Grey Matters, September 20, 2020; Volume 9, Number 1 

Hi Everyone, 

Welcome to this year’s first edition of Grey Matters. I hope that this past week was a good experience for your family in general, and for your children in particular.  It was a busy week, and one where everyone was adjusting to the new dynamics of this school year, so I am also hoping that your family was able to use this past weekend as a chance to unwind and take stock of what’s to come.  I myself used this weekend as a chance to recover from what I’ve learned is not an uncommon feature of aging - specifically, the removal of a recently cracked tooth.  I recently shared with the staff that in addition to the now-semi-infamous root canal I had a few weeks ago, I experienced an unexpected splitting of another tooth -- Tooth #5.  According to an article in the New York Times earlier this month, I am part of a larger pandemic trend of people whose increased grinding and clenching has resulted in an epidemic of cracked teeth.  This being my first tooth extraction, I learned that I can’t actually get an implant for four months. It would normally be five to six months, but the oral surgeon said we could do it sooner because I have a really hard head - thus also confirming something that many family members and colleagues had concluded years ago.  While I was adjusting to the reality of being toothless, I was moderately comforted by the reality that at least during the 4 month waiting period we all have to wear a facemask.  While Tooth #5 is fortunately not at the front of one’s smile, the empty space still feels a bit odd and so the mask wearing in public softens the edges of the experience.  Add this as one of the silver linings to the current situation.  


On the subject of silver linings, I also mentioned to the staff my interest in having conversations this year about the changes we have made that might be worth keeping around when conditions are not as restrictive. To be sure, there will be plenty of moments this year where we lament the things we could not include, or the challenges that our safety protocols create in terms of the social dimension of school. I look forward to when it will be safe to eliminate those measures that require distancing between each other.  Nevertheless, I also am curious about the parts of what we’ve built this year that we may eventually decide is worth keeping around.  There are a lot of changes this year that would have never been available to try out under more traditional circumstances and may inspire us to reinvent certain parts of the Junior High experience.  Throughout the year I would welcome feedback from students and families about what might have continued value and benefit beyond this current school year.  


One change that likely won’t be permanent but I think makes sense for this year, is that Grey Matters will be published once every two weeks, instead of every week.  Given that I will be sending a weekly email to all families with information and updates, what’s usually included in Grey Matters can fit in a twice-a-month schedule.  You’ll likely be managing a whole constant stream of school-related emails from all of your childrens’ schools, and from the District, so streamlining things a bit probably makes sense.  Besides, there really isn’t much to discuss in 2020 about the world around us, and the challenges of parenting have really faded away this year, no?  At this point last year, I was perseverating on my plans to discuss with families the messy and somewhat uncomfortable topic of online pornography, and the importance of addressing our kids’ easy access (and possible exposure to) pornography.  Oh how I miss those simpler days.  Side note: for those new to RJ Grey, I actually plan to return to this topic later in the Fall as it’s become clearer the importance for caregivers to consider this issue despite the inherent discomfort.  


Here’s a few reminders and updates that, while also included in the weekly update to all families, is still useful to mention again: 


  • Please remind your children that on asynchronous days they need to complete the Asynchronous Attendance Form and survey by 7pm that evening. 

  • Back to School Night has been postponed to mid-October.  We’re currently thinking about the best way to provide families an opportunity to learn more about their childrens’ classrooms and teachers in a virtual setting.  Stay tuned for more details. 

  • The annual School Picture day(s) has been postponed to early October.  We will also be identifying options for Fully Remote students to participate in the school picture option and will send out details when they are finalized.  


  • There is NO SCHOOL next Monday, September 28 for Yom Kippur.  This means that we will have an adjusted cohort schedule for that week. The Blue Cohort would come to school on Wednesday, and the Fully Remote students would have their synchronous classes on Wednesday.  There will be no Remote Wednesday schedule (with the early release) that week.  Please see below for an illustration of that week’s schedule: 



  • Later this week I will be publishing a list of the after school clubs and activities that we will be offering - all of them virtual. 

  • Later this week I will also be providing an update about our plans for tutoring drop-in sessions for students during their asynchronous days, which will be staffed by AB graduates who are current Junior and Seniors in college.  


This year I’ll also certainly continue to highlight articles and resources that offer food for thought on different aspects of parenting and working with young adolescents.  Here, for example, is a link to the Character Lab, a page hosted by researcher Angela Duckworth that offers short “tips of the week” that tries to translate scientific research and studies into digestible insight and advice around supporting kids.  


Additionally, I plan to use Grey Matters this year as a vehicle to visit and revisit our school’s and District’s work related to diversity, equity and inclusion. Along with our efforts to provide for a physically safe return to school, AB has made a firm commitment to a more intentional and explicit approach to our evolution as an actively anti-racist school district.  Here is a copy of the letter that the District’s leadership team sent to the AB community last June that offered an introduction to our goals for this year and beyond.  Here also is a link to Ibram Kendi’s website. Dr. Kendi’s work, particularly his book How to be an Anti-Racist, is being used as an anchor for our work in this area and the community will likely hear references to his research and scholarship throughout the year.  Given that this work naturally involves moments of difficult conversations, inevitable discomfort, and potentially revisiting long-held traditions, it will be important to provide ongoing communication to families about additions to our curriculum, adjustments to our school policies, and partnerships with community organizations.  In a few weeks I’ll put a spotlight on the Social Studies curriculum, and what will be included in both 7th and 8th grade this year in terms of African American history and lessons pertaining to the recent protests and calls for social change.  


Finally, my goal this year it to continue including in each edition of Grey Matters links to stories that keep us from narrowing our horizons and remind us that life isn’t entirely about COVID, social distancing, or the stories that have emerged each week of 2020 that seems to add some form of insult to injury (including, but not limited to, last month’s report - now clarified- that an asteroid was scheduled to hit Earth the day before the presidential election). To that end, I end this week’s Grey Matters with one of the articles I enjoyed most this summer.  This is a piece in the New York Times from July about an octogenarian couple in Taiwan (where my parents grew up before moving to the U.S. in the 70s) who have become international Instagram celebrities for modeling the clothes that customers have abandoned at their family-owned laundromat.  As the article notes, the couple have no interest in monetizing their newfound social media celebrity; however, they would be very happy if “the hundreds of people who have forgotten to pick up their laundry would return to pay their bills.”  


Have a great week, everyone. 



Posted by ashen On 20 September, 2020 at 1:11 PM  

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