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Grey Matters, January 11, 2016; Volume 4, Number 18

posted Jan 10, 2016, 4:47 PM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jun 24, 2016, 5:28 AM by James Marcotte ]

Hi Everyone,

This past weekend, I experienced a series of personal “firsts” that perhaps have already been a part of your recent or not-so recent lives.  My wife was invited to an event in Pittsburgh, and I tagged along, visiting that city for the very first time.  While at the airport, the JetBlue ticket agent went through her customary questions about hazardous items in my luggage, which I am used to.  What I wasn’t used to was her asking me if my luggage contained a hoverboard (it didn’t), which is a device that has gotten some press lately given its tendency to catch fire, and has recently been banned by over 30 colleges.  We also used Uber for the first time, to travel to and from the airport in Pittsburgh, and I’ll admit the strange feeling I initially had as I got into the backseat of the Nissan Altima that picked us up.    The one “first” that I was hoping for that didn’t occur this weekend, was picking the winning Powerball numbers for Saturday night’s drawing.  It is possible that I might be one of those people who, despite understanding the improbability associated with the lottery, figures, “someone’s gotta win, might as well be me.”  

A few updates and reminders for the next few weeks:

  • The deadline to purchase an RJ Grey yearbook is today!  You can order online by following instructions found here.  You can also drop off a check for $37 to the main office, and we can make sure that Ms. Weeks (Yearbook advisor) gets it.  

  • The Winter Band concert is tomorrow (Tuesday) evening at 7pm in the RJ Grey Dragonfly Auditorium.  

  • There is NO SCHOOL next Monday, January 18th because of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.  

  • The next early release day for the Junior High is Thursday, February 4th for staff professional development.  There will be no other early release days before that.  

The end of January is the halfway point in the school year. During the week of January 25, students in both grades will be taking a math mid-year assessment that includes materials from the first half of the year.  I share this information so you are aware and can eventually help your kids prepare, but also with a plea that you (and your kids) not get too anxious or fixated on it.  We certainly want everyone to feel ready, and rest assured our math teachers will spend time in the next two weeks explaining what will be expected and providing opportunities to review relevant material.  

Hopefully many of you are considering attending the February 3 presentation by Dr. Abigail Baird (RJ Grey auditorium, 7pm) on understanding the adolescent brain (from the perspective of a neuroscientist).  When we invited Dr. Baird to visit Acton-Boxborough, one of the things on my mind was definitely our ongoing efforts to think about, and be responsive to, the overall health and wellness of our student population.  As we begin to evaluate and look more closely at the challenges with increasingly intense expectations and narrowing definitions of success, it would behoove us to not work on developing a better understanding of what healthy self-development in adolescents involves. I share with you two more recent articles that speak directly to this issue, and that invite us to draw some connections and parallels between our community’s challenges and a similar storyline that seems to exist in many other communities across Massachusetts and throughout the country.  The first article is from the Boston Globe, on the increased attention that schools across the Commonwealth are directing towards the mental health and wellness of students.  The second is from the January 2 edition of the New York Times, with the fairly direct headline, “Is The Drive for Success Making Our Children Sick?”. While the NYT article begins with highlighting a number of concerning trends regarding student stress, it does also make a point of including some anecdotal evidence that partnerships between students, educators, and parents can indeed produce changes that could have an immediate impact on the student experience.  For those who may have a few moments, I hope you’ll consider reading one or both of the articles.

Finally, we finished our first week back with another installment of Poetry Friday.  Ms. Vacca, 8 Orange English teacher, introduced the school to the poem “January” by John Updike, who is considered one of the great American writers of the 20th century.  Updike was often praised for “making the ordinary seem strange through subtle sound devices, and use of precise, beautiful language.”  He lived in Massachusetts most of his life and died in 2009.  

Have a great week, everyone.