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Grey Matters, June 4, 2018; Volume 6, Number 37

posted Jun 3, 2018, 7:05 AM by Andrew Shen

Hi Everyone,


I’m wondering if there’s an unwritten rule that the school principal is forbidden to be the person within a school community who is most excited for the arrival of Summer.  Or at least forbidden from being open and public about that excitement. Given how long this particular school year has felt to almost all of us, I’m guessing that most of you will forgive me for any added enthusiasm for the Summer that I might articulate over the next few weeks, and that I probably have quite a bit of competition amongst parents, guardians, students, and staff for the title of “Most Excited for Summer.”  I’ve got a soft spot (and as a result, a softer belly) for fried seafood, so I’m looking forward to frequent visits throughout the summer months to clam shacks and ice cream stands in and around New England.  I’ve also begun generating my own summer reading plans that begins with Witness, by Karen Hesse, which is a text that all 7th grade students read as part of the English curriculum.  Second on the list is The Astonishing Color of After, which is a young adult novel that has received quite a bit of attention, including top billing in a recent New York Times article that offers reviews of young adult texts to consider picking up this summer.  For those of you who are eager to help your children be open to some pleasure reading over the summer, a few resources for you: (1) our RJ Grey librarian Ms. Charpentier has put together a recommended summer reading list that you can view here, and our RJ Grey Library website includes a number of links to book lists and search engines that provide suggestions based on specific interests; and (2) the High School has released its updated Summer Reading List (click here to view) that it encourages all of its students, including rising 9th grade students (those are your kids, 8th grade parents!), to look at if they’re stuck for suggestions.  Please note that the Junior High nor the High School do not have any required summer reading, but we all want to encourage students to find something to enjoy and read.  


Here’s a few reminders for you and your kids:


An important reminder for 7th grade families that the RJ Grey Student Council will be

hosting the 7th Grade Celebration/Dance in the school gym this Friday, June 15 from

7-9 pm.


Have you sent in your child’s permission slip for the end-of-year Kimballs (7th) or

Canobie (8th) trip?  Thanks in advance for your attention to this.  


If your child has books and materials from our Library, please remind them to begin

returning those items.  We know that it often takes a bit longer to really get everything

returned (and sometimes requires more than one reminder, occasionally four or five…).


On a related note, I do want to make families aware of textbook “obligations.”  Over the

next few weeks, teachers will begin collecting textbooks, library books, and other

materials that need to be returned to the school. Please work with your children on

locating textbooks that might be hidden under piles of laundry, and avoid replacement

fees (some of which can reach a painful $75 for a textbook).


If your child is not planning to be at school during the last day(s) of the school year, we

would appreciate it if you let us know so we can plan accordingly and account for

students during those days.  You can send an email to Katy Frey (kfrey@abschools.org)

and it would also be helpful if you let your child’s team teachers know as well.  


Don’t forget about the Empty Bowls event tomorrow - Monday, June 4 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. The money raised from this event will be donated to the Acton Community Supper and Acton Food Pantry.  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.


The RJ Grey CANstruction project being led by students on 7 Blue will continue through this Friday, June 8th.  Their goal is to receive donations of 1000 cans of food, with all donations going to the Acton Food Pantry.  They are happy to accept cash donations as well and purchase the cans that will first be used to build the display being constructed in the lobby during the last week of school, and designed by 7 Blue students.  Through the Empty Bowls event and this CANstruction project, please consider participating in efforts that will ultimately benefit an important community agency that supports families in need.


Here’s another reminder about the End-of-Year 8th Grade Dance/Celebration scheduled for the evening of Friday, June 22.  Parents or guardians of 7th and 8th graders are needed for the following jobs: set up after school on June 22nd; 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.  Please sign up if you can help us with setup/cleanup activities or with food donations 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.

An important note about our end-of-year field trips on Tuesday, June 26, regarding transportation home at the end of the day for 8th grade students.  In previous years, 8th graders did not return from Canobie until after 3:00pm and so we asked the Transportation office to schedule an additional bus run for our students.  This year, Canobie Lake is opening its doors earlier in the day which will allow us to arrive there around 9:00am and return to RJ Grey before our typical 2:06pm dismissal and utilize the regularly scheduled bus routes.  I wanted to share this change for families who have had other children attend this trip in previous years and might wonder about timing. 7th grade students attending the Kimball Farms trip will continue to return to RJ Grey before the end of the school day.  

Congratulations to 7th grader Joy Wang who was named Artist of the Month for this June. In February I introduced this new program created by RJ Grey art teacher Holly Vlajinac as an opportunity for 7th and 8th Graders to have an authentic, juried art exhibition experience similar to the process in which professional artists participate.  Joy and her artwork were chosen for the month of June and she is posing with one of her pieces in the photo to the left.  When asked about her artistic interests, she notes that, “Usually, when I find some animal, or an interesting plant, or a funny picture-I save the moment so I can draw it later and remember it. Though most of the time, I just doodle randomly while listening to music, sometimes continuing to finish the product.”  You can view more of Joy’s work by clicking here.  


I mentioned in early April that we were planning to collect updated information from our current students about their homework and workload experiences at RJ Grey.  We know that as we continue to try new things in our classrooms, incorporate new materials and objectives, and engage with different groups of students, it’s helpful to collect updated information and see if there have been any substantive changes within this part of the student experience at RJ Grey.  The students completed this survey shortly after we returned from April Break, and I wanted to share the results with all of you along with some initial thoughts and what questions I might be asking as I enter the summer. Below is a chart that shows the responses of 7th and 8th grade RJ Grey students when asked about average nightly school-assigned homework during weekdays (Monday thru Thursday):


April, 2018

RJ Grey

7th Grade

8th Grade

Less than an hour

47%

31%

1 hour

21%

22%

75 minutes

11%

11%

1.5 hours

7.3%

10%

1 hr 45 min

2%

5.5%

2+ hours

11.7%

21.5%


When asked how they feel about the quantity of the homework that is typically assigned, this is how students in both grades responded:



7th Grade

8th Grade

I have too little

6.6%

8.2%

The amount is just right

68.1%

65.4%

I have too much

25.3%

26.4%


As I have mentioned in previous messages, our staff continues to look at our homework practices from a number of different angles and how best to support our students in their efforts to engage successfully with homework that is assigned.  As you know, we are implementing the school wide 20-minute Study Period next year that all students will have with their team teachers. Big picture, I am fairly pleased to see that a significant percentage of our students report spending no more than 1.5 hours on homework on average (with many students reporting closer to an hour or less).  I think that’s a healthy place to be -- where we are continuing to ask students to engage in academic work outside of class, but not to the point where the workload creates what would essentially look and feel like a second shift of school.


While I think the results suggest that we’re overall in a healthy place with workload, I’m not ignoring the fact that we still have a decent sized cohort of students who believe they have too much homework and another cohort that reported two hours or more of work nightly (and it’s not necessarily the same students who are in both cohorts).  I’m curious about their viewpoint and want to learn a bit more about their experiences and what might be contributing to this outcome. As our District continues to engage in our approach to homework and workload across all grades and schools, I hope that the results from this most recent survey of our students proves helpful in the conversations that families and individual school communities have about transitions to and from the Junior High.  


Have a great week, everyone.  


Cheers,

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