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Grey Matters, June 12, 2017; Volume 5, Number 37

posted Jun 11, 2017, 10:57 AM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jul 18, 2017, 11:02 AM by James Marcotte ]

Hi Everyone,


In case you missed it, last Thursday was National Best Friends Day, one of many unofficial, though nevertheless fun, national holidays that are acknowledged around the country, or at least featured on your Facebook news feed.  We are fortunate that our new dog Bailey and Molly (our Golden Retriever) have taken a liking to each other, or at least that’s my interpretation of their continually partnering up to tear apart several stuffed animals.  Hearing about National Best Friends Day reminded me of a few articles that I read last year about friendship, and that I sent to the person I consider my best friend.  The first is a May 2016 article in the New York Times that explored some ongoing research focused on changing understandings of “friendship” in a world where the term is used, sometimes quite casually, to describe many different types of relationships.  What exactly is the criteria for considering someone a “friend” that someone might maintain as they’ve generated a Facebook or Instagram friend list that exceeds 1,500 people?  It’s an interesting exercise, asking people to describe or define “friendship” and it will probably generate a wide range of ideas.  The second article I sent my friend was one from The Atlantic called “Why Friendship is Like Art” and summarized a conversation the journalist had with a philosopher from Princeton who had recently written a book focused entirely on trying to do just that (that is, define friendship).  It’s a pretty heavy read (he is a philosopher who tends to wax very poetic), but an interesting one if this subject interests you.  If you aren’t up for reading it, here’s my favorite excerpt from his effort to define friendship and that I share in honor of National Best Friends Day:  "You expect that there’s more in the work than you've seen already, so you keep relating to it—keep reading it or looking at it or listening to it in order to see what other things there are. And as long as you think you haven't exhausted it, you still love it.”


For those who have been following the District’s work around a possible shift in school start times, the School Start Time Committee submitted its final report to the AB School Committee at last Thursday’s meeting.  You can read the Committee’s final report by clicking here, and you can also review its presentation slides by clicking here.  Both the report and the slides include a summary of the responses offered by the over 2,000 residents, parents and staff who participated in the school start time survey.  The Committee ultimately recommended to the School Committee that it consider exploring a shift in 2018-2019 where the Junior High and High School have an 8:00am start time, and all six elementary schools have a shared start time of 8:40am.  Accepting this recommendation would mean that the School Committee would carve out time next year to explore not only the educational and co-curricular aspects of this change, but also the operational and financial dimensions that would accompany this change, including the increased cost of transportation.  On a related note, the New York Times published an article (“The Science of Adolescent Sleep”) a few weeks ago that again highlighted the discussion within the medical community about adolescent sleep.  


We had a great turnout for last Friday’s 7th grade celebration, and from what I could tell the students had a great time (hopefully that’s what they shared with all of you).  The success of any event such as Friday night’s event hinges on the dedication and hard work of some RJ Grey staff and parent volunteers.  This dance, and next week’s 8th grade dance, wouldn’t be possible without the work of Debbie Ahl, 8th grade English teacher and Student Council advisor.  Kate Imhoff graciously took on the task of organizing parent donations and staffing the food tables during the event, and we are enormously grateful for her efforts last week, and really for the past few years.  Thank you to Kate, Frances Cook, Salome Juethner, Candace Doncaster, and Trena Minduri, for setting up and staffing the food and drink table last Friday evening.  The 8th Grade End-of-Year Celebration is this Friday at 7pm!  This event is held in our (transformed) cafeteria and students enter through the side door (you’ll see it); so parents who are dropping kids off can pull right up to the front of the school.  When picking kids up after the event, we would suggest parking in the lower parking lot and either waiting in the car, or coming up to the entrance to meet your kids (your options probably depend on the degree to which your child allows you to be seen in public with them).  


With all this energy and attention focused on these end-of-year celebrations, I thought many of you might enjoy spending ten minutes listening to one of my favorite episodes of This American Life.  First aired in October of 2011, “Middle School” includes a number of stories about this particular stage of adolescence and schooling, including a hysterical look at middle school dances.  This examination was not exactly a scientific study but certainly hit on some themes and concepts that ring true for many who remember those complicated adolescent years, and certainly for those who for some reason decided to make it the setting of their professional careers.  For me the best part of the section focusing on middle school dances is when two students were describing the rules and expectations that their school articulated to them in advance of a dance, some of which were shared as written guidelines that included, “No Petting.”  To which the students expressed serious confusion wondering out loud, “do people sit at dances and pet other people? That’s weird.”  If you are interested in listening to this episode, click here.  


A few quick and friendly reminders about the next two weeks:


  • Does your child have an RJ Grey Library book or old textbook buried under some laundry?  Teachers will begin the process of collecting textbooks and other learning materials, so anything you can do to help unearth these items would be greatly appreciated (and save you some money).  Also, for families who might have a negative balance in their child’s lunch account, please be sure to reconcile that matter as well.  If you have questions about your lunch account, feel free to email Kirsten Nelson at


  • The end-of-year field trips are on June 21st.  7th graders will be dismissed at the regular 2:06pm time and can take the buses home.  8th graders will return from Canobie around 4pm, and there will be a second run of the bus routes that take place between 4pm and 4:15pm (or you can come and pick them up).  


Finally, I mentioned last week that we recently we had our last round of Everyday Leaders, bringing our total number of students recognized through this effort to a little over 60.  Congratulations to Barnabas Gyimesi, Harrison Pratt, Hannah Keenan, Ashley Liu, Sarah O’Sullivan, Rachel Yendluri, Sid Vasudeo, Christoph Conley, Brayan Alexandre, and Zhmonyal Yusufzai.  


Have a great week, everyone.