A Well-Lit Path: A Blog from Westtown School

AP Courses: Are They Necessary for College Admission?

Posted by Jessica Smith on January 25, 2019

This question comes up in our Admission office, College Counseling office, and even in our Lower School lobby. Parents and students alike worry about college preparation and bolstering transcripts. We asked our Director of College Counseling to shed some light on what colleges actually look for, what students need, and how a Westtown education prepares students for college.

 

You might already know that Westtown School offers over 50 upper school courses with advanced designations, but you might be wondering why Westtown doesn’t offer Advanced Placement (AP) courses. In 2005, after a vigorous two-year curriculum review, the school’s Curriculum Committee recommended removing the AP designation from all Westtown courses because, as they found, “[A] Westtown Education is a religious endeavor, is rooted in community, educates the whole child, fosters an appreciation of racial, ethnic, economic and religious diversity, calls for a variety of approaches to pedagogy and assessment, encourages interdisciplinary learning, allows time for the present moment, and empowers students to create positive change in the world...Our students’ growth as independent learners will be enhanced by teachers having room in their curriculum to create challenging laboratory and research experiences and to assign lengthy and difficult works of literature in English and in foreign language studies, to name just a few.” The committee found that neither AP nor International Baccalaureate (IB) programs allowed for the depth and richness Westtown prizes in its course offerings.  

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Topics: Raising Resilient, Healthy Teens, Inspiring the Best in Kids

It Would Be Better If...

Posted by Kristin Crawford on January 10, 2019


Happy New Year!  Otherwise known as a time of optimistic self-improvement.

One of the skills required of parenthood and teaching is the ability to identify areas for potential improvement in children. We can believe a little more of this or a little less of that would benefit our children greatly. But we often make such determinations from our own point of view. If only they did ____ everything would be better. And our children give us daily reality checks that what we deem needs improvement may not be what they recognize as worthy of attention. What we see as encouragement for self-improvement and growth, they could describe as nagging. Maybe rightly so. 

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Topics: Inspiring the Best in Kids

Build, Create, and Discover Joy with These Holiday Gifts

Posted by Lynn Clements on December 12, 2018


Whether you are looking for just a few last-minute gifts or have a whole list, we have a few ideas for the young ones in your life. Here are some fun ideas for children who enjoy building, tinkering, creating, and coding.

Books

Beanz is a new bi-monthly online and print magazine about learning to code, computer science, and how we use technology in our  daily lives. The magazine is aimed for ages 8 and older. There is no advertising in the magazine. To subscribe: hello@beanzmag.com

DATA Set series, by Ada Hopper. This series of transitional chapter books is aimed at readers in grades 1-3. The DATA Set consists of three friends who use their interest in science and coding to solve mysteries created by their mad scientist neighbor, Dr. Bunsen. There are seven books in this high-interest series.

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Topics: Help with learning, 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

How I Found My Authentic Voice

Posted by Westtown School on September 26, 2018

As a new ninth-grader at Westtown—a 14-hour plane ride from his home—Yiheng Xie was

once told his accent was hard to define. In this (abridged) reflection delivered at graduation, Yiheng explores the connection between voice and family history—the “grit and sand” in his words—and how every person and experience we carry with us, can leave its mark. 

Yiheng was awarded a Faculty Letter of Commendation, Westtown School’s highest recognition for achievement and citizenship, three years in a row. He currently attends Brown University.

My freshman-year proctor once said, “You have a unique accent.” It couldn’t be easily defined—it wasn't simply Chinese or American, refined or crude. Puzzling over why, I decided to trace its origin.

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Topics: Raising Resilient, Healthy Teens, Inspiring the Best in Kids, Student Life at Westtown

Ready, Set, Learn!

Posted by Nancy vanArkel on August 22, 2018


Getting ready for school takes more than a new notebook and bookbag. Help your child be ready for success by taking a few additional steps now.

Sleep: Many of us change our sleep patterns over the summer. Now is the time to begin to adjust your child’s bedtime and wake time back to a school-year routine. Adequate and consistent sleep makes a huge difference in a child’s ability to learn, and a child who is sleepy for the first week of school may have a hard time recovering.

Summer Reading: You can’t read too much in the summer! If your child completed their summer reading earlier in the summer, take some time to review the book so the story and characters are fresh in their minds. Page through the book, create a chart of characters and relationships, or journal about a particular plot twist.  

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Topics: Raising Resilient, Healthy Teens, Inspiring the Best in Kids

Summer: Keep Moving Forward!

Posted by Westtown School on June 20, 2018


At some point during the summer, many parents worry about their children losing some of the knowledge they gained during the school year or worse - falling behind. With this in mind, we have asked our in-house reading and college prep experts to share a few tips on how to keep children (of all ages) moving forward.

Students of All Ages:
Betsy Swan, Librarian for Westtown’s Upper & Middle Schools reminds us of the importance of reading. Swan shares that some of the most empowering advice we can give children is that – with the exception of books assigned for classes – if you don’t like a book, you don’t have to finish it. Kids will read more independently and happily when they find a book they want to read, so encourage them to sample.

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Topics: Help with learning, Inspiring the Best in Kids

The Impact of a Teacher

Posted by Kristin Crawford on May 10, 2018

Teacher Appreciation Day made me think about my favorite teachers and why they still hold a place in my heart and mind.  There are three of them.

Mrs. McCall was my first grade teacher.  This was the first time I was away from my home all day as the first grade classes were in an annex 10 miles from my house.  It was far away from my mother and I felt it. Yet, Mrs. McCall loved me and I knew that too. I wasn’t special. She loved everyone.  Her love gave me the courage to trust school. In a class permeated by safety and order, she created the conditions where risk was ok, and because I could take a risk, I unlocked the mysteries of reading and writing.   All because of Mrs. McCall. There was magic in her teaching, and believing she loved me, I was smitten and loved her back.

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Topics: 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

Gifts You Will Not Want to Put Down

Posted by Lynn Clements on November 29, 2017


Whether you are just starting to think about holiday gifts for your children, or you are looking for ideas for those last few gifts, books always make a wonderful gift!  A book that makes an engaging family read-aloud over the holidays can become a beloved tradition, and one that your children will begin to anticipate each holiday season. Time to relax and read together also provides some much-needed rest for everyone in these long days of winter.

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Topics: Help with learning, Inspiring the Best in Kids