Grey Matters
A weekly blog by RJ Grey's principal Andrew Shen

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Hi Everyone,


Last December was the first time I shared with families information about vaping (also referred to as “Juuling” after the most popular brand) - which involves the use of electronic cigarettes. More on what that is in a moment.  By June, I felt compelled to revisit the topic because of the trends being reported in the news, as well as having had to address a handful of incidents that involved vaping at RJ Grey.  Since that time, we actually haven’t encountered the increase in vaping-at-school incidents that we were bracing for, and were a bit worried about. That’s certainly been a bit of a relief and we are well aware that the ease with which individuals can mask/hide use of e-cigarettes is a major feature of this growing problem and we don’t want to be naive to the possibility that there could indeed be students at RJ Grey who are exposed to and/or are using e-cigarettes and simply successful at not getting caught.  In the recent release by Emerson Hospital of the results from last year’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey which was taken last Spring by students in grades 6, 8, and 9-12 at A-B and other surrounding communities (11,000 students total), 28% of high school-age students reported having used e-cigarettes, along with 9% of middle school students in participating towns.  It is clear that our community isn’t immune to this national trend amongst young people, which the FDA recently declared an epidemic.  My motivation for returning to this topic via Grey Matters is not to incite panic amongst the parent population, but I also don’t think it would be an overreaction on my part to strongly encourage all of our families to more fully educate themselves on vaping/Juuling and to take that next step of having a conversation with their kids about this important health issue.


OK - so what are e-cigarettes and what is vaping/Juuling?  A really good 2017 Boston Globe article on this subject included the following: “Electronic cigarettes are devices that utilize stored electricity to heat a liquid into vapors, which are then inhaled by the user….the liquid can be anything from a flavored water-type mixture to liquid nicotine to THC, the principal active element of marijuana.”  As you can see in the above photo, most e-cigarettes look like a really long thumb drive, and are in fact often charged through a USB port. This new terrain is complicated by the fact that current technologies make them more readily available, usage is easier to mask, and marketing of the devices includes “fruit flavors” that offer the perception that vaping is a safe and risk-free endeavor.  That’s where a good bit of education and messaging to counter those beliefs can hopefully prove helpful amongst our students. To that end, our Health and Life Skills classes have updated their lessons on substance use and abuse to include information about e-cigarettes and vaping, and we devoted a portion of a recent staff meeting to providing our faculty and staff with a bit of a primer on this subject so they can also support our school’s efforts.  At home, the conversations you have with your children about your expectations can be influential, and at least your kids would then know that you’re aware of what’s going on despite your/our incredibly old age and surprise them given our tendency to be unfamiliar with all youth-oriented fads. And those conversations don’t have to be of the fire and brimstone variety. You might enter it by asking them what they’ve heard or know about it, and use what they share as entry points for including additional information and perspective about it.  Along with the above Boston Globe article, here are some resources that can help you with your conversations:


Teen Vaping: What You Need to Know by the ChildMind Institute

A Resource Page on Vaping by the Massachusetts Dept. of Public Health

A short piece on CNN (a YouTube video) about vaping and teen use

A Resource Page by the American Academy of Pediatrics


As we develop more familiarity with this topic, we’re thinking about additional opportunities to help families learn more about vaping and e-cigarettes.  Right now we’re considering a brief evening presentation in partnership with our School Resource Officer, or folding this topic into other conversations that might be planned around the release of the most recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey results.  We’ll keep you posted when those plans are more developed. In the meantime, I hope the above information is useful for all of you.


Here’s some updates and reminders for the next few weeks:


The Fall Trimester closes on Wednesday, November 28th (right after Thanksgiving).  There will likely be end-of-trimester assignments and assessments this week and next, so you might want to check in with your child(ren) about what is on their plates between now and the Thanksgiving Break.  


7 Red’s annual Coat Drive continues, so if you have any coats (for adults or children), they can be dropped off in our Lobby.  


For the Thanksgiving Break, we have a half-day of school on Wednesday, November 21 with dismissal at 11:06, and then we return to school the following Monday, November 26.  


Winter sports will begin shortly after the Thanksgiving Break. 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 on the RJ Grey Athletics page next week with start dates planned for shortly after the Thanksgiving Break. Starting this summer, we have shifted to an online signup for our athletic teams using a site called FamilyID.  This process has taken the place of the paper “Green Forms” but still requires submission of an updated physical. You can view the tryout schedule (when it’s up) and review the FamilyID process on the Athletics page of our website.


Last week all families should have received an email with instructions on how to sign up for the annual parent-teacher conferences.  You can also access the sign-up form through our website by clicking here.  As I mentioned last week, one of the three conferences will be scheduled in the evening (January 3 from 5-8pm) and those slots will be filled on a first come-first served basis.  We know that this means that not all families who prefer the evening conference can be scheduled for those options, and we hope that you’ll still be able to identify times that are possible for you.  A friendly reminder that parents/guardians are not required to participate in these conferences, and many families who have attended team meetings elect not to sign up. We appreciate everyone’s patience as our Main Office staff begin processing the many requests that are being submitted over the next few weeks.  


The annual RJ Grey musical is just around the corner! The students are working hard on this year’s production of Annie and we’re looking forward to another performance that showcases our students’ talents.  Five performances are scheduled for the week of December 3rd, specifically on Thursday, December 6 (7pm), Friday, December 7 (7pm), Saturday, December 8 (2pm and 7pm), and Sunday, December 9 (2pm).  Tickets are $15 and are will be available in the Junior High Main Office starting Monday, November 19.  ABSAF holders are entitled to two free tickets and must pick up their tickets from the Main Office.  This is always a great family-friendly event and we hope to see many A-B families there.  As we begin to prepare for our annual school musical, I want to again share a link to one of my favorite episodes of the radio show This American Life.  Entitled, “Fiasco!” this episode highlights a small-town production of Peter Pan that involved the use of flying apparatuses. Unlike our High School’s production of Mary Poppins a few years ago, their efforts involving the flying apparatus didn’t exactly go as planned, along with a few other mishaps that turned the show into a full-fledged fiasco.  If you’ve got twenty minutes to spare, I encourage you to listen to this piece that apparently required Ira Glass to turn off his microphone during recording because of how hard he was laughing/snorting.


The Lost & Found bin at RJ Grey is now overflowing with a whole array of clothing.  We’ve lined it up on a few tables to make it easier to sift through and we encourage families and students to take a quick look and see if there are any items that can make its way back to your home (ideally with the washing machine as the first stop).  Any items not claimed before the Thanksgiving Break will be donated to charity.


Finally, I don’t want to finish this edition of Grey Matters without acknowledging Veteran’s Day which is this Monday.  So I end with a thank you and a note of gratitude to members of our community who have or are still serving in our military, as well as their families who support them.  


Have a great week, everyone.


Cheers,

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Posted by ashen  On Nov 11, 2018 at 4:44 PM
  

Hi Everyone,


Last Wednesday was a pretty festive day for the Boston area, given that Halloween and the parade in Boston celebrating the World Series victory by the Red Sox both fell on that day.  I hope everyone had a safe and enjoyable time - both during the day, and later on that evening. We had many students who came in a variety of playful and clever costumes, and congratulations to 8th grade student Will Smith who won our friendly Halloween costume competition (photo to the right).  Having Halloween in the middle of the week tends to make for a long and tiring week, something I lamented last year in Grey Matters, where I also hinted at leading a future campaign to have Halloween always fall on the last Saturday of October. Well, this year the Halloween & Costume Association began a petition on Change.org to move Halloween to the last Saturday of the month, an effort on their part that was clearly inspired by someone sending them a copy of the edition of Grey Matters that suggested this switch.  It’s more likely that they were motivated by the idea of having a full day (Saturday) devoted to the holiday each year and the financial gains that might accompany that switch, but it’s more fun to pretend that I somehow inspired this campaign which has currently secured over 55,000 signatures.  Now that the effort to move Halloween to the weekend is in someone else’s hands, I can now turn my attention to another campaign that will hopefully lead to an important change - specifically, a petition to require all Major League Baseball playoff games to start no later than 7pm Eastern Standard Time.  I know a lot of this is about television market shares, and start times on the West Coast, so maybe the fact that ratings for this year’s World Series was down 23 percent from last year might lead to adjustments that offer relief for those of us who need to wake up at a reasonable hour the next day. On a related note, we have noticed a bit of an uptick in the number of students who are arriving to school right at, or shortly after, the 8:00am start to the day.  We appreciate that morning drop-offs still involve a good deal of maneuvering through traffic in and around the school campus, and I’d still like to offer some encouragement and a plea to help your students arrive to school before 8:00am so their day doesn’t start so rushed.  


For our families who observe Diwali, the festival of lights, I hope any plans you have for later this week proves to be full of joy and celebration with friends and family.  Two years ago I came across this article in the Washington Post, written by someone who uses her family’s celebration of Diwali to reflect on the dynamics that often accompany a bicultural upbringing and formation of identity.  I share it again knowing that the experience of straddling different worlds and cultures is familiar to many of you. Perhaps this piece also offers a voice and perspective that may resonate with those in the Indian community, as well as an opportunity for a bit learning by the rest of us. Please know that there will be no homework due Thursday, the day after Diwali, nor will there be any assessments scheduled for Thursday.  


Here’s some reminders that are important for families this week and beyond:


The Dr. Sharon Maxwell event is this Monday (tomorrow)!  She will be presenting “Who's Raising Our Kids? Nurturing Human Values in a Digital World”, focusing on the impact that “digital saturation” is having on how our children think about themselves, and how it’s changing the way children socialize and communicate. This districtwide event will be held in the RJ Grey Auditorium on Monday, November 5 from 7:00 to 9:00pm and is open to all members of the A-B community.

There is
no school for all students in the District this Tuesday, November 6.  Staff will be participating in professional learning during the day.  Tuesday is also Election Day and the RJ Grey gymnasium will continue to serve as a voting station for many Actonresidents.  


There is also no school for all students next Monday, November 12 as it’s Veteran’s Day.  Many thanks to those in our community who have served, and continue to serve, in our military.  


Last week I included some messaging for families of 8th grade students who may be applying to private schools.  If you haven’t already, please take a moment to review that message.  


Thanksgiving Break is coming up and I know that many are looking forward to that annual holiday and the opportunity to spend it with family and friends.  The end of the Fall Trimester is the Wednesday after we return from Thanksgiving Break.  I want families to be aware of this timing so they can keep that in mind as they continue to support their students in having a strong finish to this first marking period.   


For families with students who have attended our Open Gym basketball hours after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays, there are no more sessions this Fall.  With Winter Sports around the corner, we had already scheduled a pause on Open Gym in a few weeks, and we are stopping a bit earlier so we can revisit how we structure that activity. Prior to this year, Open Gym had on average only a handful of students in attendance.  So when 50 to 70 plus students began to consistently show up it admittedly caught us a bit flat-footed and without the supervision and set-up to ensure a safe and appropriate setting, and a format that would allow everyone a chance to play. Our hope is to use the time before the Spring season to design an option that meets this increased interest and ensures the right level of supervision given the physical activity involved with Open Gym.  

Thank you to the families who continue to drop off a box or ten boxes of Kleenex to the school so we can pass them along to classrooms and fight the good fight against the perpetual runny nose.  Keep them coming!


On Monday, I will be sending all families an email about the annual parent-teacher conference sessions that we offer during three dates in December and January.  That email will provide families with an overview of the conferences and some things to consider before signing up.  Starting last year, one of the three conferences will be scheduled in the evening (January 3 from 5-8pm). Our school recognizes that there are families within our community for whom mid-day conferences can present enough of a hardship and challenge that they would be unable to consider participating.  This may include parents/guardians who do not have as much flexibility with their respective work schedules, or have family responsibilities that are not easily adjusted. Our hope is that an evening conference will better accommodate and support the varied schedules that our families have to navigate. While there will not be an early release from school on the day of the evening conferences, there will be an early release for students and staff on the following day (January 4). This Wednesday, families will also receive an email from us that includes the link to the form that you should complete if you wish to schedule conferences with some (or all) of your child’s teachers.  


Here’s an initial and exciting Save the Date! announcement regarding our annual Junior High musical.  This year’s musical is Annie, and performances will be from December 6 through December 9.  Performances will be at 7pm each evening, with an additional 2pm show on Saturday, December 8. The RJ Grey musical is not only a great annual event for members of our school community, but is always a wonderful event from other members of our larger Acton-Boxborough community.  Next week I’ll be sharing additional information about purchasing tickets.



As we enter November we have another R.J. Grey Artist of the Month.  Congratulations to Calista Barnett (7 Blue) who has been selected as this month’s Artist of the Month. When Calista was asked about the first work of art that she made that she remembers being proud of, she replied: "The first artwork I remember making that I was really proud of was a collage I made out of leaves when I was in preschool. I decided to create a girl, and even though it wasn’t that good (It was very messy), I loved it!" Congratulations to Calista and you can click here to view her art work (also on display in our school lobby).  


Finally, the RJ Grey community's annual Coats For Families Drive will continue through the month of November. This is the 23rd year of the Coat Drive here and it is an annual fall RJ Grey tradition.  Thank you to 7 Red for serving this year as the stewards of this program. Good condition, wearable, winter coats and jackets for children and adults are dropped off in the box in the lobby. They will be taken to Anton's Cleaners by 7 Red where they will be cleaned free of charge. They are then delivered to agencies like the Salvation Army and Mass Coalition For The Homeless who get them to those who are in need of a good, warm winter coat. Please be a part of this very worthy cause. The box will be in the lobby during the month of November.


Have a great week, everyone.  


Cheers,

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Posted by ashen  On Nov 04, 2018 at 3:34 PM
  

Hi Everyone,


I had originally intended to begin this week’s edition of Grey Matters with a whole host of fun and playful Halloween and Red Sox-themed information and commentary.  Tempting as it was to stick to the original plan, I’m convinced it would have been fairly tone deaf, if not negligent, of me if I failed to prioritize the seemingly never-ending sequence of headlines from last week describing the latest and devastating series of hate-filled violence in our country.  It feels important to offer at least an acknowledgment about its impact on members of our community and a few thoughts about what our kids might think, wonder, know, or think they know about all of this.  


Maurice Stallard and Vickie Lee Jones, two African Americans, were shot and killed at a grocery store in Kentucky by an alleged gunman motivated by racial hatred.  Then there was the series of pipe bombs being sent by mail to prominent Democratic politicians and other outspoken public figures.  And then on Saturday, a man with known anti-Semitic beliefs entered a synagogue in Pittsburgh and killed 11 congregants and wounded several others. The one-after-the-other sequence of incidents of the past week are surely upsetting and heartbreaking to most of us, and I also want to recognize that there are those within our community for whom those incidents understandably land more directly, personally, and painfully, and where the result is a deepening feeling of vulnerability.  


I have little doubt that our kids are quite aware of these incidents, and many are likely exposed to all manner of storylines and competing theories (and conspiracies) propagated online and through social media. To believe otherwise would be naive on our part. To also hope that they can, on their own, make sense of the history, political posturing, and trauma that orbits these types of moments would, in my opinion, be a phenomenal mistake on the part of adults.  A hope that I do have, and that I’d like to think is a realistics one, is that members of our community share the belief that both parents and educators alike have the important responsibility of modeling for our children the behaviors that we hope they will adopt and practice. It’s crucial for them to hear messages of acceptance and pluralism in all different settings, including at home and in school. At school, we will continue to devote ourselves to the goal I shared with RJ Grey families a few years ago, which is helping students elevate beyond the notion of mere tolerance and develop an ability to exercise and model empathy, compassion, and sincere acceptance.  We pursue this work through our daily engagement with students and through the curriculum. Our 7th and 8th grade Social Studies curriculum is not the only arena where we advance this goal, but it certainly continues to serve as an anchor in this endeavor. This year, our efforts will, among other activities and lessons, include an assembly for 8th grade students that will feature speakers from the local Muslim community that will complement classroom discussions about Islam. We are also grateful that Janet Applefield, a Holocaust survivor, will again be visiting RJ Grey this year, and speaking to the entire 7th grade about her personal experiences and making direct connections to the themes and messages described above.  As part of this year’s anti-bullying mini-workshops, lessons about homophobia and homophobic language will be included thanks to the hard work and advocacy of students in our Common Ground student group.  While there is likely a diversity of opinions within our community when it comes to the many topics dominating the national and political landscape, I hope that the goals and expectations I have articulated above are ones that you accept and endorse as important for all of our students.  Thank you for the efforts you’ve already made towards this work, and for the ones that you will take moving forward.


Ok, deep breath. I’m going to make an abrupt pivot here and return to what one might consider “regularly scheduled programming” since there are still a number of updates that need to be shared.  I hope the transition isn’t too jarring or awkward for everyone. I’ll save the Red Sox and trick-or-treating-themed material for next week since I think they’ll still be relevant and timely, and that conversation may even benefit (hopefully) from a favorable conclusion to the World Series.


Halloween Dress Up Day is this Wednesday 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.


The RJ Grey cafeteria staff is looking for input from our students. Jean Tibbetts, the Cafe Manager, and Kirsten Nelson, the Food Service Director, would like to partner with about 20 students, and meet monthly to discuss the lunch menu. They have set aside the following dates to meet with students: November 14th, December 12th, January 16th and February 13th at 2:40 in the small cafe. This is a chance for students to give input into what they like, to let them know if there is something they would like Food Services to offer, as well as the occasional taste testing session where new items may be introduced. If your child is interested in participating please email Knelson@abschools.org.  Your child can earn community service time for these sessions.  


Here are additional reminders and update for the next few weeks:


A friendly reminder that there is NO SCHOOL on Tuesday, November 6 for our District’s Professional Learning Day.  On the evening of November 6, Peter Light will be holding a forum for Junior High and High School parents/guardians where he hopes to provide an opportunity for you to offer ideas and perspective about our schools and priorities for the next few years.  This session is open to any Junior High and High School parent/guardian and will be held in the Junior High Library at 7pm.  


I shared a save-the-date in mid-September for an event with Dr. Sharon Maxwell who will be presenting “Who's Raising Our Kids? Nurturing Human Values in a Digital World”, focusing on the impact that “digital saturation” is having on how our children think about themselves, and how it’s changing the way children socialize and communicate. This districtwide event will be held in the RJ Grey Auditorium on Monday, November 5 from 7:00 to 9:00pm and is open to all members of the A-B community.


There is also NO SCHOOL on Monday, November 12 for Veteran’s Day.


Now that Winter is soon approaching, it is time to think about dusting off those skis and

snowboards. Ski and Board Club will start Tuesday, January 8, 2019. It will run for 6 weeks on Tuesdays. If your child would like to sign up for the club,​ have them ask for a Ski/Board Club packet at the main office.  Please direct any questions to the club advisor, Lana Paone (lpaone@abschools.org).  The deadline for registration is December 15.  


This week we are concluding 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. Starting this summer, we have shifted to an online signup for our athletic teams using a site called FamilyID.  This process has taken the place of the paper “Green Forms” but still requires submission of an updated physical. You can view the tryout schedule (when it’s up) and review the FamilyID 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.  


We have, unbelievably enough, already 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 the following information by clicking on the following links: (1) Private School Application Procedures; (2) Private School Tracking Form; (3) Consent for Release of Student Records; (4) Activity and Employment Record.  These documents will also be posted on our RJ Grey website shortly.  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.


Finally, Poetry Fridays took place at the end of last week.  Last week’s selection was “Waitingby American short story writer and poet Ray Carver.  Click here if you’d like to read the poem.  


Have a great week, everyone.  


Cheers,

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Posted by ashen  On Oct 28, 2018 at 7:31 PM
  

Hi Everyone,


Most of the time I had this weekend that wasn’t spent planning how I’ll spend my soon-to-be $1.6 billion Mega Millions lottery winnings (my lifelong irrational belief that I am destined to win the lottery is a subject for a different Grey Matters) was actually spent thinking about raising, and living with, teenage boys.  The mental headspace I devoted to this topic was mostly due to the teenage boy who currently resides in our house and the time spent this weekend watching him socializing with a few of his friends, all of whom are also 8th grade boys.  I took my son and four of his friends to Witch’s Woods at the Nashoba Ski area on Saturday night and I treated the car rides, the pizza dinner, and brief moments when they interacted with me in a public setting, as reconnaissance to gather more intelligence (and maybe become slightly more intelligent) about my son’s world as he currently sees it.  Given that they also attended a school dance the evening prior, I might have also been hoping to score a few nuggets of information about anything that might have transpired there. My earlier attempts to ask aggressively worded and confusing questions like, “so how was the dance?” didn’t get me very far. While I was able to confirm the tendency to still take exaggerated pleasure in foolish moments (which I really like about them), and unapologetic about bodily functions that involve noise and smell (don’t like as much about them), I wasn’t terribly successful with getting anything more substantive. Or perhaps I did witness something of importance but didn’t understand any of the coded language to know what was said in my presence.  And then there were the three hours I spent completely solo at Witch’s Woods, except for the briefest of moments later in the evening when my firstborn rushed up to me and breathlessly said “Dad, I love you need money.”  But I digress. Back to the subject at hand, my recent efforts to observe and engage in a bit of well-intentioned eavesdropping on my son and his friends reminded me of a few articles and pieces about adolescent development that I’ve shared with families in previous years and wanted to offer again for those whose curiosities about our kids overlap with mine.  First, here is this article in the Wall Street Journal entitled, “What Parents of Early Teen Boys Need to Know”.  This article spent time looking at which skills develop more slowly in boys, and where they may demonstrate certain strengths earlier on.  Additionally, it offered a bit of initial insight into ways parents can offer some guidance and modeling in areas related to language, attention, and empathy (including something called mentalizing).  And secondly, I am re-sharing an article in the Washington Post that I highlighted at the start of this year that offers suggestions for how parents (and guardians) can stay connected and engaged with their teenage sons.


The Wall Street Journal article has often reminded me of the work of Dr. Abigail Baird who visited Acton-Boxborough a few years ago.  Dr. Baird teaches at Vassar and conducts research on adolescent brain development. I really like Dr. Baird because she has a way of presenting information on adolescent brain development (and explaining behaviors) in a way that is accessible and relatable.  She’s also a diehard Red Sox fan so she must currently be enjoying the playoffs as much as the rest of us. By the way, thanks for the “congratulations” I received last week when my personal Red Sox playoff curse was broken.  I am hoping that we’ll be able to invite Dr. Baird back for a return visit, and in the meantime for those of you interested in this topic can watch this video of an interview that she did with Lisa Kudrow of “Friends” fame (and a Vassar alum). They spend time talking about the interplay between emotions and decision making and a whole host of other really interesting topics - including some important differences in how boys and girls develop during adolescence. The interview is a bit long (about an hour) but if you’ve got the time it’s one of those videos that I have personally viewed several times, and might watch again soon in an effort to decode some of this weekend’s observations.    

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 retake day for this Tuesday, October 23rd.  If your child ordered a photo package and you would like to retake 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 Wednesday.  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.


I shared a save-the-date in mid-September for an event with Dr. Sharon Maxwell who will be presenting “Who's Raising Our Kids? Nurturing Human Values in a Digital World”, focusing on the impact that “digital saturation” is having on how our children think about themselves, and how it’s changing the way children socialize and communicate. This districtwide event will be held in the RJ Grey Auditorium on Monday, November 5 from 7:00 to 9:00pm and is open to all members of the A-B community.  


A reminder for 8th grade families that tomorrow morning 8th grade students will be attending a presentation by the organization Minding Your Mind as an opportunity to remind and expand our students’ familiarity with signs and symptoms of depression and suicidal thinking, and reinforce the message that our students can help themselves or a friend by taking the simple step of taking to a responsible adult about their concerns.  


I wanted to take a moment to highlight (and thank) ABSAF,  a community-based organization that has a long-standing partnership with the schools, and have made efforts every year to raise funds that support extracurricular activities at both RJ Grey and the high school.  Without fail ABSAF has helped both schools with their ability to provide a wide-range of rich and meaningful programs that span athletics, performing arts, and student interest clubs. One of the main ways that families can and do support ABSAF is by purchasing an annual ABSAF Pass which entitles you and your immediate family to free admission to many extracurricular events that involve an entry fee.  Some examples of events where an ABSAF Pass gives you free admission are home athletic events (except postseason games), and the annual musical/theatrical productions at both RJ Grey and the high school.  They’ve recently completed their annual phone-a-thon (photo above), and recently posted a Fall update that you can view here.  To learn more about ABSAF and its history of support for our school, you can visit their site by clicking here.


Speaking of clubs and activities, I wanted to briefly profile and celebrate Creating Change, one of our new clubs this year that blends visual art with community service.  Their first project of the year included leaving little notes for anyone and everyone at RJ Grey to find.  The notes are meant to be a “source of happiness and a general mood lifter” and students or staff who came across a note were encouraged to take it as a little gift that hopefully added a bit of color to what might otherwise have been an ordinary Wednesday.  An important reminder, especially as we get closer to the conclusion of the Fall sports season, that students are welcome to join any of our clubs and activities throughout the year. New members are encouraged to attend an upcoming meeting of a club to see if it might be a match for their interests.  You can review the list of clubs and activities here.  


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 - this lunch actually doubled as an opportunity for our new Superintendent to connect with current RJ Grey students and learn more about the Junior High from the perspective of a few students. Congratulations to the following students who were part of this first group: Jackson Chandler, AJ Korka, Josie Hanlon, Eduardo da Matta, Sophie Pearo, Taylor Lammey, Evan Couke, Nate Lubets, Zachary Parodos, Emma Harrington, and Bobby Elliott.  


Have a great week, everyone.


Cheers,

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Posted by ashen  On Oct 21, 2018 at 6:33 PM
  

Hi Everyone,


Those that know me well know that in most situations I tend to be a fairly risk-averse kind of person.  I’m not much of a gambler nor do I have the stomach to go all-in on high-risk/high-reward types of endeavors.  However, for reasons I can’t quite explain, I am going to throw caution to the wind this evening and attend Game 2 of the American League Championship Series between the Red Sox and the Houston Astros.  This is despite the now documented history of my personal losing streak related to attending Red Sox playoff games, and the fact that David Price is once again scheduled to pitch in the game I plan to attend tonight.  I mentioned my plans to Mrs. Frey (our Executive Director of Main Office Affairs) and let’s just say that if the Red Sox lose tonight, I’m in for a giant helping of “you’re a giant fool” looks from the Main Office staff on Monday morning.  My current thinking is that between Mr. Price and I, one of us is due for a change in luck since streaks like these are meant to be broken. Famous last words, I know.  If his and my streak are both extended by a loss on Sunday evening, it might inspire me to divert my energy and attention to the growing industry of esports, which is the term to describe organized competitive video gaming.  The photo to the right is actually from a competitive video gaming tournament where the stadium was filled to capacity with spectators who went to watch contestants play video games. Perhaps some of you are much more familiar with this growing sector (that of course also has a money-making element to it).  I hadn’t really read much about esports until a few weeks ago when I received an email from a company that was inviting local school principals to attend a presentation about creating/joining interscholastic esports leagues. Perhaps I shouldn’t be entirely surprised given my kids’ fixation on multiplayer video games, but the degree to which esports programs have found a home in colleges and secondary schools was a bit startling.  I started scouring the internet to learn a bit more and found numerous articles about public schools (mostly high schools) throughout the country joining state association-sanctioned leagues for esports, including 25 high schools in Massachusetts.  While I declined the invitation to attend the presentation about competitive gaming leagues, I do get the impression that I’ll need be prepared in the not-too-distant future to better understand this rapidly growing and evolving sector of youth-focused competitions.  Even if I gain a better understanding and even an appreciation for esports, it is more than likely that I’ll still reach a point each month where I look at my own childrens’ XBox console and picture what it would look like floating in the middle of the family pool.


Here are some reminders and notes for the next few weeks:


We have scheduled a picture re-take day for Tuesday, October 23.  If your child ordered a photo package and you would like for 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.  

We have recently received a few more
donations of tissue boxes from RJ Grey families, thank you!  As the weather gets a bit chillier and we have more and more runny noses at school, our need for tissues will likely increase.  If and when you’ve got an extra box or two lying around, we’d certainly welcome ongoing donations for our classrooms.  


It’s a few weeks away, but a friendly reminder that there is NO SCHOOL on Tuesday, November 6 for our District’s Professional Learning Day.  On the evening of November 6, Peter Light will be holding a forum for Junior High and High School parents/guardians where he hopes to provide an opportunity for you to offer ideas and perspective about our schools and priorities for the next few years.  This session is open to any Junior High and High School parent/guardian and will be held in the Junior High Library at 7pm.  


The District’s Late Bus program continues to provide a transportation option for those who participate in after school activities and we’re pleased that it’s been a helpful resource/option for a number of our families.  With the Winter season 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.  


Early next week, we will be emailing to families mid-trimester interims.  For those new to RJ Grey, a brief explanation.  “Interims” is the term that we use for what others might call “progress reports”, or “warnings”.  Teachers submit interims for any students who might be struggling in their class - this could be based on performances on tests and quizzes, consistency of homework, or other assessments and observations.  In addition, there are a number of teachers who provide interims as a way to update families, and this could also include feedback about how well a student is performing in a particular class. This is all to say that there are number of reasons why you might receive an interim from your child’s teachers (note: you may also not receive anything).  If and when you do receive one, please read the information and comments carefully and consider using it as a way to begin a dialogue with your child.  Please also keep in mind that a letter grade is attached to each interim from a teacher, but that letter grade may or may not represent a significant body of assessments and graded work.  I would encourage you to place greater focus on the narrative that the teacher provides and the areas of concern and suggestions for improvement that are offered. If there is information that you would like clarified, please contact the teacher and begin a dialogue with him or her.  The Fall Trimester does not close until the week of Thanksgiving, so there is plenty of time for students to use this feedback to make adjustments.


Beginning last year the Junior High and High School moved to electronic grading reports.  Interim reports are now sent by email to the parent/guardian contacts listed on your student’s Emergency Card on the parent portal. Given the sensitive nature of these transmissions, we strongly encourage you to review the email addresses you have provided in the parent portal and that the only email addresses listed are for parents/guardians with joint legal, physical, and/or shared custody and who should have access to these records.  For more detailed instructions on how to verify your email, please click here.  


Halloween is a little over two weeks away, and my guess is that many of your children are thinking about possible costumes not only for an evening of trick or treating, but also for our school’s annual Dress Up Day (which is always scheduled for the day of, or around, Halloween).  I’d like to include here my typical overview of our Dress Up Day to help families with any planning that is currently underway.  We have a tradition at RJ Grey where many students (and teachers) choose to attend school dressed up in costumes on the day of Halloween. Our Student Council officers also organize a fun and lighthearted contest where each homeroom nominates a student/costume and the staff will vote for a winner.  We want to emphasize our intention to keep this light-hearted and good-natured, and to showcase student creativity. We do not want anyone to invest money in this activity.  Please also note that not all students and staff --including yours truly--always dress up, which is perfectly fine.  There are always many students who do not come to school in costume.


We do have general guidelines that we expect all students to follow when considering their outfit for the day.  Student costumes must avoid props that mimic weapons (swords, firearms, knives, etc.), and clothing that includes profanity and/or might be overly revealing or minimalist in nature. In addition, we must see our students’ faces throughout the day, so wearing a face mask can not be a part of a costume.  We see a restriction on face masks as a reasonable limitation to address physical safety and the fact that lessons are still being taught! There’s nothing quite like watching a teacher, often dressed in costume as well, providing instruction to a room that includes Mario, Luigi, Harry Potter, a giant bunny rabbit, and Flo the Progressive Insurance spokesperson.  I am asking our parents and guardians to please have a conversation with their children about their costume plans, and to keep the above guidelines in mind.  

Halloween Dress Up Day has always been a fun opportunity for our students (and staff) to be playful and maybe showcase another side of their personality.  Our students have always been thoughtful about the event and it makes for one of the more colorful days of the school year. I’m looking forward to seeing the parade of costumes that enters RJ Grey that morning.  


Finally, we had another edition of Poetry Fridays at the end of last week.  Mr. Malloy read the classic piece by poet William Butler Yeats, “He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven” and offered the students a bit of the backstory behind that particular piece.  Click here to read the poem.  


Have a great week, everyone.


Cheers,

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Posted by ashen  On Oct 14, 2018 at 2:16 PM
  

Hi Everyone,


This past weekend the topic of losing, and losing streaks in particular, has been on my mind a bit for reasons that are mostly light-hearted and fun, but also includes one that generated some food for thought related to the world of youth sports.  Starting with the most silly reason I thought about losing streaks this weekend - every year I share through Grey Matters the announcement of that year’s winners of the annual MacArthur Genius Grant.  Here’s a list for this current year’s recipients and a description of their notable deeds and pursuits.  And every year I also tell myself and all of you (completely in jest if you had any doubts) that I was probably once again choice #26 for a prize awarded to 25 individuals and lamenting aloud what I could have done at and for RJ Grey with the no-strings $625,000 check that accompanies the prize.  Shifting to a losing streak that is actually real and a bit painful, but still not terribly important in the grand scheme of things, is my personal experience with attending postseason Red Sox games at Fenway. This past Saturday I had the good fortune to attend Game 2 of the ALDS series between the Red Sox and Yankees. This was the fourth postseason Red Sox game I’ve now attended and the Red Sox have now lost all four of those games (the first was in 2003 in the game where Pedro Martinez grabbed then 72-year old Don Zimmer by the face and threw him to the ground).  If the Red Sox make it through this series, I’ll actually have the chance to attend a game during the League Championship series and I am giving serious thought to staying home for the sake of Red Sox Nation.  Then again, my personal playoff losing streak doesn’t compare to Red Sox pitcher David Price’s now record-setting and more significant playoff woes, where the game I attended on Saturday was his 9th straight postseason loss.  Another, and my favorite, story of “loss” this weekend was about the recently auctioned off painting by anonymous street artist Banksy.  Immediately after one of his Girl with Balloon pieces was sold at a Sotheby’s auction for $1.4 million, the piece “self-destructed” in front of the entire room of bidders by way of a shredder that was apparently hidden within the frame (see above photo to the right).  When I read the news story, I immediately wondered if the anonymous buyer gets a refund. But as the New York Times notes, the shredding prank may actually serve to elevate the value of the piece itself, along with other future Bansky pieces.  So maybe not really a loss after all for the buyer.


And finally, a story that I’ve been following recently and wanted to share is about parents in St. Louis who sued their school district when their son did not make the school’s soccer team.  Unlike the previous playful items I’ve discussed above, I mention this story because I think it offers some opportunity for ongoing self-reflection about the world of youth sports - an arena in which many of us within the community are deeply invested and entrenched.  Case in point: I know that Melisa’s and my weekend of dividing and conquering eight youth sports matches/tournaments was likely very similar to how many of you spent your time. The decision by the parents in St. Louis to file a lawsuit over their son’s soccer tryouts can probably still be considered on the extreme end of parental responses to this kind of “loss”, and I wonder how many of us aren’t shocked by the story.  The arguments and feelings presented by all involved (the parents, the school, the coach) that are described within the article will, I predict, seem fairly familiar to many of us and speaks to the intensity and high-stakes nature that has been attached to youth sports and represents competing ideas about what’s in the best interest of kids. This a larger topic with a lot of layers and probably a longer conversation for another time, and I wanted to pass along the article as something you might consider discussing when sitting on the sidelines with other parents and guardians.  


Here’s a few reminders and updates to keep in mind for the next few weeks:


Interim reports for the Fall Trimester are scheduled to be sent around October 22 or 23.  I will include in next week’s Grey Matters a summary of the intent of interims and what families might expect as part of those forms.  


Halloween is Wednesday, October 31 and so I’ll include a note in an upcoming Grey Matters about our school’s Halloween Dress Up Day tradition.  This will include a reminder about how to help your students enjoy the event (should they choose to participate) while also being thoughtful in their choice of costume/outfit.


Remember that this week RJ Grey is serving as a drop-off location for bath towels and hand towels that you want to donate to Household Goods of Acton, an organization that provides a full range of donated furniture and household items, free of charge, to help people in need make a home. Household Goods is hoping that members of our community can help them collect enough towels to give to 2,500 families this year. Throughout this week you can bring gently used towels to RJ Grey and drop them off in the collection bins located in our front lobby.  For more information about Household Goods, you can visit them at 530 Main Street in Acton, or view their website at householdgoods.org.


Students from 8 Gold are sponsoring a bake sale this Friday, inspired by their "In the News" question last week. The bake sale will support UNICEF's tsunami relief efforts in Indonesia, including reuniting children with their families and providing food and water to those in need.  All items at Friday's bake sale will cost $1, and there will be gluten free and nut free options available.


A quick correction from last week’s Grey Matters.  Our current Artist of the Month is Mariana Maranga - I incorrectly listed Mariana’s first name.  Apologies and congrats (again), Mariana!


Tomorrow morning, parents and guardians of 8th grade students will be getting an email from me about an upcoming assembly on October 22 that is intended to strengthen our efforts in the area of suicide prevention and education.  Along with continuing the Signs of Suicide lesson and screening in 7th grade, we are planning to include this presentation by the organization Minding Your Mind as an opportunity to remind and expand our students’ familiarity with signs and symptoms of depression and suicidal thinking, and reinforce the message that our students can help themselves or a friend by taking the simple step of taking to a responsible adult about their concerns.  When you receive the email tomorrow (8th grade parents/guardians), I would appreciate your taking a few minutes to read and review.




Finally, I want to continue to highlight for families our ongoing work to provide meaningful outdoor spaces at RJ Grey for our students and staff.  Two years ago we converted one of our inner courtyards into a space that is now the site of eight raised beds where our students have helped us plant and harvest a variety of items ranging from arugula and cherry tomatoes, to kale and carrots.  We’re continuing to find ways that our students can be involved in the garden as part of their classroom and extracurricular experiences. In addition to the garden, we are thrilled that the inner courtyard now has a “Zen Garden” that was designed and built entirely by 8 Red Science teacher Andy Thompson. Andy and I admittedly took the “if you build it, they will come approach” and hoping that teachers will bring students to this space when being outside can offer a bit of extra inspiration, or just a bit of calm, while finishing a book, starting a journal entry, or sketching a design for an art class.  Many thanks to Mr. Thompson for his vision and physical labor this summer when it came to actually clearing the shrubs, digging the trenches, and building this newest addition to our school landscape.



Have a great week, everyone.


Cheers,

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Posted by ashen  On Oct 08, 2018 at 2:04 PM
  

Hi Everyone,


I don’t think it would be a stretch on my part to note that the Congressional hearings about, and sexual assault allegations against, the current Supreme Court nominee captured everyone’s attention and completely dominated news headlines, social media, and dinner and water cooler conversations across the country.  I mention this national issue here in Grey Matters not with an interest in exploring varying opinions and views of Mr. Kavanaugh or the state of our political system. This isn’t the forum for that conversation.  Instead, I’m thinking more about our students and how it would be terribly naive of us to believe that they aren’t absorbing a good deal of what they see and hear about the allegations, ideas and definitions of sexual misconduct and harassment in general, and making sense of how those ideas may or may not apply to their understanding of teenage behaviors and relationships.  The spotlight and sustained attention that these topics are receiving can be viewed as an opportunity for parents and guardians to educate their kids, and the idea of initiating those conversations about romance, sex, and relationships with our kids makes a lot of us a bit queasy. Nevertheless, our children will benefit from discussions and direct guidance from parents and guardians about the power and impact of certain words and behaviors, and clear explanations about what ethical, kind, and respectful behavior looks like in different settings, be it one-on-one interactions, group settings, social events, and on social media.  From the harm caused by casual pejoratives to understanding the boundaries they should establish in terms of welcome and unwelcome attention, young people will at certain times, and for certain messy topics, need explicit direction and guidance.  I’ve been thinking about this a lot in relation to my own kids, especially as one of them is in 6th grade (my daughter) and another is in 8th grade (my oldest son).  And as someone who was raised in a home where everyone was more comfortable pretending that my sister and I were both immaculately conceived and didn’t come close to uttering anything about the topics mentioned above, I could personally use all the assistance and accessible language I can get.  

 

For those of you who are also preparing yourselves and hoping for a bit of support in entering those conversations, I want to introduce you to the organization Making Caring Common, an initiative based at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education that is dedicated to “helping educators, parents and communities raise children who are caring and responsible to their communities.”  When I introduced this organization to families last year I included this brief article by Dr. Richard Weissbourd.  Focusing specifically on sexual harassment and misogyny this piece offers parents strategies for inviting their children into a conversation that can be tricky to initiate.  Making Caring Common now also has a resource page entitled, “Teens and Ethical Romantic Relationships” that includes several resources, handouts and guides for parents and schools who want to help adolescents develop comfort and skill in establishing healthy relationships with peers, romantic or otherwise.  If this is a topic that is at the forefront of your minds and parenting priorities, you might want to explore that site. To be sure, not all of what is included may fully resonate with you, but perhaps it offers you pieces that are useful. Along with the work and efforts that many of you are making on this subject, our school’s Health and Life Skills curriculum will continue to evolve and include opportunities to help students navigate what often feels (or is) an overload of information and imagery on the topics described above.  As those plans emerge, I’ll make a point of sharing some updates and examples for everyone so we can continue the conversation and support each other in this important work.

 

Some quick reminders for the next two weeks:   


We had plans to conduct our first of two annual ALICE drills last week.  Unfortunately, the rainy weather interfered with those plans, and so we made the decision to postpone that drill to sometime later this week. When the exercise is complete I will be sure to provide families with an update.

A reminder to 8th grade families that
Minuteman Technical High School will be visiting RJ Grey this Tuesday and Wednesday to provide students with a brief overview of the school and the application process. Because the town of Boxborough is no longer a member of the Minuteman district, there is a different process for Boxborough students and families interested in a vocational route next year.  Attending the Minuteman presentation still makes sense for Boxborough students given that it could still be the right option for them, and please stay tuned for additional details about the process and options for exploring additional vocational programs.  For any families who want to know more about Minuteman Tech, I would encourage you to email your child's counselors.  

Two calendar reminders
for this Thursday and next Monday:   The Junior High and High School have our first Early Release day this Thursday, October 4, and staff will then participate in professional learning for the remainder of the day.  Dismissal for students is at 11:06am at the Junior High and all standard bus routes will be available at that time.  Please note that the Late Bus will not be available that day.  I would encourage families to discuss and confirm with their child plans for this early release and expectations regarding transportation and post-release activities.  Next week there will be no school on Monday, October 8 as part of the Columbus Day long weekend.  



Many of you are already familiar with Household Goods of Acton, an organization that provides a full range of donated furniture and household items, free of charge, to help people in need make a home.  As they head into the fall season, their supplies of bath towels and hand towels are running low and they are hoping that members of our community can help them collect enough towels to give to 2,500 families this year.  RJ Grey is happy to serve as a drop off location for any of you who is able to donate towels.  Between October 9 and October 12, you can bring gently used towels to RJ Grey and drop them off in the collection bins located in our front lobby.  For more information about Household Goods, you can visit them at 530 Main Street in Acton, or view their website at householdgoods.org.


I hope those of you who attended last week’s Back to School Night found the evening to be informative and valuable.  The level of parent and family support that we have in Acton-Boxborough is no secret, and we know that partnering with all of you is central to a successful school year.  Along with connecting with teachers by email or phone, please remember that we have a “team meeting” option that is also available to families.  Teams have, about once a week, a period where parents/guardians can schedule a 20-minute meeting to connect with their child’s team teachers.  This is an opportunity for some families to share information and concerns, and ask questions, and for teachers (and the team counselor) to do the same.  The availability of appointments usually ebbs and flows over the course of the year, so during busy periods the next available appointment is a few weeks out.  If you are interested in scheduling an appointment, you can email our Registrar Lena Jarostchuk (ljarostchuk@abschools.org) or call her at extension x3330.


I recently highlighted the R.J. Grey Artist of the Month program, an opportunity for 7th and 8th Graders to have an authentic, juried art exhibition experience similar to the process in which professional artists participate.  Congratulations to Ana Maranga (8 Blue) who has been selected as October’s Artist of the Month. When Ana was asked to explain a bit about her artistic endeavors, Ana shared: “I've always been passionate about art, and I know I always will be. I also know I'm really interested in robotics and engineering. Art would definitely be useful for designing robots and other mechanical parts.”  Congratulations to Ana and you can click here to view her work.  


Finally, Poetry Fridays took place at the end of last week.  For those new to RJ Grey, Poetry Fridays is an activity that began six years ago where every other Friday, a staff member or a student recites a poem during morning announcements.  This activity is led by Tim Malloy, English teacher on 8 Red. Last week’s selection was “Harlem” by American poet Langston Hughes.  Click here if you’d like to read the poem.  


Have a great week, everyone.


Cheers,

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Posted by ashen  On Sep 30, 2018 at 4:47 PM
  

Hi Everyone,


I had the good fortune of being able to attend last evening’s performance of Hamilton at the Boston Opera House, and then after the performance having the not-so-good fortune of being stuck in the nearby underground parking garage for over an hour.  I am mentioning to all of you my night at Hamilton for two reasons related to RJ Grey.  For those who may be seeing the play in the near future, please rest assured that nothing I write below gives away anything substantial or will spoil the experience.  First, through much of the musical the character James Madison was carrying a large handkerchief, which I’m pretty sure was included to emphasize how he was known to be chronically ill and a Founding Father who often appeared fragile and sickly.  Seeing Madison wipe his nose with that handkerchief at different points in the play reminded me of a conversation I had this past week about needing to make sure that each of our classrooms have enough boxes of tissues for our students before the season of colds and runny noses begins in earnest.  A box of tissues has been an item that many families have generously provided to our classrooms each year, and if providing a box this year is something that you wouldn’t mind doing, we and our desire to contain and manage the inevitable invasion of germs would be most appreciative.  [side note: many 7th grade families have already sent in boxes via the Me Box project, so thank you for that]  At this week’s Back to School Night, we’ll have a table right outside the Main Office where families can drop off a box and we’ll take care of distributing them to classrooms.  Thanks for considering.


The second link between Hamilton and RJ Grey that formed in my head last night was around names and titles.  Similar to the opening song to the musical that includes the main character introducing himself with the refrain, “Alexander Hamilton, my name is Alexander Hamilton…” I typically include each year in an early edition of Grey Matters an introduction to my own name, though for reasons a bit different than Mr. Hamilton’s.

For the past few years, members of our playful Main Office staff have at times intentionally and affectionately addressed me as “Dr. Chen” which combines two very common mistakes that are made about my name and/or how to address me in conversation and emails. While all of you are more than welcome to continue bestowing the title of “Dr.” upon me, please know that it’s not one that I’ve earned through any doctoral or medical program. As for what you might call me instead? I am happy to be addressed by my first name (Andrew), and also perfectly comfortable with Mr. Shen for those who prefer to maintain some formality.  Please know that there are only four people on this Earth who are allowed to call me “Andy” because that’s what I went by in middle school and those friends have never been able to shift from what I went by as a teenager - some habits die hard. I would also like to use this moment to provide a gentle note of clarification about my last name -- Shen -- which has throughout my lifetime often been confused for Chen (with a "Ch"), another Chinese-American surname that perhaps is a bit more common and familiar to many in this area.  I mention all of this not only as a point of information about my name, but with the intention of bringing up our school’s commitment to pronouncing all of your names correctly. If and when we cross paths and introduce ourselves at this Wednesday’s Back to School Night, I hope that you’ll provide me with some guidance if I don’t pronounce your name correctly and help me get it right.  My hope is that those interactions will be similar to the efforts that our teachers make at the start of the school year to learn the preferences, and the correct pronunciation, of your childrens’ names.  As a school we want to promote the idea that pronouncing names correctly can be an important part of helping each person feel welcome and seen, be it here at school or anywhere else. To that end we are making it more of a habit to ask for a bit of guidance or confirmation about whether we pronounced a name correctly. Even if I succeed in correctly pronouncing the names of parents and guardians I meet on Wednesday night, I may not remember all of your names after that evening and I ask in advance for a little forgiveness in that regard.

As I noted above, Back to School Night is this Wednesday evening at 7pm (6:35pm if your child takes the Band, Chorus or String Ensemble electives and you want to meet the teachers).  Your children will bring home a schedule for you to follow. Just in case your teenager is the first 13-year old to ever forget to share something with you, we’ll have a copy of each student’s schedule available in the Lobby, but I am sure none of you will have that issue.  If you did provide the PTSO an annual $50 donation this year, you can pick up your copy of the Student Directory at the PTSO table (in the Lobby).  For those who are still interested in contributing to the PTSO this year, you can do so that evening. For families who are not in a position to comfortably donate to the PTSO and would still like to request a copy of the Student Directory, please send me or your child’s counselor an email and we are happy to provide one to you (we would distribute it later that week, not the PTSO).  


Here are some important reminders and notes for the next few weeks:


Picture Day is tomorrow - Monday, September 24 .  Students received an order form last week to bring home to their parent/guardian.  Students who plan to order photos should bring the order form (and payment) tomorrow.  If your child forgets the form (along with their Back to School Night schedule, of course), don’t panic - the forms can always be submitted afterwards. Regardless of whether students order a package of photos, all students will have their photos taken so they can be included in the yearbook.  If you have any questions, please contact David Lawrence at dlawrence@abschools.org.  


We had two 7th grade parents offer to serve as School Council representatives, so no election will be necessary at Back to School Night this Wednesday!  Jennifer Beal and Karen Pierce are joining our School Council, and we appreciate their willingness to serve.  This year they join returning 8th grade parents Jack Kline and James Dillon, and teachers Maureen Lin and Liz Walker. An early save the date for Tuesday, November 6 (which is also the date of Fall elections) at 7pm in the Junior High Library.  Peter Light, our new Superintendent, is hosting a number of forums where he can engage with parents and guardians, school staff, and students.  The Forum scheduled for the evening of November 6 is intended for parents and guardians at the Junior High and High School.  If you’re interested in spending a bit of time with Peter to talk about our students and our schools, please consider attending.


I hope all of you had an opportunity to read my email message regarding our plans to hold an ALICE drill this week.  You can review the content of that email message by clicking here.  Once the drill has been completed I will be sure to send a follow-up message to families.  

Two calendar notes for the weeks of October 1 and October 8:   The Junior High and High School have our first Early Release day on Thursday, October 4, and staff will then participate in professional learning for the remainder of the day.  Dismissal for students is at 11:06am at the Junior High and all standard bus routes will be available at that time.  Please note that the Late Bus will not be available that day.  I would encourage families to discuss and confirm with their child plans for this early release and expectations regarding transportation and post-release activities.  On the following week, there will be no school on Monday, October 8 as part of the Columbus Day long weekend.  


Finally, a quick note about homework.  With a few weeks under our belt all of you are likely well aware that homework is assigned as part of your child’s different team classes.  A few years ago our staff began an important and wide-ranging conversation about connections between homework and our curriculum, what makes for quality assignments, and the development of common expectations regarding workload.   We know that a balance must be struck between the benefits that quality homework assignments can provide and the necessity to manage a workload that is reasonable for students in these grades.  This will always be a work in progress and something that we continue to pursue while keeping a purposeful eye on the many valuable curricular goals and aspirations that are important to

preserve. In June 2017 the School Committee also voted and approved a District Homework Policy that applies to all of our schools and offers specific guidance for different grade levels.  You can view the Policy by clicking here.  The establishment of a District-wide policy that was voted on by the School Committee is a fairly significant stake in the ground regarding institutional expectations on this topic. As you’ll see within the language, the policy reflects and endorses a view that aligns with much of the Challenge Success work and aspirations that we’ve been exploring. With the above mentioned long weekend coming up, I wanted to highlight for families the portion of the Homework Policy that pertains to homework during long weekends and over school vacation periods. Specifically, that there will be none.  Prior to the District’s Homework policy, the Junior High implemented a school policy that homework would not be assigned for any of our extended vacations (Thanksgiving, Winter, February and April Breaks).  Two years ago we expanded this expectation to planned long weekends, including this coming Columbus Day weekend, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Memorial Day. And now those practices are embedded in the District’s new Homework Policy.  Nothing will be due (nor any tests or quizzes scheduled) on the day students return from a long weekend or vacation, and long-term projects that are assigned prior to a vacation will not be due earlier than the Thursday after a vacation. For me, what lies at the heart of this policy is a belief that these extended periods away from school can and should provide students and families an opportunity to rest and focus on time with each other, free from any school-related obligations. The commitment we (parents and the school) have to academics will be ever-present, and yet we would be remiss if we ignored what Challenge Success identified as the need for "honoring the importance of downtime, playtime, and family time."  We hope students and families will see these periods away from school as an additional opportunity to cultivate other parts of their family's life, be it in the form of leisure and social activities, or simply quality time with each other.


Something else that I would like to make sure all families are aware of are the team homework calendars. Starting last year, every team (in both grades) is maintaining a shared online homework calendar that can be viewed by students and their families.  For 7th grade teams, you can go here.  For 8th grade teams, you can go here. Our hope is that this additional resource can, first and foremost, support students as they develop the organizational and planning skills that will allow them to adjust to additional responsibilities.  Secondarily, this resource may also prove helpful to families who may still need to provide a bit of additional structure and guidance to their children as they work towards that level of independence that we all want them to develop.  A friendly reminder, though, that helping them get to that independence may require letting them stumble and fumble a bit on their own and to experience the natural consequences that accompanies some missed assignments or rushed work. I know, easier said than done.  


Have a great week, everyone.  I hope to see you at this Wednesday’s Back to School Night.  


Cheers,

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Posted by ashen  On Sep 23, 2018 at 3:33 PM
  
Hi Everyone,

Though still several weeks away, I wanted to highlight an event on November 5 that I'd encourage you to attend.  Dr. Sharon Maxwell will be presenting "Who's Raising Our Kids? Nurturing Human Values in a Digital World" and the impact that "digital saturation" is having on how our children think about themselves, and is changing the way children socialize and communicate. This districtwide event will be held in the RJ Grey Auditorium
from 7:00 to 9:00pm and is open to all members of the A-B community.  While I myself haven't met Dr. Maxwell, members of our Edtech Department have engaged with her and are convinced that her guidance can be useful to our community. I am looking forward to the event, both as an educator and as a parent who knows this topic is a "thing" but doesn't always have the resolve to be firm in expectations and guidelines for use of technology within my own family - for the kids and for me.  Throughout previous editions of Grey Matters, I have confessed that this is one of the areas where Melisa and I struggle the most in terms of our efforts as parents to be proactive, consistent, and prepared to make decisions that are not only unpopular amongst the children living in our home, but would likely demand a bit more parental effort and elbow grease on my part.  As I admitted to families last year, I've taken advantage of how technology and screen time soften the edges of different parenting challenges in terms of "boredom." While I intellectually know that "boredom" can in fact be an opportunity and not a problem, that nugget of truth was conveniently ignored this past summer as we made plans for our family trip to London and Paris and didn't think twice when packing a multitude of devices that would keep the kids occupied during plane rides, train rides, and other moments of down time (using the term "occupied" is a gentle way of describing our goal of keeping the kids from fighting and complaining). These devices also allow us the ability to reach out to kids with greater ease, and communicate a change in plans or confirming this, that, or the other thing.  Instant, if not superficial, relief for frazzled parents. Additionally, the "psychological and neurological fallout" that might be developing doesn't occur within a short time span. Instead the impact is more gradual and akin to a slow boil where the effects aren't as apparent in the moment, and so it offers someone like me the ability to ignore the issue and continually push off hard decisions or shifts on our kids' access to screen time. There are always plenty of other immediate problems or dilemmas that demand our attention. If any of the above feels familiar to you, consider attending the event on November 5 - I don't know exactly what will be discussed or suggested, but I'm sure there will at least be some meaningful food for thought.

The above messaging notwithstanding, it would also be a mistake and oversimplification of things to position technology and screen time as the primary culprit of all the challenges that we're witnessing amongst adolescents today, including and especially the increase in anxiety and depression.  
That's why I read with great interest a piece in the New York Times, "Taking Away the Phones Won't Solve Our Teenagers' Problems" which included the following message to for us to consider: "Digital technology is designed to grab our attention, so it exhausts us, distracts us and detracts from our ability to nurture fulfilling relationships.  With that in mind, teenagers should reduce their reliance on smartphones...at the same time, if smartphone addition is a reflection of adolescent anxiety, cutting screen time may not solve the broader problems that drive teenagers to their screens.  Just blaming the machines is a cop-out..." For these and other reasons, I am glad that our District continues to remain committed to our Challenge Success initiative, now entering its third full year.  Challenge Success is an organization based out of Stanford University, and we partner with them to coordinate many of our efforts already underway to champion strategies that encourage the healthy self-development of our students. As a District we share the concerns that many have expressed about the increasingly competitive, pressured, and hyper-focused environment in which we seem to find ourselves.  The emphasis on encouraging a student to do one's best has often been overtaken by messages about needing to actually be the best.  As a result, there exists an intensity of expectations--on behalf of many parents/guardians and educators alike--that have emerged because of perceived risks if our kids do not pursue an increasingly narrow definition of success.  Our ongoing work around homework practices at each of our schools, and our recent shift in school start times, are just a few examples of our attention to this arena of our work.

I want to highlight two resources that are focused on outreach to the parent/guardian community on these topics.  First is the AB Wellness website which serves as a clearinghouse of information and resources on topics related to our Challenge Success work.  The second is our annual Family Learning Series which partners with several community organizations to schedule workshops and seminars throughout the year on child development and learning.  We continue to focus this year on developing resilience in children, and the next Family Learning Series event will be with Dr. Rana Chudnofsky who returns to Acton-Boxborough on October 3 and October 10, from 6:30pm to 8:30pm at West Acton Villageworks, to work with families on helping their children develop resiliency building skills.  I know and can sympathize with the busy schedules that many of our families are juggling, especially during the school year - and I hope that if any or all of the above topics are of interest to you, that you'll be able to carve out time to attend.  



A couple of important scheduling reminders for the next week or two:

Picture Day is next Monday, September 24.  Students will be receiving an order form this week to bring home to their parent/guardian.  Students who plan to order photos should bring the order form (and payment) on the 24th. Regardless of whether students order a package of photos, all students will have their photos taken so they can be included in the yearbook.  If you have any questions, please contact David Lawrence at dlawrence@abschools.org.  

There is no school this Wednesday as it is Yom Kippur.  Wishes for an easy fast to those of you who observe that holiday.  There will be no homework or assessments scheduled for the following day (Thursday).    

The vast majority of our after school clubs and activities are up and running.  A few more will have their first meetings in the next week or so.  You can view an updated list of this year's clubs and activities on the RJ Grey website (or by clicking here).  Please encourage your students to listen carefully during morning announcements for reminders about meeting times and locations.  

RJ Grey is holding its first-ever book fair this week -  September 18th, 20th, and 21st. The fair features over 600 titles that are selected to appeal specifically to a junior high audience. The book fair will sell both paperback and hardcover books with the average cost being $10. Students will have an opportunity to purchase a book (if interested) when their English class visits the fair at scheduled times and each day of the fair after school until 3pm. The book fair will accept cash, checks, and credit/debit cards. As with any program at RJ Grey that may involve a cost to families, we are happy to support any students for whom the cost of these books may present a hardship and will ensure that any interested students can select some books that may interest them.  Students and parents/guardians can address any questions they may have to their English teacher or to our Librarian Ms. Charpentier (jcharpentier@abschools.org).  

Later this week RJ Grey families will be receiving an email from me about our upcoming plans for students and staff to participate in a practice drill of our ALICE protocol.  Given the nature of the protocol I want to make sure families have an understanding of the scope and goal of the exercise.  That letter will likely be sent towards the end of this week. When you receive that letter I would appreciate you taking a few moments to review our plans for that drill.  

Another reminder that RJ Grey's Back to School Night will be on Wednesday, September 26th, starting at 7:00pm.  For those of you with children who participate in the Band, String Ensemble or Chorus programs, there is an optional meeting at 6:35pm where you can learn more about those programs. Rest assured that schedules for that evening will be coming home.  We will also have a copy of your child's schedule available at the school in case the copy that your child is supposed to give you somehow gets lost in transit. On that evening, we also ask parents to vote for two 7th grade parent/guardian representatives who will serve on this year's School Council. The role of the School Council is to review and discuss various aspects of the school's activities and goals, and offer advice and guidance about different topics that may emerge during the year. The Council will meet seven times this year, on Monday evenings at 6:30pm (the first will be October 16). We are still looking for 7th grade parents who are interested in serving on the Council.  If you have any interest, please submit a short (4-6 sentence max) paragraph about yourself by this Friday, September 21st for the ballot. Write-ups can be sent to me at ashen@abschools.org.

As many of you know, Massachusetts passed a comprehensive law in 2010 to address incidents of bullying and harassment in schools.  Among other aspects of the law, it called for every school to implement a research-based curriculum that addressed bullying prevention and prosocial behavior. This year, we are continuing our use of a curriculum created by the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center (MARC), an organization based at Bridgewater State that has been heavily involved in the state's recent efforts to address bullying and harassment in school. This curriculum will be delivered through our RJ Grey Discussion Group meetings, the first of which is scheduled for next Tuesday the 25th.  These groups are used to introduce our ongoing goals of having conversations with students about healthy communication, problem solving, and conflict resolution.  

Similar to previous years, we will also continue to incorporate speakers and presentations that we feel can complement and expand our work in this area. For 7th grade students, we have again scheduled a great presentation by MARC specifically on cyberbullying and internet safety.  The presentation by MARC will take place for 7th grade students on December 7th and will again be led by Meghan McCoy (from MARC) who has worked with our school for several years, and is very familiar with our student audience.  

Our Fall sports programs are now in full swing. For families of students participating in our athletic programs: for away games and meets, students should expect to travel to and from those events using school transportation.  There are times that families will need to take their children immediately after the event.  For those situations, parents and guardians need to complete and submit an Athletic Transportation Use of Private Vehicles form. Your student should submit the form to the Main Office in the morning and pick it up later in the day, as it needs to be handed to the coach of the team.  Please note that we're only allowed to release students to a parent or guardian, and can not allow another individual (friend, neighbor, etc.) to serve that role.  We know that there may be times when that option may be helpful, but we're not permitted to accommodate those requests.

Finally, I want to make sure families in Acton and Boxborough are aware of a service that focuses on mental health services, and through a partnership between the school district and several local organizations, is available to everyone in our two communities. William James Interface is a local initiative in Massachusetts intending to maintain an extensive, frequently updated website listing of available mental health resources by geography and type, and provides a free, confidential mental health and wellness referral line Monday through Friday, 9 am-5 pm, at 888-244-6843. Callers are matched with licensed mental health providers that meet the location, insurance, and specialty needs of the caller.  Each referral is provided with follow-up assistance. For more information, you can visit the Interface website here.

Have a great week, everyone.

Cheers,
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Posted by ashen  On Sep 16, 2018 at 4:41 PM
  

Hi Everyone,


At my house last week there were plenty of signs that we were shifting from summer vacation to the start of a new school year - backpacks were lined up on the counter, alarm clocks were back in use, and the next day’s lunches were prepared each night.  And then there were other things about last week that were indistinguishable from the previous weeks of summer, the two most prominent being the soaring temperatures and that the number of moments of sibling bickering in our house remained well above three thousand per day.  This year, my children enter 8th grade, 6th grade, and 4th grade. Let’s all pause here for a moment of silence so that you and I can mentally send our best wishes to each other for the range of interesting and colorful moments we will likely experience over the next several months, with mine certainly shaped by that particular combination of teenager/adolescents.  My experiences last year with my oldest son as he traveled through 7th grade (not at RJ Grey) made for both a personal and professional journey given my role as a middle school principal. Plenty of joyful moments along with stretches of time when my son would argue that my status as a middle school principal actually made me even less qualified to be of help and perspective. As for how consistently I practiced the strategies that I encouraged RJ Grey parents and guardians to consider? Probably 75% of the time, and I could also be unconsciously padding my success rate a bit here.  I expect that this collision of personal and professional worlds will continue as he enters 8th grade and my daughter enters 6th grade, and I look forward to another year of comparing notes and strategies with many of you as we all try and do the best we can in what certainly feels like a world that is constantly shifting underneath our feet.  As we begin this school year, I am including a link to an article in the Washington Post that I’ve shared the past two years that offers suggestions for how parents (and guardians) can stay connected and engaged with their teenage sons.  This has been a favorite of mine as it offered me practical suggestions that I’ve found to be effective (use car rides for conversations) and some important reminders about exercising a bit more patience in certain circumstances, and leaving room for silence.  I hope that you and your kids have had a successful start of this school year and that our 7th graders, and students new to AB, are feeling good about their transition to RJ Grey.   


We just completed our first week of school where start times for the Junior High was pushed back by thirty (30) minutes (and 49 minutes later at the High School) to better accommodate the sleep needs of young adolescents, a topic that our community has discussed and prioritized over the past few years.  Something to monitor is the news that the California legislature just passed a bill that would require all public schools in that state to start school no earlier than 8:30am by 2021.  It’s currently awaiting a response/signature from the governor of California (a title, by the way, that I can no longer read or say without hearing Arnold Schwarzenegger’s voice).  More locally, Harvard is requiring all of it’s freshmen to complete an online course about sleep before they arrive on campus as part of a push to educate all students about the importance of healthy sleeping habits.   It may take a bit of time for the full impact and benefits of our start time change here at Acton-Boxborough to be understood, and it’s something for us to review and discuss as the year progresses.  For parents and guardians who had students attend RJ Grey and/or the High School in previous years, I hope that even within the first week of school some of the anticipated benefits have presented themselves within your homes.


This year, the Shen family will have four separate Back to School Night events to attend. Our fourth and final Back to School Night later this month is mine - which is also all of yours. RJ Grey’s Back to School Night will be on Wednesday, September 26th, starting at 7:00pm.  For those of you with children who participate in the Band, String Ensemble or Chorus programs, there is an optional meeting at 6:35pm where you can learn more about those programs. Parents should head straight for their child’s homeroom (schedules for that evening will be coming home before that evening) and I am going to travel with all of you to your kids’ classes throughout the evening, and hopefully we’ll have a few moments here and there to connect.  


On that evening, we also ask parents to vote for two 7th grade parent/guardian representatives who will serve on this year's School Council. The role of the School Council is to review and discuss various aspects of the school's activities and goals, and offer advice and guidance about different topics that may emerge during the year. The Council will meet seven times this year, on Monday evenings at 6:30pm (the first will be October 15). We are looking for 7th grade parents who are interested in serving on the Council.  If you have any interest, please submit a short (4-6 sentence max) paragraph about yourself by noon on Friday, September 21st for the ballot. Write-ups can be sent to me at ashen@abschools.org.


At Back to School Night, you will see a number of tables hosting a few different school-related organizations, including the PTSO. The PTSO is the parent organization that works with both RJ Grey and the high school to facilitate communication between the schools and the parent community, and supports the schools through various volunteer activities and forums.  The JH/HS PTSO is structured a bit differently in that they make a single financial request for the entire year -- a $50 membership donation, and there are no additional parent/guardian fundraisers that take place. You can download the membership registration form by clicking here.  Along with funding a number of projects, events, and equipment at the Junior High and High School, a membership entitles you to a free student directory (which you pick up that night).  This year, the funds that the PTSO provided to RJ Grey is one reason we are able to continue providing every student with a Student Planbook at no charge, and why we have some great new tables and chairs in the lobby outside of the cafeteria. To learn more about the PTSO, you can visit their site by clicking here.  


Here’s a few other scheduling reminders and notes you might want to keep in mind for the next few weeks:


Our annual school picture day is Monday, Sept. 24. In the next two weeks we will be distributing picture order forms to all students. Regardless of whether families order photos, each child will have his/her photo taken so we can include them in the yearbook. If you would like to order photos but the costs associated with the options would present a financial hardship, I would encourage you to contact David Lawrence at dlawrence@abschools.org. Each year, we have worked with our vendor to find ways for any family who wants a set of photos to receive one.


A friendly reminder that this year our school musical will be “Annie” and audition workshops will be taking place this week.  Audition workshops will be held on Sept. 12 (for Music) and Sept. 13 (for Dance), and attendance at both workshops is mandatory.  The auditions themselves are schedule for Sept. 18 and Sept. 20, and attendance is expected for both days as well. Visit our Theatre Arts page for additional details and information.  


Within the next two weeks, most of our after school clubs and activities will have had their first meetings with interested students.  The updated list of clubs and activities is now ready to share and you can review it by clicking here, and we’ll also post it on our website.  This year we will again be offering Fit Club and we do require students to sign up ahead of time (there’s no cost, just need a head count). To sign up or if you have questions about Fit Club, you can email Katy Frey at kfrey@abschools.org.  


Our Cross Country program will host its informational meeting for all interested students on Tuesday, September 11 at 2:45pm in the auditorium.  The Cross Country team does not have cuts, and all interested students are welcome to join. Practice starts on September 12 and are held Monday through Friday starting at 2:40pm.  The head coach for the team is Elizabeth Muff and she can be reached at elizabethmuff@gmail.com.  


Acton-Boxborough will continue to provide a Late Bus option for students at the Junior High and High School.  Here is a link to the memo that provides details about this service (including a link to the list of planned stops), which will begin starting this Tuesday, September 11.  The Late Bus will pick up students at the Junior High at 4:45pm.  


By now I hope most of you have had an opportunity to visit our school website - rjgrey.abschools.org.  We make every effort to keep the site current, and you can access a number of important school documents and connect to individual teacher websites. Every team also maintains a shared online homework calendar that can also be accessed through our school website (7th grade teams here, 8th grade teams here).  In addition, we have a lively active and useful social media presence on both Twitter and Instagram - please consider signing up for one or both!  It may also be something that your students may want to consider following as well.  These accounts will repeat some information that will always be included in our Daily Announcements, and also gives us a platform to share some fun photos and notes about activities taking place within the school.  


I’m pleased to share that the  R.J. Grey Artist of the Month program is continuing this year.  This program launched last February, and is the brainchild of 8th grade art teacher Mrs. Vlajinac.  The goal of this program is to provide 7th and 8th Graders and opportunities to have an authentic, juried art exhibition experience similar to the process in which professional artists participate.  Since this event is supposed to mimic a real world, professional artist experience, not all students that apply will become RJG Artists of the Month. However, Ms. Vlajinac offers this important reminder to students who may have an interest in participating: “If you are not selected to be RJG AofM, DON’T STOP MAKING ART!!  If you are not selected it only means that there were a handful of people that had work that was just a bit stronger than yours…  Not being selected doesn’t mean that you are terrible at art or that we don’t like you as a person.  Quite the opposite actually!  We appreciate that you took a chance and put yourself/artwork out there. Doing that is SUPER BRAVE and you should be proud for even trying! To learn more about the RJG Artist of the Month process click here.


I’m also excited to be sharing with everyone our continued efforts to promote Rise to the Challenge, which is something we started last year as a way of recognizing student involvement in community service.  We know that many students are already participating in service activities outside of school, and we hope to celebrate those efforts along with encouraging more students to become active in service opportunities.  Students who complete 10 hours of service within the school year will be recognized for their efforts. Please visit the community service page on our website that provides all the details for this program. If you have any questions, please email Debbie Brookes at dbrookes@abschools.org.  


Finally, a message from our Librarian, Ms. Charpentier: “RJ Grey is holding its first-ever book fair on September 18th, 20th, and 21st. The book fair will feature the newest young adult fiction and non-fiction titles along with a host of award-winning classics. The fair features over 600 titles that are selected to appeal specifically to a junior high audience. The book fair will sell both paperback and hardcover books with the average cost being $10. Students will have an opportunity to purchase a book (if interested) when their English class visits the fair at scheduled times and each day of the fair after school until 3pm.” The book fair will accept cash, checks, and credit/debit cards. As with any program at RJ Grey that may involve a cost to families, we are happy to support any students for whom the cost of these books may present a hardship and will ensure that any interested students can select some books that may interest them.  Students and parents/guardians can address any questions they may have to their English teacher or to Ms. Charpentier in the library.


Have a great week, everyone.


Cheers,

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Posted by ashen  On Sep 11, 2018 at 2:44 PM
  
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