A Well-Lit Path: A Blog from Westtown School

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

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

Tools to Help Us Heal and Take Action

Posted by Marissa Colston on June 2, 2020


In response to the violence of systemic racism that we have witnessed these past weeks, I want to  offer ways in which all of us can engage in nonviolent action. As a woman of color, I have been re-traumatized by the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. I have felt despair and am still working through my own pain and anger at how black and brown lives are not valued or protected. I know I am not alone in these feelings and I want to offer suggestions in ways to heal and take action.
The way in which this kind of violence affects people of color and white people are different and therefore require a different response. Below are suggestions for people of color, for white people, and some that apply to all of us.

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Topics: Raising Resilient, Healthy Teens, Communication and Children

Say Yes to Change with Radical Acceptance

Posted by Maria Alonso on April 22, 2020

In March of 2000, I was in Washington, D.C. and overheard a colleague speaking about a Buddhist psychologist named Tara Brach who would be speaking that evening at an after-dinner event. Instantly hooked by the Buddhist-psychologist combo, I decided to attend. Within minutes, I was mesmerized by this small, soft-spoken, gentle woman whose quiet, melodic voice and light green compassionate eyes immediately sent me into a highly relaxed state. In her talk on radical acceptance, she spoke about the idea of moving towards what upsets us rather than moving away from it (with the use of denial, distraction, or otherwise). In fact, she recommended a most revolutionary idea which came to her as she was speaking to us (talk about being present in the moment and how creativity springs forth). Dr. Brach instructed us: “Invite your fear to tea.” I have practiced this approach and have taught this to so many patients over the years and it is a game changer! You may wonder, How can I apply this to our current situation?  The script can sound something like:  “Hello, Coronavirus, would you like to come to my porch and discuss some items over tea?  Perhaps we can chat about what’s been going on in the world. Where you are going with this, because I am scared, disoriented, sad, and weary and after all, I do have a life to get back to.o, scratch that, reset...I have to accept you are here and that I need to make some adjustments and changes in my life, so that I can then see a new way forward with possibilities that can ground me and center me back into life again.” 

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Topics: Communication and Children, Inspiring the Best in Kids

5 Things a Camp Director Wants You To Know

Posted by Brian DeGroat on May 14, 2019

Summer camp season is upon us. As you finalize your plans or are just beginning the process, Westtown’s Director of Auxiliary Initiatives and Camp Director, Brian DeGroat, has some tips to make your child’s camp experience one to remember – for the right reasons!

1.When researching camps, start with your child, instead of with your choices.  

There is no lack of camp options out there, from the highly specialized to the more traditional, all-things-outdoors. To find the best fit, start by having a conversation with your child and find common ground. Let their interests and goals take the lead, and good decision-making will follow.  

  • Do they want to stretch into new areas, or gain confidence from shining in their comfort zone?
  • Are there skills they’re hoping to build, like becoming a stronger swimmer? Stepping up to service or leadership opportunities?
  • Do they need something dynamic or would they prefer to focus on one theme per week?
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Topics: Communication and Children, Inspiring the Best in Kids

Empower Your Child, Empower Yourself

Posted by Maria Alonso on November 27, 2018


As parents, we are hardwired to want the best life experiences for our children. We know that life will present challenges and it is our role to help them thoughtfully respond to and even learn to embrace these situations. Social Emotional Learning (SEL), also known as Emotional Intelligence (EI), is an invaluable skill that, when developed and nurtured, empowers children and adults to respond to life experiences in a healthy and well-adjusted manner. SEL skills contribute not only to your child’s academic success but also to their future work and life happiness.

Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is made up of five competencies including: self awareness, emotional and behavioral management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible and ethical decision making.  

I talk about SEL in my work almost every day and just last week I was at Barnes and Noble when I happened to notice a plethora of books on the shelves including:  Harvard Business Reviews Must Reads: On Emotional Intelligence; Show Up As Your Best Self and Mindful Leaders;  Applied Empathy: The New Language of Leadership; Get BIG Things Done and the Power of Connectional Intelligence,and more.In that moment, it occurred to me that these shelves, targeted for many types of organizations and businesses, were hyper-focused on the five competencies of SEL.

So how do we translate this to our everyday life?  What do these competencies or skills look like and how do we teach them to our children? Let me provide some real-life examples of SEL skills, how they show up in our adult life, and ways to nurture these skills in our children.  

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Topics: Communication and Children, Inspiring the Best in Kids

Kindness & Teamwork: A Mindset for All Ages

Posted by Kristin Crawford on February 22, 2018


It is hard to believe it was almost two months ago when many of us were developing resolutions for the new year. As we know, all too well, absolute resolutions are quickly and easily broken. This year I thought maybe a mindset resolution is better than an absolute. So, the resolutions I set out for our Lower School students are more of a mindset. We are asking the children to keep in mind two ways of thinking about others:  being kind and being part of a team.

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Topics: Communication and Children, Raising Resilient Lower and Middle Schoolers, Inspiring the Best in Kids

Tips on Managing The Teen Mood Swing

Posted by Linda Rosenberg McGuire on November 1, 2017

When your teenager is grumpy, monosyllabic and irritable, do you find yourself taking it personally, and then, perhaps, even confronting them about it only to find it may have made things worse? Please keep in mind that their grouchiness almost always has nothing to do with you. The answer is to not engage, yet our temptation is to over engage! Here are some tips for staying out of our teenager’s moods and allowing them to get on with the important business of adolescent development:

  • Teenagers are often grumpy simply due to the incredible chemical mix of hormones careening through their bloodstream, not to mention rapid changes to their brain composition. They really can’t help it! Just keeping this in mind can stave off the temptation to take it personally.
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Topics: Building Self-Esteem in Teens, How to manage the mood swings, Raising Resilient, Healthy Teens, Communication and Children, Inspiring the Best in Kids