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Grey Matters, February 6, 2017; Volume 5, Number 22

posted Feb 5, 2017, 12:03 PM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jul 18, 2017, 11:06 AM by James Marcotte ]

Hi Everyone,

All three of my kids were home sick for some part of last week (my daughter being out three days), and now my oldest is once again struggling with a cough that has returned with some vengeance.  That means we’ll need to cancel our plans to watch the Super Bowl at a friend’s house, which actually isn’t the worst thing since I tend to be one of those people who yells at the television during big games and that might best be done in the comforts of my own home.  Rest assured, I only yell words of encouragement and praise during these games.  I share news of my sick kids because there are many of you who are also currently nursing your own children back to health.  I know this because last Thursday we had 93 students absent due to illness, and then by the end of the day Friday we had 130 students out sick or dismissed early due to illness (about 14% of our student population).  There were also a number of RJ Grey staff members who were felled by sickness and were out at some point last week, and some for the entire week. An article in last Thursday’s Boston Globe notes that reports of flu-like illnesses are up, particularly in suburbs west of Boston, and reminded readers that it’s not too late to get a flu vaccination. Along with encouraging all of you to heed that advice about getting a flu shot,  I am hoping that some time apart this weekend will help with clearing out whatever bug has been traveling back and forth within our community.  If your child does become ill, please keep in mind the District’s guidelines about returning to school:  students should stay home if they have a temperature of 100 Fahrenheit or above, and should not return to school until their temperature has been normal for at least 24 hours (without assistance of Tylenol/Advil).  For stomachaches, vomiting, and diarrhea, students should stay home until symptoms have resolved for at least 12 hours.  We know there are other illnesses making the rounds, but fever, sore throat, and vomiting have tended to be the most frequent culprits lately.  Depending on how tonight’s Super Bowl goes I anticipate some additional cases of sore throats - hopefully due to shouts of celebration rather than anguish.  Please mention to your children that any sore throats due to the game, and not from actual illness, will not be accepted as a reason to miss school on Monday.  

A couple of quick reminders to bring to your attention:

  • Don’t forget that the R.J. Grey Junior High yearbook is offering you the chance to send your love, pride and congratulations to the graduating 8th grade R.J. Grey student in your life.  You can purchase one of two advertisement formats to relay a message that your 8th grade student will cherish forever. Ads must be submitted by Monday, February 27th. Please click the link for submissions guidelines and instructions. Please contact Vicki Weeks ( with any questions.  

  • February Vacation starts at the end of the school day on Friday, February 17.  Please note that February 17 is a full day and will end with our annual Blue & Gold Assembly (more on that next week).  If your family has travel plans that will involve taking your kids out before this date, please take a moment to inform the Main Office ( and your child’s teachers.  

One final reminder about tomorrow night’s event with Dr. Josephine Kim!  This event is at the High School Auditorium tomorrow night at 7pm.  “Let’s Talk! Bridging the Cultural Gap Between You and Your Child” is Dr. Kim’s platform for supporting families bridging the cultural gap that oftentimes exists between immigrant parents and their children.  With a focus on Asian American families, Dr. Kim’s presentation will create opportunities for parents and guardians to explore ways of promoting both the success and emotional well-being of their Asian American children.  I’m optimistic that we’ll have a good turnout and look forward to seeing many of you there.  

I mentioned earlier in the Fall some of the different ways that our school implements strategies and programs intended to address bullying prevention and prosocial behavior.  Similar to previous years, we will continue to incorporate speakers and presentations that we feel can complement and expand our work in this area. For 7th grade students, we have again scheduled a great presentation by the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center (MARC) specifically on cyberbullying and internet safety.  The presentation by MARC will take place for 7th grade students this Friday, February 10th and will again be led by Meghan McCoy (from MARC) who has worked with our school for several years, and is very familiar with our student audience.  

The February edition of “Expanding Our Notions of Success”,  the District’s Challenge Success newsletter is out, and you can access it by clicking here.  The focus of the February newsletter is the concept of “engagement” - specifically student engagement in school.  To complement the newsletter I wanted to share links to two recent articles in The Atlantic that look at the idea of student engagement from very particular (and different angles), both raising some questions that certainly overlap with our District’s ongoing work.  The first article tackles the concept of “growth mindset” which is based on the work of Carol Dweck.  A simplified explanation of growth mindset -- the idea that abilities can be developed and is the result of plowing through difficult challenges and new concepts.  Maintaining a growth mindset means believing that working through difficulties and setbacks is how you “get smarter”, as opposed to the belief that one’s intelligence is a fixed and static condition.  What’s become a concern for Dweck is how her work has has often been misinterpreted in a way where encouraging a growth mindset centers around focusing solely on a student’s effort (regardless of outcome) and offering what she ultimately sees as empty praise.  “How Praise Became a Consolation Prize” is an interview with Dweck where she tries to offer some clarification and redirection for those who are interested in the work around growth mindset.  The other recent Atlantic article explores the work of Harvard professor Richard Weissbourd, the founder of the program Making Caring Common.  Entitled, “Ending Extracurricular Privilege”, this piece looks at Weissbourd’s concerns that the college admissions process has contributed (perhaps heavily) to an unhealthy fixation on achievement to the detriment of other important priorities such as developing a sense of caring, and commitment to the well-being of others as central to a meaningful life.  This article also provides a summary of a report, Turning the Tide, authored by Weissbourd and his colleagues, that offer recommendations for reforming the college admissions process - and some well-regarded colleges and universities are starting to listen (read the article to hear about responses by MIT and Trinity College).  Here’s a quick excerpt to perhaps get you interested in the piece:

The report aims to revamp how students spend their time in school by asking colleges to de-prioritize the “long brag sheets” kids are typically encouraged to accumulate, Weissbourd said. The report warns against “overcoaching” and piling on too many Advanced Placement classes. Students “should feel no pressure to report more than two or three substantive extracurricular activities,” it says. The report recommends that some colleges consider making standardized tests optional. All schools should emphasize that it matters less whether community service was performed in a distant location than whether students “immersed themselves in an experience.”

Finally, we had our recent installment of Poetry Friday at the end of last week.  Mr. Malloy, Chairman of Poetry Friday, read “Theme for English B” by one of my favorite poets Langston Hughes.  Mr. Hughes was an American writer whose poetry and fiction portrayed the lives of working-class African-Americans in America.   Click here if you’d like to read the poem.  

Have a great week, everyone.