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Grey Matters, March 5, 2018; Volume 6, Number 25

posted Mar 4, 2018, 9:56 AM by Andrew Shen

Hi Everyone,

About five years ago a friend of mine started including me in her tradition of attending the Banff Mountain Film Festival, an event that comes to the Somerville Theatre every February.  The Banff Mountain Film Festival is an international film competition which involves an annual presentation of short films and documentaries about mountain culture, sports, and the environment and typically involves activities that lead most of us to say, “you’re doing what?!” This year, that includes bicyclist Ben Page who, while cycling around the world, decided to include bicycling into the Canadian Arctic.  Entitled, The Frozen Road, you can watch the 24 minute video by clicking here (I suggest having a hot beverage available while watching this).  When I arrived at the Somerville Theatre this year I started running into a lot of Acton-Boxborough residents which was a pleasant surprise and had me wondering if it was just a coincidence.  I soon learned from one of those folks in attendance that the high volume of A-B viewers was because one of the films being featured was about Acton-Boxborough graduate Adam Rice who in 2016 climbed a world record 2.5 million feet on skis in a single calendar year. If you click on the linked article, the documentary film about Adam’s adventure is also embedded in the article and you can view the whole thing.  Inspired by the film that documented Adam’s story, along with the other films celebrating those who conquer dangerous terrain and conditions that truly test one’s ability to survive unforgiving elements, I am working on submitting my own short documentary film about the sleepover that we hosted at our home last Friday to celebrate Addison’s birthday and involved 12 5th grade girls who would occupy our home from 5:30pm on Friday to 9:00am on Saturday.  Shot entirely on mine and Melisa’s respective phones, the documentary will be a 10-minute video that includes footage from throughout the evening, except for the three hours when actual sleep (miraculously) occurred.  For most in New England the term “bomb cyclone” describes the wild weather we experienced on Friday.  For Melisa and I, it will be the title of the documentary we submit to the film festival next year.  

Here are a few updates and reminders about the next few weeks.  Please note that the second half of this week’s Grey Matters is focused on High School course registration for current 8th grade students.  If you have an 8th grade student and would like to learn a bit more about this process, please be sure to read that portion of this newsletter.  

The Winter Trimester closed last Friday. It’s likely that Winter Trimester report cards will be emailed to families on or around March 14. Please remember that report cards will be emailed to any email address currently listed in your student’s Emergency Card in the Parent Portal.   

On Friday, March 9 from 2:30 - 4:00 in the gym student council will sponsor the fifth

annual March Madness basketball tournament.  Students interested in forming a team

needed to submit forms by last Friday.  There will also be food, music, and limbo at the

event and students not competing in the tournament are welcome to attend and cheer

for their classmates.  

The R.J. Grey Junior High yearbook is offering you the chance to send your love, pride

and congratulations to the graduating 8th grade student in your life. Please click on the

link for instructions on how to submit an ad.  Family Ad Instructions.   The deadline to

submit an ad is Monday March 12.

Congratulations to Krish Surapuraju who was named Artist of the Month for this March. 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. Krish is a Digital Artist who uses a computer and programs such as 'Blender' as a way to create his artwork.  This style of artwork uses technology to create realistic looking animations, images and characters that can be used in many different online and digital applications.  You can view more of his work by clicking here.  

Our Spring sports season is around the corner.  We need a little bit more time to finalize the schedule for tryouts and sign ups for our Spring sports programs - Baseball, Softball, Volleyball and Track. Those will be up on the website shortly and we’ll include mention of it in our daily announcements. In the meantime, please remember that all students must have a “Green Form” in order to participate, and can be downloaded on the Athletics page of our website.   There are still tryouts for baseball and softball, tryouts for the girls volleyball program, and track continues to be a “no-cut sport.”  In other words, any student interested in participating is welcome to join.  For the last few years, we have averaged somewhere between 200 and 250 students participating in the track program, which is always sight to see (especially during the track meets).  

In terms of participation in the track program, we plan to continue providing an option for students (and families) who are interested in the track program, but not prepared to commit to the full practice and meet schedule.  Not attending each practice or meet, as you can imagine, can create some challenges given the need to organize and schedule things like relays teams, practice plans, and logistics for away meets.  With this in mind, we offer students the choice to sign up for one of two options: (1) students who can commit to at least three practices per week, including all home meets, should sign up for the Blue Team.  Please note that the two non-practice days for students on the Blue Team needs to be the same from week to week.  (2) Students who wish to travel to away meets (in addition to home meets) and be eligible for relay teams and field events can sign up for the Gold Team.  Gold Team members are expected to attend all practices and all meets, without exception (unless the student is sick and absent from school).  It is entirely up to the student (and his/her family) to choose the best option that makes the most sense for him or her.  Please note that the participation fee is the same for either option. The above options will be explained to everyone at the first Track meeting (date forthcoming) so they can make an informed decision.  Remember that all important information about Spring sports can be found at our school’s Athletics page.  

Ok - the focus of Grey Matters from this point on will be High School Course Registration for 8th Grade Students.  

Through the end of this week, our Junior High counselors will be giving presentations to 8th grade classes about course offerings and requirements at the High School, and team teachers will be making course recommendations for students.  If you’d like to review the slides that were/will be part of the presentation to your child, you can view that by clicking here.  A timeline for this process can be found on our school’s Counseling Office web page which you can access here.  In addition to those resources, families should review all of the following documents: (1) the High School Program of Studies, which includes details about course requirements and guidelines; (2) the list of 9th grade electives for 2018-2019; and (3) directions for electronic course selections.  I would strongly recommend that all 8th grade families review the entirety of the directions - there is information about the process for override requests that must be followed (without exception) should you wish to pursue that route. Please note that families who might need assistance with accessing the portal should use the high school contact information that is listed at the top of the instruction sheet.  

On Monday, March 19, the portal for current 8th grade students to register for high school courses will be open.  By then, all students will have had conversations with their current teachers about course and level recommendations.  During the conversation that takes place with a student, the teacher will explain some of his/her/their observations about the student’s strengths and areas for growth, and what level placement may be most appropriate for next year.  In many of these conversations, students also share with teachers their thoughts on next year, their level of interest in the subject, and their own reflections on the progress they’ve made this year.  To be sure, a teacher’s recommendation is influenced by a student’s performance thus far (trimester grades being one measure), along with a variety of other observations about a student’s approach to the subject.  There are certainly variations that come with different areas of study.  For example, English and Social Studies teachers are asked by the high school to give particular weight to writing, reading comprehension, and critical thinking.  To that end, a teacher in one of those disciplines may place emphasis on a student’s growth on certain types of writing assignments, along with other factors.  

In all of the subjects, teacher will often review with a student their observations about specific student skills, such as time management and self-discipline, and consistency of work.  In addition, teachers are asked to consider level placement with the hope that students will both enjoy the class and have the time to pursue other interests, including extracurricular activities. During this process, it’s important to remind ourselves that these recommendations aren’t meant to serve as a final verdict or prediction for how a student will perform for the rest of their academic lives. It’s feedback based on what a student has demonstrated this year, and using that as a guide to thinking about what a student would be prepared to take on next year.   Some students may have hit their stride this year, and for others it may be their sophomore year when all of a sudden they develop a passion for a certain subject or they figure out that whole time management puzzle.  As I have mentioned in previous years, my parents needed to wait until I was about 20 to witness me figuring those things out.  I won’t speak officially for the high school, but I am confident that the high school also recognizes that things can and do change over time for adolescents and that there’s always a path for students to take that suit their interests and strengths.  

For many of you, the recommendations made by the teachers may align with your own leanings, and even your child’s. If there are situations where you feel you would benefit from some feedback from the teacher, please ask.  In addition, it’s very useful to discuss with your child what all of you might view as a healthy and appropriate course load for next year.  For example, while a student may have the ability to be successful in a number of accelerated courses, it may not be in one’s best interest to be taking them all at the same time (on top of participating in sports, and/or the school musical, and community service).  Finally, in those instances where you and your student would like to enroll in a course level that is different from the teacher recommendation, there is an “override” application process that is managed by the high school.  Within the registration instructions, there is a description of the steps that the high school would like you to take to pursue those requests.  I hope this information is helpful to all of you as you navigate this process.  

Have a great week, everyone.