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Grey Matters, November 2, 2015; Volume 4, Number 9

posted Nov 1, 2015, 8:00 AM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jun 24, 2016, 5:31 AM by James Marcotte ]

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Last Friday was a lot of fun at RJ Grey, and I hope everyone enjoyed either coming in costume or sitting beside a classmate who did, and perhaps chatting with an oversized Smurf, or a human gumball machine.  Congratulations to 8th grader Johnny Depp Brett Taylor for winning the costume contest, with his extremely detailed rendition of the legendary Edward Scissorhands.  It’s a good thing Brett doesn’t have Digital Literacy this semester, as I think typing on a keyboard would have proven to be a bit challenging on Friday.  For those families that do participate in Halloween festivities, I hope that Saturday evening was fun and entertaining.  This year, instead of staying at home and handing out candy to trick or treaters, I traveled with a few other dads as our sons tried to reach their goal of visiting 80 houses.  A note to myself for next year - if they still have a similarly ambitious goal, don’t let them pick streets in town where the houses sit acres apart from each other.  I think we walked several miles that night, and so I had no choice but to eat some of Hayden’s candy haul throughout the evening in order to keep up my energy level.  For those who might be curious about the food and candy history of Halloween, check out this article from PBS.  

Our Ski and Board Club will be starting up in January for 6 Monday sessions on: January 5, 12, 19, 26, February 2 and 9.  You can pick up a packet of information from the Main Office, or you can visit our website where those documents have been uploaded, and you can print and fill out (and then return to school).  All materials for Ski Club are due to the Main Office by December 4, 2015.

Later today (or early tomorrow), I will be sending all families an email about the annual parent-teacher conference sessions that we offer during three early release dates in December and January.  That email will provide families with an overview of the conferences and some things to consider before signing up.  On Wednesday, families will then receive an email from us that includes the link to the form that you should complete if you wish to schedule conferences with some (or all) of your child’s teachers.  

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I mentioned a few weeks ago plans for Kevin Breel to visit the Acton-Boxborough community on Wednesday, November 11. Click here for the flyer. Kevin is a 21 year old writer, comedian and mental health activist who shares his first hand experience with depression.  Returning as part of his book tour, Kevin’s return engagement is sponsored by the ABRPTSO and Danny’s Place Youth Services, and the cost of the ticket also provides each attendee with a copy of his book, Boy Meets Depression or Life Sucks and Then You Live.  This event will be held at the High School auditorium, with doors opening at 6pm and Kevin speaking at 7pm.  Kevin’s presentation will be followed by a book signing and desserts by Bisousweet Confections and sponsored by the Metrowest Behavioral Health Center.  This is a ticketed event and is expected to sell out (so tickets must be purchased in advance).  Tickets are $15.76 and can be purchased online by going to  The sponsors of this program would like to ensure that all families who are interested in attending have the opportunity to do so, and are working with the schools to provide tickets to families for whom the cost of the event may prove to be a hardship.  Please email me ( if you’d like more information.   

We have reached the point in the year where some of our RJ Grey students and families are exploring private schools as options for next year, and I’d like to re-send the following note that I share each year:  Our Counseling Office works with families on the application process, and they have created a number of documents and guides to assist families.  You can download information by going to the RJG Counseling site (click here).  One aspect of the application process that I’d like to highlight is the writing of teacher/counselor recommendations.  Our teachers and counselors are happy to support students in their applications, and take seriously the crafting of a recommendation.  With that in mind, we ask that families honor the request that teachers be approached about letters of recommendation at least 4 weeks in advance of when those letters are due.  In many situations, parents initially reach out to teachers on behalf of their child, which is perfectly fine.  It’s also important for the student to speak in person with their teachers about their interest in private schools.  This is valuable for a few reasons.  First, hearing a bit more about the student’s interest in the schools to which they are applying gives the teacher a better sense of what might be useful to include in the letter.  Secondly, having a teacher find recommendation forms on her desk without any prior explanation from a student or parent is never the ideal way to start the conversation about a recommendation. By no means are teachers and counselors expecting students to feel indebted to them for writing a letter, and forever genuflect whenever they enter the room. However, speaking directly to the teacher is, I think, central to showing an appropriate level of appreciation for this additional task the students are asking their teacher to complete on their behalf.  If you think your son/daughter may be a bit nervous with this task, you might encourage them to speak with his/her counselor, who can offer some tips and even help them practice.  Your child’s counselor is also, in general, a great resource for various aspects of the application process.  

School pictures have arrived and have been distributed to our students. If you did not receive your photos and did order them, please contact the photographer directly. We use Mark Lawrence Photographers and they can be reached at (603) 886-4178. Picture retake day has been rescheduled for Tuesday, November 10th. The photographer will gladly re-take (free of charge) any picture that has an issue due to the photo lab or photographer error (closed eyes, glasses glare, etc.) If you would like to have a picture retaken for another reason (hairstyle, smile expression, just don't like it...), the photographer will collect a $10 retake fee at the time of the retake. If your child ordered a photo package and you would like for him/her to re-take the photo, please have your child bring in the original package on that day. If your student missed Picture Day earlier this year, this is also the time for him or her to have a photo taken. Even if you don't have plans to order a photo package, it is important to have everyone's photo taken so they will be included in this year's yearbook.

A friendly reminder that there is no school for students tomorrow - Tuesday, November 3 - which is a full-day professional learning day for all staff members.  We’ll see everyone back at school on Wednesday.  

Finally, in my excitement last week to share with everyone a recent New York Times article about the changing landscape of job titles, I attached the wrong link (sorry).  For those who might still be interested in reading that article, here is the correct link.  Last week’s Grey Matters also made reference to the movie Back to the Future II, which was a fond memory from the 1980s.  This past weekend, the 80s made another important guest appearance in our current world, with the recent marathon re-showing of painter Bob Ross’ PBS show, The Joy of Painting.  I spent (too many) hours as a 10-year old completely fixated on Mr. Ross creating peaceful landscapes in just 25 minutes (with his “happy clouds” and “majestic oaks”), and might have secretly taken a few acrylic painting classes at the local YMCA with dreams of having my own show.  I had no idea at the time that Mr. Ross had such a strong following, and thought it was just him, me, and maybe a dozen other viewers.  I share the above information in case any of you also shared a similar love of the show.  Any time I hear someone refer to the color burnt umber, I think of Bob Ross.  

Have a great week, everyone.