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Grey Matters for October 24, 2016; Volume 5, Number 8

posted Oct 23, 2016, 9:23 AM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jul 18, 2017, 11:03 AM by James Marcotte ]

Hi Everyone,

I’ve recently begun feeling a little bit of distress when it comes to my increasing lack of familiarity with the latest trends in popular culture, media, and mainstream technology.  A few moments that I experienced last week made me realize that I’ve drifted farther away from being “in the know”, when in the past it didn’t feel like I had to make much of an effort to stay current and aware of the latest trends. It just used to feel intuitive and natural.  I know that this isn’t simply a function of age, but I do wonder if reaching a certain stage in life plays at least a minor role.  I think there’s a good chance many of you may be at a similar age as me (I’ll be 40 in March), and certainly at a similar stage of parenthood (I’ve got a 6th grader), and so perhaps there might be others who are experiencing something similar.  Given that my work involves engagement with young people, there’s a part of me that is starting to wonder if, as part of my dedication to my professional growth, I need to start watching a wider range of television programming beyond sporting events.  Excuse me, a wider range of television/Netflix/Hulu/Amazon/YouTube programming.  I’ve become so detached from popular programming that I even find myself struggling to keep up with those around me who are debriefing the latest developments on shows that appeal to our age bracket, such as the Great British Bake Off or Stranger Things.  I know of those and other shows, but I know very little about them. I am not sure what my wife will think when my upcoming New Year’s resolutions have nothing to do with eating less cookies and centered around watching more television.  

Despite this recent case of self-doubt I went to BestBuy this weekend with the intention of buying a very basic television for a room we just renovated. I met Allen, a BestBuy sales associate who I think only recently became old enough to vote in this upcoming election, and received an education on, among other things, why there’s no such thing as just a “regular” television.  As a result of his fairly effective salesmanship, and my expanding insecurity with what’s become (if Allen is to be believed) mainstream technology, I not only left with a fancier television than I originally planned, but also purchased a behemoth of a (and not inexpensive) wireless router whose eight different antennae will (according to Allen) most assuredly help me solve my perpetual wireless receptivity challenges throughout my home. What might have finally put me temporarily over the edge last week was when my attention was directed towards the latest edition AARP magazine, where Luke Perry of Beverly Hills 90210 fame is gracing the cover. Talk about adding insult to injury.

Here are some important scheduling notes and reminders for this week and beyond:

  • The Junior High will be closed to all staff and students after 4pm on Wednesday.  We have some significant plumbing-related repairs to address and in order to do that we need to turn off the water for a few hours.  When there’s no water in the building, it can’t be occupied (think sprinkler system).  So please know that the Library will be closed at 4pm, and all after school activities and clubs will need to be completed by that time as well.  We will include this message in our Daily Announcements.  

  • School pictures will be distributed to students at the start of this week. We have scheduled a picture re-take day for this Thursday, October 27th.  If your child ordered a photo package and you would like for him/her to re-take the photo, please have your child bring in the original package on that day (and to come dressed for the re-take!).  If your student missed Picture Day earlier this year, this is also the time for him or her to have a photo taken.  Even if you don’t have plans to order a photo package, it is important to have everyone’s photo taken so they will be included in this year’s yearbook.  

  • Halloween is a week from Monday.  Please be sure to finalize with your children their plans for that day.  A friendly reminder that dressing in costume is optional and that not all students (nor staff) participate, so each individual should feel comfortable make the choice that’s right for him/her.  If he/she does choose to arrive in costume, please be sure to review the expectations that I shared with families in an email I sent to everyone last week.  

  • Don’t forget about our Rise to the Challenge community service recognition program.  Looking forward to receiving submissions from students describing their different service activities and interests.  Please contact Debbie Brookes ( with any questions.  

It’s now time for the weekly reminder about our Challenge Success work.  One important clarification to begin with -- Challenge Success is not a set program with pre-set steps and stages that a school district adopts or implements.  Instead, Challenge Success is an organization that provides support, language, and resources that schools can use to structure and organize their work and efforts on specific issues related to the dilemmas that we’ve continued to highlight.  They also provide consultation and help connect us with best practices and new efforts around the country that

other similar school districts are implementing.  Again, if you’d like to learn more about some of their ongoing work, you should definitely visit their website.  Here’s an article from 2013 when Challenge Success collaborated with researcher/author Daniel Pink on ongoing efforts to redefine success.  When co-founder Dr. Denise Pope visits us on November 8, she’ll spend the first part of her day meeting with the entire preK-12 staff and I anticipate that there will be some areas where we get pushed, perhaps gently and not-so gently, to reconsider some of our practices.  Later that evening (7pm, High School auditorium), she’ll meet with parents and guardians.  I anticipate that she’ll share a lot of information that will be well-received and excite many of you.  I also predict that similar to her afternoon presentation to staff, she’ll advocate for some ideas and changes related to parental mindsets, choices, and priorities that may create a bit of discomfort and/or disagreement amongst the audience (though from what I’ve experienced she’ll do it firmly but kindly, and with a smile).  I hope that the likelihood that we’ll probably be exploring those messy subjects that are sometimes easier to avoid in our community gives you incentive to attend!  To give you a bit of  a preview of some sticky subjects that Dr. Pope might explore, I wanted to provide a short excerpt of a piece written by Dr. Madeleine Levine, another co-founder of Challenge Success.  In a piece from two years ago called, “Why we find it so hard to change,” Dr. Levine includes the following:

“We are convinced of the need to change and terrified of implementing it. We worry that if we change too quickly, while others hang onto the old paradigm, our children may be left behind. That our changes may disadvantage our children when it comes to the intense competition we feel awaits them in school, in work, in life. If our son doesn’t join the traveling soccer team at 8, how will he be able to compete at 13? If our daughter doesn’t take 4 AP’s her junior and senior year, how will she get into a top school when her best friends are taking 5 AP’s? So here’s the thing: an exhausted, frightened, stressed child is unlikely to be successful in the long run….Yes it takes courage to swim against the tide, to make decisions that are not aligned with what appear to be community values, to take a risk and decide that our children are better served by being protected than by being pushed.”

That above excerpt is intentionally provocative and has a lot of layers that need to be unpacked, to be sure, and the conversation on November 8 will be a great way for many in the community to start!  If what I’ve shared above has piqued your curiosity a bit more, please know that Challenge Success also has a pretty active Facebook page where they post interesting articles and updates about what they are pursuing with different schools across the country.  

Finally, our latest installment of Poetry Friday’s was at the end of last week.  We had the good fortune of having guest contributor Mr. Chris Charig, our school’s music and chorus teacher.  His selection was a poem by American poet Emma Lazarus, who is most known for writing the sonnet “The New Colossus”; its lines are included on the pedestal installed at the base of the Status of Liberty.  Mr. Charig read Lazarus’ poem “Long Island Sound,” which is a place that holds great meaning and memories for Mr. Charig.  

Have a great week, everyone.