I hope everyone found some way to enjoy the long weekend, and the great weather that accompanied it (after Friday’s heavy rains). Melisa and I made our way to New York City for the weekend without the kids, which has become a bit of a tradition (the tradition being our retreat to NYC, not leaving our children). This year’s trip featured a visit to Broadway, where we caught a Saturday afternoon showing of Kinky Boots, which won 6 Tony awards a few years ago. The weekend also involved a long Sunday morning run through and around Central Park, which was a welcome change from my runs on the narrow and busy roads of Sudbury where I usually find myself way too close and personal with oncoming traffic.
The long weekend did also give me a chance to catch up on some reading, including some articles that I thought a few of you might find interesting. First, I read with some interest about the experiences of the Montgomery County (Maryland) schools that pushed all their school start times back by twenty minutes starting this year, and how families are reacting differently to many of the changes that have emerged as a result of that shift. Another article I wanted to send along is from The Atlantic entitled, “When Schools Overlook Introverts”, which I found to be a thought-provoking piece that asked us to think a bit more deliberately about students who might benefit from “quieter” settings. While our efforts to help students develop skills to successfully engage in collaborative settings is laudable and important, the author did offer a gentle reminder that time for “internal contemplation” may also come with some important benefits, especially for those who do lean towards a more introverted style. I share those two pieces with you in case you might find yourself drawn to either or both subjects.
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.
The ABRPTSO and Danny’s Place Youth Services (DPYS) are excited to announce that Kevin Breel will be returning to AB as part of his book tour, Boy Meets Depression or Life Sucks and then You Live. Kevin is a 21 year old writer, comedian and mental health activist who shares his first-hand experience with depression. He visited Acton-Boxborough in the Spring of 2014 as part of our District’s continuing efforts to encourage conversations around adolescent mental health. He has made appearances on the Today Show, and his TED Talk has made him a prominent speaker about teen depression. Kevin will be here at AB on Wednesday, November 11 at 7pm in the High School auditorium. His presentation will be followed by a book signing and a dessert reception sponsored by MetroWest Behavioral Health Center. This is a ticketed event and is expected to sell out. Tickets will be $15 each and include a copy of Kevin's book, and details will be announced next week. There are tickets and books available for families for whom the ticket price may present a hardship; please don’t hesitate to contact me if you would like to request some assistance for the event. For parents who are curious about this event, and would like to get a glimpse of Kevin’s speaking style and a flavor of what he shares, you can see his TED Talk by clicking here.
This Wednesday, we will have our first session of RJ Grey Discussion Groups, which will introduce our ongoing goals of having conversations with students about healthy communication, problem solving, and conflict resolution. As many of you know, Massachusetts passed a comprehensive law in 2010 to address incidents of bullying and harassment in schools. Among other aspects of the law, it called for every school to implement a research-based curriculum that addressed bullying prevention and prosocial behavior. This year, we are continuing our use of a curriculum created by the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center (MARC), an organization based at Bridgewater State that has been heavily involved in the state’s recent efforts to address bullying and harassment in school. This past summer, a group of teachers reviewed feedback from last year’s sessions and have made modifications that we hope will encourage meaningful dialogue amongst the students.
Similar to previous years, we will continue to host two special events for our students as part of our overall efforts in this area. ImprovBoston, one of the region’s leading improvisational theaters, will be interacting with our 8th grade students, as they bring to us a unique workshop that addresses issues of bullying, and the importance of developing healthy peer relationships. Their presentation is actually taking place on December 2, and we look forward to welcoming them back to RJ Grey. Using various improvisational techniques, and a healthy dose of humor, this troupe of actors looks to discuss the issue of bullying and model ways of defusing potentially difficult situations.
For 7th grade students, we have again scheduled a great presentation by MARC specifically on cyberbullying and internet safety. When I introduced this event to parents last year, I made mention of Donald Trump’s behavior on social media as a constant reminder that we all have our work cut out for us in terms of offering some models of healthier social behavior. The fact that he is now a leading figure in our nation’s current presidential race was certainly, at least by me, a bit unexpected. The presentation by MARC will take place for 7th grade students on Monday, December 15th and will again be led by Meghan McCoy (from MARC) who has worked with our school for several years, and is very familiar with our student audience.
Finally, I get the feeling that many of us might welcome a short respite from the bombardment of messages from the many individuals still involved in the current Presidential race. Regardless of our individual political leanings, perhaps we can all share a sense of enjoyment from the story of how the City Council elections in the town of North Pole, Alaska actually involves a candidate whose legal name is, in fact, Santa Claus.
Have a great week, everyone.