Homecoming is always a little special at Westlake High School. Even with extremely busy schedules, this day and weekend have a special feel and excitement. Our students and staff always take pride in this school and community, but this weekend seems to bring everyone together a little closer.
Upon returning to Westlake High School from WRMS, I made a commitment to brand our campus with reminders of this wonderful community.
New wall graphics throughout our campus
It was amazing to see how many students attended our Pep Rally while also representing their class with the color selected for their specific class. We welcomed our alumni and parents to the Pep Rally with a reserved section right in the middle of our Juniors and Seniors. We have had a wonderful day as veteran faculty members like myself have reminisced about some of our past greats like Toody Byrd, Ebbie Neptune, John Matysek, Mark Hurst, and Scott Gardner (the list goes on and on……). We will be honoring Coach Al Bennett this evening before our volleyball with the naming of the court after him.
Homecoming Pep Rally 2018
While we think of the past, we are also invigorated by our current students and staff who continue to make this campus the best in Texas through their own innovations and creativity. As we all get busy with an array of events this weekend in town, we hope everyone takes a moment to reflect on this special place that is truly the “Pride of the Hills”.
As we conclude our fourth week of school, we have all settled into our routine or routines. We have our morning routine concluding with the morning drop off or pre-work procedures at the home and office. We have our lunch routine, our exercise routine, our evening and night time routines. We have our calendars on our phones, laptops and even an old school physical calendar that exists somewhere in our kitchen so we do not miss something. Our kids have their routines as well which include managing up to seven classes with an array of activities. They have calendars on their phones, laptops and some have dry erase boards in their bedrooms and/or bathrooms. Routines, even according many experts, are key to a successful life.
Routine: noun- a sequence of actions regularly followed; a fixed program.
Adjective- performed as part of a regular procedure rather than for a special reason.
As it was raining over the weekend, many of our routines were altered or canceled. On Sunday afternoon, my youngest daughter Kate and her friend and neighbor, Lucy, reminded me of the notion of spontaneity. Instead of allowing the rain to literally dampen their normal time together outside, they chose to play in the rain as if they had never experienced rain before Sunday (not a difficult concept to imagine in an Austin summer). The interesting and profound part of spontaneous events that turn out positive is the pure joy. Nothing is planned. Without prior planning, there are no expectations. Without expectations, the immense satisfaction is deeper and more meaningful.
We hope your weekend is a pleasant one filled with planned activities and possibly a spontaneous event as well.
We have had a week of true quality time together at WHS. This week has been filled with many activities that have brought our students, staff, parents and community together to share common experiences.
The first major activity was our Back to School Night on Wednesday evening. This evening was well attended, and our parents brought exceptional enthusiasm and good natured attitudes to our campus. As part of a consortium of schools throughout the country, I can report that we are the rare campus who actively invites our parents to a Back to School evening - it is a special night for our staff as well.
We also had our annual picture day. Even with 17 and 18 year olds, our kids love to get dressed up for their yearbook picture. Our staff was thrilled this was on Back to School Night day so they were already dressed up. When these two groups merge out of the normal classroom setting, students and teachers strengthen those relationships as they stay out of subject matter.
Westlake’s students came together for our first Pep Rally of the year. Even Vito looked peppy in his spirit gear.
Science at Westlake hit the ground running with students working together and engaged in a variety of hands-on experiences. AP physics students used DataHubs to recreate motion graphs. Physics students used spheros to predict when and where potential collisions would occur. Engineering students designed and made self-propelled vehicles. The common thread was students working collaboratively to solve problems, and design solutions. All of which amounts to an exciting and thought provoking beginning to the school year for our science students! Quality time with hands on activities builds community daily at WHS. Check out the pictures below to see what's “movin” on campus.
Tonight we will have our first home football game. This is a true community event as we enjoy the talents of our football players, band musicians, Hyline dancers, cheerleaders, and Tech Crew. Good luck to all of our students tonight!
As part of the Westlake High School experience, we offer a true Back to School Night. All of our parents are invited to attend their child’s classes as they follow their schedule for the evening. We have moved the evening to an earlier start time while also adding a few minutes to each class period - that may help with some of our students for the night who may be tardy! It is a good night for our community, and we look forward to your visit.
As you walk the building next Wednesday evening, you will notice some improvements on our campus. As you walk, please notice our new flooring in the main building and new paint throughout the campus. We have removed some lockers to make our hallways more walkable. We also soon be unveiling a new opening between the two libraries to ease traffic flow as well.
We have added a few courses over the last few years that have new areas. We have our Design Lab where we have our AP Computer Science classes and our new Swift Coding class are being taught. We have made a few upgrades to our class kitchen area for our Epicure Academy-culinary arts program. We have begun instruction in our new Physical Education class called Outdoor Recreation.
We hope you have a wonderful three-day weekend. We hope you can spend some time with your students/children over the break. One night this week I caught the end of the movie, "The Pursuit of Happyness". You might remember this Will Smith movie based upon the life of Chris Gardner as he struggles as a single dad in San Francisco. The interesting item I noticed this time watching was the deliberate action the father took many times when things were the bleakest. He took the time to directly interact with his son. That became his solace and temporary relief from his strained life. While it is much easier to engage with a five-year-old than a teenager, I thought of how much time I make a clear intention to talk and visit with my kids as they have gotten older. I really thought of how my girls would answer this question: when issues arise in my life, do I turn towards them or turn away?
Enjoy the time with your family, friends and pets as we hit the traditional marker for the end of Summer-Labor Day.
Every year it seems we have a little change in our calendar. This year we have several - including a week long Thanksgiving Break, a conclusion of the year after Memorial Day, and a Wednesday start day.
The state, around fifteen years ago, enacted a law that all schools could start as early as the last Monday in August. Eanes ISD chose to become a District of Innovation in which one of the provisions would be the ability to begin school on a date that the district desired. As with many districts in Central Texas who are also Districts of Innovation, we chose a Wednesday start date. If you ask the students and staff at Westlake High School if this was a good move, I believe you would receive a very loud yes! There is a nice transition to a new year when you have the first day excitement followed by day two where one can already sense the first Friday and weekend. The third day is also the first true day that the new year routine is going to last a long time-May seems a million days away. The third day is usually also the first day of the grumpiness of the reality of the fatigue from getting up and going through a full day. I think everyone may be feeling that along with few extremely warm days may make this a truly welcomed weekend. Our students are already talking about the Labor Day weekend which is only seven days away……
The Class of 2019 is off to a solid start with a spirited welcome to the new school year. We look forward to the leadership and impact of this class on our campus and community.
We hope you have a fabulous first weekend of the 2018-2019 school year!
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!
Steve Ramsey: WHS Principal Blog
Principal's Weekly Reflections