As we think of our students graduating, there is a wide mixture of emotions. Happiness, sadness, exhilaration, hesitation, denial, optimism, pessimism, fear, and gratitude can all be a part of the process. Visiting with parents over the last few weeks after many events such as Senior Awards Night, Spring Revue, state golf tournament, and a band concert, led to some interesting reflection on the feelings of our parents as all our students go through transitions and major changes as they mature. As I dropped my youngest daughter off at Cedar Creek this morning, a thought entered my mind: we have all done this before……
The feelings we experience during transitions we have experienced before as parents:
The first real bite of food
the first steps of our babies
the first tooth and loss of a tooth
the first swim without arms underneath our kids
the first bike ride
the first words
the first time with a babysitter
the first drop off at kindergarten
the first recital
the first game
the first day of middle school
the first sleepover
the first middle school dance
the first loss of a loved one or pet
the first day of high school
the first drive behind the wheel…….
During these events, we had to allow our kids to do something on their own. We had to allow them to step up to experience a new thing while we could only observe and watch. The kids, not us, stepped up to the edge and took on a new challenge or life event. No matter the age of your student, these changes bring up the same emotions. The main word I would use to describe my interactions lately has been assurance. Please rest assured that your children are ready for the next step - and so are you. You’ve done this before.
Gary Allan is one of my favorite song writers and musicians. I occasionally have control of my music in my truck with my girls. And if I do, I attempt to share some of my tunes with them. A song that resonates with all of us is called Every Storm. Here is a line or two that always gets the Ramseys fired up:
"Every storm runs, runs out of rain
Just like every dark night turns into day
Every heartache will fade away
Just like every storm runs, runs out of rain
So hold your head up and tell yourself that there's something more
And walk out that door
Go find a new rose, don't be afraid of the thorns
'Cause we all have thorns
Just put your feet up to the edge, put your face in the wind
And when you fall back down, keep on rememberin'…….."
The girls love this visual of walking out to the edge and allowing yourself the freedom of the wind as you may experience a new event (obviously that’s my paraphrasing of our conversations when they jam to this line). Rest assured, you and your child have been to the edge before as a family!
We hope everyone has a fantastic last weekend of the 17-18 school year. When we return, we have a normal class day on Monday and then on to Final Exams. Take care.
All schools have a certain flow. It is called a flow for it can change sometimes rather slowly or very rapidly. And you never know when the flow will change. As we entered this first week of testing, there was a certain level of anxiety and uncertainty as we headed to this new three week time period. During the past week, we completed STAAR tests in Algebra One, Biology, and Unites States History while also taking fifteen Advanced Placement subject tests. We continued to hold classes and all activities for our students not affected by these tests. As the week progressed, one could sense a new feeling on campus. The week began with dread, and now we were thriving as we headed towards the weekend. The hallways became full of positive noise. We all walked a little faster with a more confidence. The amount of smiles and laughing increased. Conversations began to center on prom, the upcoming summer and vacations, college, graduation festivities, and the conclusion of another year at WHS - for both students and staff. This includes the feeling that this time in their life is coming to an end for all of our freshmen through seniors. Even so, they want to enjoy these last few weeks with their classmates before the summer or graduation.
Folks are tired, but this has been a week of renewed youthful exuberance. I do not think we saw this week making this turn, but it has been delightful. A small group of us were discussing this shift between classes today. One in the group brought up the first time they attempted yoga in relationship to this week. The fear and uneasiness of taking the yoga class was replaced with a feeling of peace and excitement for finding a new technique for well-being.
Each year brings new challenges and/or opportunities as a campus. The calendar has presented a unique setting for the next few weeks as we conclude the spring semester. As we have mentioned over the last few months, we will have a busy three weeks of testing due to the testing dates assigned by the state of Texas for STAAR and Advanced Placement by the College Board. In a span of two weeks, we will give over 5,500 combined STAAR and AP tests before we begin Final Exams during our last week of school. While not all students will be taking tests these days, we did want to give you the testing schedule so that you may be aware.
May 7th STAAR Algebra One
AP Morning-Chemistry and Spanish Literature (Level 5)
May 8th STAAR Algebra One Make-up
AP-Morning-Seminar and Spanish Language (Level 4)
AP Afternoon-Art History and Physics 1
May 9th STAAR US History
AP-Morning-English Literature (12th)
AP Afternoon-Physics 2
May 10th STAAR Biology
AP Morning-US Government
AP Afternoon-Chinese and Environmental Science
May 11th STAAR Make-ups
AP Morning-German and US History
AP Afternoon-Computer Science Principles
May 14th AP Morning-Biology and Music Theory
AP Afternoon Physics C
May 15th AP Morning-Calculus AB and Calculus BC
AP Afternoon-French and Computer Science
May 16th AP Morning-English Language (11th)
May 17th AP Morning-World History
May 18th AP Morning Human Geography and Microeconomics
AP Afternoon European History and Latin
We will have a quiet/dead week beginning on May 16th as we prepare for Final Exams. Students will be receiving an email about Final Exam Exemptions next week.
Our junior and seniors will also have the opportunity to attend Prom on May 19th. Our Prom theme this year is the ‘80s. It might be interesting and entertaining to break out some of your sweet Prom photos from the ‘80s. It’s always a nice way for our kids to be reminded that we were once their age and were experiencing some of the very same activities as they are but in a very different time period.
We hope you have a good weekend. The next three weeks are going to feel different since we'll be without a week between AP testing and finals, but we hope to have a smooth finish during the next 15 days.
A few Thursdays ago, we had a guest speaker, Dr. Bob Duke, come to Westlake High School. Dr. Duke, who teaches at the University of Texas at Austin, is an expert in the area of brain research and development. Dr. Duke spoke to us about the developing brain and its impact on how we experience and perceive happiness. Part of the discussion was how and when we start to lose the simple joys as a child. Dr. Duke provided many examples of this for the audience. This resonated with our students and staff as we could all remember when happiness and joy was a song, a cupcake, a Popsicle, a sandbox or even a kitten away. And then Dr. Duke asked the big question: what do you find joy in today - where do you find happiness? After this extraordinary lead in from Dr. Duke, the campus went silent……….this may be one of the tougher questions to answer after reflecting on our youngest years of joy.
While this can be an introspective question, I challenge you to ask your family and friends where they believe you find joy. Their answers may actually surprise you because they may view your laughter and smiles differently than you do. After I completed a jog late one night, my girls surprised me by telling me how happy I am after I complete my old man run around the neighborhood. This was shocking since we recently had to say goodbye to our Maggie after 17 years. Maggie was my walking and running companion for nearly two decades. Even when she had major trouble with walking, we would still go on “runs” as I would jog in place next to her - we became quite the sight in our neighborhood. The girls have told me how excited I still become after my runs instead of being downtrodden as they thought would happen. As I reflected, I guess I was happy - I could now think of Maggie as I run by her favorite places - our lake, park by the pool, and all the yards we passed over the years. The target is ever moving so check with your closest group to see if your source of happiness has changed. It might be a good time to also check in with your kids to see if your perception of what makes your kids joyful is the same as what they think makes them joyful.
A little over eight years ago, we began our Senior Service Day at WHS. While I had a pretty good idea, our student support counselor, Katie Bryant, took the idea and built this day into one of the more meaningful activities for our seniors. Katie has done a tremendous job with her leadership on this day for our campus. Here are some pictures of our students experiencing joy by helping others in our community.
We hope you enjoy the three day weekend. The month of May will be upon us as we return next Tuesday. We are only four school days away from three weeks of testing - STAAR, Advanced Placement, and final exams. Plus we will throw in a prom along with graduating the Class of 2018, all within those 25 days in May. Take care, and take care of your loved ones this long weekend!
As I have written about over the years, there are many milestones in the life of a high schooler, a parent of a high schooler, or being the teacher of high schooler. These milestones make this a memorable and unique journey which we all get to share as a community with our kids. Some of these milestones include learning to drive, applying for a first job, college acceptance, prom, extracurricular contests, and all the normal school events. One of the most challenging time periods exists as we head to the conclusion of the school year. While we have now completed 146 of 175 school days, there is a new feeling. We‘re 83% completed with this academic year, but we still have so much to do! Sometimes the hardest and most difficult period of time is when we can see the finish line but know how much effort we still must exert to attain the goal of completion. Twenty nine days left but so much to accomplish. While we may believe we will all look like this on May 25th…..
….. we may need a little help, and encouragement.
Our children and students may need some motivation and love during these six weeks. While as adults we know from our experience that it will be summer soon, our kids may need some help along the way. These next two weekends can be the best time to visit and check in to see how the end of the year is impacting them. The seniors can see the final weeks of their high school experience, and our juniors can see the end of what is traditionally the most challenging year. Our sophomores are looking forward to a relaxing summer while we truly may not ever know what many of our freshmen are thinking about at any moment. As we progress through the next weeks, please reach out to us with any concerns you may have so we can help you support your student. Our team of teachers, counselors, administrators and support staff are ready to help. The road to the finish line can be challenging for all of us on campus but our goals are attainable if we work together.
We would like to congratulate Valerie Taylor for the being the Westlake High School Educator of the Year. Valerie currently serves as our Humanities Instructional Partner. She provides support, guidance and acts as an advocate for our English and Social Studies teachers. Valerie also teaches our Capstone Seminar and Research classes with Mrs. Crocker and Mrs. Dupre. Valerie has many roles including coordinating our New Teacher Academy, collaborating on Early Release and Summer Professional Development activities, GT Coordinator, English STAAR accelerated instruction, and Writing Workshops for Eanes ISD. With tremendous effort, Valerie also takes the time to support all of our teaching staff outside of the core areas. This year provided a unique challenge for Valerie as our STEM Instructional Partner took another position within our district which left all departments with Valerie. She assumed this new challenge with high levels of grace, appreciation and motivation. Valerie has been on our campus since 1990 as a teacher and then instructional partner. She has won numerous awards at the state and national levels. Congrats on a wonderful year and being selected by our WHS staff for her contributions to our community of learners.
On April 19th, our campus will have the opportunity to hear from Bob Duke. This speaker is part of our campus’ goal of presenting information on a wide variety of topics that can influence daily, healthy decisions. This speaker will be presenting on the impact our thoughts and expectations may have on our happiness in this modern world. Mrs. Valerie Taylor helped find this speaker as part of our Social and Emotional education.
Guest Speaker: Dr. Bob Duke, April 19th
On Thursday, April 19th, we will have a guest speaker for the entire school. Pure junior and senior 1st period classes will report to the PAC right after checking in with their 1st period teachers. All of these teachers will need to accompany their classes to the PAC. All other classes will have the presentation streamed to their classrooms. Below is information about the speaker and his title and topic and the bell schedule for the day. This presentation is aligned with our focus on Social and Emotional Learning for the year.
BIO: Bob Duke is the Marlene and Morton Meyerson Centennial Professor and Head of Music and Human Learning at The University of Texas at Austin, where he is an University of Texas System Distinguished Teaching Professor, Director of the Center for Music Learning, and Clinical Professor in the Dell Medical School. For the past six years, he directed the psychology of learning program at the Colburn Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles. Dr. Duke’s research on human learning and behavior spans multiple disciplines, and his most recent work explores the refinement of procedural memories and the analysis of gaze in teacher-learner interactions. A former studio musician and public school music teacher, he has worked closely with children at-risk, both in the public schools and through the juvenile justice system. He is the author of “Scribe 4” behavior analysis software, and his most recent books are Intelligent Music Teaching: Essays on the Core Principles of Effective Instruction, The Habits of Musicianship, which he co-authored with Jim Byo of Louisiana State University, and Brain Briefs, which he co-authored with Art Markman, his co-host on the public radio program and podcast “Two Guys on Your Head”, produced by KUT Radio in Austin.
PROGRAM TITLE: How to make yourself unhappy…
DESCRIPTION: All of us are faced nearly every day with expectations that are defined by others. Combined with the goals we set for ourselves, these expectations can so overcrowd our thinking as to diminish our quality of life, sense of well-being, and joy. We will discuss the relationships among aspirations, feedback, and emotions, and how best to structure a healthy, happy life.
It’s been a good, solid week at WHS. We hope you have a fabulous weekend!
As we all get older, we sometimes may lose our ability to appreciate the smaller but more significant situations that present themselves. Over the last few days, the excitement and youthful exuberance has been seen in many ways.
Last Saturday, my wife and I were going to have to attend and/or coach in 6 events with our daughters. While this is not the normal Saturday for us, many of the parents can relate to a challenging day like this one. After watching Mary play in her first basketball game of the day, Mary and I headed to Honey Ham. As I drove us over, I was thinking of the back to back soccer games I would be coaching for Kate’s team. That would be followed up by two more basketball games for Mary and a soccer game for Reese in Lake Travis. We placed our order and made our way to the drinks. As I was carefully picking my lemons and limes for my water, one of our WHS students exclaimed, “Hey Mr. Ramsey! Hope you are having a great day - I AM! Next week is an early release day followed by a three day weekend!” At least half the establishment cheered on this one statement of truth. It was a unique and entertaining exchange, and it was nice to see folks still appreciating a little time off.
On Monday, our German Club brought in mini-horses as part of an activity to bring some joy on campus and to possibly de-stress some of our campus students. These horses did the trick. The smiles of staff and students were sincere, huge, and contagious. The minis were here just for our lunch periods, but they made an impact for the entire day.
On Wednesday morning, it was a mess with the storms and rain. During second period, I observed Mr. Sifner’s AP Music Theory class. The class was well done, and I was feeling very positive until I walked to the sidewalk by Westbank at the exit of the PAC. Rain, and lots of it. I was reaching for my umbrella when I noticed several students who were enjoying the rain. No Umbrellas. No fancy water proof jackets. Just walking to the PAC enjoying the puddles, cool air, and rain in their faces. I decided not to reach for my umbrella and simply walk back to my office trying to enjoy a rain shower on a Wednesday morning. I may not have enjoyed this time as much as some of our students, but it was a nice moment reflecting on not whining about things we cannot control-like the rain.
We hope you enjoy the long weekend. As I was told by one of our seniors yesterday, it is April when we return. Enjoy one of the last few long weekends with your seniors for we have only 39 school days until they are official WHS graduates.
Our children enter high school making simple, daily decisions to making decisions that may impact the rest of their life in a positive or negative way. Decisions go from deciding on where to eat lunch, the cafeteria or CHAP Court, all the way to where and what I will do after I graduate high school. Along the way, decisions include: what classes do I take, when do I get my driver’s license, should I get a job, should I date, what job/jobs will I pursue, what extracurriculars should I attempt, which restaurant serves the best breakfast tacos, how do I manage social media, and when do I not need a curfew?
Our students are making many decisions in a world where things can change quickly. So the question this week is: how often do we visit with our kids about making decisions? The SEL thought for the last quarter is on decision making. While the Huffington Post article deals with all ages, it is a good read for reminders and thoughts on decision making. From my experience, I believe asking “how” a decision is made can be much more enlightening than the “why” questions. Kids are still learning from our actions and our choices, and the “how” question can be much more challenging and create more dialogue. My advice at times is to always keep on parenting. Parenting will always include questioning. But asking “how” questions about decision making can strengthen your relationship for it can remove the authoritarian tone of disappointment. Ask some questions this weekend, and enjoy the time with your kids and family. I will give you a simple warning however; your kids will return the favor and ask you “how” questions for it is less threatening and more engaging - you gotta hate it when our kids turn the tables! It’s always nice to ponder life with your family……
Man, how has spring break already arrived for our students, staff and parents? The one common theme between our students, parents and staff is how suddenly this break is upon us. The break is here, and it is definitely appreciated by all. We are officially 75% complete with the 17-18 school year. So, let’s do a little math. Our 9th graders are now 3/16 (3 of 16 quarters), or 19% completed with their WHS experience while our sophomores are 7/16, or 44% completed. Our juniors are 68.75% completed while our seniors are 15/16, or 94% completed with their Westlake High School experience. When we return from Spring Break 2018, we will have only 48 school days left! These days will include exams, STAAR Testing, AP Testing, and many activities. The spring will go very quickly and truly be over in exactly 67 calendar days. With all that being mentioned, we hope you will enjoy the next 9 days spending and relaxing with your family and friends. We know many will be relaxing at home, vacationing, making college visits and simply taking time off from our routines.
We are a campus of many traditions. One of our traditions is the Senior Panoramic that took place yesterday morning. While last year I wrote about the reflective and quiet walk down the hill after the picture, this group was definitely a little more rambunctious, less quiet and more spirited. All classes have a unique personality, and this class is doing a wonderful job at WHS as second semester seniors. We have included a video clip to show y’all the process.
We would like to wish our basketball team good luck as they head to the State Basketball Tournament for the first time in Westlake High School History! No matter where you are on Friday evening, the game will be on the CHAP App. The team will have a sendoff from the field house at 9 am on Friday morning. Feel free to stop by and wish them good luck.
The topic of safety in schools has been top of mind recently for all of us - students, staff and parents. Please join us at our PTO General Membership meeting at Noon on Friday, March 23rd where we'll focus on this issue. We will also live-stream the meeting via our Facebook page. In advance of this meeting, please go to Facebook page: Westlake High School PTO and like/follow the page. Our speakers include Deputy Brian Peals, WHS admin, and Leesa Ross, area volunteer for the Be SMART program. The Be SMART campaign was created to bring together all responsible adults to reduce suicides and the number of unintentional shootings that occur when children/teenagers/college students get a hold of an unsecured firearm.
Here are some of the key dates for the rest of the school year:
March 30th and April 30th
April 10th-English 1
April 12th-English 2
May 7th-Algebra 1
May 9th-US History
May 10th- Biology
May 7th- 18th
Have a wonderful break!
Steve Ramsey: WHS Principal Blog
Principal's Weekly Reflections