As the year is coming to an end, it has been interesting to see how the thought of a school year ending has impacted many of our students and staff. Whether it is graduating from WHS or simply having a summer break between your sophomore, junior and senior years, I have heard many more conversations about not being with friends and having a common spot to meet daily-our campus. There is a real feeling of anxiousness and loneliness about not being able to see the important people who have become such a crucial part of their daily/weekly experience. Relationships matter, and it is very interesting to see this generation have this reaction. With all the connectivity through social media, texting, FaceTime, etc, it is awesome to see how our kids and staff still want and desire direct, human interaction. We see this during passing periods, lunch, events, and in the classroom. There is a mood of excitement that the academic year is coming to an end, coupled with a little sadness around the departure of their weekly routines with relationships. This is especially true for our graduates who have may have spent many years together in our district from elementary through high school.
We look forward to our 2019 Commencement Ceremony on May 30th at 7 pm. This is an exceptional class of seniors who I cannot wait to reflect on during the ceremony Thursday night. We found our earlier start time from last year was a huge positive for everyone, and the time change seemed to make for an even better ceremony. We are extremely proud of the Seniors of 2019!
Summer is the best time for many of our families with trips, camps, family events, and absolutely nothing to-do days. We hope everyone will enjoy the break from the school routine and allow themselves to cherish any and all time they get to spend with friends, family, and pets. Be safe and take some time to just relax. Relaxation-the state of being free from tension and anxiety. This is easier said than done but a nice goal as we get our minds and hearts heading toward a break.
Have a wonderful Summer 2019!
Last year, we formalized one of the more unique experiences for our seniors. Our seniors have the chance to visit their elementary school. They visit with past teachers and are introduced to the current students in an assembly setting. Each school has a different style for this event based on the campus culture. It is a great day, for all involved. Enjoy these snapshots from today's visits...
Once a Chap, always a Chap becomes a reality for our seniors and elementary students. Have a wonderful weekend and a very Happy Mother's Day!
Every year there are unique days in a calendar. There are holidays, birthdays, anniversaries positive and sad memories. For our students, there are many events on special days: first day, last day, dances, prom, driver's license attainment, games, rehearsals, performances, contests, dates, and graduation. There is a date that seems to change everything very quickly. This date changes everything. This date profoundly impacts perspective.......the date is May 1st.
May 1st suddenly makes the finality of a school year immediate, sudden, jarring and eye opening. The writing of 5/1/19 or looking at your phone for time with Wednesday, May 1 appearing creates a whole new look at time. There was a new anxiousness and relief with this date for our campus on Wednesday. STAAR and AP testing loom suddenly for they begin next week. May 1st is also National College Signing day which means seniors throughout the country display their post-high school choices with t-shirts and signing of the banner. Summer is less than 30 days away for all our students. Three classes of students prepare and reflect for a move up at WHS while our seniors gear up for a radical experience of university life, gap year, or workforce endeavors.
I truly wish I had tallied the number of times I heard "I can't believe it is May. " That was followed by a brief but intense rundown of things to be accomplished in the next month by students, teachers, and parents. We have settled back down into more of a normal groove, but Wednesday was something else!
Throughout the year, we attempt to give our students as many unique opportunities to explore as we can. We do this through Senior Career Day, the College Fair, and the many trips our students take in and out of state in their various extracurricular interests. We also have many classes like Mentorship, the Incubator and Accelerator programs, and a variety of speakers through teachers' classes.
Tomorrow our seniors will head out to perform many different tasks in Austin as part of Senior Service Day. This day began around a decade ago as a way for our students to experience a day of charitable work. It allows each senior class to come together to enhance our Westlake and greater Austin community.
Another example of opportunities for our students... Earlier this month a group of 20 WHS students traveled to Galveston to study marine biology. The goal of the trip was for students to learn about the field of marine biology, and see how marine biology supports local economic activity on the Texas coast. Westlake partnered with Texas A&M’s Sea Camp to provide engaging activities for our students. They visited a National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) sea turtle hatching and rearing facility where they learned about sea turtle conservation activities, got to see baby turtles being reared at the facility, and learned how turtle exclusion devices on shrimp trawlers are designed and tested. Students then visited Galveston state park and netted wildlife in the the Galveston bay estuary, learning why estuaries are important habitats for both aquatic and terrestrial organisms, and how estuaries function as important nursery grounds for marine life - including many popular game fish. It is opportunities like these that give students an appreciation of the variety of STEM careers available in Texas - while connecting students to communities across our great state.
Mood and Mindfulness Week
April is Stress Awareness Month. Next week the Challenge Success team will be hosting a Mood and Mindfulness Week at WHS. Challenge Success is seeking to challenge students to be truly aware of how they are doing on a daily basis through this busy and stressful time of year.
There are many behavioral things that can positively impact mood. For example, getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, and getting daily exercise, listening to music, getting sunlight, etc... Each day an activity is planned during lunches to highlight one of these things that can positively impact mood:
Students will also receive a digital mood tracker (via email) that they can use to be mindful and to track how these things impact their mood.
Please encourage your student to participate.
Have a great weekend!
We began our first round of STAAR Testing this week at WHS. Our freshmen and sophomores completed the STAAR Assessments in English this past week. It was a smooth week of testing which can always be a challenge when one grade level is testing and the others are business as usual. While we have only 32 days of school left, we will take another 3 STAAR assessments, have 10 days of AP testing and 4 days of final exams. The good news is that none of our students will be involved with all these days, but our daily schedules can feel a little different.
Our Educational Partners, Chris Hansen and Lisa Johnson, had the innovative idea of bringing all stakeholders together for a night of digital learning. Eanes ISD is proud to present "Digital Wellness: Managing Your Online Life". The event will be held at Westlake High School. All Eanes ISD Staff, Families, and Students are welcome.
Society has shifted in many ways with increased access to connected devices and online platforms. How are we as participants in this new world managing this new environment as well as leveraging the possibilities technology continues to introduce? Discover resources and management techniques that Eanes ISD makes available to students and parents through thoughtful technology integration in a variety of presentation and exploration opportunities. A wide range of topics will be covered ranging from data privacy and web filtration to screen time, defeating digital distractions, digital assessment tools, and apps for creativity.
Registration can be found at this link: is.gd/DigitalWellness
Westlake High School is officially 50 years old as a campus. Over the next few months and throughout the summer, you will be receiving information about celebration plans which will all take place this fall. If you would like to save the date, the weekend of October 18th will be the weekend we honor our WHS alumni, community and WHS staff that has made this the wonderful campus. As part of the celebration and reflection of our 50 years, we created a survey with our Beyond AP Stats students to randomly sample students, parents and staff. The survey is posted on our newspaper’s website, the Featherduster at https://westlakefeatherduster.com/. Feel free to complete this survey as well if you were not randomly selected. This information will help guide our student groups and staff as we continue to grow from valuable feedback.
We hope you have a wonderful weekend.
As you spend time with our students and staff, you begin to realize the fast paced world that we all live in today. Everything is fast, quick, faster. And then everything must be decided quickly into something you like and agree with or dislike and disagree with. However, take heart - the ability to slow down to communicate can be seen in many of classrooms daily.
What I see reinforced daily by some of our outstanding teachers is that slowing down and using stories can be highly effective when communicating with this age group. Stories, personal reflections, and memories are an excellent tool to talk and engage with each other. When I am in classrooms, there is power when a teacher or student takes the time to share. This also takes place in conversations between classes, when students visit teachers during lunch, and during extracurricular time. Stories matter - especially when they are personal stories. While one may receive the teenage eye roll or distant look, our kids are listening.
Our students, compared to their peers, are excellent at personal interactions with each other and adults. This is an area that makes our campus very unique. During this week, we had an international speaker visit and two different groups visit and tour WHS. One of the common compliments delivered to me as people leave after their time with us is the ability of our students to engage directly. Eye contact, body language, ability to ask questions and true listening skills are skills that this community develops at the highest levels. Do we as parents still receive one word answers, if not just the angstful teenage grunt - yes! But do rest easy that when our students are engaged with teachers, visitors and each other, they are phenomenal.
Everyone returned to campus after Spring Break rested and ready to go. We are excited as we head towards the last few months. We have a multitude of major events to go, and we look forward to an exciting and memorable finish.
Have a wonderful weekend.
As we get older, there are a few universal truths that get discussed regularly. One of these is how quickly time can progress as our students move from elementary to middle school, and as they then move on and complete their time at Westlake High School.
The old adage of "time flying" is remarkably true. For a little mathematical perspective, here are the numbers:
Freshmen - 19% completed at WHS but 75% with K-12 experience,
Sophomores - 44% completed at WHS and 83% with K-12 experience,
Juniors - 69% completed at WHS and 90% with K-12 experience,
Seniors - 94% completed at WHS and 98% with their full district experience.
As I am planning on attending a wedding weekend beginning this evening of two former Chaparrals, I was reminded of a conversation I had with one of their moms last fall. There is a large gap in age between her second and third child (10 years). She said the greatest change she made in raising these two kids was the amount of interaction she created with her youngest child during her senior year. She made it a daily priority to spend time with her baby girl during the last part of her Eanes experience. She and her daughter scheduled time every day to have 5-10 minutes dedicated to their relationship. That looked very different each day, but she made me promise to spend time with my girls every day - for time does move quickly.
If you look at the numbers above, it may be time to schedule that daily time in now! As I am close with the kids, it does appear the youngest did actually enjoy the daily time as well. Our parents have raised some fabulous young adults so reward yourself with the gift of time with your kids.
Spring break is a mere 7 days away. We are anxiously awaiting how next week will progress with the calendar adjustment of a week of a new quarter beginning before the break, coupled with Daylight Savings Time occurring during a non-Spring Break week. With a large organization such as a high school, we shall see if there is any impact. The extremely cold weather had a very calming effect on the campus earlier this week, which was quite pleasant. I have learned over the years that you never know how adjustments can influence a large group, but that also is what makes showing up to a high school campus intriguing daily.
Have a wonderful weekend!
If one wants to see the impact of the ever changing patterns of Texas weather, a high school is a fabulous space. With three thousand folks in one building for at least 8 hours a day, the weather can instantly change people’s attitudes in a hurry. You have the kids who love the cold and get excited about the brisk air between classes. You have the kids who simply hate it when the weather goes below 60 degrees and the passing periods become a game of how to manage the walk between their classes without ever going outside. Some love the heat while others shy away from the sun at all costs. Some will walk through a drizzle to heavy rain while others have umbrellas and ponchos handy in their backpacks daily. And then if it snows, we all lose our adult minds and immediately become little kids again as seen when our students took to venturing outside on February 8th to “play in the snow” while taking videos and pics.
We hope y'all enjoy the warm Saturday before turning around to cover the plants and shrubs on Sunday night. For those who love consistency, we can look forward to our Austin summer where we know we will have hot and extra hot as our forecast for a smooth 3-4 months.
Next week will be the end of our third quarter at Westlake High School. The calendar is unique this year for we will end a quarter before spring break with an extra week between the quarter ending and the beginning of Spring Break 2019. We hope this will actually provide a little relief as the end of quarter usually brings an abrupt break, but the extra week may have a positive impact on our students and staff.
We hope you have a wonderful weekend.
Many of us may remember the poem “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost. A few of us may have even memorized all or part of this poem. This poem was one of the most widely read and discussed poems in classrooms for multiple decades in our country.
The Road Not Taken
BY ROBERT FROST
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
The poem has been widely interpreted as a life lesson about taking the less traveled path. Take the different path. Take an original path in your life and that may make all the difference. It spoke to a rebellious path. It resonated with teenagers of many generations for its allowance of individual freedom and choice. The poem has also been interpreted that no matter the path one takes you may miss out and regret taking either path. That there are always experiences missed when a choice or path is selected.
As we are in the midst of the 8th-9th transition, class selection for our returning students, and final university decisions, this is a continual conversation:
What is the path I should take (student) or help my kid choose (parent)? As we have conversations with our students and parents, we ask a lot of questions about the path or paths you have taken as a parent. We talk to our students about the path and paths we selected. Stories and personal narratives on choices seem to be the best way to help make these decisions. When one tells his or her own story, there are always major choices to be discussed as a family. When talking to our children, our experiences as a family can be very different but also impactful.
Over the three day weekend, it may be a fantastic time to talk to your kids about how you have arrived to this spot in your personal and professional life. Kids sometimes assume your life has been a clean, smooth route:
While we know we have all had so many choices and paths,
day after day,
year after year,
Kids also assume our paths are finished and done. This may be a good time to mention new paths you may see yourself heading down as you continue to grow.
Have a delightful weekend.
Steve Ramsey: WHS Principal Blog
Principal's Weekly Reflections