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Grey Matters, January 19, 2015; Volume 3, Number 19

posted Jan 18, 2015, 12:57 PM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jul 6, 2015, 6:54 AM by James Marcotte ]

Hi Everyone,

Given that I’ve now been stopped a few times in town to exchange stories about bacon, I could keep this theme going for a while longer, but I am starting to get heartburn just writing about it again.  So I am sharing one last link to a Pinterest page devoted to a love of bacon, and moving on to other things that we can talk about.  Like this recent article in the New York Times, “Why Some Teams are Smarter Than Others,” that highlights recent research that looks at identifying the characteristics of highly-effective teams.  This article caught my eye for two main reasons.  First, since our school implements a team-based model where a group of educators share a cohort (team) of students for the school year, our ability to coordinate, collaborate, and communicate, is front and center in doing good things for kids.  So I wanted to mine the article for any observations that might prove useful for our staff.  

The second reason is that it got me thinking again about the value of giving adolescents the practice and experience that leads to developing some of the skills that make for an effective team member.  One characteristic of successful teams that was highlighted in the article was having members who scored high on a test called Reading the Mind in the Eyes, which “measures how well people can read complex emotional states from images of faces with only the eyes visible.” This got me wondering to what degree the increase in daily “screen time” (i.e. smartphones, etc.) over face-to-face engagement would affect a young person’s ability to develop the radar that allows him/her to recognize different emotions and interpret certain social situations, and it seems plenty of others have been thinking about this issue well before it ever entered my own head.  Something for all of us to chew on a bit, as parents and educators.  Finally, the article connected with me because I just spent part of this weekend with some friends participating in an Escape the Room adventure.  If you haven’t heard of this, it’s a relatively new activity where a team of people are locked in a staged room, and have one hour to locate clues and solve interconnected puzzles that eventually lead to a key that opens the door.  If any of you enjoy puzzle and riddle-themed activities, you might want to give it a shot (and no, we didn’t escape!).  

I mentioned a few weeks ago that students would be participating in a math mid-year assessment later in January.  For 7th graders, the mid-year assessment is this Thursday (Jan 22) and Friday (Jan 23).  I know the teachers have been helping students review, and students have a review packet to help them prepare.  It might be useful to check in with your son/daughter and see how they’re feeling about the mid-year and using the resources available to them (and remember that enough sleep the night before can make a difference).  8th graders will have their mid-year assessment the following week.  

A few other quick reminders, and notes of thanks:

  • On Wednesday February 11th at 7pm the high school will be hosting an evening for the parents of 8th graders. The goal of the evening is for parents to get an overall feel for the high school - including the class offerings available to ninth grade students. This will be held in the high school auditorium.  

  • The Junior High’s Winter Chorus concert is this Wednesday, January 21st.  Please check in with your son/daughter about arrival time and other concert details.  

  • Thank you to all the parents and students who attended the Michelle Gielan community event last Thursday.  We had about 500 people attend, and it was a great to watch a number of students engage with Michelle after the conclusion of her presentation.  During her presentation, she did mention the work of her husband Shawn Achor, who is fairly well known for his book “The Happiness Advantage”.  He has a pretty quick, but thoughtful (and funny) Ted Talk (click here) that some of you might want to check out if you were intrigued by some of what Michelle shared.  Many thanks to the PTSO, the AB United Way, and Danny’s Place for working with us to make that evening possible.  

  • The District is currently engaged in the process of presenting to the School Committee and the community at large, its proposed budget for next year (2015-2016).  Glenn Brand made an initial presentation on January 8, and will be making another introductory presentation at this Thursday’s School Committee meeting.  Then on Saturday, January 31st, a more comprehensive overview of the proposed budget will be shared and discussed.  If you have any interest in reviewing the materials, you can visit the District’s School Committee website by clicking here.  

Before signing off, I wanted to direct your attention to a recent study that looked at factors that might contribute to children developing the (desired) habit of reading on their own.  The linked article highlights the benefits of reading to children of all ages, and also made mention in a few places that one of the strongest predictors of frequent independent reading by children ages 12 to 17, was whether they had time to read on their own during the school day.  According to the study, only 10 percent of students ages 12 to 14 have time during school to read a book of their choice.  When we made the decision two years ago to implement a daily silent reading period into our schedule, we knew it came at the cost of shortening every other class period by a few minutes.  Along with the feedback that we we’ve received internally (and I want to eventually try and get a bit more from the kids), it’s nice to see current research offering some additional validation for our efforts in this area.  If your son or daughter has shared with you their impressions of silent reading (and whether they are doing more reading in general), I’d welcome the feedback.  

Finally, it would seem appropriate, and maybe even necessary, that on the day we devote to the memory and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, we conclude Grey Matters with a nod of respect and admiration for his legacy and body of work.  Beyond his “I Have a Dream” speech, Dr. King’s ability to use words to elicit strong emotion and moments of clarity is well documented and gives us plenty of options for a quote to insert here.  For some reason, this one spoke to me today and so I offer it to all of you as something to keep in mind and consider:

We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”

Have a great week, everyone.