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Grey Matters, May 16, 2016; Volume 4, Number 34

posted May 15, 2016, 10:56 AM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jun 24, 2016, 5:23 AM by James Marcotte ]

Hi Everyone,

What was already shaping up to be a very busy month of May for the Shen kids in terms of their participation in Spring sports was only made more complicated by the stretch of cold and rainy weather in April that has resulted in a flurry of re-scheduled make up games.  Recently, a greater percentage of the nightly dialogue that takes place between Melisa and me involves coordination of drop-offs and pick-ups, checking on whose turn it is to bring popsicles and/or oranges to a game, whether a child’s uniform has been washed in time for the next game, and which child has to tag along for the ride to another sibling’s game or practice.  I get the feeling that the experiences I describe above are ones that are intimately familiar to many of you, and you might even have logistical challenges (i.e. out-of-state travel) that would make me see our schedule with more fondness.  As I was beginning to get lost in the mechanics of having our kids be involved in these activities (and sometimes secretly hoping for rained out practices), it was becoming easier to lose sight of what playing sports meant to me when I was their age, and what I hope they too will experience by participating in youth sports.  Coming to my rescue was a good friend who, knowing how much I like to write, recently shared with me some letters and speeches by her late father-in-law, a man who also loved to write. Included in that collection was a letter he wrote in May of 1977, two months after I was born, to the players assigned to the Little League baseball team he was coaching that Spring.  Chalking it up to a bit of serendipity, I’ve now read that letter a few times, and wanted to share a portion of it with all of you in case it might resonate with you in a similar fashion: “I do not care how many games you win or lose; I hope you win at least one game so that you and your teammates can experience the satisfaction of winning as a team, but I also hope you lose one so that you will experience the shared disappointment of a team loss...The purpose of the program is to give you and your teammates an opportunity to learn something about competition, sportsmanship and team play by actually playing on a baseball team, in the belief that, if well taught, the lessons learned on the baseball field will be valuable to you as you continue to grow up.”

MCAS testing is now officially over, except for students who may have missed one or more days last week (which isn’t a lot).  Students who may need to complete a missed MCAS test will be called down on Monday and/or Tuesday to complete those assessments.  We hope each of our students found themselves in a place last week where they were able to demonstrate their knowledge of the questions that were asked.  We also hope and will try our best to remind each student that while the scores that come back in Fall tell us how they did on these recent days in May, it will not tell us everything about them, including their growth as thoughtful students and people.  

A reminder to families of students who participate in the Band or Chorus programs.  The Spring Band concert is this Tuesday, May 17th at 7pm in the JH auditorium.  The Spring Chorus concert is the following Tuesday, May 24th at 7pm, also in the JH Auditorium.  If you have any questions, please contact Mr. Hickey ( or Mr. Charig (  

I’m pleased and excited to be sharing with everyone information about our third annual Empty Bowls event (also previously known as Arts Happening).  The Empty Bowls event will take place this year on Thursday, June 4 from 5:30pm to 7:00pm.  This is an evening of art, singing and ice cream! Students will showcase their art and singing talents and invite families to a charity ice cream social. 7th grade students made hand-crafted ceramic bowls in their art classes. Families that participate will get to take home a hand-crafted bowl as a reminder of the vast number of hungry families around the world and right here in our own community. The money raised from this event, will be donated to the Acton Community Supper and Acton Food Pantry. This organization helps to feed many hungry families in the greater Acton area. Last year this event helped to raise an amazing $1000 for the charity!  As another treat, the Select Choir will perform throughout the evening in our outdoor courtyard. This event is also an opportunity for 7th grade students to display artistic works in a celebratory environment. There will be many artworks on display to show off the talents of our students.

Last week, I experienced an epic and repeated failure when I tried to share with everyone the correct dates for both the 7th and 8th grade dances/celebrations.  Sorry about that.  Just to confirm, here are the dates:  7th grade dance: Friday, June 10th at 7pm in the gym.  8th grade dance: Friday, June 17th at 7pm in the cafeteria that is magically transformed into an amazing space for celebrating and ending the school year.  

Even though the 8th grade Dance/Celebration is a little over a month away, I want to re-share some information and messaging that I send out each year at this time about the event - and do my best not to oversell or undersell the atmosphere that exists at this great end-of-year activity.  Every year, I mention the below thoughts because sometimes, during some bouts of excitement about the event, a few expectations get generated within our student population that may be a bit on the unrealistic/ambitious/fantasy-ish side-- and then they occasionally get re-articulated to parents as school guidelines. So below is my annual “We’re really excited for this event, but this is not an episode of MTV’s My Super Sweet Sixteen” plea.  

We definitely make an effort (and with the help of parent volunteers, are always successful) to make this more than a “typical” or casual dance/celebration in terms of atmosphere -- we’ve got great decorations, props and backdrops for group photos, and an impressive spread of food (and it’s at night).  At the same time, we are not trying to create our own version of a Prom.  We want students to come excited and eager to spend an evening with their friends and classmates, and somewhat dressed up for the event.  They don’t, however, need to think about “coming with a date” (the overwhelming majority do not, and is not even on their radar), hair appointments, or special transportation.  We ask students who attend this event to dress a bit more formally than most would for a regular school day -- be it a dress or nice pants, collared shirts (some choose to wear ties), whatever is their version of “taking it up a notch”.  I’d try and get into more detail about clothing options, but then you’d discover how out of touch I am with current youth fashion trends.  Finally, if dancing is not your son/daughter’s “thing”, please assure them that it’s not a required activity for the evening, and many simply come and socialize with their peers.  This last point is why I’ve recently started to refer to this event using the term “celebration” along with “dance.”  

On Tuesday, June 21, both grades will be participating in their respective end-of-year field trips, and permission slips will be distributed to students this week, and due by May 27.  As in previous years, the 7th grade will be going to Kimball Farm where they have full access to the bumper boats, miniature golf course, driving range, and other activities; the 8th grade will be going to Canobie Lake amusement park in New Hampshire. These field trips have historically been great and memorable parts of our year-end activities.  We also appreciate that the RJ Grey community includes families that may find the cost of these trips difficult to absorb.  Like all of our other trips and activities, we never want cost to prevent anyone from participating.  Please do not hesitate to let us know if some relief from these field trip costs would be helpful to your family (contact Assistant Principal Jim Marcotte at  

Finally, I’d like to offer a quick plug for our 7 Orange team’s currently service project.  Once again this year they are organizing a drive to collect gently used backpacks and various school supplies for underprivileged kids in Liberia.  Many children in Liberia have been orphaned by the civil war and the Ebola outbreak that followed.  7 Orange is working with a Liberian gentleman who will fly to Liberia with our collected supplies and hand-deliver them to children in need.  The students have named this project "Hope in a Backpack."  This is a great opportunity for you to rid closets and attics of backpacks that your children may have outgrown.  Also, the students are looking for the following school supplies (new or gently used): notebooks (wide ruled), pens and pencils, pencil sharpeners, rulers, erasers; solar calculators, and hand sanitizer (8 oz). 7 Orange is collecting these items through May 27th and contributions can be dropped off in the boxes placed in the school’s front lobby.  We appreciate your help!

Thanks, everyone.  Have a great week.