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Grey Matters for October 31, 2016; Volume 5, Number 9

posted Oct 30, 2016, 2:26 PM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jul 18, 2017, 11:04 AM by James Marcotte ]

Hi Everyone,

Hayden’s soccer team made its annual pilgrimage to AB’s Lower Fields this weekend to compete against one of AB’s 6th grade travel teams. Last year, the Universe took pity on my divided loyalties and the game ended in a 1-1 tie.  There was no tie this year and in an effort to not erode any goodwill that I might have with the AB community, I will resist any temptation to use this week’s Grey Matters to provide a play-by-play of Hayden’s and his teammates’ 2-1 victory.  I am sharing this moment with all of you for three reasons.  First, it’s always an interesting experience for me when my worlds collide a bit, and it was nice hearing parents of Hayden’s teammates comment on what a great facility we have with the Lower Fields.  Second, I want to follow up on my recent summary of our school’s concussion protocol with a  New York Times article about ongoing research on concussions and new debates about reducing and/or eliminating heading from soccer.  My motivation for sharing it is certainly not in an effort to sway other soccer parents one way or another on this particular subject.  Instead, it is a topic that (as a “soccer dad”) has given me something to wrestle with, and I wanted to pass along to other soccer-oriented families in AB.  

Third, my weekend of chauffeuring children to various activities offers a nice entry point to the larger topic of extracurricular activities and the purpose it can, should, and does serve for our children.  For the Shen’s the current extracurricular landscape is centered around soccer and the upcoming youth basketball season.  For many of you, this subject may involve sports and might also orbit around music, dance, theatre and/or math and science enrichment programs (as a few examples). A big part of our Challenge Success work will also tackle this topic of how adults and kids view the role that extracurricular activities play in their lives.  Is it to reap the benefits that organized peer activities provides? To pursue an area of passion and curiosity? To provide structure to their day? To “keep up with” or “get ahead of” peers in some real or perceived competition to secure an opportunity down the road (in the form of college acceptance, scholarship, or something else)? Or maybe all of the above?

Like most things related to our kids, and the choices that we the adults make for them, our approach to extracurriculars is usually not an either/or situation, and is instead often a both/and scenario.  That’s another reason why I’m glad that we’ll have Dr. Denise Pope visiting AB next week to work with families and staff members.  During her presentation on the evening of Tuesday, November 8 (7pm, High School auditorium) Dr. Pope will definitely be touching upon this subject and incorporating some of the results of the student survey that was administered last Spring to students in grades 6 through 12.  Ahead of this presentation, I wanted to make available to all of you two things.  First, here is an article that can be found on the Challenge Success website, entitled “Playing at Sports” which I found to be an interesting analysis of the shape that youth sports culture has taken in recent years.  Additionally, I am sharing below an excerpt of the survey results from last Spring.  [Side note: there’s a lot of information in the survey results, so the District is working on sharing that information with families in pieces that are more digestible and with appropriate context].  In response to questions about their extracurricular activities, this is how students last year in grades 6, 7 and 8 responded:  


of students report spending an average of 7-10 hours from Monday thru Friday on extracurricular activities


of students report spending over 10 hours (on average) from Monday thru Friday on extracurricular activities


of students report spending an average of 4-6 hours during the weekend on extracurricular activities


of students report spending an average of 7-10 hours during the weekend on extracurricular activities


of students report that they are often or always stressed by their extracurricular activities


of students chose enjoyment as the primary reason

they participate in their extracurricular activities


of students report that they believe it is quite or extremely important to their parents/guardians that they are successful in their extracurricular activities


of students reported having between 0 and 40 minutes of free time on a typical weekday

To be sure, the data above can be seen through a number of different lenses. Varied, and even competing, conclusions may emerge from each of us as we look more closely at this information.  If you want to participate in more discussion about this, then please come to the presentation on November 8 with Dr. Pope.  

Here are a few important notes and reminders for the next two weeks.  Please take a moment to review each of them:

  • I hope all of you received and reviewed the email note from Dr. Brand that was sent last Thursday.  It shared and summarized a number of community forums and presentations that we hope many of you will consider attending so that we can continue working as a community to support all of our students and families.  Here is the text of the email if you’d like another copy.  Please note in particular the presentation scheduled for this coming Thursday, November 3 with Dr. Robert Evans entitled, “Mental Health: Keeping Our Kids Safe.”  This event will be held in the Junior High auditorium beginning at 7pm.  I will be attending that event and hope to see many of you there.  

  • Monday is Halloween and RJ Grey’s Dress Up Day!  We look forward to the parade of costumes that enter the school that day.  A friendly reminder that weapons and facemasks can not be part of any student’s costume.  

  • An important reminder to families to please work with your students on being picked up shortly after the completion of their after school activities, especially as the outside temperatures begin to drop.  While our after school building supervision is able to provide for some transition period between the end of a student’s activity and his/her pick up, we aren’t positioned to do this on a larger scale and for extended periods of time.  Also, please remember that most activities are completed by 4pm (if not sooner), and that the Library closes at 4:30pm.  

  • Students do not have school next Tuesday, November 8 (Professional Day/Election Day) nor on Friday, November 11 (Veteran’s Day).  

  • On Tuesday, November 15th, RJ Grey will bring students interested in learning more about the educational opportunities at Minuteman Regional High School to take a tour of their school.  Students who intend to participate need to complete an RJ Grey permission slip available in the 8th Grade Office and submit it back to their counselor by Friday, November 4th.  Those students attending the visit are responsible for communicating with their teachers and coordinating any make up work that might need to be completed.  

  • For Boxborough families whose children might be interested in pursuing a technical school route.  Minuteman Regional High School will continue to be a school to which they can apply (though not as a student from a member town), so participating in the November 15 tour would still be useful.  In addition, Boxborough families may also want to consider other technical school options during application season.  Please contact your child’s counselor to learn more about this process.  

  • Beginning on November 1, RJ Grey will begin the annual Coats for Families Drive. This is the 21st year of the Coat Drive here and it is an annual fall RJ Grey tradition. Good condition, wearable winter coats and jackets for children and adults are dropped off in the box in the lobby. They will be taken to Anton's Cleaners where they will be cleaned free of charge. They are delivered to agencies like the Salvation Army and Mass Coalition for the Homeless who get them to those who are in need of a good, warm winter coat. The box will be in the lobby during the month of November only.

  • The Take Action Club is organizing a food drive between now and Thanksgiving to collect much-needed food for the Acton Food Pantry. If every person in the building brought in just one item for our Food Drive, we would be able to add over 1,000 much needed products to the Food Pantry's shelves. That would provide dozens of Acton and Boxborough families the food they need as winter approaches. Collection boxes are in each team's social studies classroom.

For our families who observe Diwali, the festival of lights, I hope this weekend proved to be full of joy and celebration with friends and family.  I came across this article in the Washington Post, written by someone who uses her family’s celebration of Diwali to reflect on the dynamics that often accompany a bicultural upbringing and formation of identity.  To be sure, this is not a subject that is unique to those who observe Diwali, and may speak to many of you who also have some experiences straddling different worlds and cultures.  

If you find yourself in the Junior High over the next few weeks, you might come across the bulletin board that is in the photo to the right, and located over by the cafeteria entrance.  It is a giant tree branch that 7th grade Art teacher Sara Haskin made, and the different leaves were made students and

and teachers who accepted an invitation to draw a leaf, fill it with patterns, and brought it to Ms. Haskin to be added to the board.  Thanks to everyone who helped our community tree “grow” and to Ms. Haskin for leading this effort.

Finally, in last week’s Grey Matters I outlined a series of recent experiences that hammered home my being entrenched in a particular stage of life where one feels a bit more removed from popular culture and where memories of one’s youth are feeling a bit more distant.  It seems a number of you feel like you’re in a similar place, and we briefly bonded over that.  If seeing Luke Perry on the cover of AARP Magazine brought out some mixed feelings, I also wanted to direct your attention to this video of music legend Phil Collins who is currently promoting his new memoir which has the fairly straightforward title, “Not Dead Yet.” His performance of the legendary song In the Air Tonight provided a nice flashback to the 1980s, though watching him completely out of breath at the end of the performance was a reminder that it’s indeed still 2016.  

Have a great week, everyone.