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Grey Matters, December 12, 2016; Volume 5, Number 15

posted Dec 11, 2016, 12:44 PM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jul 18, 2017, 11:06 AM by James Marcotte ]

Hi Everyone,

Current weather forecasts are suggesting that we might be getting our first real taste (for this school year) of snowy precipitation later Sunday evening and early Monday morning.  On an annual basis, the prospect of snow triggers three things that are shared with readers of Grey Matters.  First, a friendly reminder that any changes in the school schedule, such as a delayed start or a snow day, will be communicated via an automated phone call to home and/or cell phones.  This will typically happen between 5am and 6am.  Dr. Brand also posts this information on his Twitter feed and will also be available on most of the local television networks. Second, for those who drop off their children to school in the mornings, be prepared to not only see me in my winter outfit that looks similar to Ralphie’s from A Christmas Story (photo to right), but to also see a fair share of references in Grey Matters to not understanding how some of your children (mostly boys) can continue to still arrive at school wearing shorts.  Finally, if we experience a healthy level of snowfall this season, I will need to re-introduce to all of you my ongoing efforts to save/collect enough money for my family and I to move to San Francisco.  There’s a part of me that has always thought that I belonged in the Bay Area - a more temperate climate, I can go eat dim sum in Chinatown every week, and I can go running outside all year long. The San Francisco-area real estate market is, as many of you know, not exactly in tune with the income base of most non-gazillionaire families.  The single-family house in the photo to the left sits on .04 acres, was built in 1900, has 1.75 bathrooms, and is currently on the market for $2 million.  Given that my “San Fran or Bust” jar currently has about $22.50 in coins, I might need to come up with a Plan B. Even if the money to afford the

San Francisco real estate market suddenly appeared at my doorstep, I will also admit that another obstacle to this fantasy is my comfort (temperature notwithstanding) with the metro Boston area.  Except for college, I’ve lived along the Rt. 128 corridor my whole life.  I usually get anxious and disoriented when I drive past Rt. 495, and going to the Wrentham Outlets feels like a road trip.  So I think I’m going to need to come up with other strategies to cope with the annual arrival of the winter season.  It doesn’t sound like the precipitation this Sunday night is expected to have an impact on school tomorrow, but keep it on your radar nonetheless and maybe be prepared for a slightly messier drop off/commute.

Some useful reminders for the next two weeks:

  • Report cards for the Fall Trimester went home with students last Thursday.  Not sure how many of them went through the washing machine before they reached your hands.  If for some reason you didn’t get your child’s report card (from your child), feel free to send me an email and we can generate another copy for you.  

  • Our first set of Parent-Teacher conferences is scheduled for this Thursday (December 15).  That means we have an early release for all Junior High students, and dismissal will be at 10:40am. Be sure to coordinate with your child expectations about where to be after school (they can not stay at school).  For those parents/guardians who have conferences this Thursday, please be sure to double check your times ahead of time.  

  • Thru next week, RJ Grey will be collecting toys this holiday season to donate to local families.  Our teachers and students have coordinated this Toy Drive as an annual holiday effort, and it’s always been a wonderful opportunity to offer some holiday cheer to children in and around our community.  Toys must be new, unused (and unopened) and may be dropped off in the collection box in the main lobby.  All toys will be donated to families in the Acton, Boxborough, and surrounding towns.  If you have any questions, you can email Gabrielle Berberian at  

  • Our last day of school before the Winter Break is Friday, December 23. Please know that this day is scheduled to be a “regular” full day of school.  If you have plans that involve your child being absent next week because of winter break plans, please be sure to communicate that with the Main Office (Katy Frey, and your child’s team teachers.  

There is another parent workshop for Acton-Boxborough families (click for flyer) being offered this Wednesday evening that I think may be of interest to many of you.  Jessica Minahan is a well-known and highly regarded board certified behavior analyst who has worked with many school districts and families on supporting students with anxiety. During her presentation, Ms. Minaha will be sharing easy to implement preventive tools, strategies, and interventions to reducing anxiety, increasing self-regulation, executive functioning, and self-monitoring.  Click here to visit her website. This workshop begins at 7pm in the Junior High Library, and  is co-hosted by the AB SPEDPAC and Acton-Boxborough, and is part of our Family Learning Series.

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve made direct mention of our Challenge Success work and topics that fall under that umbrella.  We’re doing a lot to make sure that the conversations which started earlier in the Fall continue to drive our work in schools and with families.  At the Junior High, we’re really beginning to think about what a different school day schedule might look like (not next year, but perhaps the year after) where we can address the frenetic pace of the day, maybe find other ways to enhance student-teacher relationships, and where the lunch period doesn’t feel like a timed pie-eating contest.  The December edition of the District’s “Expanding Our Notions of Success” newsletter about our Challenge Success work is now available, and I would encourage you to check it out.  The newsletter continues to include results from last Spring’s student survey along with resources and videos for families to learn more about topics such as building resilience in children.  Along with the December newsletter, I also want to share with all of you a series of recent articles that may be of interest to many of you, and is either directly or tangentially related to our Challenge Success topics and themes.  The first is a Time Magazine article summarizing some initial research that suggests a connection between increased physical activity of young boys and improved reading skills (of those boys).  The second is an article from Reuters that argues that even a modest change in school start times could lead to positive outcomes for students.  Based on a study of high school students in Hong Kong, researchers note that a even 15 minute change still led to reports of improvements in sleep, attention, and getting to school on time.  Finally, I am sharing two separate articles about the ongoing challenges that many parents face regarding the use of technology and social media by their children.  Here’s an article from the New York Times that tries to explore some of the different arenas where the use of digital devices may have evolved in ways that you didn’t necessarily intend (i.e. dinner time, before bed).  Here’s another article from that looks a bit more closely at some possible parenting strategies to capitalize on the benefits that digital devices can offer, while providing some deliberate limits and controls.  Melisa and I are really good at limiting our kids’ access to digital devices at bedtime, including expectations about when those devices get turned off and charging devices next to our bedroom.  We are not so good/moderately terrible about regulating the amount of time on those devices during various unstructured times in the afternoon and particularly on weekends.  So we continue to read with interest articles that remind us the importance of being more proactive on this front, and perhaps some strategies for how to talk to our kids about the benefits and challenges of their engagement with the digital world (thankfully none of our kids are remotely interested in social media….yet).  

Finally, I want to acknowledge and highlight our school’s Speech team, which hosted a tournament for their league this past Sunday.  An event of this magnitude couldn’t be offered without the commitment of our students and the guidance of Mr. Spencer Harvey, 7 Orange Social Studies teacher and Ms. Valery Glod, 8 Green Social Studies teacher.  Additionally, we appreciate (again and again) the volunteer work of our many parents and teachers who also spent their Sunday at the tournament.  

Have a great week, everyone.