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Grey Matters for March 6, 2017; Volume 5, Number 25

posted Mar 10, 2017, 10:56 AM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jul 18, 2017, 11:03 AM by James Marcotte ]

Hi Everyone,


I hope last week’s re-entry from vacation proved to be relatively smooth and painless.  The warmer weather certainly helped, and I’m definitely not complaining about this week’s forecast that includes a few days with temperatures in the 50s.  I want to express my appreciation to our families for your support and words of encouragement last week after I had shared with all of you news about the incident that occurred right before the February Break.  I also hope you had a chance to read the letter that Dr. Brand also sent out at the start of the week regarding our District’s commitment to a safe and welcoming environment.  You can click here to review that message.  With a week filled with some tough conversations, I was extremely fortunate that Douglas School’s annual Read Aloud Day was scheduled for last Tuesday, and that I was invited to be a guest reader in Mrs. Shamah’s 1st grade classroom.  It was not only the highlight of my week, it may have been some of the most fun I’ve had in a really long time.  Asked to share my favorite children’s story, I came to Douglas with The Day the Crayons Quit, a story that some, but not all, of the 1st graders had seen before.  We had a wonderful time talking about our favorite colors, whether the sun should be colored with yellow or orange crayons, and all laughed at how the peach crayon wouldn’t leave the box because his wrapping had been removed and he was embarrassed at being nude.  I don’t know if our shared laughter at peach crayon’s nakedness is a sign that some things are universally funny or if my own sense of humor just hasn’t progressed since I myself was 7 years old (it’s probably a bit of both).  Finally, I was able to finish the week by opening a package on Friday that included illustrated thank you letters from all of the students in Mrs. Shamah’s class (see embedded photo).  There is a sequel to The Day the Crayons Quit so I’m angling for a possible invitation to return and read that book with them.  


We have now entered the month of March and this is typically one of the busiest months of the year in terms of school-related events, deadlines, and transition activities for next year.  I’ve got quite a bit of information to share with all of you, so I’m going to delay discussion of my youngest son’s decision that our family’s next dog (which we’ve agreed to pursue this June) must be a Bernese Mountain Dog (which grow to an average of 85 to 110 pounds) and will be named after his best friend Alex.  I’m also going to wait a bit to share more information about annual state MCAS testing because this year the testing period has been moved back (for elementary and middle schools) from mid-March into April and May.  There are quite a few changes related to MCAS testing and I’ll explain all of that within the next few weeks.  I’m also going to offer details about our Spring sports programs in next week’s Grey Matters, including tryout and sign-up dates for baseball, softball, girls volleyball, and track.  In the meantime, if you haven’t completed a “Green Form” this year (click here), it’s important to get on that task now as it is required for all students who wish to participate in the District’s athletics programs.  


First, here are some important reminders about upcoming events, deadlines, and special schedules:


Thank you to the many 7th grade families who have already submitted their signed consent forms regarding our upcoming plans to present the Signs of Suicide (SOS) lesson and screening tool to our 7th grade teams.  We had about 40 parents/guardians attend last Monday’s information session with Dr. Larry Berkowitz and I hope those in attendance found it useful.  The signed consent forms are due this Friday, March 10 and please don’t be alarmed if we check in with you over the course of the week to offer some reminders about submitting the form.  Please also remember that students who don’t submit the consent form will be scheduled to participate in the lesson but not the screening tool.  We are scheduled to deliver the SOS lesson on March 20, 21, 22, and 23 (one team per day).  


Please also remember that the Junior High and High School have a late-start scheduled for this Friday, March 10.  That means that for Junior High students the day starts three (3) hours later at 10:30am.  This late start allows us to provide our entire staff with an important suicide prevention training that we have scheduled for that morning.  Riverside Trauma Center will be conducting this training for our staff that day, and for elementary school staff on Thursday, March 30.  For students who take the bus to school, the bus routes will be scheduled exactly three hours later than usual.  For example, a normal 6:45am pick up will instead be at 9:45am.  Parents/guardians dropping off their children can not bring their children to RJ Grey earlier than 10am (the school won’t be open since we’ll be at the High School).  We will have “regular” dismissal at 2:06pm.  


Here’s a couple of more notes about upcoming dates and activities:


  • The Winter Trimester ends tomorrow (Monday), and report cards will likely come home with students on or around March 16.  

  • Over the next few weeks, all 8th grade students will participate in an information session with their current school counselor about transitioning to the High School.  Specifically they’ll be discussing the High School schedule, extracurriculars, and instructions for how to register for classes using the parent portal.  They will receive various forms and handouts that will prove helpful for parents/guardians as well.  The parent portal will be open to 8th grade parents/guardians on Monday, March 20 for them to review course recommendations and work with their children on developing a schedule for next year.  Between now and March 20, 8th grade teachers will be meeting with students to share their feedback about course and level recommendations.  Next week’s Grey Matters will include a lengthier segment on that process with some thoughts to keep in mind.

  • For parents and guardians of current 7th grade students, we haven’t started the registration process of 8th grade classes, so you haven’t missed anything.  You’ll likely receive materials at the end of this month about recommended math levels, and the form that you are asked to complete that summarizes world language enrollment, math level, and your child’s Grey Block elective requests.  Once the form goes out, I’ll send out a reminder in that week’s Grey Matters.  

  • A friendly reminder that the Junior High’s Stageworks theatre program (our version of a Drama Club) has scheduled auditions for their Spring one-act plays for this Tuesday, March 7 and Thursday, March 9, from 2:15pm to 4:00pm in the auditorium.  The performances of the one-act plays will be May 11 and 12.  For questions, please contact Cheryl Miller (cmiller@abschools.org) or Bethany Dunakin (bdunakin@abschools.org).  

  • Acton-Boxborough’s Challenge Success newsletter for March is now available!  The focus of this newsletter is on the issue of sleep and includes last year’s student responses about their sleep patterns.  It also includes a link to the presentation that Dr. Kirsty Kerin gave earlier this year on the science of sleep.  You can view it by clicking here.  

  • Minuteman Technical School has asked me to pass along information about their Spring Career Pathway after school program for students in grades 6 through 8.  There are a few sessions in late March and early April with 19 course offerings, and transportation is provided.  If you want to learn more about this program, click here to view their brochure.  


This week is National Foreign Language Week!  The goal is to bring awareness of the importance of foreign language study through celebration of languages and cultures. Our eight World Language teachers have put together a great series of activities and looking forward to the many ways that students will be featured throughout the week.  Students will be greeting the community in a variety of languages during morning announcements, and a 7th grade student will be reading a poem in French for our Poetry Friday selection.  There will also be trivia questions that are read in the morning and students can submit answers throughout the day and be entered to win a pulsera (bracelet) that was handmade in Nicaragua and part of the Spanish Club’s pulsera fundraising project.  Many thanks to our World Language department for taking the lead on this effort.  


This month’s organized chaos of events and activities also involves what art teacher Ms. Haskin has termed March Mural Madness.  Ms. Haskin and I met earlier this winter and discussed ways that we could work with students in the 8th grade Art Elective to begin the process of replacing and complementing some of the murals that currently adorn various hallway spaces throughout our building.  We see this as a great opportunity to give our students an opportunity to put their mark on the school (literally and figuratively), and think about themes and aesthetics that would be appropriate for public spaces in our building.  With Ms. Haskin’s guidance the students researched a variety of options for mural designs and came up with a number of exciting ideas.  They voted on their favorites, created planning sketches and then developed their final plans.  Starting last week the students have begun painting their murals and it will be exciting to watch these murals take shape over the next several weeks.  


Finally, we ended our week back from February Break with an edition of Poetry Friday that featured Physical Education teacher, and AB alum, Ms. Brenna Sacra.  Ms. Sacra shared with us a piece that was written by a fellow AB alum, the late Jenna Agule (AB ‘06) whose birthday would have been last Friday (March 3).  A nice way to end the week by honoring the memory of an AB alum, and sharing a piece that offers a hopeful message for our community.  Click here to read “Blessed” by Jenna Agule.  


Have a great week, everyone.


Cheers,

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