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Grey Matters, September 28, 2015; Volume 4, Number 4

posted Sep 27, 2015, 4:54 AM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jun 24, 2016, 5:32 AM by James Marcotte ]

Hi Everyone,


I am writing this week’s edition of Grey Matters at 5:15am on Sunday morning.  I do so for two reasons: first, I wanted to send it to families later this afternoon to make sure everyone is aware of tonight’s supermoon eclipse.  From the little I’ve read, it’s quite an event within the astronomical (I almost wrote astrological) world, and won’t happen again until 2033 when your child who is currently attending RJ Grey will be in his or her 30s.  Secondly, later this morning, I am taking my 10-year old son Hayden and two of his accomplices friends to the Patriots game at Gillette Stadium.  This will be our maiden voyage to a Sunday afternoon game at Gillette, and so there’s a part of me that wonders if I’ll make it home alive, or at least in one piece. I give the anticipated traffic and the task of corralling three 10-year old boys an equal chance of being the cause of my demise.  If that happens, I wanted to get at least one last edition of Grey Matters written and sent.  

I hope those of you who attended last Thursday’s Back to School Night found the evening to be informative and valuable.  I was able to visit about fifteen classes, and it was nice to sit alongside many of you during the presentations.  The level of parent and family support that we have in Acton-Boxborough is no secret, and it’s always exciting to see the wave of parents joining us for the evening to briefly connect and put some faces to names.  Along with following up and connecting with teachers by email or phone, please remember that we have a “team meeting” option that is also available to families.  Teams have, about once a week, a period where parents/guardians can schedule a 20-minute meeting to connect with their child’s team teachers.  This is an opportunity for some families to share information and concerns, and ask questions, and for teachers (and the team counselor) to do the same.  The availability of appointments usually ebbs and flows over the course of the year, so during busy periods the next available appointment is a few weeks out.  If you are interested in scheduling an appointment, you can email our Registrar Lena Jarostchuk ( or call her at extension 3330.  

A “thank you” and welcome to Susan Kenyon and Tracey Smith, our newest members of the RJ Grey School Council.  Susan and Tracey are both parents of current 7th grade students, and we appreciate their willingness to serve on the Council.  For those wondering if you missed the voting process, we only had two open positions and did not have more than two candidates.  We’ll leave the lively debates and posturing to the 20 individuals still running for President.  

A friendly and important reminder that we have an early release scheduled for this Thursday, October 1.  School will start at the normal time (homeroom at 7:30am) and we will dismiss students at 10:40am.  Regular bus routes will run at that time or parents should discuss with their child other options for post-dismissal plans.  Once students have left, the staff will be participating in professional learning activities and workshops.  

Another calendar note specifically for 8th grade families.  Minuteman Technical High School will be making their annual visit to RJ Grey on October 6th and 7th to deliver a short presentation about their curriculum, and answering questions from any students who might have an interest in visiting and applying to the school.  If you'd like to learn more about their program, you can visit their website at  

At this point, most of our after school clubs and extracurricular activities have scheduled their first meetings of the year (except the ones that are seasonal, such as Ski Club).  You and your student(s) can review the list of current opportunities by going to the Clubs & Activities page on the RJ Grey website.  Except where otherwise noted, students are welcome and encouraged to join these activities throughout the year.  In other words, if in the Spring your child develops an interest in badminton, he/she should feel absolutely comfortable in showing up and joining in the fun.  For additional questions about specific clubs, please contact the advisor listed within the description.  

I mentioned last week our school’s Washington D.C. trip planned for this coming April Vacation.  If you are interested in learning more about this exciting opportunity (financial cost, logistics, and programming) for your child, please considering attending an informational session at the junior high school this Wednesday evening, September 30th at 6pm, in our Library. There you will hear from a representative from Close Up and meet Marc Lewis, the RJ Grey teacher who is coordinating the trip. If you can not attend this informational meeting, please do not panic and worry that it means your child will not be eligible to participate.  We will send follow-up information and materials that can help you develop a better sense of the trip and what is involved.  If we do reach a point where there are only a few remaining spots available, we’ll be sure to announce that through our daily emails to families.  

Dr. Kirsty Kerin joined us last Thursday morning to speak with all of our students about the importance of sleep.  Dr. Kerin is a Boxborough resident (and parent), and a research scientist who specializes in the science of sleep.  I hope that the presentation proved stimulating for your children, and that they possibly initiated a conversation with you about what they took away from the presentation, and why sleep is so critical to our overall health and wellness. While there are indeed some significant structural factors that influence our approach to sleep (school start times, scheduling of after school commitments, family obligations, to name a few), our hope is that students also realize that there are some readily available practices and choices that they (and you) can make to improve sleeping habits.  Dr. Kerin was very clear with students that on some topics she was not in a position to make a recommendation.  However, she did offer some general guidance and suggestions that I wanted to share, should you want to broach the subject with your child:  (a) to be mindful of the impact that caffeine has on having restful sleep (hint: it really disrupts an adolescent’s sleep when caffeine is in the body).  If caffeine is something you accept as part of your child’s diet, consider not consuming caffeine products after lunch so it has sufficient time to leave your system; (b) being exposed to light and devices that project light have a significant impact on an individual’s ability to fall asleep.  Therefore, think about what it means to be starting into the screen of a digital device (phone, tablet, computer) late at night.  Dr. Kerin sent me a link to an app that reduces the amount of light that emanates from devices, if families thought that this might be worth pursuing; and (c) if you do find yourself needing to close the deficit in the amount of sleep you are getting during the week, consider “catching up” on weekends if possible, by sleeping in.  But if you do go this route, do not sleep past 11am, as that would disrupt your sleep cycle for the following day.  Again, the above suggestions weren’t delivered as a “fix” or the keys to solving all the challenges we might encounter around getting enough restful sleep; instead, I wanted to at least provide a few nuggets from the presentation that you kids might remember and be willing to discuss.  Another huge thanks to Dr. Kerin for her time, and for answering the three thousand questions that the students asked her (on topics ranging from snoring and sleepwalking, to night terrors).  

Returning RJ Grey families are hopefully familiar with our silent reading period, which we implemented two years ago.  For new families, I wanted to briefly highlight this 20-minute reading period (9:58 to 10:20 every day), which we believe provides us the benefit giving students and staff the time every day to change gears, and engage in some individual and self-directed reading. I'd encourage you to ask your kids about it, and see what they might have chosen to read so far. If you'd like to know a little more about what is behind this aspect of our school day, you can read this Silent Reading handout. When we launched silent reading, I also posted in a Grey Matters a link to a then recent study that offers some additional benefits of our silent reading efforts.  That study found that "after reading literary fiction, as opposed to popular fiction or serious nonfiction, people performed better on tests measuring empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence."  If you're interested in reading more about the study and its results, you can click here.

Finally, we had our latest installment of Poetry Fridays last week, the morning after a busy Thursday at RJ Grey.  Mr. Malloy stumbled upon this week’s poem shortly after listening to Dr. Kerin’s sleep presentation.  More than likely about a father and son not seeing eye to eye with each other on a lot of things, Charles Bukowski’s poem “Throwing Away the Alarm Clock,” uses a disagreement about sleep and bedtime as the vehicle to highlight that disconnect.  

Have a great week, everyone.