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Grey Matters, June 18, 2018; Volume 6, Number 39

posted Jun 17, 2018, 9:36 AM by Andrew Shen

Hi Everyone,


My parents moved to the United States from Taiwan in the early 1970s to continue their graduate studies.  My father was studying electrical engineering and my mother is a classically trained musician whose two children subsequently studied the cello (me) and the flute/piano (my sister) and throughout our childhood streams of students would come to our house each afternoon for music lessons, and those lessons in some respects became the soundtrack to the early part of our lives.  All these things contributed to my limited exposure to popular American music during my childhood. I was initially raised on a healthy diet of classical music, John Denver (as previously shared), and….. Rosemary Clooney (don’t ask) - that’s all that was ever played in the car. When I was in 5th grade I took on a paper route for the Boston Globe that required early morning delivery and so I commandeered my parents’ clock radio which, for those who grew up in the Boston area during the 1980s, was set at WSSH 99.5, a station that featured adult contemporary music with playlists that emphasized artists like Phil Collins, Neil Diamond and Bette Midler.  Of course, not knowing any better, I developed the mistaken impression that this station was playing the newest music at the time, that I’d finally been exposed to what was hip and fresh, and that my knowing all the words to Bette Midler’s The Rose and Phil Collins’ A Groovy Kind of Love put me on par with everyone else when it came to popular trending music. Finally, in the early 1990s, a friend of mine gave me a bunch of music by U2 - the band that was developing its status as the biggest rock band on the planet - and I spent the next few years obsessing over their music and their story.  During that time, their Zoo TV tour brought them to the old Foxborough Stadium in 1992 and a different friend somehow secured us tickets to the concert and this just added more fuel to my newly developed obsession.  All of this became for me an entrypoint to discovering a whole new expanded landscape of music.


I share the above story now for a few reasons.  First, my kids and I have reached the stage where we disagree pretty regularly about what music should be played in the car.  That’s not an experience I myself had growing up, but that I have read about as a common rite of passage amongst parents and their children - perhaps a few of you can relate and have also been asking out loud, “what’s so great about Drake?” There are fewer and fewer Top 40 songs that are familiar to me, and that remotely interest me.  This divide in musical tastes was also on full display last Friday at the 7th grade dance (more on the dance below) where your kids were incredibly enthusiastic and inspired by the music blaring from the speakers and where I was developing a small migraine. I’m trying to remind myself that this was probably what my parents felt about my eventual discovery of popular music in the early 90s and I need to remind myself that my own lack of interest or enjoyment in that music isn’t necessarily what matters in those moments in the car or at the dance.  Thinking of this collision of musical tastes reminded me of an article I read in the New York Times last February, The Songs that Bind, about the idea of musical nostalgia and the belief that later in life, the majority of us stick with the music that captured us in our teenage years.  As for why this happens, a recent follow up article on this subject summarized the research well:  “research has shown how our favourite songs stimulate our pleasure responses in the brain… the more we like a song, the more of these chemicals flow through our body. This happens for everyone, but during our adolescent years our brains are going through a lot of changes. We're also incredibly hormonal and sensitive, so if we hear a song we really love, it's more likely to stay with us forever.  That isn't to say you won't hear a new song you love in later life — it just might not elicit the same strong response because you aren't such a sponge anymore.” This idea of musical nostalgia is also probably why I am irrationally giddy about this Thursday --I have not seen U2 live since that first concert in Foxborough twenty-six years ago, but will see them again on Thursday at their concert at TD Garden as a Father’s Day present from Melisa and the kids - they win for best present idea within the Shen household this year.  My kids don’t particularly care for my music, but they respect that it makes me happy and they are excited for my upcoming concert, and it’s a good reminder that I should offer a similar respect and enthusiasm for their developing tastes.  A Happy Father’s Day to any and all of you who also celebrated the event this past weekend.  


Here’s some reminders for this last full week of school:  


We expect the temperatures on Monday to rise into the 90s tomorrow (Monday) by mid-day.  Some classrooms and spaces in the Junior High are air conditioned, most classrooms are not.  We will remind students to stay hydrated and I would encourage you to send them to school with a water bottle that they can refill during the day.  


If your child is not planning to attend RJ Grey or the High School next year, please be sure to let us know.  We have to officially confirm your family’s plans to withdraw your child from the school system, and can also assist you in transferring records and other information to your child’s next school.  Please email our registrar Lena Jarostchuk (ljarostchuk@abschools.org) with that information.  


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 knelson@abschools.org


The end-of-year field trips are on June 26th- next Tuesday.  Both 7th grade and 8th grade students will be back from their respective trips in time to be dismissed at the regular 2:06pm time and can take the buses home.  If your child is not planning on attending either trip (or simply won’t be at school by that point), please be sure to email Katy Frey (kfrey@abschools.org).  


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.  Tracey Estabrook 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 and the other parents and guardians 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!  Thank you to the parents and guardians who have already volunteered and signed up for one or more of the roles that are listed on the Sign Up form for this event.  We could still use a few more volunteers to make sure that everything runs smoothly - if you’re able to participate please sign up by following this link to a Sign Up Genius:  8th Grade Celebration Help.  If you have questions, contact Carol Chytil at carol.chytil@gmail.com. For those of you bringing kids to the school that evening, 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).  I’ll send out a reminder to 8th grade families this Friday, but in advance please be mindful of the 9:30pm end time and a plan where your child will be picked up by 9:45pm that evening.


Congratulations to the students and staff on 7 Blue for the successful completion of their inaugural RJ Grey CANstruction project and food drive.  Their goal was to receive donations of 1000 cans of food that they would first use to design and make a structure that would be on display in the lobby, and then eventually would be donated to the Acton Food Pantry.


At the end of every school year, we send off our 8th grade students and wish them well as most of them make their way down the street to the high school, while others join private schools, enroll in a vocational program, or are moving out of Acton or Boxborough.  This year, we are also preparing to bid farewell to four retiring members of the RJ Grey staff, as they begin new chapters of their lives as well. Lynne Bover (30 years), Mark Hickey (24 years), Mary Fran Doiron (23 years), and Cheryl Carter-Miller (9 years) are completing distinguished careers as educators.  Celebrating the retirements of our colleagues is always bittersweet; we are happy they’re in a position to pursue other interests, and we’ll also miss them deeply.  If you and/or your children have some fond memories of working with any of these teachers and staff members, I would encourage you to drop them a quick note and join us in thanking them for their years of service to RJ Grey and all of its students.  


Have a great week, everyone. We’re almost there!


Cheers,

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