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Grey Matters, May 15, 2017; Volume 5, Number 33

posted May 14, 2017, 9:02 AM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jul 18, 2017, 11:07 AM by James Marcotte ]

Hi Everyone,

Happy Mother’s Day to any and all of you who plays that role to one (or more) of our students, or to anyone else. I hope the cold and rainy weather didn’t diminish any celebration that might have been planned for Sunday.  Earlier this year, and it seems every year, I share with families through Grey Matters various articles and stories that highlight the virtues, benefits and advantages of being the first-born child in a family (modesty is not one of them).  I figure Mother’s Day is a perfectly appropriate time to share yet another story about research that concludes that first-born children make better leaders (“conclusion” might be strong, but that’s what I am telling my younger sister).  For all my fellow older siblings, check out this recent story from The Atlantic and start forwarding it to your own younger siblings - you know they’ll appreciate it.  For everyone, I also wanted to celebrate Mother’s Day by re-sharing a link to a video that I came across three years ago that documented the time when the New York Times Magazine decided to invite a group of 2nd grade students to experience a 7-course tasting menu prepared by chef Daniel Boulud.  Normally a dining experience that comes with a $220 per person price tag, I am predicting many of you will appreciate the experiences and honest feedback that the 7-year olds offer in this 8-minute video.  

Here’s some reminders for this week and beyond:

  • A friendly reminder that this coming Wednesday we will be taking the annual 8th Grade class photo.  This is a panoramic photo that we take outside on the hill by the football field.  Order forms have been distributed to 8th grade students.   If you have any questions or need any sort of financial assistance, please contact Jim Marcotte at  

  • Another friendly reminder for families whose children participate in our Band, Chorus or Strings programs.  The Spring concerts are coming upon us.  The Band’s Spring concert is scheduled for this Tuesday, May 16 at 7pm, and the Chorus and Strings Spring concert is scheduled for Tuesday, May 23 at 7pm.  

  • MCAS testing is now officially over, except for a few students who may still have some make up exams.  We hope and will try our best to remind each student that while the scores that come back in Fall tell us how they did on these recent days in April and May, it will not tell us everything about them, including their growth as thoughtful students and people.  

  • On Wednesday, June 21 (second to last day of school), both grades will be participating in their respective end-of-year field trips, and permission slips are being distributed to students this week.  As in previous years, the 7th grade will be going to Kimball Farm where they have full access to the bumper boats, miniature golf course, driving range, and other activities; the 8th grade will be going to Canobie Lake amusement park in New Hampshire. These field trips have historically been great and memorable parts of our year-end activities.  We also appreciate that the RJ Grey community includes families that may find the cost of these trips difficult to absorb.  Like all of our other trips and activities, we never want cost to prevent anyone from participating.  Please do not hesitate to let us know if some relief from these field trip costs would be helpful to your family (contact Assistant Principal Jim Marcotte at  

I’m pleased and excited to be sharing with everyone information about our fourth annual Empty Bowls event.  The Empty Bowls event will take place this year on Wednesday, May 31 from 5:30pm to 7:00pm.  This is an evening of art, singing and ice cream! Students will showcase their art and singing talents and invite families to a charity ice cream social.  There will be an art show, Select Choir performance, a silent auction, and of course the charity ice cream social.   7th grade students made hand-crafted ceramic bowls in their art classes and families that participate will get to take home a handcrafted bowl as a reminder of the vast number of hungry families around the world and right here in our own community. The money raised from this event will be donated to the Acton Community Supper and Acton Food Pantry. This organization helps to feed many hungry families in the greater Acton area. This event helps raise $1000 for the charity each year.  Families from throughout the District are welcome, not just those with students at the Junior High.  The ice cream social is $5 per person with a $20 family maximum.  The rest of the event is free and we hope many of you are able to carve out some time to join us.  

I recently provided a “save the date” for our end-of-year 8th grade celebration, which is scheduled for Friday, June 16th.  I also provided 7th grade families with their own “save the date” for a 7th grade celebration that we are planning for Friday, June 9 and will be at 7pm.  Next week we will include some additional information for how families can offer their assistance for the 7th grade event.  This week,  I’d like to pass along some information about the 8th Grade Celebration from Carol Chytil and Deb Verner, the RJ Grey parents who (thankfully) are coordinating the planning of this event.  Usually at least 350 students attend this event, so we rely heavily on the many volunteers who help make this evening a special way to end the year.  Parents or guardians of 7th and 8th graders are needed for the following jobs: set up after school on June 16th; clean up after the dance; food and drink donations.  In past years, 7th grade Parent/Guardian Volunteers "pay it forward" so that parents of 8th graders can focus on their own children's participation in this important event. As a volunteer, you'll also get a preview of what your child will enjoy next year! Carol has set up a “Sign Up Genius” (click here) that invites parents and guardians to sign up to help in various capacities. This will also be sent out via the PTSO weekly newsletter.  They have a special request this year for someone to build a "large prop" prior to the event.  If you have questions, contact Carol at

Even though the 8th grade Dance/Celebration is a little over a month away, I also want to re-share some information and messaging that I send out each year at this time about the event - and do my best not to oversell or undersell the atmosphere that exists at this great end-of-year activity.  Every year, I mention the below thoughts because sometimes, during some bouts of excitement about the event, a few expectations get generated within our student population that may be a bit on the unrealistic/ambitious/fantasy-ish side-- and then they occasionally get re-articulated to parents as school guidelines. So below is my annual “We’re really excited for this event, but this is not an episode of MTV’s My Super Sweet Sixteen” plea.  

We definitely make an effort (and with the help of parent volunteers, are always successful) to make this more than a “typical” or casual dance/celebration in terms of atmosphere -- we’ve got great decorations, props and backdrops for group photos, and an impressive spread of food (and it’s at night).  We want students to come excited and eager to spend an evening with their friends and classmates, and somewhat dressed up for the event.  As I mentioned prior to our most recent 8th grade social/dance, students don’t need to think that “coming with a date” is expected (the overwhelming majority do not), nor is it essential to schedule hair appointments or special transportation.  We ask students who attend this event to dress a bit more formally than most would for a regular school day -- whatever is your child’s individual version of “taking it up a notch”.  I’d try and get into more detail about clothing options, but then you’d discover how out of touch I am with current youth fashion trends.  Finally, if dancing is not your child’s “thing”, please assure them that it’s not a required activity for the evening, and many simply come and socialize with their peers.  This last point is why I’ve recently started to refer to this event using the term “celebration” along with “dance.”  

Finally, we had our most recent edition of Poetry Friday at the end of last week, and it featured three students from Ms. Bryan’s 7 Red English class.  Laura, Kerry and Amelia read an original poem that each of them wrote as part of their class’ most recent poetry unit.  Check out this great student yourself work by clicking here.  

Have a great week, everyone.