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Grey Matters, May 21, 2018; Volume 6, Number 35

posted May 20, 2018, 10:31 AM by Andrew Shen

Hi Everyone,

I am not sure how to describe the current status of the relationship between me and Bailey, our family’s puppy, who last Thursday chewed through the back of the shoes I wear most frequently to work.  We’re not in a particularly good place right now. Besides the tenuous dog-owner standoff that is stressing everyone out in my house, there were certainly several other moments, events and stories in the news throughout the week about different kinds of relationships, mostly between humans - the most prominent being the royal wedding and exchange of vows between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.  I didn’t watch the entire event, but I did scroll through a number of clips based on initial comments on social media, and the gospel choir performance of “Stand By Me was definitely my personal favorite.  I was a bit floored by the stoic facial expressions and zero body movement by most of the guests - I was looking for at least a few smiles and casual swaying of the body during the stirring performance.  The week leading up to the royal wedding certainly witnessed a flood of stories, articles, and psychoanalysis that extended beyond the typical chatter about fashion and celebrity sightings. Within the crush of stories that were appropriately optimistic and celebratory, I did read with a bit of additional interest a New York Times article that approached relationships and marriages from a slightly different angle, but perhaps one that a few can relate to - and that’s when you’ve got some reservations about the person your friend or loved on is planning to marry.  In other words, are you tempted to speak now before having to forever hold your peace and if so, why, and how, and at what cost? Then there was this follow up story in the Boston Globe about the Mars One project that announced in 2015 the 100 applicants who were selected to participate in a one-way trip to colonize Mars in 2032.  Specifically, it looked closely at the impact on the personal lives of the individuals who made a commitment to eventually leave friends and family in order as a sacrifice that comes with what they see as an opportunity of a lifetime. For one person (who lives in Stoneham), this decision resulted in the end of his marriage, yet for another spouse it presents the opportunity to be what he calls, “the ultimate long-distance relationship.” I’m not sure I could share that gentleman’s optimistic view of his wife being 55 million kilometers away, though I suppose that arrangement would give me a bit of the extra time that I often wish I had to buy birthday and anniversary gifts.  

Here’s a couple of updates and reminders for families:

Next Monday is Memorial Day and there will be no school that day. Enjoy the long


The Spring Chorus and String Ensemble concert is this Tuesday evening at 7pm in the

Junior High auditorium.  

On Wednesday, June 26 (second to last day of school), both grades will be participating

in their respective end-of-year field trips, and permission slips will be distributed to

students in the very near future.  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 fifth annual Empty Bowls event.  The Empty Bowls event will take place this year on 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. 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 has helped 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.

The Student Council elections were held last week to determine next year’s President, Vice President, Treasurer and Secretary.  We first want to thank and applaud every 7th grader who ran in the elections. It’s not easy at any age to put yourself out there, let alone plan and deliver a speech to a few hundred classmates. The 7th grade class listened to a range of thoughtful and funny speeches by each of our candidates.  Congratulations to next year’s Student Council officers: Treasurer Anish Mudide, Secretary Eli Jarsky, Vice President Grace Lee, and President Jefferson Wu.  

A few weeks ago I provided a “save the date” for our end-of-year 8th grade celebration, which is scheduled for Friday, June 22nd.  I also provided 7th grade families with their own “save the date” for a 7th grade celebration that we are planning for Friday, June 15 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, Deb Verner and Ranjini Reddy, the RJ Grey parents who (thankfully) are again 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 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. As a volunteer, you'll also get a preview of what your child will enjoy next year! Coming soon will be a “Sign Up Genius”  that invites parents and guardians to sign up to help in various capacities. This will also be sent out via the PTSO weekly newsletter. If you have questions, please free to contact Carol at

Even though the 8th grade Dance/Celebration is about 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. 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.

As we get closer to the end of the year and students typically develop an increasing interest and excitement about the event, which is great.  We want to celebrate that enthusiasm and we also want to make sure everyone has a clear understanding that this is not an event that requires “coming with a date.” Quite frankly, it doesn’t even require dancing.  It’s a social event where music and the option to dance are a central feature, but certainly not a requirement. Please know that we are not trying to discourage students from attending the dance together, and happy for those who might be at that place. Our students are certainly at an age where for some of them dating, romantic feelings, and matters of the heart are a new area of intense interest. For other kids, this particular aspect of puberty does not currently play as prominent a role, with some being completely oblivious or unphased by it.  With that in mind, we are trying to strike a bit of a balance of providing an appropriate space for students to navigate this arena of teenage romance, but not have other students unintentionally develop the impression that dances and social events must involve a romantic angle.

Have a great week, everyone.