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Grey Matters, December 8, 2014; Volume 3, Number 14

posted Dec 7, 2014, 11:37 AM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jul 6, 2015, 6:56 AM by James Marcotte ]

Hi Everyone,

Last week, I encountered two very interesting updates.  The first was the Oxford Dictionary’s  quarterly update in which it adds words and phrases that have apparently proven to have some “staying power”, such as digital footprint, five-second rule, the ant’s pants (apparently big in Australia), and my personal favorite, duck face (“an exaggerated pouting expression in which the lips are thrust outwards, typically made by a person posing for a photograph”).  Shortly after reading about this update to the Oxford Dictionary, I also received an updated version of my daughter’s Christmas wish list.  Some of you may recall that Wish List 1.0 was fairly ambitious.  She has since removed the request for “1,000,000 dolers,” and inserted a request for 4 concert tickets to see a boy band of which I am unfamiliar (Five Seconds of Summer?) and a Gold Computer.  When I told her I didn’t know what a Gold Computer was, she told me that any computer would do (so flexible and accommodating she is).  For the record, I blame both sets of grandparents for this current predicament.  

Now for this week’s RJ Grey updates:

Another reminder about the Yearbook purchasing period, which ends on December 24.  Families can order online or by completing the form distributed at school.  For details about either option, you can click here.  

Save the Date! Next Monday evening (December 15th) is our workshop with Meghan McCoy from the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center.  Meghan will first present to the 7th grade students during the day on issues related to cyberbullying and social media, and then meet with parents in the evening to offer a parallel presentation and give a snapshot of what was discussed with students earlier that day.  It will be in the Library at 6:30pm.  

The first set of parent-teacher conferences is this Thursday, December 11 from 11:30 to 2:30pm.  This means that all students have a half-day of school and will be dismissed at 10:40am.  Please be sure to check in with your children about your expectations for where they go after school (home or elsewhere).  

The annual RJ Grey ski trip to Waterville Valley will be on Saturday, January 24.  For more information on the trip, click here.  Please note that anyone interested in attending must submit completed forms and payment by this Friday, December 12.  Questions about this trip can be directed to Ms. Murray ( or Ms. Kondracki (

Finally, I’d like to spend a little time talking a bit about report cards.  

Fall Trimester report cards are going home with students this Wednesday.  The original plan was to distribute them on Tuesday, but we experienced some significant technical issues last week with our District’s servers.  Apologies for the slight delay.  Once you do have time to view the report cards, please use this as an opportunity to have a conversation with your child(ren).  For subjects where they experienced some success, what did they think was an important factor, and how can they build on that momentum?  For subjects where they might be hoping to improve, what goals or strategies might be worth trying over the next few months?  Asking students to self-assess and giving them a supportive venue to be honest with themselves is a critical first step to any adjustments that they (or you) might hope they make moving forward.  

I would imagine that amongst our student population, there may be a few whose report cards show some signs of difficulty in a few subjects.  They aren’t the first (nor will they be the last) middle schoolers whose report cards may result in a bit of angst and distress (perhaps an aneurysm) for themselves and their parents.  In fact, your child’s middle school principal is a distinguished member of this group.  Want proof? Here is a photo of my 7th grade winter report card, issued in 1989 by the Andover Public Schools.  Please note that teachers’ names, and my parents’ home address, have been blurred to protect the innocent.  If your child is reluctant to fork over the report card or comes up with an illogical explanation about its whereabouts, compare it to the below story of what I tried to do with mine.  

On the day that the above report card was distributed, I spent a good hour devising an ingenious plan to save myself from what I expected to be a painful conversation with my parents.  My brilliant idea?  I folded up my report card, placed it in my pants pocket, and then purposely ran those pants through the washing machine - twice.  I convinced myself (truly) that a spin cycle or two would actually make the D+ I earned in Math fade a bit and maybe look like a believable B+.  I won’t leave you in suspense, the plan didn’t work.  On behalf of your kids, and the thirteen-year old version of me, please keep in mind that they are not purposely trying to make you miserable and turn prematurely gray/bald.  The prefrontal cortex of thirteen and fourteen-year old brains is still developing, and this will often result in utterly bewildering decisions (and excuses).  It’s ok, this too shall pass (though I’ve been told that this explanation also applies to men until they reach age 40 or 45).

For those whose kids do come home with “that” report card, when you do end up having a conversation with your child about it (and you should definitely have it), please remind yourself of what we all already know: that patience and encouragement (and some mercy) often go a long way in these situations.  Middle school is a time when a dozen things are happening and changing at the same time - to their brains, their bodies, how they relate to peers and adults, and they’re trying on different personalities to see what feels right.  With all this change, sometimes the academic part doesn’t go quite as planned and they may not be prepared to identify the reasons why.  A less-than-stellar middle school report cards is not usually a preview of what your son or daughter will be like when they are adults (or even as high school students), nor is it really structured to offer insight about their continued development as kind, thoughtful, and creative individuals.  We (parents and educators) should definitely continue to have healthy academic goals and aspirations for all of our kids, and let’s remind ourselves that getting there can sometimes be a function of time and might also include (and benefit from) a few detours along the way.  

P.S. for those who might be nervous that RJ Grey’s taxpayer-funded operating budget is being managed by someone who got a D+ in 7th grade Math, please rest assured that the story of my academic studies has what I think most of you would consider a decent ending, and would satisfy most questions about the academic qualifications of the person at the helm of your child’s school (though there were still plenty of other occasions well beyond 7th grade when I avoided telling my parents certain things).  

Have a great week, everyone.