A Well-Lit Path: A Blog from Westtown School

Back to School Post-Pandemic: Tips to Prepare Your Child

Posted by Maria Alonso & Jessica Morley on June 30, 2021

As we look toward fall and what we all hope will be a “more normal” start of school, there is a sense of excitement as well as a sense of concern. Many children have been home for a full year or more and on top of the normal start-of-school jitters and butterflies, they have the added weight of post-pandemic re-entry fears. We asked our psychology team here at Westtown to share some advice to help children of all ages prepare for school this fall. 

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Topics: Inspiring the Best in Kids

Get Prepped for Finals!

Posted by Fran de la Torre-Shu & Corey Young on May 27, 2021

For some students, simply hearing the words “finals” and “week” used in the same sentence is enough to conjure up thoughts of stress, anxiety, and caffeine fueled all-nighters sponsored by Monster Energy drinks. However, in a year that’s been as tumultuous and fraught with never-ending cascades of challenges as 2020-21 has, making it through finals week unscathed can feel like an especially daunting task. With the right set of strategies, students will not only face their finals with confidence but also will create a foundation of effective work and study habits that will benefit them in college and beyond. 

Regardless of whether it is a freshman preparing to take their first high school final, or a senior who is getting ready for their last one, creating a study schedule should be the number one priority when it comes to preparing for exams. Building an effective study schedule helps to identify knowledge gaps, reduce procrastination, and limit the stress and anxiety that comes with trying to cram everything in at the last minute. Because each student has their own learning style, the best way to build an effective study schedule is to create one that fits one’s individual needs. Check out the following tips for creating a customized A+ Study Schedule from Westtown’s Learning Center:

  • Prioritize the weakest subjects first.
  • Have a clear understanding of what will and will not be covered on the exams.
  • Choose a visual format to organize tasks, deadlines, and materials needed.
  • Make the schedule, then stick to it.
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Topics: Inspiring the Best in Kids

Get Your Garden Ready...as a Family!

Posted by Westtown School on March 26, 2021

Spring is in the air and that means it is time to get your garden ready!  Whether you are working with a backyard garden, a container garden, raised beds, or just want to know how to start the process, we have some helpful information for you. Recently, our in-house expert Tim Mountz, Sustainable Agriculture Teacher at Westtown School, shared his thoughts on gardening. Farmer Tim, as he is known to our students, reminds us that gardening is a great activity for the whole family AND can get kids excited to eat fruits and vegetables. So step away for the screen, grab your shovel, and let’s get to it!   

If you do not already have a garden or set area, here are some suggestions for choosing a location. 

It is best for your garden or container to be in an area that receives direct sunlight for the majority of the day.  An area close to the kitchen makes it fun and easy for transport. Remember to plant some of our aromatic friends such as lavender, rosemary, and sage. Don’t  worry if you do not have land, containers are great for smaller, portable gardens!   

When should garden prepping begin?

If you are interested in prepping for a vegetable bed, now (March/April) is a great time to start raking and weeding the area. Be sure to dig and rake to loosen all the soil below. Roots like loose soil and will grow better in this environment.  Once you clean out the area, let it soak up the sun and dry out. If you are more interested in perennials, now is the time to  cut them back. You can do the pruning and have your little one help gather the cuttings. The cuttings are a great addition to your compost, too!

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Topics: Inspiring the Best in Kids

Curl Up With A Good Book

Posted by Westtown School on February 17, 2021

 

Winter is here and this year, more than ever, we are hunkering down at home.  When it’s cold outside, what better accompaniment is there to your favorite blanket, chair, and hot beverage than a good book?  Whether you like to read alone or gathered with your family, we have some great suggestions from our in-house experts —our librarians—at Westtown School

Lower School Suggestions from Lower School Library and Media Specialist - Heather Tannenbaum

  • Heather's top new pick!  Author Matt de la Peña and illustrator Christian Robinson (the team behind the Newbery Medal and Caldecott Honor-winning Last Stop On Market Street) are back with Milo Imagines the World, a beautiful new picture book that celebrates the power of imagination. Every Sunday, Milo and his sister take a long train ride to visit their mother. To entertain himself on the ride, Milo watches the people around him and draws what he imagines their lives are like. Eventually he comes to realize, you can't really know anyone just by what they look like. (All ages.)

  • Looking for something like your childhood favorite, Charlotte's Web? Try Saving Winslow by award-winning author Sharon Creech. Louie is not great at keeping pets alive for long. So when his dad brings home a sickly mini donkey named Winslow, will Louie be able to save him? His strange new neighbor Nora is doubtful, but Louie is determined, especially because caring for Winslow makes him feel connected to his brother who is far away in the army. Will Louie be able to prove to everyone —and himself — that he and Winslow are both stronger than people expect? (Grades K and up.)

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Topics: Inspiring the Best in Kids

Parenting in the New Classroom

Posted by Fran de la Torre-Shu on January 14, 2021

One year ago, teachers were in classrooms and parents were not. Now, with virtual or hybrid learning, parents and caregivers are participating in a much more material way with students’ education. The classroom is now the dining room, the bedroom, or some other space at home. This unexpected blending of roles is not simple to navigate. Considering the circumstances of this school year and the reason for all of the adjustments we are making, it may be helpful to have a bank of ways to respond to things that are happening at home from a learning specialist’s perspective. Here are some common situations that you might encounter.

If your student is struggling with an assignment or task:

Instead of:

Try:

Did you read the directions?

Can you explain the assignment to me?

Keep trying/keep working on it.

Take a break and work on something else. You can go back to it later.

Why didn’t you ask your teacher for help?

Is there a teacher who has office hours now who can help? 

OR

Can you rewatch the class recording where the teacher explains it?

When a student is experiencing difficulty, we want to do whatever we can to foster their endurance for hard work and their desire to persist, and to empower them to seek a productive path. Asking the student to explain the assignment forces them to engage in the learning cycle by using metacognition to teach another person about the task. This exercise either helps the student to plan the next step or demonstrates a need to revisit prior learning or materials.

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Topics: Raising Resilient, Healthy Teens, Communication and Children

Navigating the Holidays in 2020

Posted by Westtown School on December 15, 2020

The holiday season is upon us! While it is a special time of the year, the holidays can also be stressful. The year 2020 has magnified some of our normal holiday stress and brought about new challenges. We asked our in-house experts at Westtown School about different strategies we can use during the unusual holiday season of 2020. Here’s what we learned in our Coffee with the Counselors series.

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Topics: Communication and Children, Inspiring the Best in Kids

’Tis the Season for College Application Tips

Posted by Jessica Smith on November 11, 2020

Now that we're safely past November 1, when almost all seniors have had at least one deadline, you may be wondering what happens next. Here are some tips for you. 

  1. Relax and reboot! Take a few college-free days if you're getting overwhelmed or if you don't have any deadlines for a while. Enjoy your friends and family. Sleep. Make healthy choices. Senior year is long and you need to take care of yourself.
  1. Keep going! Many of you may have application deadlines on or before December 1. Reach out to your college counselors who are there to help you. Note that December 1 falls just after Thanksgiving this year. Be sure to check your deadlines and make plans to see your counselor as needed before your Thanksgiving break. 

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Topics: Raising Resilient, Healthy Teens, Communication and Children

No Screens Required

Posted by Catie Nicholson on October 20, 2020

Whether your children are learning virtually, in person, or a hybrid of both, I would guess that you  have a heightened awareness of our child’s screen time over the past few months. As I wrestle with that as a parent and teacher, I remind myself that movement and noise—constructive noise, that is—have always been part of my classroom. In my traditional teaching  environment, it was not odd for a teacher or parent walking the hall to hear my students chanting sentences to check their writing, acting out their favorite simile, or racing one another outside to demonstrate why the Pony Express was so effective.  

My “traditional” way of teaching has had to be reinvisioned for the realities of delivering education online during a pandemic. Challenge accepted, COVID-19! As a teacher I have always utilized movement to help my students learn, and in this age of virtual classrooms and added screen time, the need for movement has become even more important. It is evident with my students and my own children that they need opportunities to move, to get outside, and to learn away from screens. In fact, studies have shown that there is a connection between movement and memory. Physicians encourage their patients to get out and move because of the benefits it has on mental clarity and overall health. A student who is active displays better focus, cognitive processing, and memory retention compared to those who spend the day sedentary. Keeping the body active is necessary for overall physical and neurological health. 

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Topics: Inspiring the Best in Kids

We Can't Breathe!

Posted by Mauricio Torres '08 on September 24, 2020

My phone was blowing up. Push notifications and texts from friends and colleagues were letting me know that the National Guard was in West Chester. I looked up from my phone to see Diego '22, Eli '19, and Jio '18 laying out on the couch in my living room loudly arguing over the ending to the movie Se7en.

Though I have no sanguinous relationship with Diego, Eli, or Jio, they’re part of the family Westtown has given me. Eli and Jio, fellow Harlemites and Harlem Lacrosse alumni who are now at Haverford College, spend their summers with me while they work, study, and get ready for the upcoming lacrosse season. Diego took Peace and Justice with me his freshman year and is the son of Jio’s host parents. Their daughter, Daniela '20 is off to Penn next year, took Latin American Experiences with me this spring, and dates Eli--and hates that she can’t come to the boys' nights. Our summers are spent enjoying our 600 acres, devouring horror movies, and eating as much grilled food as the weather allows. Their visit that night was particularly special as we were trying to recoup some semblance of our usual summertime shenanigans since the county had moved into the yellow phase of the COVID-19 protocol.
The protests catalyzed by the death of George Floyd lay in stark contrast to the fun we had managed to have. Multiple generations of Black and Brown Westonians finding joy in the midst of so much rage and mourning felt like a necessary reprieve and a rearticulation of the mattering of Black lives. However, the uncertainty of why the National Guard had made its way to West Chester pierced through the rowdy mundanity of having the boys over for dinner and a movie. As they piled up dirty dishes and got ready to head out, I was immediately filled with a suffocating, viscous dread: what if they get pulled over?

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Essentials for Every Student: Routine, Action, & Autonomy

Posted by Corey Young on September 5, 2020

In his famous 1953 essay, “The Hedgehog and the Fox,” British philosopher Isiah Berlin separated people into two distinct groups—hedgehogs and foxes. Foxes, wrote Berlin, are sleek, cunning creatures who try to use dozens of strategies to solve complex problems. Conversely, hedgehogs are simple and methodical creatures who integrate a unified, or principled, approach to problem-solving.

For parents and students alike, trying to navigate the distance learning environment and all of its complexities can feel especially challenging at times. Regardless of whether your approach to problem solving resembles the cunning of the fox, the principality of the hedgehog, or a hybrid of both, understanding how, and when, to implement the right mix of strategies will be a key factor to sustaining success in distance learning. For those who aren’t sure where, or how, to start coordinating their strategic route to success, utilizing the three key elements in, what I call, the Student Circles of Success, should provide you with a solid foundation. 

Student Circles of Success


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Topics: Communication and Children, Inspiring the Best in Kids