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Grey Matters, October 13, 2014; Volume 3, Number 6

posted Oct 13, 2014, 12:24 PM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jul 6, 2015, 6:59 AM by James Marcotte ]

Hi Everyone,

My wife and I went to New York City for the long weekend, without our three kids (huzzah!), thanks to the generosity of my sister-in-law.  Like two million other people, we decided to get on the Mass Pike at 4pm (even though news reports warned us), and spent the first two hours just trying to get beyond Worcester, and waiting to travel faster than 12 mph.  Knowing that we wouldn’t arrive in New York until late that evening, we started looking on our phone for restaurants in the central Connecticut area where we could stop for dinner.  By pure luck (and steered a bit by 300 positive ratings on Yelp) we ended up at a wonderful restaurant in South Glastonbury, Connecticut where, because of a few reservation no-shows, we were able to get a table and enjoy a quiet 2 hour dinner (and a nice reminder of what quiet sounds like).  I would imagine that, like the Shen clan, many of your days are tightly scheduled and choreographed as a way to manage the frenetic demands of your family’s activities and commitments.  The fact that we gave ourselves “permission” to go off-script and be a bit spontaneous that evening transformed what began as a dismal drive into one of the highlights of our trip.  Whether the result of a plan or your own spontaneous impulses, I hope each of you found some enjoyment and pleasure during the long weekend.

A few calendar-related reminders before getting too far into other items:

  • 7 Orange and 7 Green will be heading to Christa McAuliffe Center at Framingham State this week (Wednesday thru Friday), and 7 Red and 7 Gold will be next week.  Please contact your team teachers if you have any questions specific to your child’s trip.  

  • There are a few (2-3) more spots for our October 22 IMPACT workshop on self-defense.  Click here if you need a refresher about the activity.  Please contact Kate Murray ( if you have any questions about signing up.  

  • If there are any families interested in following up on last week’s Minuteman Tech presentations, please contact your child’s counselor.  Students who might apply are encouraged to participate in the tour that is scheduled for November 18th (and planned through RJ Grey).  There is also an Open House for families to attend on Sunday, November 23 (1-4pm) or Wednesday, January 28 (7-9pm).  You can call their Admissions Office by calling 781-861-6500 x213.

Two years ago, we began a small recognition program called “Everyday Leaders”  as one way for us to celebrate and put a brighter spotlight on students who, in a variety of ways, demonstrates leadership through daily acts of kindness, enthusiasm, and being respectful towards peers and teachers. Twice a trimester, each team (and each grade’s exploratory, elective, and physical education teachers) identifies a student who they have observed modeling some element of good citizenship within their classes and team. It’s been very satisfying to always be presented with an incredibly diverse group of students -- sitting next to students who are more comfortable with the spotlight, there are always many students whose kindness and positive attitudes present themselves in more subtle and nuanced ways.  

This past Thursday, I met with our first group of Everyday Leaders for a small lunch in the main office.  As I have confessed in the past, in many ways the lunch is more a reward for me, since it gives me a chance to engage with more students (and I have no delusions that spending 25 minutes with me is any teenager’s idea of a prize).  Congratulations to the following students who were part of this first group: Ben Zinssner, Meghan Tobin, Annabella Chen, Miriam Bounar, Colin Plucinksy, Lena Benway, Abe Englander, Jackson Hamilton, Emily Kelmar, and Stephen Goulet.  

We had our latest installment of Poetry Fridays at the end of last week, and our guest reader was Ms. Vacca, English teacher on 8 Orange.  Ms. Vacca used this opportunity to make a connection to the 100th anniversary of World War I (which occurred this past August).  Among the many poets and artists who used their craft to try and make sense of a devastating war, was William Butler Yeats, who won the Nobel Prize for poetry in 1923, and is considered one of the greatest English language poets. In his poem An Irish Airman Foresees His Death, Yeats writes from the point of view of a pilot on a mission from which he may not return, and tries to imagine the thoughts that might be running through his mind in his final moments.  Click here if you’d like to read the text of the poem.   

At the end of this week/early next week, we will be mailing out mid-trimester interims.  For those new to RJ Grey, a brief explanation.  “Interims” is the term that we use for what others might call “progress reports”, or “warnings”.  Teachers submit interims for any students who might be struggling in their class - this could be based on performances on tests and quizzes, consistency of homework, or other assessments and observations.  In addition, there are a number of teachers who provide interims as a way to update families, and this could also include feedback about how well a student is performing in a particular class.  This is all to say that there are number of reasons why you might receive an interim in the mail from your child’s teachers (note: you may also not receive anything).  If and when you do receive one, please read the information and comments carefully and consider using it as a way to begin a dialogue with your child.  If there is information that you would like clarified, please contact the teacher and begin a dialogue with him or her.  The Fall Trimester does not close until the week before Thanksgiving, so there is plenty of time for students to use this feedback to make adjustments.  

Finally, two notes I want to leave you with.  First, thanks to those of you who responded to last week’s plea to consider following our official RJ Grey twitter feed.  In a totally non-competitive manner, I pointed out that our Superintendent’s twitter feed had a small lead over ours in the number of followers.  I am pleased to share, in of course a continuation of that non-competitive tone and spirit, that we now have 182 followers, to Mr. Brand’s 179.  

And secondly, I want to end with a link to a fun video that I came across Sunday morning.  For whatever reason, the New York Times Magazine decided to invite a group of 2nd grade students to experience a 7-course tasting menu prepared by chef Daniel Boulud (that would  normally cost $220 per person) and to see what would happen.  If you’ve got 8 minutes to spare, you might enjoy the video, especially if you are also someone who may, like me, be a bit skeptical about paying $220 for just a “taste” of a dish, and appreciate the honest feedback the 7-year olds gave to the world-renowned chef.  

Have a great week, everyone.