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

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

Boarding School: The Perfect Balance

Posted by Whitney Suttell & Linda Rosenberg McGuire on May 30, 2018

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.

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Topics: Raising Resilient, Healthy Teens

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

Summer To Do: College Prep

Posted by Jessica Smith on May 1, 2017


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.
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Topics: Building Self-Esteem in Teens, Raising Resilient, Healthy Teens

6 Painless Ways to Stop Controlling Your Teen

Posted by Linda Rosenberg McGuire on January 24, 2017

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.

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

Teenagers: Who Are They?

Posted by Linda Rosenberg McGuire on November 1, 2016

There are many advantages to getting older, and I am actually a big fan of this, my fifth, decade because I can boldly say, “In over 30 years of working with teenagers...” and feel like I finally have the expertise to express opinions without any official statistics. So, here goes: In my 30 years of working with teenagers, I have found they often feel annoyed by their parents’ insistence that they “know them.” There are two themes that run through this resentment. The first is how counter this feels to the adolescent need for privacy and separation from their parents. The second is how rapidly teenagers change their minds, their interests, their direction, their values, their persona, and even their personality.

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Topics: Raising Resilient, Healthy Teens, Communication and Children

Teenagers: They are Hardier Than We Think

Posted by Linda Rosenberg McGuire on February 23, 2016


Our teenagers are hardier than we give them credit for. Hardiness, resilience, grit, and tenacity are qualities we know our teenagers need to possess in order to succeed in a competitive world. But often we act in ways that interrupt the growth of these vital characteristics. When we overreact to the curveballs thrown in everyday life, or over invest in the belief that all things should be fair and just, we are short changing our teenagers from learning the tougher lessons necessary to survive and thrive in a demanding society. Protecting our teenagers from realities, consequences, hurt, and injustices may feel instinctive, but is actually counter to building strong character. The problem is we feel their pain in a profound and overwhelming way, so not only are we trying to protect our teenagers, but we also try mightily to protect ourselves from a whole host of co-dependent feelings. The trick is to focus on our own reactions to their discomfort, let go, and have faith that they will handle their uncomfortable feelings on their own. Here are some tips on doing just that:

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

Passport to Self-Discovery

Posted by Ellen Songle on February 4, 2016

We have touched on the importance of travel for
the young in previous posts. If you have been lucky enough to enjoy travel in your life, then you, too, might have experienced some of the benefits that come from leaving your comfort zone. This departure from the safety of what is “known” stimulates intellectual curiosity, brings knowledge, and allows for personal growth. Lili, a member of the class of 2015 at Westtown School, enjoyed the opportunity to be a part of Westtown en Cuba, a service and language immersion program for students, and has shared some knowledge she gained from the experience. Read on for an excerpt from her reflections on her trip to Cuba. 


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Topics: Raising Resilient, Healthy Teens