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Grey Matters, November 24, 2014; Volume 3, Number 12

posted Nov 23, 2014, 7:35 AM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jul 6, 2015, 6:57 AM by James Marcotte ]

Hi Everyone,

I know that the weather forecast for Monday suggests temperatures in the 60s, but the cold air that swept in last week has convinced me that it may be time to pull out the insulated snow pants for traffic duty.  Here’s hoping that we avoid a Buffalo-like snowstorm this winter (check out this video from a Buffalo resident’s drone, and set aside for a moment our collective wondering about why this guy has a drone in his garage).  As cold as I was last Wednesday morning, I was able to keep my own chills in perspective since part of my drive to school was behind a garbage truck that had a gentleman riding on the side of it, getting absolutely clobbered by the wind.  That looked tough, and the image was later juxtaposed next to scenes of more than a few RJ Grey students arriving in shorts! I did give some of them a hard time (through my chattering teeth), but it sounds like I was nowhere near as aggressive as the President of the Weston Golf Club when he confronted a visiting couple that dared to ignore all semblance of civility and wear denim in the clubhouse.  My favorite part of the story (besides the police being called) was (1) learning that this incident warranted a formal investigation and (2) that said investigation uncovered that the members who the visiting couple were meeting were also wearing denim, and were subsequently suspended from the club for three months.  

While you’re digesting the details of the above story, I think it’s the perfect opportunity to remind all of you that our school’s annual Coat Drive continues, and that we have members of our local and wider community who will most definitely benefit from the donated coats (who are cleaned free of charge by Anton’s Cleaners).  Thanks again to 7 Red and Ms. Doiron for leading this effort.  

A couple of quick notes/reminders before I direct your attention to a few things:

  • We have a half-day of school on Wednesday.  School is dismissed at 11:06, and buses will be waiting outside at that time.  

  • The Fall Trimester ends on Wednesday.  We’ll be working on printing report cards and will most likely have them ready for distribution on or around December 9.  

  • Last week Cal Armistead, author of Being Henry David and an Acton resident, visited RJ Grey and met with students on 8 Green and 8 Orange.  We look forward to another visit later in the year when the other 8th grade teams read her novel, and you can see pictures of her time at RJ Grey by visiting our Twitter page.  

Our R.J. GREY yearbooks are on sale starting today - Monday, November 24, and will continue to be sold through Wednesday, December 24th. The price this year will remain at $37.   If you or your child wants to receive one in June, you/they must order a book by the December 24th deadline.  This year, there are two ways to order:

Online:          Go to this link

                        Pay by credit card

                        Save your email receipt for record purposes (really important)

At school:    Fill out the order form your child will bring home this week, and send it in with check or cash to our main office (ideally in an envelope, please), and label it to the attention of Vicki Weeks

The RJ Grey yearbook is a beautifully designed hardcover book with color photos that commemorates both 7th and 8th grade students' time at R.J. Grey.  We want every family to feel comfortable with ordering a yearbook, so please don’t hesitate to contact us if the cost presents a hardship for your family.  This is important to us and we can thoughtfully, and discretely, work with you to make a yearbook available for your student.  Feel free to contact Jim Marcotte ( if you have any questions.

We had our latest round of Everyday Leaders take place last week. It was a seminal moment in the history of Everyday Leaders because we finally ate something other than pizza (hallelujah).  It was great to spend some time with a number of our students and see how the year is going, eat some sandwiches, and to hear from their teachers about the contributions they are making to our school and their peers.  Congratulations to this group of Everyday Leaders: Corbin McAlpine, Sophia Defoe, Anna Raisbeck, Julia Lee, Angie Cronin, Coby Formaggio, Anthony Pittorino, Arrik Crouse, Harsha Siripurapu, Patrick Kronenwett and Emory Peng.  

We also had Poetry Friday at the end of last week, presented again by Mr. Malloy.  This week, he shared a poem that gently pokes fun at our incorrect usage of the word “like” (as in, “it was, like, the best”).  The poem, entitled “What She Said” by Poet Laureate Billy Collins, can be viewed here and you can watch him reciting the poem by clicking here (not the best sound quality, but still worth it).  

Finally, as I mentioned earlier - this is a shortened week, with an early release on Wednesday.  On that day, we will have our annual Thanksgiving Assembly.  This assembly traditionally includes a few speeches by students, and performances by the school band and chorus.  When I prepared for this assembly in my first year as Principal, it brought back all sorts of memories of my own Thanksgiving experiences as a middle school-aged student and I shared some of those memories in that year’s pre-Thanksgiving edition of Grey Matters, and then reposted it last year.  Does three years in a row make it a tradition now? Given the continuing and ever-growing diversity that has evolved in our two communities, I do hope some of what I share resonates with many of you in one way or another.    

When I was younger, Thanksgiving had very little to do with extended family, as most of our relatives were a few thousand miles away.  For my sister and I, Thanksgiving dinner was an event celebrated with just our parents, so it often felt like a lot of work for just another Thursday night dinner.  Growing up in Taiwan, my parents didn’t experience Thanksgiving until they moved here for graduate school, and along with preparing the “traditional” turkey and sides, my parents wanted to include items more familiar to them.  As a result, we had many a Thanksgiving where, next to the mashed potatoes, sat a plate full of pork dumplings; and next to the canned cranberry sauce, there was a bowl filled with a rice dish prepared by my dad.

When I was thirteen, having soy sauce and turkey gravy on the same table bothered me, mostly because it was different from what I understood and assumed to be the proper and traditional way to celebrate this holiday, based on what I learned in school and saw on television.  For me, it meant we weren’t fitting in and continued to make us different at a time when I wanted to be anything but.  This narrow obsession of mine also probably contributed to an inexplicable lifelong craving for Stouffer’s Stove Top stuffing and a preference for canned cranberry sauce (which I had last night since I couldn’t wait).  Once that adolescent desire to fit in faded, I began to appreciate those dinners through a different lens - one that focused on the reality  that the food my parents made was really good, that we had much to be thankful for (including, but not limited to, a table that was always filled with food), and that every family has different twists on how celebrate Thanksgiving (check out this site for some mouth-watering examples) - and it’s those unique twists that are at the heart of any tradition.

As I got older, I also came to discover that our approach to Thanksgiving was definitely more manageable than some of the other family “traditions” I have now heard about from friends and colleagues, and have myself witnessed when spending time with my wife’s extended (and blended) Irish and Italian family.  Little did I realize how fortunate the Shen family was to not have to wrestle with deciding which relative slept in what room during the holiday, who was in charge of making sure Uncle Mike didn’t upset Cousin Caitlin with his boorish political commentary, and preparing for however much criticism (also known as “advice”) one was to receive from his or her in-laws for the entire day.  

Whatever twist you and your family have planned for your Thanksgiving break, and whatever you plan to eat, I hope you all find some opportunity for a little rest and some good company.  We look forward to seeing everyone back next Monday.  

Have a great week, everyone.