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

’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

I Am Because We Are

Posted by Maria Alonso on August 4, 2020

Living on the six hundred acres that comprises Westtown School’s  campus is an absolute gift. I have the privilege of walking through myriad paths and trails on the campus each and every day. It is during these walks that I do my deepest thinking, ponderings, and wonderings about most any aspect of life. The other day I set out my walk with a rather simple question: What does the world need right now?  My question was  prompted both by the ongoing challenges of the pandemic and the recent —though long-standing— battle against racism in our country.  For the first ten minutes or so, my brain rambled and came up with a number of “heady” responses, none of which informed my gut that it was an “aha” moment or a meaningful revelation of any sort. So I decided to shut down my “monkey brain,” as many meditation teachers call our active noise-making noggins, and focused my attention on the winding path beneath my feet. When I choose to quiet my mind,  it is not uncommon for songs to pop up out of nowhere. My childhood memories are filled with music and song as I come from a very musical ancestry; my maternal aunts and uncles were the Cuban version of the VonTrapp family in The Sound of Music. I began to hum a tune that my mother would harmonize to when I was a child. My mother, Antonia, had this uncanny ability to harmonize to anything that possessed a melody and so her voice echoed in my ear:

What the world needs now is love, sweet love

It's the only thing that there's just too little of

What the world needs now is love, sweet love

No not just for some but for everyone.”

-Words by H. David and Music by Bacarach in 1965

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Topics: Raising Resilient, Healthy Teens, 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

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

Finding Strength In Community

Posted by Westtown School on September 19, 2019

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.

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Topics: Raising Resilient, Healthy Teens, Student Life at Westtown

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