A Well-Lit Path: A Blog from Westtown School

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

The Power of Perception

Posted by Maria Alonso on April 8, 2020

We humans are meaning-making machines and it is ultimately our perception (or what our mind chooses to see) that informs the story we tell ourselves and others about what is happening and what it means. As a graduate student of psychology, perception was an area of study that I did not fully appreciate and simply experienced as a topic to review and file away. Thirty years later, I believe that perception is everything and that it is one of the most powerful tools that human beings possess. Perception determines and drives our approach, attitude, and actions in any given situation. The current global pandemic we are facing —and our varying responses to it— is a testament to the power of perception and how it impacts our experience, our behaviors, and the choices we make moment to moment. Even though our perceptions are informed and shaped by our personal life experiences, we humans have the capacity and the freedom to choose what we see, what we hear, and how we feel. These become the threads that weave the story that we tell.

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Topics: Inspiring the Best in Kids

College Prep: Tips for 9th and 10th Graders

Posted by Jessica Smith on February 25, 2020

 

If you are either a current 9th or 10th grader or the parent of one, it is likely that college prep has or will soon come up in conversations. Realizing this, Westtown School’s Director of College Counseling visited our ninth and tenth-grade students in early February and shared these thoughts about college.


At this point, our recommendations about college are always about how to make the most of high school. We want students to work hard and learn a lot, not just because strong grades look impressive to colleges, but because the learning you gain along the way will make you a better student and a more interesting person. Looking good is nice, but if you go through high school trying to merely look good (for college or anyone else) instead of being your full self, you won't have a very satisfying experience.

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

Talking About Race with Your Children

Posted by Marissa Colston on January 10, 2020

When I was younger, as a child of color in a household with parents who were also of color, talking about race was so common I don’t remember a time when we didn’t talk about it. I remember feeling proud and empowered about my racial identity. When I was faced with discrimination or hurtful stereotypes, even though it was painful, the foundation my parents helped create allowed me to talk about the experience knowing that I was more than a stereotype.

I knew that I could find support at home, but it was hard to talk with my white friends about these incidents. They rarely, if ever, had similar conversations at home. Their lack of ability to talk about race made it almost impossible to have a productive or restorative conversation.

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Topics: Inspiring the Best in Kids

Let Books Herald A New Tradition

Posted by Lynn Clements on December 5, 2019

The Importance of ReadingFamily holiday traditions are important to give our children a sense of connectedness and history. This holiday season, consider creating a new tradition of building a family collection of holiday stories. The books can be packed away at the end of the season and tucked away until next year, so they become beloved, anticipated stories to share over the years. Perhaps you can start your tradition with one of these new titles:

The Shortest Day, by Susan Cooper - With stunning illustrations by Carson Ellis, this book celebrates the winter solstice and our relationship with the Earth’s cycles.

My First Kwanzaa, by Karen Katz - With bright collage illustrations, this book is a good introduction to the celebration of the seven days of Kwanzaa.

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Topics: Inspiring the Best in Kids

Messages to Take Back to School and Beyond

Posted by Maria Alonso on August 15, 2019


New beginnings are exciting! They become exciting to us because they offer the promise of hope, the anticipation of change in our lives, and the prospect that our dreams will indeed come true! 
Squire Rushnell, When God Winks on New Beginnings 

Indeed, there is a buzzing energy reverberating in the homes of school-aged children just about this time of year. Whether your child is embarking on the wonder and magical days of kindergarten or they are a senior in high school entering the “last first day” of a year of countless “lasts,” the beginning of the school year is full of hopes and dreams as well as the to-be-expected sensations of jitters and butterflies in the belly. 

With back to school in the air, familiar back-to-school tips are emerging on the Internet from myriad organizations. One of the most popular tips, of course, is the importance of establishing routines at home before the start of school by making sure there are laminated lists of bedtime and morning rituals to be checked off by the children, offering them a sense of agency and mastery. I thought I would share a few thoughts for  parents to reflect upon, ways to communicate to their school-aged children not just at the beginning of this school year but throughout the year. 

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Topics: Inspiring the Best in Kids

(Teacher Approved) Fun for Summer!

Posted by Westtown Lower School Faculty on June 18, 2019

School is out and summer is here! While students often crave a rest from their daily routines, their brains remain hungry for the “superfood” that active learning provides. Whether you’d like  to help your child avoid the so-called summer slide, or are looking for some creative ideas to fill downtime, this curated list of ideas from Westtown’s Lower School faculty can serve as a guide.

  • Create a mini book club for your young readers and their friends. It’s as easy as picking the same book and then meeting at someone’s home, a coffee shop, or even the pool. Kids get excited to do something adult-like and the opportunity to spend time with friends. Set a few dates for club meetings  in advance to keep the momentum going. Create a few index cards with questions that the kids can choose to get the conversation started when they meet.

  • Go Geocaching with your children and family friends! It’s easier now with the use of your Smartphone. Visit one of the geocaching sites (we recommend this one), or download an app to your phone, create an account, then start searching in your local community or when on vacation. 
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Topics: Help with learning, 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

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