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.
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.
At Westtown School, we have found that the voices we most want to hear on graduation day are those of our students themselves — they are more powerful and evocative of the Westtown experience than that of any outside speaker. Each year, seniors write a personal reflective essay. Three essays are chosen to be read at Commencement by a committee of Upper School faculty. Kavya Dayananth was chosen to read her essay for the class of 2019. Her words remind us of the strength of our supportive and empowering community.
On Sunday mornings, my dad begins to cook all the food for the week. The process takes up the entire day so it has to be done on his only day off of work. The kitchen is a mess of large metal vats filled with sambar and cutting boards piled high with chopped potatoes, chow chow, and carrots all waiting to be cooked. Open Tupperwares of cumin and chili powder scatter the counter. It’s a storm of Indian spices that make your eyes tear and your nose burn. There is no certain recipe to these dishes. Just observations my father made while watching his mother cook when he was young. Years of culinary knowledge passed down throughout generations of our family.
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.
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.
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.
In her book, Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood, psychologist Lisa Damour describes the familiar and emotional process in which teens begin to separate from their parents, assert their independence, and latch on firmly to a tribe of their peers. Damour writes, “By the end of adolescence, we expect that [teenagers] will loosen their close ties to their families and strengthen their connections with their peers.” This process, while normal and necessary for healthy adult development, can be challenging for teens and their parents alike. Providing teens with appropriate ways to assert their independence and ensuring there is a supportive safety net is essential. For some families, boarding school provides the perfect balance of independence and support.
Topics: Raising Resilient, Healthy Teens
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.
Yes, summer is a time for students to relax, enjoy, and rejuvenate but also an important time for your teen to stay on track with their college prep. Wondering how to do this and where to focus your energy? Here are a few simple reminders for you and your teen.
- Grades count. Please don't believe the myth that grades don't matter until junior year. Colleges will look at applicants’ grades from freshman year onward, and the stronger the grades, the more choices your child will have. It's not just about having a good grade and looking good to colleges. Students need the skills they learn on the way to achieving those grades in order to do well in future courses. At the same time, remember that their best may change as they progress through high school. We are all hoping for authentic effort, not perfection.
Some parents find it downright liberating when their teenagers become increasingly
independent. Others find it unsettling, even threatening. Parents who crave control of their teenager often discover that allowing their teens to experience the world on their own is terrifying. However, developmentally, it is important to slowly hand over control of your teen’s life…to your teen. You will always be their parent, but they are looking for - and needing -you to manage less of their day-to-day lives.