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

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Hi Everyone,


Our school district just recently submitted our proposed operating budget for the next school year, which includes funding for staffing, programs, and capital planning. I am glad it was well-received by our School Committee and am now wondering if it’s too late to sneak in an additional item that I only came across earlier this week that I am convinced will increase productivity in the Junior High Principal’s office, specifically a newly designed work desk that easily converts to a space for an afternoon nap (see photo to right).  I don’t know if it’s the nature of the work, or the stage of life I am in (read: getting older and not on the TB12 diet), but the idea of a quick nap in the early afternoon often feels like just the thing that would make the rest of the day go smoothly.  Depending on the outcome of tonight’s Super Bowl, a nap desk may be exactly what I need tomorrow around mid-morning. On a related note, the Junior High and High School are now entering our sixth month with later start times in the morning, having shifted from 7:30am to 8:00am at the Junior High for this current school year.  I wanted to make mention of this for two reasons. First, A-B is preparing a series of surveys geared towards students, staff, and families about the change in start times, and hoping to collect feedback and information about the benefits and challenges that they may have observed and experienced this year.  When those surveys are sent out I would encourage everyone to take a few minutes to participate - the more data the better. My second reason for bringing up the shift in start times has to do with patterns of tardiness at the Junior High.  Last year, I was optimistic that pushing start times to 8:00am would, among other things, reduce the number of students who arrive tardy to school (either occasionally or more chronically). You may or may not be surprised to learn that our tardiness rate this year is approximately double what we had during the same period of time last school year.  I don’t bring this up in an effort to shame or finger-wag at anyone, but instead to inform and start a bit of a dialogue about it. To be sure, there will be times throughout the year when morning routines have hiccups - planned and unplanned - where a student might arrive late to school, and that’s life and to be expected.  The challenge and concern is when those late arrivals becomes a bit more habitual and casual. A pattern of running into school even at 8:00am or a few minutes right after the bell means that the day is starting a bit frenzied (and if multiplied by many students, waiting in line to check in and get a pass to head to class may take additional time).  I will admit that I’m not quite sure what to make of this increase in student tardiness and our School Council recently brainstormed and speculated on a few potential contributing factors without reaching any conclusions we felt certain about. Is the change in traffic patterns to and from school in the morning substantially different? Is the new start time colliding more with parent/guardian work schedules and routines? Do more Junior High students get rides from older high school siblings whose days now start a but after our school day? Are more kids sleeping longer and later? As we work through these questions and speculate on other ones, I would like to ask families to consider helping us make sure that students get to school ahead of the morning bell so they can begin the day more grounded.  I deliver this request appreciating that families often need to juggle a lot of things each weekday morning and if there are adjustments that you’re able to make in support of this goal, I hope you’ll consider it. Finally, if in your home there is an increase in tardiness that you see as less about logistics and potentially related to struggles or concerns with/about school, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your child’s counselor to begin a conversation about how we can work together on those issues. (P.S. please let your kids know that if the Patriots are victorious this evening, we are not delaying the start of school, we can celebrate at during the regularly scheduled school day….)


Here’s a couple of updates and reminders for the next few weeks:


We have our next early release scheduled for this Thursday, February 7.  This will be a professional learning session for staff, and students will be dismissed at 11:06am.  Please plan accordingly.  


A reminder to families of 8th grade students that the High School is hosting an information session regarding the upcoming transition to the High School.  I know, it felt like yesterday that they were in elementary school.  Once you’ve recovered from that time warp, please refer to the email message that was sent to 8th grade families last week from the High School administration about the event that will be this Wednesday, February 6 from 7pm to 8:30pm (at the High School) and is intended for parents/guardians only.  


February Vacation starts at the end of the school day on Friday, February 15.  Please note that February 15 is a full day and will end with our annual Blue & Gold Assembly (more on that next week).  If your family has travel plans that will involve taking your kids out before this date, please take a moment to inform the Main Office (kfrey@abschools.org) and your child’s teachers.  


ABSAF, the community organization that works to raise funds to support student activities and programs at the Junior High and High School is in the process of accepting nominations for their Board for the upcoming 2018-2019 school year. Students who are interested in a 2-year leadership role and want to be considered by the nomination committee can apply by completing the attached questionnaire and returning it to their nomination chair, Casey Eaton.  Their deadline for the application is February 11th. The link also includes an FAQ that provides additional information about ABSAF.  


We had our latest round of Everyday Leaders take place last week, and what a lively bunch who made our lunch together a highlight of the week for me.  Congratulations to this group of Everyday Leaders: Maria Araujo, Abigail Bayer, Matthew Chytil, Siena Kolpin, Connor Nannene, Isabelle Shee, Karen Ssuubi, Henry Tshabalala, Irene Tsitlenko, Mona Yoshiki Franzen, and Charlotte Yourk.   


Finally, I want to wish those in our community who celebrates Chinese New Year a happy and festive new year as we enter the Year of the Pig.  For those who may share my delight in the culinary aspects of different cultures and holidays, here’s an article from the the Los Angeles Times in 2017 that profiled foods for a Chinese New Year feast, and here’s a more recent article in the Boston Globe about a few local places to consider eating as part of the upcoming festivities.  As many of us prepare to watch the Super Bowl later this evening, you can go here and watch a brief video from two years ago of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady wishing everyone a happy Chinese New Year in Mandarin Chinese, or at least making a sincere effort.  I applaud the effort, and I am relieved that he won’t need to be calling offensive plays this evening in Mandarin.  


Have a great week, everyone.


Cheers,

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Posted by ashen  On Feb 03, 2019 at 8:47 AM
  

Hi Everyone,


In different classes, and in both grades, students at RJ Grey are taught skills and strategies that will help them evaluate the credibility and reliability of online sources, and thinking about how to identify sources for bias and accuracy.  As the online platform continues to serve as the primary entrypoint for individuals to search for and acquire information about the world around them, becoming a more thoughtful consumer of the not-so-regulated internet will be a valuable life skill for our kids.  Lucky for us that the recent New England victory over Kansas City in the AFC Championship game provides us with the perfect opportunity to show students how information online can be so easily manipulated by individuals to support a particular narrative or viewpoint, especially on Wikipedia - the free online encyclopedia where many students’ research for assignments often (and unfortunately) begin.  While I consider myself a loyal fan of the Patriots, the recent editing of the Wikipedia description of the AFC Championship Game to be the game “where one team gets to play the New England Patriots for a chance to play for the Super Bowl” (see photo to the right) is going a tad far.  To be sure, some of this bravado and boldness is understandable given that it’s borne from a level of success that may never again occur in our lifetimes, but that’s also led to some foolish decisions - like the Northeastern University student who last year added a tattoo of LII (Roman numerals for 52) to commemorate the Patriots’ sixth Super Bowl before the game was even played.  I wonder how much mental energy that young man spent this past year hoping that the Patriots reach and win this year’s Super Bowl so he can just add another I to his most recent tattoo and it becomes an easy fix to last year’s misstep.  While we’re on the subject of tattoos and reviewing evidence to verify claims and statements, I hope you will all forgive me for going on a slight tangent and offering a nod to one of the more bizarre news stories from last week by noting how having a tattoo of Richard Nixon’s face on your back does not, among other things, mean you get to claim to have been an advisor and aide for the former President’s campaign in the late 1960s.  Let’s all applaud my decision to include a screenshot of the Wikipedia page about the AFC Championship game instead of a photo of the aforementioned tattoo of the 37th President (which you can easily Google if you’re morbidly curious).  


A couple of notes and reminders for this week:


Many thanks to those involved with organizing and supervising last Friday’s Summer Fun in Winter event!  We had a lot of students attend the event, and many seemed to enjoy themselves.  Ms. Ahl and the Student Council officers put a great deal of work into the preparations, and thanks also to the many parents who donated food, along with volunteers Tracey Estabrook, Karen Finkelman, Melissa Clayton, Rebecca Carlson, Sheila Bauer and Mai Nguyen for staffing the snack table.  


A friendly reminder to families that we have our next early release scheduled for Thursday, February 7.  This will be a professional learning session for staff, and students will be dismissed at 11:06am.  Please plan accordingly.


This is a reminder to 7th grade families that we will be finishing our Signs of Suicide (SOS) lesson and screening tool to 7th grade teams this week.  The lesson will be delivered tomorrow (Monday) to 7 Blue students, and then to 7 Green students on Wednesday the 30th.


Now, two articles that I wanted to make mention of and pass along for you to consider reading should it be of interest to you.  First, as a follow up to my recent musings about managing screen time and social media usage by our kids, here is an article from Common Sense Media that provides an overview of a few new apps that are becoming popular amongst adolescents.  I appreciate this site’s efforts to keep families updated since awareness of the next “big thing” is a perpetual uphill climb. Once you get accustomed to one social media platform, twenty new ones appear - some with useful applications, and others for less-than-noble purposes.  The second article is a piece in the New York Times by Lisa Damour that I was excited to read on the subject of helping teens manage social conflicts.  I’ve felt as both a parent and a school principal, that this particular aspect of supporting teenagers has gotten trickier and a bit messier, and a really important area for us to explore together.  It’s become a bit harder to discern which conflicts and moments of hardship warrant more direct parental intervention, and which are the ones where it’s appropriate and even helpful for the adults to remain on the sidelines.  Still observing and supporting, to be sure, but not solving. Several years ago, child psychologist Dan Kindlon warned against what he calls our “discomfort with discomfort” and argued that if kids aren’t allowed to experience painful feelings, they won’t develop “psychological immunity.”  He likens this process to the body’s immune system. He explains, “you have to be exposed to pathogens, or your body won’t know how to respond to an attack. Kids also need exposure to discomfort, failure, and struggle” and that also includes what the Times article refers to as social friction and social injury.  It’s easy, and tempting, and certainly understandable, for many of us to develop an instantaneous and emotional reaction to unpleasantness that our kids may encounter, especially social situations that sting and are common at this age due to the constantly shifting landscape that defines these teenage years.  Not sure how this piece will land with each of you, but at the very least it offers some food for thought, and some language and vocabulary, to help with conversations you may have with other parents and friends.


Finally, we had our latest installment of Poetry Fridays at the end of last week, with Ms. Carter (8 Red Social Studies) offering us a reading of Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”, a poetic acknowledgement of the recent snowfall that has “finally” arrived this winter season.  Click here if you’d like to read the poem as well.  


Have a great week, everyone.


Cheers,










Posted by ashen  On Jan 27, 2019 at 3:21 PM
  

Hi Everyone,


I’m currently multi-tasking, writing this week’s edition of Grey Matters while watching the Patriots play in the AFC Championship game.  If New England struggles in the game, I’ll need to proofread this newsletter a few extra times to make sure I haven’t mistakenly transcribed whatever it is that I’ve shouted at the television.  While many of you might be watching the game after spending the morning plowing and shoveling out from last night’s storm, I will admit, a bit sheepishly, that I am watching the game after spending the morning going for a run along the beach.  Melisa and I were fortunate to have the opportunity to take advantage of the long weekend, and a cousin willing to stay with our kids, to take a quick trip to a warmer climate. When we took this same trip last year, our daughter Addison wrote us a note telling us how she’d miss us and how she felt a bit “abandoned” by her mother and father.  This year, no such note and really no sense of loss and sadness expressed by our kids. The cynical part of me suspects that one reason for this is that our three angels were themselves plotting a weekend free from our watchful eye when it comes to screen time and their access to technology. Melisa and I continue to have mixed results with our approach to managing screen time and overall reliance on technology, including a recent mini-meltdown by yours truly that included my declaring a blanket ban on all technology on the second floor of our home (and then an hour later my finding one of the kids huddled in the basement with an iPad saying, “you didn’t say we couldn’t be down here in the basement!”).  As I continue to clumsily navigate this particular terrain I get easily drawn to articles that offer all types of opinions, strategies, and viewpoints about how to help kids develop a healthy relationship with technology. Here’s two recent articles that advance viewpoints that I’m going to need time to digest and think about: first, a piece at NPR.org that profiles a new book by Temple University professor Jordan Shapiro who, among other things, is advocating for kids to be starting on social media at a younger age as part of “leaning in to parenting your wired child.” (I’m definitely gonna have a hard time with that one…)  The second is an article in Scientific American inspired by a paper out of the University of Oxford that presents data to suggest that worry and concern over the negative impact of screen time on adolescents is overstated.  So far, no reason for me to throw anything at the television, and hoping it stays that way.


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


Our school district is currently going through its annual process for building a proposed budget for the following school year (2019-2020) and presenting it to the School Committee and the community at-large.  Superintendent Light has already made a few initial presentations that outline include the requests for new positions and programs that we’d like to include as part of next year’s budget.  Our efforts to provide the budget story for next year always culminates in Budget Saturday, which is a daylong presentation to the School Committee that includes details of the proposed budget and reasons behind new requests.  Budget Saturday will be this coming Saturday, January 26 from 8:30am to 3:00pm in the Junior High Library and is open to the public.  If you can’t make it, but would like to review the documents outlining our budget proposal for next year, you can find them here.  


A friendly reminder to families that we have our next early release scheduled for Thursday, February 7.  This will be a professional learning session for staff, and students will be dismissed at 11:06am.  Please plan accordingly.


Our Exploratory rotation (i.e. Art, Music/Drama, Minuteman Tech, Digital Literacy) will be switching after this Friday. Students who were enrolled in two of the four Exploratories for the first half of the year will now switch to the other two for the remainder of the school year.  


This is a reminder to 7th grade families that we will be starting our Signs of Suicide (SOS) lesson and screening tool to 7th grade teams.  The lesson will be delivered on Tuesday to 7 Red students, and then to 7 Gold students on Thursday the 24th.  Students on 7 Blue and 7 Green will participate the following week on the 28th and 30th. Also, a final reminder that the Eliot Community Human Services will conduct a suicide prevention workshop for members of our adult community on Tuesday, January 29th at 6pm, also in our Junior High Library.  QPR - Question, Persuade and Refer is a community-wide program that teachers the warning signs of suicide and an effective emergency response. If you are interested in attending, please contact Dr. Deborah Garfield at dgarfield@eliotchs.org.  


Finally, we had our latest installment of Poetry Fridays at the end of last week, with staff member Valery Gransewicz offering a special tribute to American poet and Pulitzer Prize winner Mary Oliver, who passed away last Thursday.  There were many well-deserved tributes for and about Mary Oliver that appeared via social media and news outlets, including this Washington Post piece, and this Postscript in The New Yorker.  On Friday, Ms. Gransewicz read A Voice From I Don’t Know Where.  Many of the tributes on social media posted her piece, Wild Geese, which I have also included below.  


Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.


Have a great week, everyone.


Cheers,

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Posted by ashen  On Jan 27, 2019 at 3:20 PM
  

Hi Everyone,


An article popped up in my social media feed this morning entitled, “Recipes to keep you occupied and well-fed on a snow day.”  I smiled, and selfishly thought, “don’t need to read that, and hoping I won’t have reason to for the rest of this year.”  The lack of snow this year has now become the storyline, and some have even begun to call it a snow drought and wondering if it’s still not a matter of if, but a matter of when, and then how much (in sort of pay now, or pay later, mentality).  Not being one who participates much in winter-oriented activities such as skiing or ice skating, my only current reason for lamenting the lack of snow is that I think some well-timed snowfall this afternoon could enhance the home field advantage that one hopes the New England Patriots have over the accustomed-to-warm-and-sunny-weather Los Angeles Chargers.  Given that this edition of Grey Matters will land in your respective Inboxes after the conclusion of the game, hopefully the cold temperatures and inspired play by the hometown team was enough for a victory over the Chargers.  


Here’s some updates and reminders for the next week or so:

Interim reports for this current Winter Trimester will be emailed to families at the end of this week.  Please remember that this includes any email addresses currently listed on your child’s Emergency Card. Not all students will necessarily receive an interim and if your child does receive one or more, please take a moment to review the feedback and information with him/her/them.  If you have any questions about those interims, I would encourage you to start a dialogue with your child’s teacher.


The Winter Band Concert is this Tuesday at 7pm in the auditorium.


There is no school on Monday, January 21st for the Martin Luther King, Jr. long weekend.  Per our Homework Policy, there will be no homework assigned for that long weekend.  


I received this note about an opportunity for students interested in coding and wanted to pass it along:  The Girls Who Code club is starting up again this Spring for AB students in 6th through 8th grade. Hosted at the Acton Memorial Library, this free, nationally recognized program is a fun introduction to computer science and technology careers, where girls learn coding skills and create a small group project together using Scratch, JavaScript, or Python. This year's curriculum will focus on beginners, so no experience is necessary. Lessons are co-taught by high-school student volunteers and an adult facilitator. Space is limited to 20 students. Participants must have access to a laptop computer that they can bring to meetings. The club meets at the Acton Memorial Library from 9am to 11am on Saturdays, February through June. Interested students should pre-register here.  Questions? AB students can email 20dillona@abschools.org


Here’s an important message about RJ Grey Yearbooks. Families have received notifications earlier this year directly from our Yearbook publisher about options to order a yearbook.  Our book this year consists of 70+ colored pages full of 7th and 8th graders participating in school activities, clubs, sports, and special events. The hardcover book will include survey responses, fun photos, student art and poetry, and everything in between. The deadline to purchase yearbooks is coming up - Tuesday, January 22.  The cost of the book is $37 and can be ordered one of two ways: The preferred way is to purchase the book online, by going to this link and entering our school ID: 13545.  When you get directed to our school’s page, click the “buy a yearbook” option on the left and then (1) put in the quantity and click “buy these items”; (2) click “buy these items for a student” and type in your child's name; you will then be prompted to select the student from our school's database; (3) pay by credit card and then save your email receipt for record purposes. If you prefer not to order online, students may also go the more traditional route and order a yearbook with cash or check made out to RJ Grey. They should complete this form and bring payment to Main Office, to the attention of Mr. Lewis. Important: Please make sure to include a note with the student’s name, grade, and homeroom teacher’s name. We know this is something your child will enjoy receiving in June. We hope also that years from now your child will look back at their RJ Grey experience with fond memories and know this yearbook will be a way for them to do just that!  


Now a message from me about yearbooks and other school-related costs.  If the cost of the yearbook presents a financial hardship for your family, please do not hesitate to contact us and we can have a discrete and simple conversation, and we always make things work.  I’d like to use our discussion about yearbook orders to offer a general but important reminder to all families that we never want the cost of any school-related program or activity to prevent a student from fully accessing important school programs or experiences. It is inevitable that we will need to attach a fee to some programs, trips, or optional things that are “extra” and if there are moments when cost does present a dilemma for your family, I hope you’ll feel comfortable reaching out to your child’s counselor and/or Assistant Principal who will be happy to work with you on a solution.  


Thank you to the many 7th grade families who have already submitted their signed consent forms regarding our upcoming plans to present the Signs of Suicide (SOS) lesson and screening tool to our 7th grade teams.  We had about 30 parents/guardians attend last Monday’s information session with Riverside Trauma Center and I hope those in attendance found it useful.  The signed consent forms were due this past Friday, January 11 and we will continue to accept forms from families this week.  Please also remember that students who don’t submit the consent form will be scheduled to participate in the lesson but not the screening tool.  We are scheduled to deliver the SOS lesson on January 22, 24, 28, and 30 (one team per day).  7 Red will be scheduled for January 22, 7 Gold will participate on January 24, 7 Blue will be on January 28, and finally 7 Green will participate on January 30.  I will send all families a note later this week to remind everyone of this schedule and the resources available to families.  

Also, another important reminder that the Eliot Community Human Services (with a location in Concord), with a Healthy Teen Initiative Grant from the AB United Way, will conduct a suicide prevention workshop for members of our adult community on Tuesday, January 29 at 6:00pm, also in our Junior High Library.  QPR - Question, Persuade and Refer is a community-wide program that teachers the warning signs of suicide and an effective emergency response.  People trained in QPR learn how to recognize the warning signs of a suicide crisis and how to question, persuade and refer someone for help.  If you are interested in attending, please contact Dr. Deborah Garfield at dgarfield@eliotchs.org.  


Have a great week, everyone.

Cheers,

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Posted by ashen  On Jan 13, 2019 at 11:10 AM
  

Hi Everyone,


Usually, by this point in the school year, I will have already made several (whiny) references in Grey Matters to the cold temperatures and some impact that the season’s snowfall has had on my house.  By now I’m also usually consistently wearing snow pants and arctic boots during morning traffic duty.  The wear and tear that (normal) New England winters has on my soul then leads to me discussing with all of you my long standing dream of living in San Francisco and enjoying the food and more temperate weather.  Things are a bit different this year. First, and I’m not complaining, there hasn’t been more than a dusting of snow except for those couple of inches in mid-November - and even that accumulation of snow melted within a few days.  And even with current forecasts calling for about an inch of snow tomorrow night, the ten day forecast hovers in the 30 to 40 degree range.  Thus, my snow pants and boots are still on standby in my office.  Moreover, the less frigid weather has made me think about San Francisco less frequently, and the recent wildfires that choked the city with smoke, along with that region’s growing challenges with wealth disparity and affordability (and the occasional earthquake), has me thinking more favorably about our neck of the woods.  One reason I am bringing up the weather and snow is that even with the mild(er) and stretch of snow-free days, our Ski and Board Club will still have its first session at Wachusett Mountain this Tuesday (hooray for snow-making technology).  A final important reminder to Ski and Board Club families that equipment is not allowed on buses.  Most families bring the equipment at morning drop off, and a few families bring the equipment to school later in the day (it all gets stored in the auditorium).  Please be sure to have the ski and board equipment organized for a speedy drop off in the morning.


And while I personally would welcome a school year free of snow delays and snow days, that’s probably not realistic.  If and when we do have some messy precipitation, our District sends out automated calls to families with delay/cancellation notifications.  Along with the automated calls, families can also utilize different social media platforms for that and other information as well.  Acton-Boxborough has both an official Twitter feed as well as a Facebook page where announcements and reminders will be posted.  If you aren’t already following RJ Grey’s Twitter feed, please also consider joining our 763 other followers.  On that feed, we’ll “re-tweet” important District announcements along with our own school-based reminders and updates.  


Here’s a few additional reminders and update for the coming two weeks:


I need to make a correction from last week about the Winter Band Concert, which is Tuesday, January 15 at 7pm in the Auditorium.  I mistakenly listed it as Wednesday the 16th, my apologies - I believe the Band Director, Mr. Arsenault, has sent the correct dates to families of Band students.   The Chorus and Strings Concert is Wednesday, January 23 at 7pm in the Auditorium.  


A reminder to students and families that our after school clubs and activities welcome new members throughout the year! You can review the club and activity options on our website at this page.


There is no school Monday, January 21 in recognition of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.  


I hope 7th grade families have had a chance to review the letter that I sent to parents/guardians last Wednesday regarding our plans to conduct the Signs of Suicide (SOS) lesson and the Brief Screening for Adolescent Depression to students in 7th grade later this month.   We require every family to return a signed consent form (included with the original email and also sent via US Postal Mail) from every student’s parent/guardian indicating the student’s level of participation.  Please send that form in with your child as soon as possible. If you need another copy of the consent form, please let me know. For parent/guardians who would like to learn more about the SOS lesson and preview the materials that are included in the lesson before deciding on their child’s level of participation, please consider attending the Parent Information session that we have scheduled for this Tuesday, January 8 at 6pm in the Junior High Library.  This session will be led by Nanci Ginty, a staff member from Riverside Trauma Center who has worked closely with Acton-Boxborough over the past three years.  


Separately, and in support of our efforts with student mental health, Eliot Community Human Services (with a location in Concord), with a Healthy Teen Initiative Grant from the AB United Way, will conduct a suicide prevention workshop for members of our adult community on Tuesday, January 29 at 6pm, also in our Junior High Library.  QPR - Question, Persuade and Refer is a community-wide program that teachers the warning signs of suicide and an effective emergency response.  People trained in QPR learn how to recognize the warning signs of a suicide crisis and how to question, persuade and refer someone for help.  Please note that while it has a shared goal, the Parent Information session about our SOS has a very different focus, and is narrowly focused on providing families with an overview of our plans with students.  


Finally, it’s a pleasure to highlight 8th grader Sean Nelson, who is January’s Artist of the Month. Sean’s work is our first Artist of the Month foray into the
relatively new art form of 
drone photography.  When asked about things that influence/inform the artwork he likes to make, Sean noted, “Nature and architecture definitely give me inspiration for my photography. I have taken drone photos of the beach, lighthouses, and the mountains, and have also taken drone photos in Acton
Center. I like taking photos of memories, or things that intrigue me, and things that other people can relate to.”  If you’d like to check out some of Sean’s work,
you can click here.  (As of Sunday morning, there are a few hiccups that need
to be fixed with Sean’s Artist of the Month profile page, but hopefully it will be
all set by later today, if not Monday morning)


Have a great week, everyone.


Cheers,


Posted by ashen  On Jan 06, 2019 at 9:19 AM
  

Hi Everyone,

Welcome back from Winter Break, and welcome to 2019.  Our family avoided any long-distance travel over the break, and our time in and around our home can be best summarized by our youngest son Parker’s recent declaration that, “there’s no such thing as eating too much chocolate.”  In between too-long stretches of eating things with high concentrations of sugar, a vast array of bread products, and a whole lot of cheese, I used the break as an opportunity to catch up on a bit of reading - both for pleasure, and to stay on top of topics and ideas that might be directly related to our shared world of parenting, education, and hoping to stay somewhat current with the lives of our children.  This reading goal of mine was aided by holiday gifts from a few good friends, one of whom gave me a copy of Educated, by Tara Westover, and another friend who gave me Tommy Orange’s There There, both of which are on quite a few “Top Ten” lists.  While I can’t easily share with everyone my copies of those books, I can share links to several pieces that may be of interest to some or many of you.  In no particular order:




Two articles on the rapidly
growing industry of ESports (competitive video gaming),which is quickly nearing the $1 billion mark, from new efforts by organizations and businesses to create a “Little League” equivalent for this new arena, to e-sports scholarships now being offered by colleges and universities across the country.  


On strategies and tips for communicating effectively with your teenager, this New York Times article offers this psychologists’ take on how to frame the advice and guidance you hope your kids might consider.  

This is a
pretty intense New York Times piece from late October that presents growing concerns by technologists about the impact of smartphones on the healthy development of young people, and a related Washington Post piece that looks at why “cellphones and sleepovers are such a bad mix” and makes a recommendation for how families (especially sleepover hosts) may want to adapt their approach to supervision of these get togethers.  

Finally, the
Deseret News is a newspaper based out of Salt Lake City, Utah and they just completed a yearlong series, Generation Vexed, about why and in what ways teens are struggling with record levels of anxiety.  This series includes over twenty pieces that examines the topic from a variety of angles and perspectives - gender, young children to college-aged children, debates about medication and other treatments, and strategies for families (to name a few).  


As we return from the Break hopefully you can still find a few moments of quiet here and there to read any of the above pieces that pique your interest.  


An important note about this week: our last set of parent-teacher conferences is scheduled for the evening of Thursday, January 3, from 5pm to 8pm.  This is our second year with an evening session and I want to provide a reminder of what this means for our school schedule on Thursday and Friday.  


  1. Thursday, January 3 is a full day of school from 8:00am to 2:36pm.  

  2. Parent-teacher conferences scheduled for Thursday, January 3 will be held during the 5pm to 8pm window.  

  3. The following day, Friday, January 4, is an early release day for all students and staff.  School will be from 8:00am to 11:06am, and buses will be available for their “regular routes.”  Please note that students at the High School and the elementary schools have do not have early release schedules for that day.  


Here’s additional updates and reminders for the first few weeks of January, and then a bit of important information about our annual Signs of Suicide (SOS) program for 7th grade students.  


There is no school for all Acton-Boxborough students on Monday, January 21 for the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.  


The RJG Winter Band Concert is scheduled for the evening of Wednesday, January 16, and the Winter Chorus and String Ensemble Concert is scheduled for the evening of Wednesday, January 23.  Both events begin at 7pm and taking place in the RJ Grey auditorium.  


The very popular Ski and Board Club has its first session next Tuesday, January 8.  Please remember that ski and board gear can not be brought on AB buses in the morning, and that means on Tuesdays Ski and Board Club members are dropped off in the morning with quite a bit of gear.  For those of you planning to drop off kids and gear in the lower parking lot, it would be immensely helpful if the gear was organized in a way that supported a speedy drop-off.  The best case scenario is if you have those ski bags that package everything up all nice and are easy to carry. I’ll do my best to help kids with getting gear out of the trunk, and anything that you can do in advance would be much appreciated.  There are also some families who choose to drop off their child’s ski/boarding gear later in the day and bring it to the auditorium where it is stored.


We had our latest round of Everyday Leaders take place right before Winter Break. It was great to spend some time with a number of our students and see how the year is going, and to also get some of their initial feedback on different parts of the RJ Grey experience.  Congratulations to this group of Everyday Leaders: Robin Zhang, Anthony Cronin, Nisha Bhat, Miller Lillie, Nakisa Razban, Lily Newcombe, Emma Lent, Ethan Xia, Grace O’Sullivan, Noam Worcel, and Anna Campbell.  


I want to provide families with another preview of a letter that families of 7th grade students will be receiving later this week by email as well as US Postal Mail, that discusses our school’s implementation of the Signs of Suicide (SOS) lesson and mental health screening tool.  Before the Winter Break, I provided an overview of our annual Signs of Suicide lesson and the Brief Screening for Adolescent Depression to students in 7th and 9th grade. The Signs of Suicide Prevention Program is a universal program for middle and high school students that has proven effective in helping students who are concerned about themselves or a friend.  It is the only school-based suicide-prevention curriculum listed by the Substance Abuse and Medical Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) in its National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices that addresses suicide risk and depression.  At RJ Grey, the program is scheduled this year to take place in 7th grade team classes during the week of January 21 and January 28, with two teams scheduled per week.  For parents and guardians who would like to preview the Signs of Suicide lesson and the video used during the lesson, we are hosting an information session on Tuesday, January 8 at 6pm in the Junior High Library.  Joining us that evening will be a program coordinator from the Riverside Trauma Center.  At that session we typically provide an overview of the program and answer questions that parents/guardians might have. Families of 7th grade students will be receiving an email letter tomorrow (Wednesday) about the SOS lesson and mental health screening tool, along with a consent form that we need parents and guardians to return by Friday, January 11th.  Families will also receive a copy of the letter via US Postal Mail on Thursday or Friday.  The consent form allows you to select your child’s level of participation in the program.


Separately, and in support of our efforts with student mental health, Eliot Community Human Services (with a location in Concord), with a Healthy Teen Initiative Grant from the AB United Way, is continuing to offer suicide prevention workshops for members of our adult community, with another session scheduled for Tuesday, January 29 from 6:00pm to 8:00pm, also in our Junior High Library.  QPR - Question, Persuade and Refer is a community-wide program that teachers the warning signs of suicide and an effective emergency response.  People trained in QPR learn how to recognize the warning signs of a suicide crisis and how to question, persuade and refer someone for help.  Please note that while it has a shared goal, the Parent Information session about our SOS has a very different focus, and is narrowly focused on providing families with an overview of our plans with students.  In the coming weeks I’ll provide a few more reminders about this opportunity and encouragement to attend.  


Finally, before the start of conferences on December 18 we had our annual Staff Appreciation Luncheon which was hosted by our amazing PTSO.  Educators are no different when it comes to our stomachs being the quickest way into our hearts.  Par for the course, the food that was made and donated by our families was much appreciated and quickly consumed.  Many thanks to parents Tracey Estabrook and Mai Nguyen for taking on the coordination, planning, and set up of this event, and the many families who contributed to an inviting and filling spread.  


Have a great week, everyone.  Welcome back.


Cheers,

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Posted by ashen  On Jan 01, 2019 at 9:11 AM
  

Hi Everyone,


By now I hope you have received and had a chance to read the message that Superintendent Light sent to members of our community regarding the Boston Globe article that was published this morning, and that profiles the student suicides that have occurred in our community over the last several years.  It’s also likely that many of you have, by now, also read the article itself. I know I’m stating the obvious when I note the difficulty of reading that piece without experiencing a range of emotions.  Certain feelings and questions that we’ve felt before have probably resurfaced, along with new ones introducing themselves into the dialogue. As we continue to navigate this topic through the lens and perspective of adults and parents, I know we agree about the central importance of being attentive to our children and when and/or where they may find themselves entering conversations about it with peers, classmates, and friends.  For all families, I reiterate and echo Peter Light’s encouragement of parents and guardians to speak with their children as appropriate. If you’re hesitant because you feel you aren’t equipped with all the right answers for every question they may ask, I offer you this piece of learning that I’ve gained from my work with those who are very knowledgeable about this arena: for many adolescents a simple check-in may be all that is needed right now, where you acknowledge the piece and offer your child an open invitation to share their initial reactions or questions. They may or may not take you up on it at that very moment, but maybe it happens later on during a longer drive in the car to a practice or rehearsal. The offer to listen, as opposed to the providing of particular answers, is often what’s most needed and most helpful for the majority of our children.  Of course, if you have reasons for additional concerns or your child is one who has received mental health support previously, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us and we can work through next steps.


In both Peter’s letter and in the Globe article, there are references to additional training, partnerships, and interventions that our District has implemented over the past three years in an effort to address suicide and mental health in general.  One of those interventions is the Signs of Suicide (SOS) lesson and mental health screening tool that we now conduct annually to students in 7th and 9th grade.  Because that program is scheduled to take place in mid-January, families of 7th grade families will receive notification about it when we return from the Winter Break, and so may be helpful to provide a brief preview for all of you at this time.  The Signs of Suicide Prevention Program is a universal program for middle and high school students that has proven effective in helping students who are concerned about themselves or a friend.  It is the only school-based suicide-prevention curriculum listed by the Substance Abuse and Medical Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) in its National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices that addresses suicide risk and depression.  At RJ Grey, the program is scheduled this year to take place in 7th grade team classes during the week of January 21 and January 28, with two teams scheduled per week.  For parents and guardians who would like to preview the Signs of Suicide lesson and the video used during the lesson, we are hosting an information session on Tuesday, January 8 at 6pm in the Junior High Library.  Joining us that evening will be a staff member from the Riverside Trauma Center.  At that session we will provide an overview of the program and answer questions that parents/guardians might have. Families of 7th grade students will be receiving a letter about the SOS lesson and mental health screening tool, along with a consent form that we will need parents and guardians to return by Friday, January 11th. The consent form allows you to select your child’s level of participation in the program.  Thank you in advance for your assistance with our continued implementation of this important program.


We have this final week of school before the start of the Winter Break.  Here are several reminders and updates:


The next set of parent-teacher conferences is this Tuesday, December 18.  That means that all students will again be dismissed at 11:06am.  Please be sure to confirm with your child plans and expectations for after school as they will not be able to remain in the school building.


Every year, the PTSO organizes a staff appreciation luncheon that is held during the second set of parent-teacher conferences (which is this Tuesday).  Many thanks to the PTSO organizers and the volunteers who contribute to this event with food, drink and supply donations, as well as volunteering to staff the event.  For more details and to volunteer/donate, click here to sign up!  


We have a full day of school on Friday, December 21, and then the Winter Break begins!  If you and your family are beginning your break a bit before that (or a lot before that), please be sure to let our front office know so we can take accurate attendance (email Katy Frey at kfrey@abschools.org).  It would also be important to have your child speak to each of his/her teachers about missed work and assignments.


School resumes after Winter Break on Wednesday, January 2 (translation: don’t send your kids to school on Tuesday, January 1 - we won’t be there! We have our final set of parent-teacher conferences scheduled for the evening of Thursday, January 3.  There will be a full day of school on that Thursday of conferences, and then a half-day of school the following day (Friday) where students are dismissed at 11:06am.  


Save the Date: The Winter Band Concert is the evening of Wednesday, January 16, and the Winter Chorus and String Ensemble Concert is the evening of Wednesday, January 23.  


At the most recent School Committee meeting that was held last Thursday, the Committee approved the school calendar for the 2019-2020 school year (next year).  You can view and download the calendar by clicking here.  


One of our newest student clubs this year, Creating Change, have been working very hard to prepare for their first event - a Winter Pop Up Shop!  Creating Change is a club that focuses on community service through art making and is open to students of all art ability levels. Their hope is to use and develop art-making skills while we make a difference in the R.J. Grey community and beyond.The students in the group (over 25 strong), have created a number of small gifts and crafts that they will be selling at this Pop Up Shop, with proceeds being donated to charitable organizations. The Pop Up Shop will take place this Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday immediately after school, and all items for sale are $5 or less.  


We have many students participating in the Ski and Board Club when we return from the Break.  Please remember that ski and board gear can not be brought on AB buses in the morning, and that means on Tuesdays Ski and Board Club members are dropped off in the morning with quite a bit of gear.  The first session of Ski and Board Club is Tuesday, January 8. For those of you planning to drop off kids and gear in the lower parking lot, it would be immensely helpful if the gear was organized in a way that supported a speedy drop-off.  The best case scenario is if you have those ski bags that package everything up all nice and are easy to carry. Believe it or not, some of our 13-year olds throw their equipment all over the trunk before leaving the house (I know, hard to imagine), and then everyone in the parking lot gets to watch them and me get tangled up in boots, poles, and helmets.  I’ll do my best to help kids with getting gear out of the trunk, and anything that you can do in advance would be much appreciated. There are also some families who choose to drop off their child’s ski/boarding gear later in the day and bring it to the auditorium where it is stored.


Finally, I want to wish everyone a wonderful Winter Break.  As we enter the break, I wanted to offer everyone a link to a story that has quickly risen to one of my favorite pieces this year.  It’s a piece by Shirley Wang about the unlikely but very real friendship that developed between former NBA star Charles Barkley and her father Lin, who died this past June.  It made my day, and so I wanted to pass it along to all of you with the hopes it adds a bit of joy to your break.  Remember that as part of our homework practice there will be no homework or studying assigned to students for this period of time.  Please encourage your child to disconnect from school for the duration of the vacation, and focus his/her energies and time on other interests, friends, and family.  Safe travels to those of you who might be making a trip out of state.


Have a great week, everyone.  Happy holidays and a happy new year.  


Cheers,

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Posted by ashen  On Dec 16, 2018 at 10:17 AM
  

Hi Everyone,


A few years ago I introduced to Grey Matters readers my youngest son’s love of bacon, his request for a “box of bacon” for Christmas, and all the bacon-inspired presents he did receive from relatives, including the infamous Bacon Bowl.  What I thought at the time was going to be a one-time reference to Parker’s love of the greasy breakfast meat evolved into a 6-month dialogue with families about all things bacon.  Apparently, there was and is a large contingent of families in the Acton and Boxborough communities who share my son’s fixation with bacon. Assuming that’s still the case, I wanted to pass along the news that Ohio State University has installed its first bacon vending machine, and has gained such popularity that it has to be restocked four or five times a day. Along with that quirky piece, I also came across a few other articles that I thought would be useful to pass along to families and perhaps a bit more relevant to school, learning, and parenting.  First, here is an opinion piece in the New York Times by psychologist Adam Grant called “What Straight-A Students Get Wrong” and offers a particular perspective about learning in school (primarily college), and what he sees as the gains and losses of a culture and system that is built around measuring achievement primarily through traditional grades.  Those of you who choose to read the article may or may not see application of those ideas in a middle school/high school setting, but at least perhaps offers some food for thought the day before Fall Trimester report cards are emailed home (more on that below).  Second, the Boston Globe just posted another article regarding the issue of vaping in schools.  While this article focused heavily on how a number of schools are installing sensors that are supposed to be able to detect vaping activity, it also offers additional data and stories about this issue in general.  Since the time a few weeks ago when I wrote a more elaborate message about this in Grey Matters, vaping activity at RJ Grey this year has still not (fortunately) emerged as a significant concern, though we are being cautious and avoiding being lulled into a false sense of quiet in this arena. Similarly, I would encourage parents and guardians to continue being somewhat vigilant about your child’s exposure to vaping. 


Finally, an article that I share more for fun and camaraderie than anything else, though I actually can see appropriate links to the first article I shared about measuring achievement primarily through grades and some of the unintended outcomes of that approach.  The Washington Post just published a piece about how common it is for adults to have dreams where they are back in college and realizing they have a final exam for a class that they never attended the whole semester - and the panic that it generates.  Until I came across this article, I believed that this exact dream that I have about two to three times a year was a creation unique to my overly neurotic brain.  Apparently it’s a much more common dream narrative, and so I wanted to pass this information along to all of you should you also connect to this particular brand of dreaming.  


Besides reading the articles that I shared above, I also attended Saturday evening’s performance of Annie and as always it’s immensely enjoyable to watch a performance featuring our students as they showcase a whole different dimension of who they are, and the many talents they possess. The moment shortly before the curtains rose when a parent told me about how great an experience the musical has been for his child was an added bonus for me.  Along with the many parents and guardians, families and staff who attended the musical, I was again heartened to see a large contingent of current and former RJ Grey students in attendance and cheering loudly for their classmates and friends.  Planning and preparation for a production of this magnitude starts in the summer, and involves a high level of commitment and focus for the first three months of the school year - auditions, rehearsals, costume making, set building, and more rehearsals.  Congratulations and many thanks to the student cast and crew, RJ Grey staff and parent volunteers who were part of this year’s musical production.


Some reminders for this week and next, as we head towards Winter Break:


Fall Trimester report cards are being sent to families Monday afternoon. Please remember that report cards are now emailed to directly to parents and guardians.  Any email address that is listed in a student’s Emergency Card as belonging to a parent or guardian will receive a copy of the report card.  If you experience any issues with receiving the report card let me know and we can generate another copy to email you.


The first of three parent-teacher conference days is scheduled for this Thursday, December 13.  All (Junior High) students will have an early release day, and dismissed at 11:06am.  All bus routes will be available after school, and a friendly reminder to families to have a quick conversation with your child about plans and expectations for where they should be going once school is dismissed.  For those parents and guardians who have meetings scheduled on Thursday, please double check your assigned times. You would have received that via an email message from either Katy Frey (7th grade) or Anne Spalding (8th grade).  


I want to provide a friendly reminder and plug for Rise to the Challenge, which is our way 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.  


We are nearing the launch of our annual, and quite popular, Cooking Club at RJ Grey.  The tough part about Cooking Club is that it’s limited to 12 students to ensure an appropriate setting that prioritizes safety and supervision.  The good news is that this popular club will be offering two rounds/offerings of the Cooking Club which will allow 24 students to participate. This club is for students with all levels of cooking experience and will meet from 2:50-5:00 PM after school on the scheduled meeting dates in the Cafeteria Kitchen. Registration will be based on the order in which registration forms are turned in. Click here for the Cooking Club registration form (which also includes meeting dates and times).  Questions and forms can be directed to Deb Rimpas (Health Teacher) at drimpas@abschools.org.  


Finally, as we near the Winter Break, I also want to take a moment to include this annual reminder about guidelines for giving gifts to school staff members.  First and foremost, please know that no family should ever feel that gift giving is expected. My experience has been that simple expressions of thanks that are sent along to teachers by students and families are “gifts” that are greatly appreciated by our staff.  For families who choose to provide a gift to a member of the RJ Grey staff, I do need to direct your attention to state ethics laws that limit the gifts that teachers, coaches, and staff are permitted to receive. There’s actually a whole series of details about this (because it tends to get a little complicated at the elementary levels with class gifts, etc.), but to keep things simple for us: staff can not accept gifts from a single family that exceeds $50 in value for the entire school year. For those who send in homemade desserts and treats and want to know what monetary value is placed on those, the answer is of course priceless.  I share the above info about gift giving as a friendly reminder about important guidelines that we’re obligated to follow and to take this opportunity to thank all RJ Grey families for the many ways that each of you supports the school and our teachers throughout the year.  


Have a great week, everyone.


Cheers,

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Posted by ashen  On Dec 09, 2018 at 9:03 AM
  

Hi Everyone,


This week we’re looking at unique family traditions that you may not have had a role in creating, and instead have inherited and perhaps not in a position to end, alter, or adjust.  Like many others, our family typically shifts into “winter holiday” gear the weekend after Thanksgiving - so these past two days have been quite busy. A few years ago, Melisa’s side of the family added a few features and upgrades to our winter holiday traditions - some a bit easier than others to digest.  Now that my in-laws have six grandchildren by way of Melisa and her siblings who are all of a certain age, the first weekend in December has become an official postscript to the Thanksgiving festivities where we get together again - this time at a pizza place up in the North Shore that Melisa’s entire extended family used to frequent when she was growing up.  And once we finish stuffing ourselves with pizza, we all drive a few minutes to a place that sells Christmas trees and we all pick out trees for our respective homes. Everything I just described are things that I consider welcome additions to our family’s list of annual traditions and plans. As someone who didn’t have extended family who lived close to us and who we’d actually see more than once every few years, this has been a nice change of pace for me.  What I am having a slightly harder time with is the part where all three of my kids now expect to have, along with our family Christmas tree, their own individual mini-Christmas trees for their respective rooms. A few years ago, one of my kids excitedly commented to a certain grandfather who will remain nameless that it would be so amazing if he also had his own little tree to decorate in his room. Given the tendency for all of our kids’ grandparents to spoil them rotten and say “yes” a bit too quickly and consistently, I suppose I should be thankful that it was a mini-tree, and not a live reindeer, that our child was eyeing.  He and his siblings all got a mini-tree that year and each year since then, and it’s now heresy to suggest that this practice may be a bit overindulgent and unnecessary. I’ve always had trouble getting our shared family tree to stay upright (see: Ornament Massacre of 2014), now we have to set up four of them?


In terms of RJ Grey traditions that occur around this time of year, our annual school musical production always adds to the excitement between the Thanksgiving holiday and the Winter Break.  This year’s performances of Annie are at the end of this week and I know that the students and staff involved in the musical are excited and putting a bit of that nervous energy into final preparations. The five performances are scheduled for Thursday, December 6 (7pm), Friday, December 7 (7pm), Saturday, December 8 (2pm and 7pm), and Sunday, December 9 (2pm).  Tickets are $15 and are now available in the Junior High Main Office, and will also be sold at the door prior to each performance.  ABSAF holders are entitled to two free tickets and must pick up their tickets from the Main Office prior to the performance date.  If you and your family are eager to attend but the cost of the tickets proves to be a hardship, please don’t hesitate to contact Anne Spalding (aspalding@abschools.org) in the Main Office and we can make arrangements to provide tickets to one of the shows.  We want to make sure that any of our students and their families who wants to attend can do so without additional burden.   


Here are some reminders for this week, and then a note about Fall Trimester report cards coming home either Friday or next Monday.   

Similar to previous years, 7th grade students will again participate in an annual 
presentation by Meghan McCoy, from the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center (MARC) about cyberbullying and engaging in discussion about the benefits and risks of maintaining a social media presence.  This presentation is scheduled for Friday, and we’re looking forward to welcoming Meghan back to RJ Grey, who has worked with our school for several years, and is very familiar with our student audience.  

The
first of three parent-teacher conference days is scheduled for Thursday, December 13.  All (Junior High) students will have an early release day, and dismissed at 11:06am.  All bus routes will be available after school, and a friendly reminder to families to have a quick conversation with your child about plans and expectations for where they should be going once school is dismissed.  For those parents and guardians who have meetings scheduled on Thursday, please double check your assigned times. You would have received that via an email message from either Katy Frey (7th grade) or Anne Spalding (8th grade). 

Our last day of school before the Winter Break is Friday, December 21
.  Please note that this final day is a full day of school.  We often get inquiries about whether it’s a half-day or not (it’s not).  


As we enter December we have another R.J. Grey Artist of the Month.  Congratulations to Eli Jarsky (8 Red) who has been selected as this month’s Artist of the Month. When Eli was asked about some things that influence/inspire/inform the artwork he likes to make, he shared, “I like to draw things around me, and ordinary things you’d use every day. My style has changed drastically over the years, but I’ve recently been drawing drapery and things that I used to find really challenging.” Congratulations to Eli and you can click here to view his artwork (also on display in our school lobby).  


Fall Trimester report cards are going home with students either at the end of this week, or next Monday at the latest. Please remember that report cards are now emailed to directly to parents and guardians.  Any email address that is listed in a student’s Emergency Card as belonging to a parent or guardian will receive a copy of the report card. Once you have time to view the report cards, please use this as an opportunity to have a conversation with your child(ren).  For subjects where they experienced some success, what did they think was an important factor, and how can they build on that momentum?  For subjects where they might be hoping to improve, what goals or strategies might be worth trying over the next few months? Asking students to self-assess and giving them a supportive venue to be honest with themselves is a critical first step to any adjustments that they (or you) might hope they make moving forward.  


I would imagine that amongst our student population, there may be a few whose report cards show some signs of difficulty in a few subjects.  They aren’t the first (nor will they be the last) middle schoolers whose report cards may result in a bit of angst and distress for themselves and their parents. What has become to me an important tradition during my time as Principal is where I confess to RJ Grey families about my own sordid middle school academic career, specifically the minor disaster that was my 7th grade winter report card, issued in 1989 by the Andover Public Schools. Like other RJ Grey parents before you, you can view a photo of said report card by clicking here. Please note that teachers’ names, and my parents’ home address, have been blurred to protect the innocent.  If you are tempted but unsure of whether to show my report card to your child, shed yourself of any reluctance you might have and go right ahead.  I’ve enjoyed many of the stories that parents have sent to me about the conversations they had with their children about their Principal’s report card. One family has my report card on their refrigerator - hopefully not still


On the day that my 7th grade report card was distributed, I spent a good hour devising an ingenious plan to save myself from what I expected to be a painful conversation with my parents.  My brilliant idea? I folded up my report card, placed it in my pants pocket, and then purposely ran those pants through the washing machine - twice. I convinced myself (truly) that a spin cycle or two would actually make the D+ I earned in Math fade a bit and that I could convince my mother that the unclear and fuzzy marking was a B+.  Shockingly, the plan didn’t work - I probably should have used hot water instead of cold. On behalf of your kids, and the thirteen-year old version of me, please keep in mind that if you find yourself having a bewildering conversation about their report cards, they are not purposely trying to make you miserable and turn prematurely gray/bald.  The prefrontal cortex of thirteen and fourteen-year old brains is still developing, and this will often result in utterly nonsensical explanations and excuses.  This too shall pass, eventually.


For those whose kids may be coming home with “that other” report card that might look a bit like mine, when you have a conversation with your child about it, please remind yourself of what we all already know: that patience and encouragement (and some mercy) often go a long way in these situations. If you hope to have a productive conversation with them, they need to be convinced that your motivation for talking is not just rooted in judgment, but also driven by curiosity and a sincere interest in expressing empathy and support.  


Middle school is a time when a dozen things are happening and changing at the same time - to their brains, their bodies, how they relate to peers and adults, and they’re trying on different personalities to see what feels right.  With all this change, sometimes the academic part doesn’t go quite as planned and they may not be prepared to identify the reasons why. A less-than-stellar middle school report card is not usually a preview of what your son or daughter will be like when they are adults (or even as high school students), nor is it really structured to offer insight about their continued development as kind, thoughtful, and creative individuals.  We (parents and educators) should definitely continue to have healthy academic goals and aspirations for all of our kids, and let’s remind ourselves that getting there can sometimes be a function of time and might also include, and indeed benefit from, a few detours and potholes along the way.  


Three weeks until the Winter Break!


Have a great week, everyone.


Cheers,

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Posted by ashen  On Dec 02, 2018 at 1:48 PM
  

Hi Everyone,


I hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving Break.  Our family had a pretty relaxing and enjoyable few days, even with the time that we spent in the Emergency Room on Saturday night.  The visit to the ER was, fortunately, purely a precautionary measure for my wife who, from this day forward, will never again wear a certain pair of slippery socks while walking down our basement steps.  Although our stay at the ER sadly didn’t involve any contact with Dr. Benton, Dr. Carter or anyone else from Cook County Hospital (see photo to right), we did spend a good bit of time with, no joke, Nurse Jackie.  Not the one made famous by actress Edie Falco, but ours had quite a bit of character nonetheless.  I admittedly didn’t make the greatest first impression with Nurse Jackie when she initially entered the room to find Melisa standing (the pain in her lower back made standing more preferable), and yours truly kind of, maybe, possibly, lying on the gurney.  In my defense, Melisa didn’t want to lie or sit down, and we’d been waiting for a good bit of time when Nurse Jackie first appeared. If you found that to be a feeble excuse, Nurse Jackie agrees with you. It’s been many years since I have visited an ER, and so I found myself digesting quite a bit about the physical setting and trying to better understand what was (and wasn’t happening) based primarily on the time I spent in the 1990s watching episodes of ER on Thursday nights.  


What ended up being a three hour stay with long stretches of waiting did give me an opportunity to think about our surroundings and make some connections between hospitals and public schools, which isn’t too much of a stretch given that both are at their core committed to serving and supporting all walks of life.  For example, I noticed that in our room there was a blue phone that was a direct line to a service that provided language interpreters for patients and ER staff who require translation of information. While the situations we encounter at schools are typically not as urgent, our District has definitely been working on identifying more readily available translation and interpreter services for our families when it comes to meetings at school, and making sure everyone has access to the same information.  I immediately felt a bit jealous and wondered if a similar service was available to schools (and if so, fearing that the price tag is prohibitive). There were also a few moments during our stay where I felt a bit more vulnerable and more at the mercy of someone else than I might usually feel. I don’t think this was because the staff was unwelcoming (they were very kind), but simply due to being unfamiliar with the norms, protocols, and rules that governs and regulate what happens, by whom, in what order, and for what reasons.  Thinking about this a bit more, I started to wonder if and when there might be times that any of our families have felt similarly in relation to their experiences at RJ Grey, not because of anything we might have said or done, but because in our world there also exists -- often with good reason -- layers of rules, best practices, policies, and obligations that might guide our approach to different situations. It’s been on my mind since our visit to the ER, and was at the very least a helpful reminder that not everyone enters RJ Grey with a shared body of knowledge or understanding, and the importance of continuing to find ways to help all of our families navigate and engage with our school more comfortably and confidently.  My hope is that more often than not each of you feels like you’re provided information and guidance that’s helpful and useful, and that there’s at least one person at the Junior High you can reach out to when there is a question or concern.


Here’s a few updates for everyone as we prepare for the next few weeks of school before the Winter Break.  


A friendly reminder that our first round of Parent-Teacher conferences are scheduled for Thursday, December 13.  Families who requested conferences have begun hearing back from Katy Frey or Anne Chandler with confirmation of their conference schedule.  Those who requested a January conference time may or may not have heard yet from our Office, thanks for your patience as we first finalize conference times for December 13 and December 18.  A reminder to all families that for the December 13 and December 18 conferences, all students will be dismissed early at 11:06am.  The normal bus routes will run at that time and available to students.  Please keep these dates in mind when considering after school plans for your student(s).  


The Fall Trimester closes this Wednesday and report cards will be distributed on or around December 10.  A reminder that starting last year, report cards are emailed to families as a PDF document, and any email address that is listed in a student’s Emergency Card will receive a copy of the student’s report card.    


Starting this week thru December 7, RJ Grey will be collecting toys this holiday season to donate to local families.  Our teachers and students have coordinated this Toy Drive as an annual holiday effort, and it’s always been a wonderful opportunity to offer some holiday cheer to children in and around our community.  Toys must be new, unused (and unopened) and may be dropped off in the collection box in the main lobby. All toys will be donated to families in the Acton, Boxborough, and surrounding towns.  If you have any questions, you can email Gabrielle Berberian at gberberian@abschools.org.  


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 Thursday, December 6 (7pm), Friday, December 7 (7pm), Saturday, December 8 (2pm and 7pm), and Sunday, December 9 (2pm).  Tickets are $15 and are now available in the Junior High Main Office, and will also be sold at the door prior to each performance.  ABSAF holders are entitled to two free tickets and must pick up their tickets from the Main Office prior to the performance date.  This is always a great family-friendly event and we hope to see many A-B families there.  

Tryouts for our Winter Sports get under way this week.  Please review the Athletics Website for information and to review the tryout schedule for each program.  Please remember that the process for requesting a waiver for the athletics fee should be submitted to the Athletic Director’s office.  Please contact Assistant Principal David Lawrence (dlawrence@abschools.org) with any questions.  


Before everyone went their separate ways last week, we held our traditional Thanksgiving assembly, which is always the first all-school gathering of the year.  As usual, this assembly featured and was led by our students, starting with our Student Council officers (Jefferson Wu, Grace Lee, Eli Jarsky, and Anish Mudide).  Along with great performances (as usual) by students in our Band, Chorus and Strings programs, our assembly also featured speeches by three students who submitted entries for this year’s speech competition.  Many thanks to Sarang Bajwa, Ava Hjorth, and Meghan Lawson for their heartfelt words and reflections.  


Finally, I want to re-share one final time a message about the District’s continued work around a proposal to build a new elementary school. Here’s the information about a series of community forums scheduled for later this week:


As you know, the Acton-Boxborough Regional School District (ABRSD) has been conducting a feasibility study to evaluate a potential new elementary school.  The preferred option is one building that would house two elementary schools and the district preschool.

The School Building Committee is looking for input on the siting of the new schools and would like to invite members of the community to a public forum.  Three potential sites have been identified:

Gates property - Douglas, Gates and PreK

Douglas property - Douglas, Gates and PreK

Conant property - Douglas, Conant and PreK


Two community forums will be held in the RJ Grey Junior High library:


Tuesday, November 27 at 7:00 pm

Thursday, November 29 at 7:00 pm


If you have questions, please email abbuilding@abschools.org.  


Have a great week, everyone.  Welcome back.


Cheers,

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Posted by ashen  On Nov 25, 2018 at 6:55 PM
  
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