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Grey Matters, October 30, 2017; Volume 6, Number 9

posted Oct 29, 2017, 11:07 AM by Andrew Shen

Hi Everyone,

This year’s 24 MacArthur Genius Grant award winners were announced earlier this month, and includes many talented individuals pursuing their craft in fields such as science, music, photography, and community organizing.  When I hadn’t been notified of my status as one of the recipients, I thought that perhaps the letter had gotten lost in the mail and would eventually make its way to my home.  Now that a few weeks have passed, I have come to accept that I was not included in this year’s cohort. Instead, it’s likely that once again, I was choice number 25 for a program that only has 24 slots.  I will admit that I thought this year might be different, that this would be the year, and I would be granted the no-strings $625,000 prize as a way to both recognize and fund my campaign to have Halloween always fall on the last Saturday of October, rather than on the last day of October.  It feels (to me) as though in recent years the hype about Halloween has grown quite a bit, for kids and adults, so having the holiday occur at the beginning of the week (like this Tuesday) is probably going to make for a long week. Two recent studies indicate that the average per person spending in the United States on Halloween is now in the neighborhood of $175.  The commercial aspect aside, it seems like this holiday has taken on a few additional cultural roles in terms of providing individuals a chance to shed one persona and express a different, and perhaps less inhibited, side of one’s self.  I recently read an interesting article in National Geographic that notes that this trend has gone somewhat global, with a more international interest in Halloween as a night to “escape the status quo.”  More locally, the city of Salem continues to embrace its status as “Witch City” and organized a monthlong celebration of the holiday.  As for the scariest costume that I might consider wearing on Tuesday, I was thinking of taping to my body an enlarged copy of the report the College Board released last week confirming the continued rise in college tuitions.  By the time my own three children reach the age where they might be considering college as an option, I’m going to need that MacArthur grant just to pay for a single year’s tuition.   

As I mentioned last week, we have Halloween Dress Up Day on Tuesday and we’re looking forward to the parade of costumes that will likely enter the building.  Please remember that participation is completely optional and the rate of student (and teacher) participation is typically around 50%, so no student should feel compelled to come in a costume.  During any costume planning, please continue to help your child keep in mind that we must avoid including props that mimic weapons (swords, firearms, knives, etc.), clothing that includes profanity and/or might be overly revealing or minimalist in nature, and no masks (we need to see your faces!).  It’s a great tradition, and we all look forward to a fun and spirited day.  

Here’s a few other reminders for the next week or so:

  • 8th grade students who are interested in Minuteman High School as a possible option for next year are invited to participate in a field trip on November 16 to visit Minuteman and be introduced to the programs that are offered.  In order to attend, students need to pick up a permission slip in the 8th Grade Office, and also instructions for how to register directly with Minuteman for this trip.  If you have any questions, please email your child’s counselor or Mr. Marcotte (  

  • The District’s monthly newsletter, Expanding Our Notions of Success, is out and was sent directly to families earlier this month.  This month’s newsletter highlights the work of Dr. Steven Layne who will be the next presenter in our annual Family Learning Series.  His talk, What Parents and Caregivers Can Do to Nurture Lifetime Readers, will be on November 7 at 7pm in the High School Auditorium.  

  • Early next week I will be sending a message to all families about our annual Parent-Teacher conferences that are available in December and January and will include details about dates and times, and the process for signing up.  

We have just concluded the Fall season for our school sports programs.  Congratulations to our Field Hockey, Soccer, and Cross Country teams on a great season - both individually and collectively. We hope the students who participated in these programs found it to be a worthwhile experience.  As we prepare to enter the Winter season, I wanted to provide a few friendly reminders about extracurricular activities. First, our Winter sports program includes Boys and Girls Basketball teams (with separate teams for 7th and 8th grade), and Cheerleading. The tryout schedule will be posted within the next few weeks with start dates planned for shortly after the Thanksgiving Break.  If your child does not currently have an updated Green Form, please use this next month to complete that process and ensure that our nurses have sufficient time to review the forms.  You can view the tryout schedule (when it’s up) and review the Green Form process on the Athletics page of our website.  For students who participated in a Fall sport and might now have a bit more time after school, we encourage them to consider joining one of our extracurricular clubs and activities.  Students are welcome to join these programs throughout the year and can review the many options by visiting the Clubs and Activities page of our website.  

Finally, we have reached the point in the year where some of our RJ Grey students and families are exploring private schools as options for next year, and I’d like to re-send the following note that I share each year:  Our Counseling Office works with families on the application process, and they have created a number of documents and guides to assist families.  You can download information by going to the RJG Counseling site (click here).  One aspect of the application process that I’d like to highlight is the writing of teacher/counselor recommendations.  Our teachers and counselors are happy to support students in their applications, and take seriously the crafting of a recommendation.  With that in mind, we ask that families honor the request that teachers be approached about letters of recommendation at least 4 weeks in advance of when those letters are due.  In many situations, parents initially reach out to teachers on behalf of their child, which is perfectly fine.  It’s also important for the student to speak in person with their teachers about their interest in private schools.  This is valuable for a few reasons.  First, hearing a bit more about the student’s interest in the schools to which they are applying gives the teacher a better sense of what might be useful to include in the letter.  Secondly, having a teacher find recommendation forms on her desk without any prior explanation from a student or parent is never the ideal way to start the conversation about a recommendation. By no means are teachers and counselors expecting students to feel indebted to them for writing a letter, and forever genuflect whenever they enter the room. However, speaking directly to the teacher is, I think, central to showing an appropriate level of appreciation for this additional task the students are asking their teacher to complete on their behalf.  If you think your child may be a bit nervous with this task, you might encourage them to speak with the counselor, who can offer some tips and even help them practice.  Your child’s counselor is also, in general, a great resource for various aspects of the application process.  

Have a great week, everyone.