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

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Hi Everyone,


Last year I mentioned how members of our Main Office staff intentionally and playfully address 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. As I have noted in previous years, you are all more than welcome to continue bestowing the title of “Dr.” upon me, but please know that it’s not one that I’ve earned through any accredited 

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.  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 bring this up annually 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 the upcoming 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. I was recently sent an op-ed in TeenVogue on this very topic by artist N’Jameh Camara who encourages us to shift our language around names less familiar to us from “hard” or “difficult” to “unpracticed”.  I particularly liked this portion of her essay: 


I know my name isn’t fully practiced in the U.S, so I have no problem teaching it. I, too, have struggled to learn names that are unpracticed to me. But as a person who was taught to respect and say Tchaikovsky, Brecht, Chekhov, Stanislavski and Hammerstein, I know my name can be learned too. What matters most is that we see ourselves as people whose vulnerability and mistake-making hold the potential to bring us closer.


To that end our hope at RJ Grey is to normalize the act of asking for a bit of guidance or confirmation about whether we pronounced a name correctly, and that students might also adopt that same practice. You might hear me practice this at Back to School Night, though please note that even if I succeed in correctly pronouncing the names of parents and guardians I meet that evening, I may not remember all of your names and I ask in advance for a little forgiveness in that regard.  As another reminder, Back to School Night is on Thursday, September 26 at 7pm (6:35pm if your child takes the Band, Chorus or String Ensemble electives and you want to meet the teachers).  In previous years we sent a schedule for the evening home with your children. This year we are going to email that schedule directly to you.  While I am sure every 12 and 13-year old at RJ Grey can be a trusted courier of materials between home and school, we thought that emailing you the schedule for the evening might be a wise route to take.  


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


We have yet to receive any submissions from 7th grade parents and guardians who might be interested in serving on the  School Council. If you’re planning on throwing your hat in the ring, don’t wait - send me the info now! 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 7).  If you have any interest, please submit a short (4-6 sentences max) paragraph about yourself by Noon on Monday, September 23rd for the ballot - parents will vote at Back to School Night. Write-ups can be sent to me at ashen@abschools.org.


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.  


A few calendar notes for early October:   The Junior High and High School will have our first Early Release day on Thursday, October 3, and staff will then participate in professional learning for the remainder of the day.  Dismissal for students is at 11:10am 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 Wednesday, October 9 because it is Yom Kippur, and then no school on Monday, October 14 for Columbus Day 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.  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.  Many of you might recall participating in a District survey last Winter/Spring that invited students, parents, and teachers to provide information about homework practices and experiences at the elementary, middle and high school levels. Those results will be presented and shared later this year as we continue to reflect on our work in this area. 


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).  Three years ago we expanded this expectation to planned long weekends, including the upcoming Columbus Day weekend, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Memorial Day. And now those practices are embedded in the District’s 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 that all families are aware of are the team homework calendars. Beginning a few years ago, every team (in both grades) maintains 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. 


Cheers,

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Posted by ashen  On Sep 15, 2019 at 12:22 PM
  

Hi Everyone, 


I think it’s a safe bet that many of you, like me, dusted off your chauffeur's cap this past week as you brought your kids, and likely other kids, to a combination of extracurricular activities, sports practices and games, lessons, or rehearsals.  If any of you have a 5th grade son whose soccer team played a game at Cutting Field in Sudbury on Saturday, my 14-year old son was one of the line judges for his game. When my own kids compete against a team from AB, the collision of my worlds is already a bit awkward.  Now that Hayden might actually be a referee for a game involving teams from AB, I’m semi-dreading the inevitable when one of his calls during a competitive moment results in some kind of passionate reaction from the players, coaches, or spectators.  We’ve talked about the messy situations he’ll encounter as a referee and he’s got an idea of how he will deal with it, so I’ll just sit on my hands and remind myself that practicing how to manage conflicts and disagreements is a good life experience.  Along with activities and programs that are available to your kids within and beyond Acton and Boxborough, RJ Grey also offers a menu of school-sponsored extracurricular clubs and activities that our students can join. The list of options for 2019-2020 is finalized and you can view those options by clicking here. There is no fee attached to participating in these programs, except for Ski Club, Speech Team, and MathCounts (due to transportation costs and registration fees). Also, students can join most of these clubs throughout the year, so if interest in a club or activity emerges later this year, don’t hesitate to attend a meeting!  We’re excited that all of the clubs offered last year will continue to be an option this year, except for Ping Pong. While Ping Pong isn’t available, we also have two new clubs, The Social Action Club with Ms. Mazonson and Ms. Walker, and Race Matters with Ms. Lin, that have been added to meet growing interest expressed by students last year around social activism, and opportunities to wrestle with issues of racism, racial identity, and discussing stories that frequent our news feeds on a daily basis.  We look forward to welcoming students to all of these different options, and hope for some it’s an additional opportunity to make connections with teachers and peers.  


Along with the above programs, there are two additional Fall activities I want to mention.  First, we again have a tennis program available for students on our tennis courts. This is a “fee for service” option through the Marcus Lewis tennis program, though any family for whom the fee presents a financial hardship should not hesitate to contact us to make arrangements.  You can learn more about the program by viewing this flyer.  We will also have a girls’ volleyball clinic offered this Fall starting October 1 through November 14.  This is separate and different from the Girls Volleyball program that is one of our interscholastic athletic teams offered in the Spring [i.e. doing this clinic is not a precondition for making the Volleyball team in the Spring].  This program is open to players of different abilities, including beginners, but does have a limit for the number of participants - so interested students should review the flyer and register with Mrs. Ropiak (sropiak@abschools.org) who teaches at the High School.  When October 1 does arrive, the volleyball clinic will be one of the many programs that takes place in our newly renovated gymnasium.  Your children may or may not have mentioned that their Physical Education classes haven’t been able to be held in the gym yet-- that will change by the end of this week when the final painting 

and staining of the new floor is completed.  The photo to the right is from this past summer, after we removed the existing hardwood flooring that was original to the building. In next week’s Grey Matters I’ll share pictures of the renovation that not only involves a shiny new floor with lines that reflect the different sports that now use that space, but also the brand new bleachers, a gym curtain that can divide the space into two activity spaces, as well as a new scoreboard.  As I noted last June, the gym at RJ Grey is one of the most heavily used spaces in our community in terms of youth and adult sports (travel basketball, volleyball, adult badminton, camps, etc.), so it makes a lot of sense for the gym renovation to be on the earlier side of our District’s multi-year capital improvement plan that Peter Light has been introducing to the community over the course of this past year.  I also want to note that along with a funding commitment from our District’s capital budget, the renovation of our gym would not be possible without the financial support of our Community Education program and groups like ABSAF.


Another reminder that RJ Grey’s Back to School Night will be on Thursday, 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 7). 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 sentences max) paragraph about yourself by Noon on Monday, September 23rd 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. One way they do this is through a weekly newsletter that you can receive by signing up here. 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).  Did I also mention no fundraisers? To learn more about the PTSO, you can visit their site by clicking here.  


A couple of important scheduling reminders for the next few weeks: 


Picture Day is Friday, Sept. 27.  Students will be receiving an order form closer to that date, and I’ll send a note when they are expected to go out to families.  Students who plan to order photos should bring the order form (and payment) on the 27th. 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.  


At the end of 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.  


There is no school on Monday, September 30th as it is Rosh Hashanah.  There will be no homework or assessments scheduled to be due/taken on the following day (Tuesday).   


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 calls 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 Tuesday, September 24th.  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 13th 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.  


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 08, 2019 at 2:39 PM
  

Hi Everyone, 


I hope all of you had a pleasant four-day Labor Day weekend that perhaps offered some echoes of the Summer that just ended.  For me, a brief return to the slower and lazier days in July involved a few things, including some binge-watching of the show The Walking Dead (photo to the right).  In recent years I had stopped watching television except for sporting events and news reports, and so I decided to pick a show this summer to watch and accepted the recommendation of a friend that The Walking Dead, with its nine completed seasons and cult following, would give me plenty of good television to watch over the summer.  While the storyline of this zombie apocalypse series did not disappoint, I would not recommend watching six or seven episodes in a single day.  Doing that a few times over the summer made for some slightly problematic dreams, and achieving healthy and restful sleep a lot harder.  For those of you who are followers of the show, I am now nearing the end of season six, and I don’t have a very good feeling about what’s in store for my favorite characters.  Despite being a bit more tethered to my television this summer, I also made sure to keep reading, and came across several articles and stories that address topics that have been covered in Grey Matters, and wrestled with questions that we’ve often explored together regarding parenting, schools, and living with teenagers.  Some of the articles that I read piqued my interest primarily because of my work at RJ Grey, and other articles spoke both to my work at RJ Grey and to my current status as the parent of three kids between the ages of 11 and 14.  Specifically, I was hoping one of those articles might offer me an effective response, or at least a witty retort, to the child in our home who has recently taken to arguing that my parenting efforts violate a number of his constitutional rights as an American citizen (mostly around freedom of speech).  While a few of the articles listed below include nuggets that offered me some indirect guidance on that specific issue, the rest of the articles that I am including revisit subjects that I think we’ll continue to think about and discuss together over the course of the year.  

As we begin this school year,
I am including a link to an article in the Washington Post from a few years ago 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, including and especially the use of car rides for conversations.  Additionally, here’s a more recent article, also from the Washington Post entitled, “How to talk to your middle-schooler (so they might actually listen to you)

Observations and questions around exposure and use of social media by adolescents, 
and possible concerns around its connection to mental health continues to be a messy and evolving subject.  Here’s a recent article from NPR entitled, The Scientific Debate over Teens, Screens, and Mental Health, along with a related 2017 piece from Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Usable Knowledge site on social media and teen anxiety.  

Finally, over the past two years there has been significant attention to the dangerous rise in the use of e- cigarettes and vaping (also known as “Juuling”) by teenagers.  Many health agencies and school districts, including Acton-Boxborough, have offered workshops and presentations to expand and deepen the knowledge base of parents and guardians about the dangers associated with vaping.  For those of you who may still be a bit new to this topic, I’d encourage you to learn more about this subject. You can start with this
article in the New York Times, and this article in the Washington Post.  Over the next few months, I’ll also re-send other resources and materials that we’ve provided to families that might help you with conversations that you should consider having with your children on this topic.  


RJ Grey’s Back to School Night will be on Thursday, 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. 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 7). 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 sentences max) paragraph about yourself by noon on Monday, September 23rd for the ballot. Write-ups can be sent to me at ashen@abschools.org.


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 Friday, Sept. 27. When we get closer to that date 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 James and the Giant Peach and audition workshops will be taking place this week.  Audition workshops will be held on Sept. 11 and 12 and attendance at both workshops is mandatory.  The auditions themselves are scheduled for Sept. 17 and Sept. 19, and attendance is expected for both days as well. Visit our Theatre Arts page for additional details and information.  


In a few weeks, most of our after school clubs and activities will have their first meetings with interested students.  The updated list of clubs and activities is not quite ready to share - my hope is to post it on our website by the end of the week.  In the meantime, the listing of activities from last year that is still posted on the website offers a sense of what activities are typically offered.  Ping Pong will likely not be available this year, but a few new clubs will be introduced soon!  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 headcount). To sign up or if you have questions about Fit Club, you can email Katy Frey at kfrey@abschools.org.  


Our Fall interscholastic sports programs start this week in terms of tryouts for Girls and Boys’ Soccer, and Field Hockey.  Our Cross Country team is a no-cut program, and has an informational meeting on September 11.  For all information on our Athletics programs, visit this page.  Please remember that all students who plan to participate in tryouts must have completed the “Family ID” registration process.  This process is taking the place of the paper “Green Forms” that were required in prior years. Details and instructions are posted on our Athletics website.


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 3.  The Late Bus will pick up students at the Junior High at 4:45pm.  


Finally, 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.  


Have a great week, everyone. 


Cheers, 

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Posted by ashen  On Sep 08, 2019 at 2:37 PM
  

Hi Everyone, 


Welcome and welcome back to RJ Grey!  Two summers ago, my wife Melisa and I went to great pains to plan an elaborate overseas family journey to London and Paris that involved a wide variety of cultural experiences for our three kids -- Hayden (14), Addison (12) and Parker (11) -- theatre performances and afternoon tea in London, and visits to the Louvre and Versailles when in Paris.  This summer, all we did was take the three of them to a Shawn Mendes concert and I don’t plan on asking any of them which experience they found more memorable because I may not be able to cope with their answers. Despite the hearing loss that I suffered (not from the music, but from the high pitched and perpetual screaming), our kids enjoyed the experience and while I actually liked a number of the songs, I found myself more curious and captivated by the atmosphere and the elements of youth culture on display all around me.  Given my work in a middle school, I have contemplated whether I could write-off the cost of the tickets as a work expense. I’m glad Melisa and I were able to share this kind of experience with the kids (not so sure they fully share that sentiment), despite how old being at this concert made me feel. If only the concert was limited to 6 songs, I could have easily made it home in time for my preferred bedtime. For this 42-year old, the additional 17 songs was just him overdoing it and showing off his youthful vigor. I hope this year’s first edition of Grey Matters finds each of you returning from a summer that provided you with plenty of your own stories and included a combination of rest, adventure, and good company that made for a satisfying time away from school. 


As we all prepare to enter this first week of school I know you share our excitement and hopes for a strong start to the school year.  For those new to RJ Grey, please be assured that we dedicate these first few days to helping every student get acclimated to one’s surroundings, and we know that there’s a lot to take in during these first few days.  We will have opening assemblies for both grades, and the 7th grade assembly includes a short welcome video that we hope offers students a snapshot of what will be part of their school year. I will end that assembly emphasizing that our goal for our opening activities is for each of them to leave knowing  how excited we are to have them at RJ Grey this year.  


For those of you who might be visiting RJ Grey during the day, please remember that visitors can only enter through the front door, where they will request entry by ringing a buzzer.  Once the front door has been unlocked for you to enter, you will need to check in at the Main Office window where you’ll be greeted by Ms. Katy Frey, who is our front office receptionist (also known in our office, and various corners of Acton and Boxborough, as the Executive Director of Office Affairs).  


For those who plan to drop off your children in the morning, I look forward to seeing you bright and early in the lower parking lot. While some of the morning traffic can be a bit of a nuisance, I have shared this site with families at the start of the last few school years as a way to offer some perspective on some of the traffic woes that we might experience over the course of the upcoming year.  For those families who are veterans of the drop-off circus process, thank you for your patience as we help new families adjust to our morning traffic routines.  


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.  In addition, we have both an RJ Grey Twitter account and Instagram account - please consider signing up for one or both!  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.  


There’s a few upcoming events and activities that I want to make sure families have on their respective radars: 


Our Fall interscholastic sports programs start this Tuesday, September 3 in terms of tryouts for Girls and Boys’ Soccer, and September 5 for Field Hockey.  Our Cross Country team is a no-cut program, and has an informational meeting on September 11.  For all information on our Athletics programs, visit this page Please remember that all students who plan to participate in tryouts must have completed the “Family ID” registration process.  This process is taking the place of the paper “Green Forms” that were required in prior years. Details and instructions are posted on our Athletics website.

This year, our
school musical will be James and the Giant Peach and auditions will be taking place later this month. Audition workshops will be held on Sept. 11 and Sept. 12, and attendance at both workshops is mandatory.  The auditions themselves are scheduled for Sept. 17 and Sept. 18, and attendance is expected for both days as well. Visit our Theatre Arts page for additional details and information.  

Our annual
School Picture Day is scheduled for Friday, September 27th.  When we get closer to that date, we will send an order form home with students.  No need to prepare for it now, just wanted you all to know the date.  

Within the next week or two, our website will include a list of
clubs and afterschool activities that are open for all students to join. The list currently posted on our website includes last year’s offerings.  We’re hoping to offer many of the same clubs and activities as previous years, along with some new offerings that emerge over the course of the year.  


The week after Labor Day long weekend will include a few safety-related activities and conversations with the students, and so I want to make mention and provide important reminders about both the technical and relationship-focused strategies that are associated with our efforts to maintain a safe learning environment.  As previously mentioned above, our schools have locked entrances during the school day and a protocol for entering the school. Additionally, there are cameras positioned (only) in the main entrance and hallway areas within the school. These decisions did not come lightly and certainly speak to the increasing complexities and responsibilities that school districts must address regarding student safety and addressing behaviors that might violate community values. What I want to emphasize to families is that those practices don’t replace our more important efforts and dedication to developing relationships with students that focus on a culture of mutual respect.  In the classroom, on teams, and as a whole school, we know how essential it is to emphasize messaging about our individual and shared responsibilities for establishing a positive school climate for everyone. Helping students this age develop skills and strategies to manage peer conflicts, difficult conversations, and decision making during challenging moments are not only “school safety strategies”, but are in and of themselves a part of the learning experience that is central to a successful middle school education. 


Along with the first of four fire drills that we hold annually, we’ll also be hosting two all-grade assemblies to re-introduce students to the recently adopted ALICE protocol.   Given that ALICE training is specifically focused on responding to a situation involving an armed intruder, we do plan to approach our conversation with students as thoughtfully as possible.  Students at this age present an interesting dilemma - they are usually savvy enough to quickly see through any use of ambiguous language to describe why we are introducing ALICE. At the same time, we have to be mindful of the fact that 12 to 14-year olds still need help processing what is an inherently messy and upsetting topic. We want students to have an appropriate level of awareness and preparation, and we also want to avoid having the experience be anxiety-inducing.  So it’s a delicate balance we work hard to establish and of which we are mindful during our presentations.  


Finally, Back to School Night will be on Wednesday, September 26 - save the date!  On that evening, we ask parents to vote for two 7th grade parent/guardian representatives who will serve on this year's School Council.  The School Council is comprised of 4 parents, two RJ Grey staff members, and yours truly. 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 (October 7 being the first one). We are again looking for two 7th grade parents to serve a two-year term.  If you are a 7th grade parent interested in serving on the Council, please submit a short (4-6 sentences) paragraph about yourself by noon on Friday, September 20th. Write-ups can be sent to me at ashen@abschools.org.  


Have a great week, everyone.  Welcome back.  

 

Cheers,  

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Posted by ashen  On Sep 08, 2019 at 2:33 PM
  

Hi Everyone,


Happy Father’s Day to those of you who celebrated the event this past weekend. In a 2016 edition of Grey Matters I shared with families my lifelong dream of having an outdoor pergola structure in my backyard, and how I tend to drop subtle and not-so-subtle hints about that dream a month or two before Father’s Day each year.  I did it again this year, and was so thrilled to wake up on Sunday morning to some lovely new clothes that my family picked out for me as gifts to celebrate the day. While my dreams for a pergola in my backyard will have to wait, probably forever, there are some exciting changes to the physical space at RJ Grey that is taking place over the summer that I want to make sure everyone knows about.  Last Wednesday we closed the gym so we could begin a substantial renovation to that space and have it ready for use before the start of school next Fall. In the gym we will be removing the current hardwood flooring that was original to the building, and installing a new hardwood floor that will hopefully be without the many dead spots where bouncing basketballs go sideways for no apparent reason. There’s only so many times when patching and repairing bumps and creases in the flooring makes sense. The new flooring will also include lines that reflect the different sports that now use that space through our school and community education programs.  In addition to the flooring, we will also be installing new bleachers, a gym curtain that can divide the space into two activity spaces, as well as a new scoreboard. As many families know, the gym at RJ Grey is also one of the most heavily used spaces in our community in terms of youth and adult sports (travel basketball, volleyball, adult badminton, camps, etc.), so it makes a lot of sense for the gym renovation to be on the earlier side of our District’s multi-year capital improvement plan that Peter Light has been introducing to the community over the course of this past year.  While the proposal for the new twin school for Douglas and Gates deserves the most attention right now in terms of scope, cost, and impact, I wanted to make sure that everyone knows that the other buildings, including the Junior High, are not being ignored. Along with a funding commitment from our District’s capital budget, the renovation of our gym would not be possible without the financial support of our Community Education program and groups like ABSAF. Beyond the gym, some of the other upgrades to the Junior High won’t be as obvious and flashy, such as mechanical upgrades and thermal wrapping, but nonetheless important for the building to function properly.  Once this first wave of projects is completed I look forward to beginning my grassroots campaign to fund a heated canopy that would be built over the space where I direct traffic in the morning.


We had over 350 8th grade students join us last Friday night for our annual end-of-year celebration and dance, and we hope those in attendance enjoyed the opportunity to spend some time with friends and classmates before we part ways for the Summer.  We were fortunate to once again have an army of volunteer parents take the lead on this event. An event of this size is only possible because those parents and families are willing to contribute their time and energy.  A big “Thank You” to everyone who helped make the evening a big success - the donations of food from many of our families resulted in a bounty of food that was consumed throughout the evening. Many thanks also goes to Debbie Ahl (8 Green English teacher) and our 7th grade School Council officers for their work.  And an extra and ongoing thank you to parent coordinators Carol Chytil, Deb Verner, and Ranjini Reddy for once again choreographing the whole evening, soup to nuts.  


Here’s a final list of reminders and notes about this week, please make sure you follow up with your children about anything that might pertain to you:


Class field trips are on Wednesday- rain or shine! The forecast right now for Tuesday doesn’t look great, and it’s suggesting that there may be a bit of rain during the day.     7th graders will be heading to Kimball’s and 8th graders are heading to Canobie Lake - all students will be back in time for the regular 2:36pm dismissal and bus pick up.  Parents are also welcome to come and pick up their children.

The
Library will not be open after school this week.  As a side note, we only have a few more library books to collect, which is great.  Thank you to the students and families for remembering to return borrowed items.  


Students who ordered yearbooks will be receiving them on Wednesday (the last day) before the Closing Assembly. There are a limited number of additional yearbooks that are currently on sale for $37.  Those who are interested in purchasing a yearbook should connect with Mr. Lewis. Many thanks to Mr. Lewis and the Yearbook Club crew for their hard work and efforts this year.   

The
last day of school is Wednesday and it is a half-day.  Our closing activity is an all-school assembly (students and staff only) that will take place in the High School auditorium.  Students will be dismissed at the end of the event, and can get on buses right outside the high school (at 11:06am).  Parents planning to pick their children up can still park in the Junior High parking lot.  


Report cards will be e-mailed to families by early July.  If you haven’t seen anything in the mail by mid-July, send me an email and we can get you another copy.

Families of current 7th grade students who are returning to RJ Grey next year (or if you 
are a family with a student joining us next year from the elementary schools), you’ll receive our summer communication in early August via email.  If you are a current 7th grade family who is not planning to return to RJ Grey next year (moving, attending a private school, etc.), we would appreciate hearing from you, as that information will assist us with our scheduling work this summer.  

Next year
, school starts for students for 7th and 9th graders on Wednesday, August 288th grade students start the next day, Thursday, August 29.  Here is a link to the District page where you can access next year’s school calendar.  


Because this is the final edition of Grey Matters for the year my intention is to continue the tradition of ending with some words and thoughts that I put together a few years ago and have included at the conclusion of each year.  While I always feel a bit of regret that my closing remarks aren’t entirely original and unique to each year, I am also grateful that the experiences and sentiments that I have expressed each June continue to be applicable with another school year coming to a close.   


Before we briefly part ways for the summer, I want to thank you, our parent and family community, for your continued support of our school. It does not escape me (or us) the degree to which family involvement and investment changes the landscape of a school, more often than not for the better.  We know that parents have high expectations for the school, and that we also have high expectations for the parents. This partnership is indeed what often leads to the positive experiences that so many of our students have at RJ Grey. To be sure, those high expectations also means that there will continue to be moments where we aren’t in total agreement on some things.  However, I’ll always take passionate debate and occasional disagreements over apathy and disinterest, especially when it comes from a shared interest in how to help our students (your kids) develop into thoughtful and confident individuals.


As I mention each June, the summer months away from school serve an important purpose for students, families, and teachers.  It’s an opportunity to decompress, pursue other interests, and re-charge. Thinking about school 24/7 doesn’t benefit anyone, and we hope that everyone uses these next several weeks to expand their horizons, take some healthy risks and try a few new things, and treasure those moments where time feels like it moves more slowly while you’re doing absolutely nothing at all.  It is always remarkable to see the degree to which young people change and grow, even in these too short summer months, and we look forward to reuniting with our returning students, and welcoming our next 7th grade class to RJ Grey. Like last summer, we too will decompress a bit, and spend time dreaming up ways to make next year a good one for our students.


Have a great week, and a great summer, everyone.


Cheers,

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Posted by ashen  On Jun 16, 2019 at 12:35 PM
  

Hi Everyone,


Summer is around the corner and it’s nearly impossible to escape conversations about the summer, whether here at school, at home, or simply in the news.  I’m also excited for the summer and the chance to decompress and take advantage of a summer work schedule that is a bit less frenetic and offers the chance to prepare for the next school year.  Part of those preparations for next year will be heavily focused on our plans to introduce a 1:1 Chromebook classroom environment, something I introduced in Grey Matters in February.  For those of you with students who will be with us next year as returning 8th graders, or new 7th graders, rest assured that you’ll be receiving plenty of information later this Summer and at the start of the year that provides an overview of our plans and protocols with those devices.  As we begin to think about our work with Chromebooks, we know that how we ask students to organize their learning materials will evolve over time.  Our teachers will begin to look at different ways of distributing work, collecting work, and students will begin to learn more strategies for organizing information digitally.  Our prediction is that over the next few years, our approach to school supplies will change as we shift the approach that students take to staying organized, and accessing materials and work.  In previous years, we have traditionally had a uniform school supply list for the whole school that was organized by grade and by subject.  As we begin our transition to a 1:1 Chromebook environment, we will be asking individual teams to try out different approaches to how they have their students travel through the school in terms of materials (binders, notebooks, folders, etc.).  To account for this transition, and allow for some variation by team, we are taking a different approach to school supply lists for next year.  Instead of a uniform supply list for the school, each team will be providing its students with a team-specific list.  Please know that while next year the team-specific lists may have some distinct differences between and amongst them, none of the lists will include more than what has recently been expected in our previous supply lists for families.  Over time, it will be our goal to return to a more uniform list for the school that will be informed by our different approaches over the next two years, and eventually include a reduction in what we ask families to purchase.


As for how families will receive information about their child’s team-specific supply list, here’s a brief preview of our plans.  In our annual summer mailing to families in early August, we will provide an overview and explanation about school supplies similar to what I shared above.  Then, team placements are released via the Parent Portal on Thursday, August 15 (and all of the hoopla and frenzied texting and calling takes place). Within a few days of the team release, we will then email families a Welcome Letter from their child’s team teachers.  This letter will provide a brief welcome from the team that includes goals and other useful information for the school year, as well as the team’s requested supply list. With the first day of school for 7th grade students scheduled for Thursday, August 28th, this timeline should provide families ample time to address school supply needs before everyone returns.  We continue to be sensitive about moments when we need to ask families to spend money on school-related activities and needs, and we appreciate that school supplies are one area where costs can add up - especially for families with multiple students! We will also continue to provide messaging and reminders to families about our commitment to assisting any of our students and families with school-related requests and costs that may prove difficult to address.  


The 8th Grade End-of-Year Celebration is this Friday at 7pm!  Please also note the event ends  promptly at 9pm. You’re by-that-time-overtired-Principal thanks you in advance for coming on time to get your kids.  Another thank you to the parents and guardians who have already volunteered and signed up for one or more of the roles that are listed on the Sign Up form for this event.  We could still use a few more volunteers to make sure that everything runs smoothly, especially the crew for helping with take down and clean up after the event. If you’re able to participate please sign up by following this link to a Sign Up Genius:  8th Grade Celebration Help.  For those of you bringing kids to the school that evening, this event is held in our (transformed) cafeteria and students enter through the side door (you’ll see it); so parents who are dropping kids off can pull right up to the front of the school.  When picking kids up after the event, we would suggest parking in the lower parking lot and either waiting in the car, or coming up to the entrance to meet your kids. Your options probably depend on the degree to which your child allows you to be seen in public with them.  I know for some of you it may be tempting to sneak into the dance to catch a peak of your child at this event - I’d actually encourage you to resist that temptation and let your child enjoy the full evening on their own.


Here’s some reminders for this last full week of school:  


Our yearbooks have arrived! The company that publishes them included an extra 30 with the order for us to have available to those who did not order one. They will be sold on a first come, first served basis. If you would like one, please send in a check for $37 made payable to RJ Grey JHS. Make sure to include with it the name of your child and their team. Checks can be left in our main office or delivered to Mr. Lewis in Room 313.


If your child is not planning to attend RJ Grey or the High School next year, please be sure to let us know.  We have to officially confirm your family’s plans to withdraw your child from the school system, and can also assist you in transferring records and other information to your child’s next school.  Please email our registrar Lena Jarostchuk (ljarostchuk@abschools.org) with that information.  


Does your child have an RJ Grey Library book or old textbook buried under some laundry?  Teachers will begin the process of collecting textbooks and other learning materials, so anything you can do to help unearth these items would be greatly appreciated (and save you some money).  Also, for families who might have a negative balance in their child’s lunch account, please be sure to reconcile that matter as well.  If you have questions about your lunch account, feel free to email Kirsten Nelson at knelson@abschools.org


The end-of-year field trips are on June 18th - a week from Tuesday.  Both 7th grade and 8th grade students will be back from their respective trips in time to be dismissed at the regular 2:06pm time and can take the bus home.  If your child is not planning on attending either trip (or simply won’t be at school by that point), please be sure to email Katy Frey (kfrey@abschools.org).  


The last day of school is Wednesday, June 19th and it is a half-day.  Our closing activity is an all-school assembly (students and staff only) that will take place in the High School auditorium.  Students will be dismissed at the end of the event, and can get on buses right outside the high school (at 11:06).  Parents planning to pick their children up can still park in the Junior High parking lot.  


At the end of every school year, we send off our 8th grade students and wish them well as most of them make their way down the street to the high school, while others join private schools, enroll in a vocational program, or are moving out of Acton or Boxborough.  This year, we are also preparing to bid farewell to two retiring members of the RJ Grey staff, as they begin new chapters of their lives as well. Joyce Kelly (35 years, Math teacher) and Bernice Higdon (20 years, Special Education assistant) are completing distinguished careers as educators.  Celebrating the retirements of our colleagues is always bittersweet; we are happy they’re in a position to pursue other interests, and we’ll also miss them deeply.  If you and/or your children have some fond memories of working with any of these teachers and staff members, I would encourage you to drop them a quick note and join us in thanking them for their years of service to RJ Grey and all of its students.  


Have a great week, everyone. We’re almost there!


Cheers,

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Posted by ashen  On Jun 09, 2019 at 4:45 PM
  

Hi Everyone,


The photo to the right is of the view that I had for much of last Saturday.  Was I hiking? No. Was I clearing brush in my backyard? No. I was, in fact, golfing. Let’s just say that the instructional videos I watched ahead of time on Youtube about how to fix my wicked slice were less than helpful and I struck no fewer than 50 trees during my five-hour exercise in humility. Most of the day was spent on the golf course with Dave and Adam, two of my closest friends who I’ve known since our time in elementary school.  Getting together with friends you’ve known since early childhood is always fun, and it’s also unavoidable that the passage of time feels a bit more dramatic, and you feel a lot older - especially when you’re playing golf and have a lot of time in between to compare notes about life, share updates and offer the obligatory and inevitable comment about some part of the body that’s aching a bit more often these days. At least during this last round of golf we avoided the main topic of last year’s round of golf, which was an hour plus dialogue about life insurance options and estate planning.  Even though both Dave and Adam’s kids are a bit younger than my own, our between-holes-dialogue this time around focused on parenting dilemmas and questions related to, perhaps unsurprisingly, their kids’ first peer conflicts, indecision about extracurricular activities, and how to be thoughtful about technology -- topics that I know all of us parents continue to wrestle with here at RJ Grey. On these subjects, there were a few recent articles that I thought might be worth sharing, the first a piece in the New York Times entitled, “Is Digital Addiction A Real Threat to Kids” which I think offers a potentially useful way of viewing adolescent use of technology and social media.  There was also an article in The Atlantic highlighting a new book by David Epstein called Range, which offers an argument that individuals who achieve success in elite professional fields often succeed because they started out as a “generalist” and did not specialize in a field or skill too early in life. While this article and focus of Epstein’s book was never explicitly mentioned in the conversation I had with Dave and Adam, the role of parents as “gatekeepers” and the ones influencing our kids’ early pursuits was at the heart of the questions and ideas that were offered and, as Epstein notes, is quite central to why he began exploring this question in the first place.  Epstein offers some conclusions and advice that to many may feel counterintuitive and certainly contrary to recent trends and habits that are not uncommon in communities like ours. If you’ve got a few minutes, this might be a piece you might want to chew on for a bit. And finally, while talking to friends I’ve had since childhood about the current childhood experiences of our eight kids made the three of us feel markedly older, none of our kids are nearing the significant milestone of graduating from high school which I would imagine will result in a whole different bucket of emotions and thoughts about how quickly kids grow up, and where the time has gone.  I mention this not with the goal of making those of you with graduating seniors feel even older, but instead as a clumsy transition to offering a sincere note of congratulations to the families who do have kids who are graduating this Spring, many of whom will be participating in Acton-Boxborough’s commencement exercises this Friday. It’s not too early to be thinking positive thoughts for good weather.  Enjoy the moment!


Two-and-a-half weeks of school!  Here’s a few reminders for you and your kids:


Does your child have an RJ Grey Library book or old textbook buried under some

laundry?  Teachers will begin the process of collecting textbooks and other learning

materials, so anything you can do to help unearth these items would be greatly

appreciated (and save you some money).  Also, for families who might have a negative

balance in their child’s lunch account, please be sure to reconcile that matter as well.  If

you have questions about your lunch account, feel free to email Kirsten Nelson at

knelson@abschools.org


The end-of-year field trips are on June 18th. Both 7th graders and 8th graders will

return from their respective trips before 2:36pm so they can take the bus home or be

picked up by families.  If your student is not planning on attending school for some or all

of that final week, please call or email Katy Frey (kfrey@abschools.org).  


If your child is not planning to be at school during the last day(s) of the school year, we

would appreciate it if you let us know so we can plan accordingly and account for

students during those days.  You can send an email to Katy Frey (kfrey@abschools.org)

and it would also be helpful if you let your child’s team teachers know as well.  

We recently received a note from the Superintendent’s Office reminding us about the services that are still available to families
during the summer vacation.  Specifically, breakfast, lunch, snacks and drinks will be sold daily from 9:00am to 11:30am in the High School cafeteria from June 24 through August 2.  For students who are currently eligible for free and reduced lunches, their eligibility continues through the summer. For more information, contact Food Services Director Kirsten Nelson at 978-264-4700 x3221, or knelson@abschools.org.  

Many thanks to the Student Council and parent volunteers who put together last Friday’s 7th grade dance.  Many families donated food, and we also had a number of parents who volunteered to keep the food and drink available to the students throughout the evening.  Many thanks to:
Mai Nguyen, Tracey Estabrook, Joe Loyall, Tom Berube, Pam Holden-Webber, and Nicole Magun.  


Don’t forget about the Empty Bowls event this Thursday from 5:30pm to 7:00pm!   This is an evening of art, singing and ice cream! Students will showcase their art and singing talents and invite families to a charity ice cream social.  There will be an art show, Select Choir performance, a silent auction, and of course the charity ice cream social. The money raised from this event will be donated to the Acton Community Supper and Acton Food Pantry.  The ice cream social is $5 per person with a $20 family maximum. The rest of the event is free and we hope many of you are able to carve out some time to join us.


Here’s another reminder about the End-of-Year 8th Grade Dance/Celebration scheduled for the evening of Friday, June 14.  Parents or guardians of 7th and 8th graders are needed for the following jobs: set up after school on June 14th; clean up after the dance; food and drink donations.  In past years, 7th grade Parent/Guardian Volunteers "pay it forward" so that parents of 8th graders can focus on their own children's participation in this important event.  Please sign up if you can help us with setup/cleanup activities or with food donations by following this link to a Sign Up Genius:  8th Grade Celebration Help.  If you have questions, contact the event coordinators at rjg8dance@gmail.com..

Congratulations to
7th grader Sansriti Kumar of 8 Blue who was named Artist of the Month for this June. Sansriti and her artwork were chosen for the month of June and she is posing with one of her pieces in the photo to the left.  When asked about some things that influence her artwork, she shared:, “I honestly don’t like the outdoors but I do appreciate the beauty in it. I like to take scenery and paint it from my perspective. An artist’s perspective. The color schemes usually express my emotions and feelings toward the object or landscape.” You can view more of Sansriti’s work by clicking here.  

Finally, we ended last week with a special edition of Poetry Friday, where RJ Grey student Sivapriya Marimuthu read an original piece that she wrote about memories of the school year entitled, “Just Another Puzzle.”  You can also read Sivapriya’s poem by clicking here.


Have a great week, everyone.  


Cheers,

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Posted by ashen  On Jun 02, 2019 at 2:34 PM
  

Hi Everyone,


Because running for President is now so incredibly expensive, candidates are turning to super fundraisers known as “bundlers” who are individuals who commit to collecting a certain amount of campaign contributions from other donors.  I’ve decided this month to serve as a bundler, but instead of for a political campaign, I’m going to take on this role in service of two important year-end activities at Acton-Boxborough, the 8th grade End-of-Year celebration, and the High School’s annual Project Graduation event.  And instead of trying to raise money, I am going to try and convince as many of you as possible to volunteer for one or both of those events.  These are two events that serve an important role at the Junior High and High School, respectively, as we continue to celebrate certain milestones and transitions for our students.  These two events also rely heavily, if not almost entirely, on the willingness of community members to contribute their time to planning, organizing, and supervising these events. We are fortunate that there already exists a core group of parents who serve as the event coordinators for both -- but as we near the actual date of both events, there is still an unfilled need for volunteers to help set up, decorate, chaperone, manage, or breakdown different activities or aspects of the event.  To be sure, many of you already give a good deal of your time, expertise, and also money - to many important programs in the community. I’m hoping and asking you to also consider giving a bit more of your time to one or both of these important events as a way to continue the pay-it-forward model that has served our community so well for many years. For 7th grade families, chipping in for the 8th grade dance has a pretty quick “return on investment” with your own kids attending this event next year.  And while our current Junior High students won’t be graduating from High School for another four to five years, the sheer size and scale of Project Graduation (think all-night festivities for 400+ kids) really relies on an all-hands-on-deck commitment from our families.  It might be ambitious of me, but I am setting for myself a “bundling goal” of 20-25 volunteers for Project Graduation, and asking our RJ Grey families to please consider a role that you can comfortably serve for that event which offers graduating students an all-night substance free celebration with prizes, activities, and food. Consider helping out because you remember an event like this when you yourself graduated from high school (for me it was Andover High School’s Senior Safari on June 5, 1995), or because my above plea about paying-it-forward resonated with you.  Learn more about Project Graduation by visiting their website here.  As for the 8th grade celebration on June 14 from 7-9pm, the organizers need your help with set up after school on June 14th, clean up after the dance, and with food and drink donations.  Please sign up if you can help us by following this Sign Up Genius link (8th Grade Celebration Help). If you have any questions, contact the 8th grade celebration team at rjg8dance@gmail.com.  Thank you for considering!


Here’s some reminders and updates for students and families:


Our Yearbook advisor Mr. Lewis has ordered several extra copies of this year’s Yearbook

that will be available to purchase by students and families who may have forgotten to

order one during the original window.  Stay tuned for details of how to purchase.  


Thanks to those families who have submitted their field trip permission form and

payment for the end-of-year field trips to Kimball’s (7th grade) and Canobie Lake (8th

grade).  If you still need to send it in, please make an effort to do so this week.  Within

the next week we will begin reaching out to families for whom we do not have a record

of their plans for that day.


If your child is not planning to be at school during the last day(s) of the school year, we

would appreciate it if you let us know so we can plan accordingly and account for

students during those days.  You can send an email to Katy Frey (kfrey@abschools.org)

and it would also be helpful if you let your child’s team teachers know as well.  


Don’t forget about the Empty Bowls event on Thursday, June 6 from 5:30pm to 7:00pm!  This is an evening of art, singing and ice cream! Students will showcase their art and singing talents and invite families to a charity ice cream social.  There will be an art show, Select Choir performance, a silent auction, and of course the charity ice cream social. The money raised from this event will be donated to the Acton Community Supper and Acton Food Pantry. The ice cream social is $5 per person with a $20 family maximum. The rest of the event is free and we hope many of you are able to carve out some time to join us.


The High School has released its updated Summer Reading List (click here to view) that it encourages all of its students, including rising 9th grade students (those are your kids, 8th grade parents!), to look at if they’re stuck for suggestions.  Please note that the Junior High nor the High School do not have any required summer reading, but we all want to encourage students to find something to enjoy and read.  


Finally, the Student Council elections were held last week to determine next year’s President, Vice President, Treasurer and Secretary.  We first want to thank and applaud every 7th grader who ran in the elections. It’s not easy at any age to put yourself out there, let alone plan and deliver a speech to a few hundred classmates. The 7th grade class listened to a range of thoughtful and funny speeches by each of our candidates.  Congratulations to next year’s Student Council officers: Secretary, Advikar Ananthkumar; Treasurer, Josie Hanlon; Vice President, William Wu; Co-President(s), Ryan Leo and Miller Lillie.   


I hope everyone had a nice long weekend.  Finally some good weather!


Have a great week, everyone.  


Cheers,

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Posted by ashen  On May 27, 2019 at 7:28 AM
  

Hi Everyone,


Earlier this week, an RJ Grey student reached out to me to make sure I knew that she and a few classmates were planning a student walkout for the following day to demand action on climate change, an issue about which they had passionate feelings.  I had a chance to meet with two of the students ahead of time and we had a really healthy and productive discussion about their specific plans and goals, as well as many of the complicating factors in terms of how a school might need to view or respond to these plans.  We also talked about student activism in general, and how competing goals might collide with each other in these types of situations. In this case, how does a school community support the development of student voice and activism, while also meeting its obligations around safety and avoiding disruptions to classes and instruction?  Because of the relatively short amount of time before the expected walkout, I decided that for this particular moment we were going to have a “hold harmless” approach to any student who participated in this walkout and focused our time and energy on safety and supervision of the situation. When the time for the scheduled walkout arrived, approximately 200 students participated by leaving their classes and gathering on one of our school fields.  To be sure, a number of those students participated because of a sincere interest in the issue of climate change, and a few of those students prepared speeches to deliver to others in attendance. I think I can also say with confidence that a number of students who participated did so less for the stated reason, and more for the novelty of walking out of class and engaging in some boundary-testing that would not involve any consequences. With a bit of impromptu adult guidance and supervision, the walkout gathering lasted about 25 minutes and the students were generally respectful of the students who spoke.  


I know that the organizers felt really excited about how things turned out, and I would too if I were them.  I also appreciate that they know through our discussions why I have mixed feelings about the approach we took with the walkout and that my concerns come from a place of good intentions. They know that I’m in that “I want to support you, but….” place.  Specifically,  I’m not sure that in general, a “hold harmless” approach to walkouts is the correct response moving forward, for a couple of reasons.  First, as a matter of principle, if we want students to fully understand the choices involved with acts of civil disobedience, then it might be appropriate to hold them to the natural consequences that would come with a decision to cut a class and potentially creating a (peaceful) disruption to the school day.  Indeed, the power of civil disobedience comes from individuals saying that they care enough about a topic to accept the consequences that they know or anticipate will result from those actions. We want to encourage young people to develop a sense of agency around things they care about, and I think making some of these choices a bit messier for them might need to be a part of that process. I also, as a practical matter, have to always consider issues of safety and appropriate supervision of students given our responsibilities while your kids are with us during the day.  Having a response where students get the impression that we will accommodate and work around any plans of this kind would be, I feel, a bit problematic. Separate from these considerations, last week’s conversations did make me think about additional avenues and forums -- beyond the walkout method -- that we can help young people consider and access, where they will be part of a dialogue about those issues and concerns that are most important to them. I share the above thinking partially as a therapeutic exercise for myself (i.e. if I have to think about these questions, I’m bringing you all with me), and to acknowledge and engage with all of you in another area of our work in schools that is inherently grey and requires a bit of thought.


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


We originally scheduled the annual 8th Grade class photo to be taken last Friday, and then, shockingly, it rained all day.  We are going to try and have the photo taken this coming Tuesday, and early forecasts suggest that the skies will cooperate.  As a reminder, this is a panoramic photo that we take outside on the hill by the football field, and order forms were distributed to 8th grade students last week.   If you have any questions or need any sort of financial assistance, please contact David Lawrence at dlawrence@abschools.org.

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

On
Tuesday, June 18 (second to last day of school), both grades will be participating in their respective end-of-year field trips, and permission slips will be distributed to students in the very near future.  As in previous years, the 7th grade will be going to Kimball Farm where they have full access to the bumper boats, miniature golf course, driving range, and other activities; the 8th grade will be going to Canobie Lake amusement park in New Hampshire. These field trips have historically been great and memorable parts of our year-end activities.  We also appreciate that the RJ Grey community includes families that may find the cost of these trips difficult to absorb.  Like all of our other trips and activities, we never want cost to prevent anyone from participating.  Please do not hesitate to let us know if some relief from these field trip costs would be helpful to your family.  


“What is the quotient of 5040 divided by the product of its unique prime factors?” After answering that question correctly in less than 22.5 seconds, 8 Green student Daniel Mai was named the 2019 Raytheon National MathCounts champion at its annual competition in Orlando, Florida.  Daniel was one of 224 competitors from across the United States, all of whom earned a place at the competition after competing with 90,000 other students in local and state competitions.  If you’re interested, you can view the final round of the competition on ESPN, which was hosted by Wil Wheaton of Star Trek and The Big Bang Theory fame.  When Daniel returned to RJ Grey late last week classmates on his team hosted a small victory celebration, and the photo to the right is with his math teacher, Ms. Kelly.  Congratulations to Daniel whose ice-in-the-veins facial expressions and calm and collected demeanor throughout the final round were what I enjoyed most while watching the match unfold.  


I’m pleased and excited to be sharing with everyone information about our sixth annual Empty Bowls event.  The Empty Bowls event will take place this year on Thursday, June 6 from 5:30pm to 7:00pm.  This is an evening of art, singing and ice cream! Students will showcase their art and singing talents and invite families to a charity ice cream social.  There will be an art show, Select Choir performance, a silent auction, and of course the charity ice cream social. 7th grade students made handcrafted ceramic bowls in their art classes and families that participate will get to take home a handcrafted bowl as a reminder of the vast number of hungry families around the world and right here in our own community. The money raised from this event will be donated to the Acton Community Supper and Acton Food Pantry. This organization helps to feed many hungry families in the greater Acton area. This event has helped raise $1000 for the charity each year.  Families from throughout the District are welcome, not just those with students at the Junior High. The ice cream social is $5 per person with a $20 family maximum. The rest of the event is free and we hope many of you are able to carve out some time to join us.


A few weeks ago Acton-Boxborough hosted a workshop about the rise of vaping and use of electronic cigarettes by adolescents.  This workshop featured Mary Cole, Program Coordinator for the Greater Boston Tobacco-Free Community Partnership.  For those who were not able to attend but are still interested in the discussion, the evening’s discussion was recorded and posted to the District’s Youtube page, which you can access by clicking here.  In addition to that video, here is a TedMed Talk that a colleague sent my way and features biobehavioral scientist Suchitra Krishan-Sarin who offers a very useful overview of electronic cigarettes and what is actually being inhaled when an individual engages in vaping - including providing the distinction between a vapor and an aerosol.  


I’ve recently passed along a “save the date” for our end-of-year 8th grade celebration, which is scheduled for Friday, June 14th.  I also provided 7th grade families with their own “save the date” for a 7th grade celebration that we are planning for Friday, May 31st and will be at 7pm.   This week, I’d like to pass along some information about the 8th Grade Celebration from Carol Chytil, Deb Verner and Ranjini Reddy, the RJ Grey parents who (thankfully) are again coordinating the planning of this event.  Usually at least 350 students attend this event, so we rely heavily on the many volunteers who help make this evening a special way to end the year.  Parents or guardians of 7th and 8th graders are needed for the following jobs: set up after school on June 22nd; clean up after the dance; food and drink donations.  In past years, 7th grade Parent/Guardian Volunteers "pay it forward" so that parents of 8th graders can focus on their own children's participation in this important event. As a volunteer, you'll also get a preview of what your child will enjoy next year! Coming soon will be a “Sign Up Genius”  that invites parents and guardians to sign up to help in various capacities. This will also be sent out via the PTSO weekly newsletter. If you have questions, please free to contact Carol at carol.chytil@gmail.com.


Have a great week, everyone.


Cheers,

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Posted by ashen  On May 19, 2019 at 1:12 PM
  





Hi Everyone,


Happy Mother’s Day to any and all of you who plays that role to one (or more) of our students, or to anyone else.  If any of you were gifted with extended periods of peace and quiet as part of the day (unfortunately another rainy one) I wanted to re-share a link to a video that I came across four years ago, and have shared every Mother’s Day since, that documents the time when the New York Times Magazine decided to invite a group of 2nd grade students to experience a 7-course tasting menu prepared by chef Daniel Boulud.  Normally a dining experience that comes with a $220 per person price tag, probably closer to $300 in current dollars, I am predicting many of you will appreciate the experiences and honest feedback that the 7-year olds offer in this 8-minute video.  There’s no direct connection between the video and Mother’s Day, it’s just a fun video to watch during a quiet moment that I thought would be nice to share and has since become a Grey Matters tradition.   


Here’s some reminders for this week and beyond:

 

MCAS testing was completed last week (hallelujah).  Students who were absent on a day when they were scheduled to participate in one of the exams will be called down over the course of this week to compete those portions that were missed. We hope each of our students found themselves in a place last week where they were able to demonstrate their knowledge of the questions that were asked.  We also hope and will try our best to remind each student that while the scores that come back in Fall tell us how they did on these recent days in May, it will not tell us everything about them, including their growth as thoughtful students and people.


Memorial Day weekend is Monday, May 27th and all schools will be closed for that holiday - there will be no homework assigned for the long weekend, and I hope that families will use that time to relax and enjoy themselves.  


On Tuesday, June 18 (second to last day of school), both grades will be participating in their respective end-of-year field trips, and permission slips are being distributed to students this week.  As in previous years, the 7th grade will be going to Kimball Farm where they have full access to the bumper boats, miniature golf course, driving range, and other activities; the 8th grade will be going to Canobie Lake amusement park in New Hampshire. These field trips have historically been great and memorable parts of our year-end activities.  We also appreciate that the RJ Grey community includes families that may find the cost of these trips difficult to absorb.  Like all of our other trips and activities, we never want cost to prevent anyone from participating. Please do not hesitate to let us know if some relief from these field trip costs would be helpful to your family.  


A few weeks ago I provided a “save the date” for our end-of-year 8th grade celebration, which is scheduled for Friday, June 14th.  I also provided 7th grade families with their own “save the date” for a 7th grade celebration that we are planning for Friday, May 31st and will be at 7pm.  In the next few weeks we will include some additional information for how families can offer their assistance for these fun end-of-year events.


Even though the 8th grade Dance/Celebration is about a month away, I also want to re-share some information and messaging that I send out each year at this time about the event - and do my best not to oversell or undersell the atmosphere that exists at this great end-of-year activity.  Every year, I mention the below thoughts because sometimes, during some bouts of excitement about the event, a few expectations get generated within our student population that may be a bit on the unrealistic/ambitious/fantasy-ish side-- and then they occasionally get re-articulated to parents as school guidelines. So below is my annual “We’re really excited for this event, but this is not an episode of MTV’s My Super Sweet Sixteen” plea.  


We definitely make an effort (and with the help of parent volunteers, are always successful) to make this more than a “typical” or casual dance/celebration in terms of atmosphere -- we’ve got great decorations, props and backdrops for group photos, and an impressive spread of food (and it’s at night).  We want students to come excited and eager to spend an evening with their friends and classmates, and somewhat dressed up for the event. We ask students who attend this event to dress a bit more formally than most would for a regular school day -- whatever is your child’s individual version of “taking it up a notch”.  I’d try and get into more detail about clothing options, but then you’d discover how out of touch I am with current youth fashion trends.


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


Have a great week, everyone.


Cheers,

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Posted by ashen  On May 19, 2019 at 1:10 PM
  
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