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Grey Matters, November 23, 2015; Volume 4, Number 12

posted Nov 22, 2015, 11:16 AM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jun 24, 2016, 5:30 AM by James Marcotte ]

Hi Everyone,

Happy 30th birthday to the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, which made its debut on November 18, 1985.  Famously resistant to merchandising the characters in the comic strip, Bill Watterson once noted,  “My strip is about private realities, the magic of imagination, and the specialness of certain friendships. Who would believe in the innocence of a little kid and his tiger if they cashed in on their popularity to sell overpriced knickknacks that nobody needs?” Inte-

restingly, November 18, 1985 was also the day that Mr. Snuffleupagus went from being a figment of Big Bird’s imagination, to being a real-life character on Sesame Street.  

I wanted to offer a quick nod to two service-oriented efforts that took place at RJ Grey these past few weeks.  First, our Take Action club organized a fall food drive to collect items that would support our local Acton Food Pantry, which provides foo

d and clothing to residents in need, and continues to be an important, and much needed, resource in our community.  7 Red has also continued to play a leadership role in our annual coat drive, and if I’m not mistaken we were in the high 80s or low 90s, in donated coats, at the end of last week.  Thank you to the Take Action students (photo to left), the students on 7 Red, and Mr. Lewis and Ms. Doiron, for their efforts and stewardship of these important activities.  While these specific drives are appropriately timed around the Thanksgiving season, there are several school and student-led service and fundraising initiatives that take place at RJ Grey throughout the year.  We’re grateful to our families for your continued support as we continue to encourage in our students a sense of connection to our broader community.  

A couple of updates and reminders before we head into the Thanksgiving Break:

  • Tryouts for Winter Sports start immediately, or soon after, we return from break.  Please see the RJ Grey Athletics page for more information.  Remember that Green Forms must be on file in the Nurse’s office in order for a student to participate (even in the actual tryout).  We’re still working on Cheerleading, so stay tuned on that.  

  • Our RJ Grey Yearbook will go on sale soon after we return from Thanksgiving.  I’ll likely be sending specific ordering information in the next edition of Grey Matters.  

  • The District’s Family Learning Series is pleased that Janell Burley Hoffman will be its next speaker, on Wednesday, December 2, from 7pm to 8:30pm in the High School auditorium.  The title of her presentation is “Parenting in the Digital Age.”  Janell Burley Hofmann gained national attention when she developed a list of rules for her son's use of his new iPhone. She has since published a book, iRules,  for "tech-healthy families" and travels worldwide, speaking and consulting with families and communities on the complexities of our online culture, and how to help children, tweens, and teenagers manage and balance their use of technology.  Click here if you’d like to watch her 2013 TedX talk.  

Finally, this is a shortened week, with an early release on Wednesday.  On that day, we will have our annual Thanksgiving Assembly.  This assembly traditionally includes a few speeches by students, and performances by the school band and chorus.  When I prepared for this assembly in my first year as Principal (four years ago), it brought back all sorts of memories of my own Thanksgiving experiences as a middle school-aged student and I shared some of those memories in that year’s pre-Thanksgiving edition of Grey Matters, and have re-posted it every year since.  Thanksgiving is, after all, a time for many when creating and maintaining certain traditions is important.  Given the continuing and ever-growing diversity that has evolved in our two communities, I hope some of what I share resonates with many of you in one way or another.    

When I was younger, Thanksgiving had very little to do with extended family, as most of our relatives were a few thousand miles away.  For my sister and I, Thanksgiving dinner was an event celebrated with just our parents, so it often felt like a lot of work for just another Thursday night dinner.  Growing up in Taiwan, my parents didn’t experience Thanksgiving until they moved here for graduate school, and along with preparing the “traditional” turkey and sides, my parents wanted to include items more familiar to them.  As a result, we had many a Thanksgiving where, next to the mashed potatoes, sat a plate full of pork dumplings; and next to the canned cranberry sauce, there was a bowl filled with a rice dish prepared by my dad.

When I was thirteen, having soy sauce and turkey gravy on the same table bothered me, mostly because it was different from what I understood and assumed to be the proper and traditional way to celebrate this holiday, based on what I learned in school and saw on television.  For me, it meant we weren’t fitting in and continued to make us different at a time when I wanted to be anything but.  This narrow obsession of mine also probably contributed to an inexplicable lifelong craving for Stouffer’s Stove Top stuffing and a preference for canned cranberry sauce.  Once that adolescent desire to fit in faded, I began to appreciate those dinners through a different lens - one that focused on the reality  that the food my parents made was really good, that we had much to be thankful for (including, but not limited to, a table that was always filled with food), and that every family has different twists on how celebrate Thanksgiving- and it’s those unique twists that are at the heart of any tradition.

As I got older, I also came to discover that our approach to Thanksgiving was definitely more manageable than some of the other family “traditions” I have now heard about from friends and colleagues, and have myself witnessed when spending time with my wife’s extended family (all of whom live within a 30 mile radius).  Little did I realize how fortunate the Shen family was to not have to wrestle with deciding which relative slept in what room during the holiday, who was in charge of making sure Uncle Mike didn’t upset Cousin Caitlin with his boorish political commentary, and preparing for however much criticism advice one was to receive from his or her in-laws for the entire day.  

Whatever twist you and your family have planned for your Thanksgiving break, and whatever you plan to eat, I hope you all find some opportunity for a little rest and some good company.  We look forward to seeing everyone back next Monday.  

Have a great week, everyone.