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Grey Matters, March 16, 2015; Volume 3, Number 26

posted Mar 15, 2015, 6:43 AM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jul 6, 2015, 6:51 AM by James Marcotte ]

Hi Everyone,

Almost two months ago, I made a commitment to all of you, and to myself, to stop using Grey Matters to highlight and/or celebrate and/or eye-roll at our nation’s (and my son’s) obsession with bacon.  Just because I stopped writing about it doesn’t mean that articles and pictures of the smoky meat haven’t been piling up in my inbox during this self-imposed hiatus.  My decision to now break my vow of bacon-free newsletters wasn’t because someone sent me a link to  bacon-flavored toothpaste; instead, it’s because Dunkin Donuts is rolling out a bacon donut (currently being tested out in Rhode Island), and it will probably make an appearance in our community in the very near future.  Just reading about this new breakfast item clogged up one of my arteries.  

I have several important updates, notes and reminders that I’d like to share (par for the course in the month of March).  This includes some details about Spring sports programs, 9th grade course registration, and upcoming community events. So here we go:

First, some quick hits:

  • Report cards for the Winter Trimester will be sent home with students on Tuesday or Wednesday of this week.  We will include a note in the Daily Announcements on that day.  

  • MCAS testing begins Tuesday, March 24 with the 7th grade Long Composition portion of the assessment.  That will be immediately followed by the 8th grade ELA MCAS on March 25 and March 26, and then 7th grade ELA MCAS on March 30 and 31st (the following week).

  • Looking ahead to the end of the month:  we have our last early release day scheduled for Thursday, April 2.  Students will be dismissed at 10:40am, and staff will use the remainder of the day for professional workshops.  

  • There is no school scheduled for the following day, Friday, April 3, as it is Good Friday.  

For 8th grade families, here is some information to complement your child’s 9th grade registration process.  This past week, all 8th grade students participated in two workshops - one offered by our Junior High counselors, and one led by High School staff.  Here is a link to the slide show that our Junior High counselors presented to give an introduction to the nuts and bolts of the high school schedule.  To complement these presentations, the high school has posted several important documents on their homepage.  Several of those documents can also be seen here: (1) Online course selection Instructions: Instructions and Timeline for Course Scheduling; (2) Program of Studies with detailed course descriptions can be seen by clicking here: Program of Studies; (3) Parent Portal: can be found by clicking here: Power School Parent Portal; and (4) Time Management Worksheet: can be located by clicking here.

During the presentation led by High School staff, there was some attention paid to an overview of life at the high school, and some of the benefits of the Student Ambassadors program.  By now, students should have received an email inviting them to indicate their interest in being matched with a high school ambassador.  To provide parents with some understanding of this program, the High School asked me to include the following: “The Ambassador program pairs incoming 9th grade students with upperclassmen to help them feel more comfortable entering the high school. Ambassadors can answer questions about life at the high school, give students a tour and just be a friendly face to help welcome them to the school in the fall. We have found that having an established connection with an older student at the high school helps students feel more comfortable and positive about the transition and we hope you will encourage your students to sign up!”

The schedule is now set and posted for tryouts and sign ups for our Spring sports (Baseball, Softball, and Track).  Please remember that all students must have a “Green Form” in order to participate, and can be downloaded on the Athletics page of our website.   There are still tryouts for baseball and softball, and track continues to be a “no-cut sport.”  In other words, any student interested in participating is welcome to join.  For the last few years, we have averaged somewhere between 200 and 250 students participating in the track program, which is a sight to see (especially during the track meets).  

In terms of participation in the track program, we have noticed recently that there is a contingent of students (and families) who are interested in the track program, but not prepared to commit to the full practice and meet schedule.  This, as you can imagine, can create  some challenges given the need to organize and schedule things like relays teams, practice plans, and logistics for away meets.  With this in mind, we are going to offer students the choice to sign up for one of two options: (1) students who can commit to at least three practices per week, including all home meets, should sign up for the Blue Team.  Students who wish to travel to away meets (in addition to home meets) and be eligible for relay teams and field events can sign up for the Gold Team.  Gold Team members are expected to attend all practices and all meets, without exception (unless the student is sick and absent from school).  It is entirely up to the student (and his/her family) to choose the best option that makes the most sense for him or her.  Please note that the participation fee is the same for either option.  The first meeting for the RJ Grey Track Team is on Monday, March 30th immediately after school in our auditorium.  Anyone who thinks they would like to participate (including those planning to first tryout for baseball or softball first) should attend.  The above options will be explained to everyone so they can make an informed decision.  

I want to make mention again of the April 1 community event with Michael Thompson, who will be speaking on the topic of “The Pressured Child”.  This is an event (7pm in the High School auditorium) sponsored by the AB PTSO, Danny’s Place, and the AB United Way.  Some of you may be familiar with his book, Raising Cain, which focused on the emotional life of adolescent boys, and was a New York Times bestseller.  Dr. Thompson has continued to explore the changing world of adolescents, and The Pressured Child looks closely at the increasing emphasis on academic performance of students and the messages about needing to excel in every arena.  

In a world of “Great Minds Think Alike” I learned last week that the Discovery Museum is hosting a similar event two weeks after Dr. Thompson, featuring award-winning New York Times columnist Frank Bruni. A few of Mr. Bruni’s past columns have made its way into Grey Matters, since he often writes about issues regarding contemporary schooling and parenting.  On Monday, April 13 at 6:30pm, 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” and, like Dr. Thompson, offering perspective on the school and parent landscape where there exists (somewhat prominently) a mindset that sees a particular set of colleges as the primary purpose and focus of primary and secondary schooling.  For a preview of some issues and challenges that Mr. Bruni tackles in his recent work, check out his most recent column in yesterday’s New York Times.  There is no charge for tickets, but those interested in attending must reserve a seat online.  For more information about this event, and for the link to reserve a seat, you can view this event flyer.  

In early February, Dr. Brand shared with the community our plans to initiate a search for a new Director of Pupil Services, a department that includes special education, counseling and psychology, nursing, ELL, and the integrated preschool program.  The search committee for this position has identified three finalists, and they will each be visiting the District over the course of the next two weeks, and also participating in a community forum on Monday, March 23 from 6:30pm to 8;45pm.  Each candidate is scheduled for back-to-back 45 minute sessions, and during her session will introduce herself and be available for questions and dialogue from those who attend.  We would encourage anyone interested in meeting with the candidates to attend these forums.  You can learn a bit about each candidate by viewing this announcement.  

Finally, our latest edition of Poetry Fridays last week was delivered by Ms. Kellie Carter, social studies teacher on 8 Green.  For the next two weeks, Ms. Carter will be in Georgia - the Republic in eastern Europe, rather than the state known for peaches - as part of an international teacher exchange program.  Ms. Carter will be using a number of digital platforms to stay connected to her students, and giving them a chance to engage with her during her travels.  Before she left, Ms. Carter wanted to read a poem that she came across as she was preparing for 8 Green’s China unit, written by a Chinese poet named Han-Shan.  Han-Shan lived during the Tang Dynasty, some time between the 7th and 10th century.  The name Han-Shan means Cold Mountain and his poems reflect both Daoist and Buddhist ideas.  Ms. Carter read the below poem, which is untitled:

If I hide out at Cold Mountain

Living off mountain plants and berries

All my lifetime, why worry?

One follows his karma through

Days and months slip by like water,

Time is like sparks knocked off flint.

Go ahead and let the world change-

I’m happy to sit among these cliffs

Have a great week, everyone.