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Grey Matters, May 25, 2015; Volume 3, Number 35

posted May 25, 2015, 5:47 AM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jul 6, 2015, 6:39 AM by James Marcotte ]

Hi 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

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  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.  IMG_1327.jpg

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.