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Grey Matters, January 30, 2017; Volume 5, Number 21

posted Jan 29, 2017, 11:01 AM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jul 18, 2017, 11:09 AM by James Marcotte ]

Hi Everyone,

Last Tuesday’s delayed school opening ended up being a slight hiccup for my plans to shadow David from 7 Orange.  Fortunately I was able to clear the deck on Thursday so I could spend that day experiencing the school through the eyes of a student.  Full disclosure: I didn’t do the homework that was assigned for later that evening. I gave myself that liberty as a reward for successfully resisting the temptation to check my phone during the whole school day.  I’m glad that we have several staff members participating in this exercise of shadowing students, and it was an incredibly rewarding and revealing experience for me.  I’ve got pages of notes and observations from, as one 7 Orange student put it, “stalking David all day.”  I’m going to spend some time reflecting on those notes in anticipation of our April staff meeting where those of us who shadowed a student will share those observations with our peers as part of our discussion about possible changes to our schedule. In the meantime, here are eight moments and initial observations from my day, in no particular order, and with no particular themes in mind:  

  1. Time moves slowly when you have the last lunch period of the day and have had no snack. I may have checked the schedule 20 times to verify that lunch wasn’t going to happen earlier.  

  2. Students are doing a lot of sitting during the school day, and in chairs that aren’t particularly comfortable.  Maybe my not-so-limber 39-year old body contributed to the level of discomfort I experienced.  Regardless, I was longing for my office chair after about two periods.  

  3. One of the non-sitting moments came in French class when Ms. Gilfix had us perform the song, “Head and shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes….” in French and complete with all the movements and tapping of body parts throughout the song. She had us repeat the song a number of times and started to speed things and we reached a pace where I started wondering if this was what Crossfit felt like.  Despite being out of breath, I appreciated how Ms. Gilfix mixed things up a bit and gave us the opportunity to be out of our seats.

  4. Seven periods a day is a lot - a lot of transitions, both physically and mentally, from one subject and classroom, to another subject and classroom.

  5. I rejoiced when I finally made it to the cafeteria and bought lunch.  I can confirm that there is enough time to chew and swallow your lunch.  There was perhaps a brief moment or two to enjoy the company of your friends, but not much more beyond that.  Before I knew it, it was time to head back to class.  

  6. Several of the classes on 7 Orange were starting or continuing some really creative lessons and in-class activities, which was great to experience.  All of them ran out of time, often when the momentum is just picking up, and planned to continue the exercise the following day.  

  7. We ask students to do a lot of listening, and the teachers give them a lot of (useful) directions throughout the entire day.    If I’m a student who might struggle with attention, or is perhaps learning English as a second language, it’s a long day.  

  8. The teachers have done a great job of creating classroom routines to help students feel grounded and ready for the class.  In each room that I visited, students knew where to get materials for the day, and where to look for instructions about the day and what might be assigned for homework that night.

Many thanks to David, his classmates, and the 7 Orange teachers (and Mr. Charig and the PE teachers) for welcoming me as a student/classmate for the day.  

Here’s some updates and reminders for everyone to keep in mind:

  • We have an early release for students this Thursday, February 2.  Students will be dismissed at 10:40am, and teachers will be remaining to participate in professional development.  Please be sure to connect with your child about after school plans.  Buses will run their normal routes at dismissal.  

  • Apologies for including in last week’s Grey Matters the wrong date for the upcoming 8th grade information session that is being hosted by the High School.  The correct date for this event is Thursday, February 9th at 7pm. The goal of the evening is for parents to get an overall feel for the high school - including the class offerings available to ninth grade students. The night will begin in the high school auditorium and will end promptly at 8:30pm.  Please also note that this event is geared specifically for a parent/guardian audience, and not for the students themselves. In early March, the 8th graders will participate in a series of workshops that provide them with a comprehensive overview of course registration, requirements, and opportunities. Rest assured that I will send out additional information about that process, most likely after February Vacation.  

  • 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.

We’re about a week away from the next installment of our Family Learning Series with Dr. Josephine Kim who will be speaking at the High School Auditorium on Monday, February 6 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.  I recently had an opportunity to exchange a few emails with Dr. Kim and shared with her some insights about our community, and what I think would be areas that deserve some attention on her part.  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 look forward to seeing many of you there.  

Finally, I want to wish those in our community who celebrates Chinese New Year a happy and festive new year as we enter the Year of the Rooster.  For those who may share my delight in the culinary aspects of different cultures and holidays, you may want to set aside 10 to 15 minutes to scroll through this recent article in the Los Angeles Times that profiled foods for a Chinese New Year feast.  Even if you never plan to try any of the recipes included in the article, you can get full (or insatiably hungry) by just looking at all the photos of the dumplings, noodles, and soups featured in the story.  And if that’s not enough, you can go here and watch a brief video of Tom Brady (my fellow 39-year older) take a break from his Super Bowl preparations to wish everyone a happy Chinese New Year in Mandarin Chinese.  I give him an A for effort and for putting himself out there, and I take great comfort in knowing that the outcome of next week’s game will not depend on this particular skill.  

Have a great week, everyone.