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Grey Matters, January 15, 2018; Volume 6, Number 19

posted Jan 16, 2018, 4:39 AM by Andrew Shen

Hi Everyone,

Greetings from 37,000 feet.  Melisa and I took advantage of the long weekend and a cousin willing to stay with our kids to take a short trip to a warmer climate, and we’re now headed back.  The rule follower in me feels compelled to assure everyone that this brief getaway was planned well before I made the decision to push the early release to last Friday and it didn’t help me one bit in avoiding the excruciating traffic into Logan Airport that evening.  No, we didn’t head to San Francisco, nor were we in Hawaii -- that would have made for a much different and not as restful experience given the accidental ballistic missile alerts that paralyzed and terrified everyone in that community. We feel fortunate that our actual destination provided us an opportunity to relax and enjoy some sun and warmth, including an ability to take a break from the tedious and monotonous treadmill and go for my morning run outside.  This is all despite the fact that our daughter Addison wrote us a sweet note the night before we left that also included a slight detour when she used the term “abandoned” to describe how she was feeling about our plans to leave for the weekend.  Her ability to deliver messages intended to generate feelings of guilt have recently sharpened.  Not enough to prevent us from going, clearly, but still impressive.  As our flight now continues to head towards Boston and its 13 degree weather, and I occasionally grip the armrest during bouts of turbulence (my aversion to flying can be analyzed in a future Grey Matters), I am looking forward to seeing our kids, and then your kids at school on Tuesday.  I hope they and you also had a chance to take advantage of the homework-free long weekend.  There are some reports that we may see more snow, including Wednesday morning, so stay tuned for any school-related announcements.

Here’s some updates and reminders for the next week or so:

  • Yearbooks are still on sale through January 19.  Instructions for how to order a copy can be found by clicking here.

  • Interim reports for this current Winter Trimester will be emailed to families at the end of this week.  Please remember that this includes any email addresses currently listed on your child’s Emergency Card. Not all students will necessarily receive an interim and if your child does receive one or more, please take a moment to review the feedback and information with him/her/them.  If you have any questions about those interims, I would encourage you to start a dialogue with your child’s teacher.  

  • The chorus and strings Winter Concert is this Wednesday at 7pm in the auditorium.

  • An important Save The Date message to 8th grade families regarding the transition to the high school: On Thursday, February 8th at 7pm the high school will be hosting an evening for the parents of 8th graders. 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 with a welcome by interim principal Mr. Larry Dorey followed by a brief presentation by each department leader focusing on the classes available to ninth grade students. Immediately following the presentation parents may join department leaders in the East Commons where they will be available to answer questions.

  • I’m excited that starting next week we will be expanding our recycling program in the cafeteria to include composting.  This has been an initiative spearheaded by members of our Green Team who have been committed advocates for this addition and are working hard to address the logistics that need to be figured out in order to ensure success.  We will be showing students two short videos about this plan (probably during Silent Reading) that were developed by members of the Green Team and one of our local Girl Scout troops that include RJ Grey students.  You can also view these brief videos by clicking here and here.  Many thanks to Mrs. Jeanne Bouchard (7 Blue Science) and our Green Team for helping us move towards practices that support sustainability.

Thank you to the many 7th grade families who have already submitted their signed consent forms regarding our upcoming plans to present the Signs of Suicide (SOS) lesson and screening tool to our 7th grade teams.  We had about 30 parents/guardians attend last Monday’s information session with Dr. Larry Berkowitz and I hope those in attendance found it useful.  The signed consent forms were due this past Friday, January 12 and we will continue to accept forms from families this week.  Please also remember that students who don’t submit the consent form will be scheduled to participate in the lesson but not the screening tool.  We are scheduled to deliver the SOS lesson on January 22, 24, 29, and 31 (one team per day).  

Also, another important reminder that the Eliot Community Human Services (with a location in Concord), with a Healthy Teen Initiative Grant from the AB United Way, will conduct a suicide prevention workshop for members of our adult community on Monday, January 29 from 6:30pm to 8:30pm, also in our Junior High Library.  QPR - Question, Persuade and Refer is a community-wide program that teachers the warning signs of suicide and an effective emergency response.  People trained in QPR learn how to recognize the warning signs of a suicide crisis and how to question, persuade and refer someone for help.  Please note that while it has a shared goal, the Parent Information session about our SOS has a very different focus, and is narrowly focused on providing families with an overview of our plans with students. If you are interested in attending, please contact Dr. Deborah Garfield at  

A few weeks ago I shared an article about the ongoing challenges that many parents face regarding the use of technology and social media by their children.  As I’ve mentioned before, Melisa and I are really good at limiting our kids’ access to digital devices at bedtime, including expectations about when those devices get turned off and charging devices next to our bedroom.  We are not so good, and actually pretty terrible, about regulating the amount of time on those devices during various unstructured times in the afternoon and particularly on weekends.  So I continue to read with interest articles that remind us of the importance of being more proactive on this front, and perhaps some strategies for how to talk to our kids about the benefits and challenges of their engagement with the digital world.  That’s one reason I want to bring your attention to a community event in early March (see below), as well as share links to a number of articles and stories that touch upon this topic - some with a narrow focus on a particular trend, others with a more general perspective on the topic.  First, I want to make specific mention of a story you may have come across this past week about a recent trend where teens are daring peers (through social media) to eat Tide pods - the laundry detergent packets.  I really haven’t learned enough about this story to fully understand its origins and offer any of you an explanation to reduce the bewilderment you are likely experiencing at this moment.  I do, however, have a video of Patriots player Rob Gronkowski trying to convince adolescents that this practice is a dangerous practice that should be avoided.  

More broadly, here are a number of articles that examines the topic of teens and technology.  NPR just recently posted an article about trends and discussion topics centered around “screen time” and the Washington Post published this piece summarizing “what teens wish their parents knew about social media.”  The last item in that piece about how social media has altered the way in which adolescents view healthy relationships (romantic, sexual, or platonic) is a topic that I think we all need to confront and address more directly in the near future.  There’s a new documentary on A&E called Undercover High where seven young adults posed as high school students for a semester, and cell phone use was a significant storyline.  Lastly, to offer a bit of international flavor to this conversation, the French government is weighing whether to pursue a ban on the use cellphones by students in schools, as they struggle with the same challenges and benefits that accompany these devices.  

For those of you who want to start and/or continue a conversation on this topic, there’s an event in early March that I would encourage you to attend.  On Thursday, March 8 at 7pm, the Blanchard Elementary PTF and the ABFN are bringing the documentary film Screenagers to the Sargent Memorial Library in Boxborough.  Marketing for the film includes this brief description: “Award-winning SCREENAGERS probes into the vulnerable corners of family life, including the director's own, and depicts messy struggles, over social media, video games, academics and internet addiction. Through surprising insights from authors and brain scientists solutions emerge on how we can empower kids to best navigate the digital world.” The film screening will be followed by a facilitated discussion led by Boxborough's Community Services Coordinator Lauren Abraham, LICSW. The discussion will focus on how each of us can help our children make healthy choices in daily life that balance the benefits of technology and positive, face-to-face social interactions.  Click here for more information and to register for the event.

"Life's most persistent and urgent question: what are you doing for others?"

-- Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Finally, on the day we devote to the memory and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we again highlight the importance and value of community service, and how it is encouraged and recognized within our District.  I want to once again make special mention of our community service recognition efforts at the Junior High through Rise to the Challenge.  Many thanks to the students who have already submitted a record of their service hours and participated in this program.  This program is ongoing throughout the year so it’s definitely not too late for any student to get involved (learn more by clicking here to visit our website).  As I mentioned in a recent Grey Matters, 8th grade students and families should remember that starting January 1, students can record community service activities and hours that can also be counted towards the High School’s “Accept the Challenge” program, which recognizes students for their commitment to, and engagement in, community service.  To learn more, you can visit the High School Community Service website, and also review some of their literature by clicking here.  

Have a great week, everyone.