.
For 7th grade families, thank you for your efforts to return the 8th grade registration form that each of you received last week. If you still happen to have the registration form, please bring it to RJ Grey as soon as possible, as the deadline was last Friday. As a reminder, your child’s world language and recommended math level were already listed on the form, and we need(ed) you and your child to identify a Grey Block choice for next year. For those families who wish to submit a Math Override form, please remember that it is a separate form that must be received by this coming Friday, April 17th (the day before April Break)- forms and requests received after that date can not be honored. The override form can be picked up at the Junior High Main Office. Before submitting the form, please complete the required step of communicating with your child’s math teacher to engage in a conversation about their observations and feedback.
Also for 7th grade families, another reminder about our plans next year to offer a school trip to Washington, DC during the April Break. We will depart RJ Grey early Sunday morning for a flight to Washington, spend four days there as part of the Close Up Foundation’s Washington Middle School Program, and return to Acton on Wednesday night. Some of the highlights of the trip include a visit to the National Air and Space Museum, a walking workshop of Capitol Hill, a mock Congress debating timely political issues, and an afternoon at Arlington Cemetery and the National Archives. Up to 150 students will be able to participate in this program. We will first offer spots to our current 7th graders and then in September open remaining spaces to our newest class of students, as well as those who may not have signed up this Spring. If you are interested in learning more about this exciting opportunity (financial cost, logistics, and programming) for your child, please considering attending an informational session at the junior high school on the evening of April 30 at 6pm in our auditorium (we were originally scheduled for the Library, but now there’s a School Committee meeting taking place).
Finally, we are coming upon April Vacation. Along with an opportunity for many of us to take a vacation and maybe visit faraway places, April Vacation also traditionally begins with the running of the Boston Marathon. We typically have residents of Acton and Boxborough, and members of RJ Grey, who will be running in the marathon. We wish everyone participating in the event the best of luck, a race free of blisters, and great joy as you cross the finish line.
Have a great week, and a restful April Break, everyone.