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Grey Matters, October 23, 2017; Volume 6, Number 8

posted Oct 22, 2017, 1:42 PM by Andrew Shen

Hi Everyone,

I’m predicting that in a few short months I’ll begin my annual public lament about the bitterly cold weather that makes itself at home in New England, and how the more temperate climate in San Francisco might be a better fit for my lifestyle.  However, filing away in my memory the weather we’ve had these past few weeks (and the fact that we don’t have earthquakes) might be enough to get me through the upcoming Winter without too much complaining.  Given the warm(er) weather we’ve had this October the timing of the fall foliage has been stretched out a bit and there’s still time to enjoy the scenery, as well as carving out some time for apple picking.  I also want to offer a nod to this past weekend’s annual Head of the Charles Regatta (click here for photos in the Globe), which brings rowers from all over the world to compete in this event.  Having had a rower as a roommate in college, and now being married to a former competitive rower, I developed a healthy appreciation for this sport and the many rewards that rowing offers.  Because this sport has historically been associated with mostly private schools at the secondary level, I was pleasantly surprised to learn a few years ago that students in Grades 8 through 12 in Acton-Boxborough have access to a local rowing program that includes a team for students from both Bromfield and Acton-Boxborough (click here to learn more) The athletic programs that we have at RJ Grey are a great fit and opportunity for a lot of our students, and for others the activity that really grabs their attention and piques their interest might be ones like rowing, or the local fencing club that a student was telling me about last week.  

Whether it’s rowing or fencing, a dance or music program, or something completely unstructured with other people instead of a screen, there is a case to be made for encouraging more in-person engagement and perhaps exerting a bit of extra influence (and maybe some better modeling) on how and when smartphones and other digital devices are used by our children.  A few weeks ago I made reference to a study that noted a marked delay by current mid to late-teens for when they experience certain milestones. And while physically safer, this current generation has also seen an increased psychological vulnerability to anxiety and depression, and struggles with tasks that require some resilience and comfort with failure.  I recently came across two articles on this subject, one of which takes a deeper dive into exploring the potential link between this trend and the ever present smartphone, that I wanted to bring to your attention.  Fair warning, these articles are extremely long, heavy and dense reads - but still captivating and powerful.  Even if you don’t agree with some or all of the arguments within these pieces, they stretch your thinking about a range of important topics.  

My favorite of the two was written by the author of the aforementioned study about delays in adolescent milestones, and was in the September 2017 edition of The Atlantic.  “Has the Smartphone Destroyed a Generation” expands on that study and offers some interesting observations about trends within this current generation of adolescents with the reminder that, “the aim of a generational study, however, is

not to succumb to nostalgia for the way things used to be; it’s to understand how they are now.  Some generational changes are positive, some are negative, and many are both.” The author touches upon a number of subjects that I am pretty confident many parents will react to with a fair bit of familiarity and recognition. After reading the article, I also remembered that the Challenge Success website has a page that includes Media Rules that offers guidance to parents and guardians about navigating and managing the benefits and risks that come with smartphones and social media. Click here to read some of their suggestions that you might want to consider.  The other article I want to share was in a recent edition of the New York Times, entitled, “Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering From Severe Anxiety?”  While I came upon this article during my own weekly review of the Times, it was also one that was forwarded to me by several friends and colleagues inside and outside of Acton-Boxborough.  It’s definitely been a topic of conversation amongst a number of staff, and I wanted to bring your attention to it as well. These two articles explore some pretty hard, emotional and messy topics that don’t end with clear cut conclusions or solutions. Nevertheless, they do present us with opportunities to enter and re-enter healthy conversations that I know many within our community have been having both formally as well as more casually amongst neighbors and friends.  If you do take some time to read one or both articles, I hope you find it to be time well spent.

Ok, now for some reminders about the next few weeks:

  • School pictures will be distributed to students at the start of this week. We have scheduled a picture re-take day for this Wednesday, October 25th.  If your child ordered a photo package and you would like for him/her/them to re-take the photo, please have your child bring in the original package on that day (and to come dressed for the re-take!).  If your student missed Picture Day earlier this year, this is also the time for him or her to have a photo taken.  Even if you don’t have plans to order a photo package, it is important to have everyone’s photo taken so they will be included in this year’s yearbook.  

  • Halloween is a week from Tuesday.  Please be sure to finalize with your children their plans for that day.  A friendly reminder that dressing in costume is optional and that not all students (nor staff) participate, so each individual should feel comfortable making the choice that’s right for that student.  If your student does choose to arrive in costume, please be sure to review the expectations that I shared with families in last week’s Grey Matters.

  • It’s a few weeks away, but a friendly reminder that there is NO SCHOOL on Tuesday, November 7 for our District’s Professional Learning Day.  There is also NO SCHOOL later that Friday, November 10 for Veteran’s Day.  

  • The District’s Late Bus program has been in operation for almost a month and we’re pleased that it’s been a helpful resource/option for a number of our families.  As we near the end of the Fall season and the Winter season is on the horizon, new activities, sports programs and other after-school opportunities might be on your child’s radar. If the Late Bus might be something you want to consider, you can click here for the original letter and list of stops that are part of the two Late Bus routes.  

Several years ago, we began a small recognition program called “Everyday Leaders” as one way for us to celebrate and put a brighter spotlight on students who, in a variety of ways, demonstrates leadership through daily acts of kindness, enthusiasm, and being respectful towards peers and teachers. Twice a trimester, our teams (and each grade’s exploratory, elective, and physical education teachers) identify a student who they have observed modeling some element of good citizenship within their classes and team. Every year, the cohort of students who are identified by the teachers is incredibly diverse in terms of the qualities that are being celebrated.  Sitting next to students who are more comfortable with the spotlight, there are always many students whose kindness and contributions present themselves in less obvious and nuanced ways.  This past Thursday, I met with our first group of Everyday Leaders for a small lunch in the main office.  I continue to confess every year that in many ways the lunch is more a reward for me, since it gives me a chance to engage with more students.  Congratulations to the following students who were part of this first group: Erin Albano, Madeleine Cardone, Matthew Deedy, Abby Dennison, Owen Layton, Donovan McCAmmon, Dhruv Nadkami, Tyler Robb, Krish Suraparaju, and Cole Traywick.  

Have a great week, everyone.