Grey Matters, February 24, 2020; Volume 8, Number 25 

Hi Everyone, 


Welcome back from February Break - I hope your time last week included opportunities for a bit of rest as well as some fun activities. The Shen family didn’t do any traveling and focused on day activities locally, and found opportunities to spend time with friends.  We also had the previously-mentioned birthday sleepover that, out of respect for our daughter, will not be described in any great detail in this newsletter. While we avoided air travel during this particular vacation week, our three kids will be flying on their own out to California later this Spring to visit my sister.  Given all the recent drama around competing viewpoints regarding what is appropriate etiquette when it comes to reclining your seat on a flight, I feel a sense of illogical pressure to figure out what guidance to provide our kids for their trip to California lest they should draw the ire of the person sitting behind them.  Full disclosure, they may draw the ire of the person(s) sitting around them for other reasons and mindless habits they may bring to the 6-hour flight, especially since it will be their first time flying without either Melisa or me.  For those of you who did engage in a bit of air travel this past week, I am curious what the dialogue and/or behavior was on your respective flights given the intense spotlight that was placed upon this particular issue over the past two weeks. 


In the Grey Matters that I sent before February Vacation, I made mention of our Blue & Gold Day assembly plans for that Friday before the break, and the traditions that have become a part of the event, including performances by our students and some form of competition amongst teachers. While we were able to enjoy performances from our Band, Chorus, String Ensemble, and Cheerleading squad, the timing of the assembly went a bit sideways for a few different reasons that ultimately led us to running out of time.  This unfortunately meant that our Band and Cheerleading squad weren’t able to perform all of the pieces and routines they had practiced for this event, and for which we feel badly. Along with figuring out ways to adjust our future assemblies to avoid these timing hiccups, our hope is that there will be other opportunities for these groups to showcase their talents. A big thank you to our Student Council officers, and members of our Band, Chorus, String Ensemble, and Cheerleading squad for their performances and contributions to the event.  


Along with the annual Blue & Gold Day assembly tradition, there are two other annual events that I want to mention and preview changes that we are planning for this year: the annual Variety Show, and the End-of-Year field trips, both of which take place during the last week of each school year.  With new advisors taking on the annual Variety Show, we have decided to use this year as an opportunity to reimagine the event with an eye towards expanding participation, and incorporating some of the technology platforms that can assist us with that goal, and towards which students tend to gravitate.  Within the next few weeks, the advisors will be providing information to students about how the Variety Show will highlight short videos that students can create during the Spring and submit to the advisors for the event.  These short (and of course, school appropriate) videos can showcase a particular talent or skill, or potentially highlight a celebratory performance that a group of friends choreograph together (as just two examples).  While we hope and anticipate that the Variety Show will feature several short videos submitted by students from throughout the school, the advisors are also planning to incorporate a few live performances as well. Students should stay tuned for upcoming announcements and detailed instructions from the advisors (Mr. Lewis, Ms. Berberian and Ms. Giannetto).  


As for the End of Year field trip, the recent tradition has been that 7th grade students go to Kimball Farm, and 8th grade students go to Canobie Lake amusement park.  This year, for reasons I’ll briefly explain in a moment, our plan is for all students (7th and 8th grade) to go to Canobie Lake as a whole school.  While we have always enjoyed the options available at Kimball Farm, we’ve found that bringing 400+ students there while the facility is still open to the general public can sometimes lead to a less than ideal experience for both the students and the general public - whether it’s the lines at mini golf, or the moments of chaos at the driving range (and increased potential for injury).  I make this statement not with the intention of laying blame or criticism, but simply noting why an alternative approach may be appropriate, especially since the relatively close proximity of Kimball Farms makes it fairly accessible to many of our families on other days of the year. Canobie Lake amusement park is sized and organized in a way that can easily handle our school population, and we feel comfortable that our experiences in previous years will allow us to supervise both grades at this location.  Longer term, there is some interest from a few staff to completely reimagine this day and explore other options that might highlight a community building activity or series of events, and so I may be sharing news about that at this same time next year.  


Here’s some reminders and updates as we prepare to enter the month of March: 


The Winter Trimester closes on Friday, March 6 and report cards will be emailed to families on or around March 19.   


Don’t forget that the R.J. Grey Junior High yearbook is offering you the chance to send your love, pride and congratulations to the graduating 8th grade R.J. Grey student in your life.  You can purchase one of two advertisement formats to relay a message that your 8th grade student will cherish forever. Ads must be submitted by Wednesday, March 11. Please click the link for submissions guidelines and instructions. Please contact Marc Lewis (mlewis@abschools.org) with any questions.  


We have no scheduled early dismissals or days off of school until Thursday, April 2 when we have our next and final early release for staff professional learning.  

In the coming weeks we’ll be sharing with students and families the sign up and/or 
tryout schedule for our Spring sports programs (likely to start in late March/early April).  We will continue to have teams for baseball, softball, girls volleyball and Spring track.  Stay tuned for more information.  


Before the February Break I shared with families our plans to launch a pilot program where we schedule a few teachers to be available after school to staff a center that offers both writing support and math support.  Starting this Tuesday, we will have one writing-based teacher and one math-based teacher available on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons from 2:50pm to 3:50pm, and will take place in our school library [this means the first two sessions are on February 25 and 27]. This Tuesday, Ms. Macey (8 Green Math) and Ms. Ahl (8 Green English) will be available in the Library for students.  It is important to continue noting that this new resource is and will remain different and separate from the individual extra help that teachers offer during the week, and the teachers who staff this service would be available to any students who visit (as opposed to just their own students).   Over the first few weeks we will see if any adjustments may need to be made if we think it will improve and increase the value of this service. 


Finally, as we return from the February Break, families of our 8th grade students will soon be asked to turn their attention to plans for next year where a bit of preparation now can help make for a smooth transition later in the Fall.  During the next few weeks our 8th grade students and families will begin the process of learning about 9th grade courses at the high school. Before the February break, the High School held an orientation meeting for families of current 8th grade students, and provided an outline of the course registration process.  8th grade teachers will also begin individual conversations with students to discuss their recommendations for course and level placement. The actual registration process takes place via the Parent Portal when the portal opens in late March.  In an upcoming Grey Matters I will provide more detail and information about the above process, and offer some perspective specifically on the conversation that teachers will have with students about course and level recommendations.  For current 7th grade families whose children will be returning to RJ Grey next year for 8th grade, you’ll also be receiving information in March about course enrollment (regarding options involving Math placement, Grey Block choices, etc.) which starting last year was managed through the online Parent Portal.  Rest assured instructions will again be provided for successfully navigating that platform.  


Have a great week, everyone.  Welcome back. 


Cheers,

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Posted by ashen On 23 February, 2020 at 8:46 AM  

 
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