As we move into the month of October, our students and community will be offered a wide array of events that are simply fantastic. We start the month with two weekends of Austin City Limits Music Festival which really impacts our community whether you are a music fan or not. Traffic wise, we’ll see lots of visitors from out of town, which can give those of us who call Austin home a feeling that we are in an unfamiliar place. Next Friday, we will have an early release day followed by the Lake Travis football game. Saturday, WHS will host the Marching Band Festival and the following Monday, 10/10 is a student holiday. Oh, yeah, it is also Texas-OU weekend. Tuesday, 10/11 is "No Homework Night". Mid October will see the end of our first grading period, Homecoming and the Formula One weekend. That is a whole bunch of activities outside of the normal school schedule/routine that we all keep as families.
As adults, we all know how to plan and prioritize. But even with all of our preplanning, we can get overwhelmed with trying to be a part of all that Austin has to offer. This month is a fantastic time to talk to your students about prioritizing and planning ahead. This might be the month to sit down, get out the calendar, and discuss all the options in front of them. The end of our first grading period is October 14th so this may need to be a part of the conversation. The important thought is to make this an engaged conversation as opposed to creating a calendar for them. As folks mature, they want to be able to show maturity by making good decisions and to be acknowledged for those decisions. This is true as people grow in high school, in their professional lives, and as they continue to develop throughout their lives personally. This month can be a nice stimulus for growth and praise. And if you have to rein them in a bit, do that as well!
It's always a great day to be a Chaparral!
The following was written late Wednesday afternoon before I left to go coach my girls’ soccer teams. I struggled with what to write today after sending out my previous letter. I feel this was still relevant as I watched and visited with students today. Our staff was ready for students because their relationships with the students had already been built. We hope you enjoy this simple reflection.
This is the week of settling in…… Since we have all moved homes at one time or another there is always a period where you finally feel at home. There is a point where you have truly unpacked, washed clothes more than once, figured out the water pressure and temperature issues in the shower, and finally have your favorite recliner or couch placed perfectly. You figure out the best edging and mowing pattern, the dog finally stops pacing and accepts the new yard, and the burners all work on the stove exactly to your specifications. There comes calmness when you get things how you want them and get into your new routine. That time has arrived at WHS.
As I was helping with our freshmen during Base Camp this week, there was a new freshness and stillness with this group. This comes with the confidence of understanding the high school routine and how to carry themselves on a new campus with the doubling of the size of their grade. Even though there has been growth, it was hilarious to see them lose their iPAD as they went from group to group, all within 10 feet of the next table. The pace in the hallways has settled as well. All of our students have become accustomed to the warning bell and their daily walk to and from classes. They know when to stroll and when to zip. They know when to visit with friends and when to cruise on to class. The seniors now have established their lunch routine which is a huge deal! Our body language has changed as noticed in our walking pace, shoulders more upright, more eye contact in and out of classes, and more, genuine smiles. The best part of settling in is watching our students and teachers interact. The conversations, the inside jokes/stories, and relationships being built are fabulous to witness. One of my favorite things to do is ask kids and teachers separately about each other. The amazingly kind and sincere answers I get back make this campus unique and special.
Feedback, feedback, feedback-leads to fabulous conversations and discussions. Feedback is crucial in the educational practice and in any organization. If something is going on with your child or concerns you as a parent, please contact us at any time. Please feel free to stop by our administrative and counseling offices or to schedule a meeting. We believe this is the best way to support you as parents. I will am also available for the hour before our monthly PTO meetings. I will be in the CHAP Room from 11 am – noon on September 23rd. Stop on by, and we can discuss any school related items you wish. It is an open invitation and open ended forum.
One of the goals of our weekly newsletter is to highlight teachers doing what they love to do-teach! We have decided to call this our Teacher Feature. Our first feature is below. We also want to communicate how we are supporting your students in all areas-academics, social, emotionally, and in their 21st century skills. Please also read about our Base Camp for our students in the world of technology. These features will be presented by our instructional partners Valerie Taylor and Dillon Finan. Our educational technologists Lisa Johnson and Kacy Mitchell will be showcasing our campus as well.
The 2nd Annual iPad Base Camp for Freshman will be held Tuesday September 20th. All Freshman will experience hands-on stations (during their Science class) that will support them with reaching optimal instructional and organizational usage of their device and applications like Notability and Google Calendar.
We would like to remind you about a change next week. We will have our first Early Release Day of the school year next Tuesday, September 13th. Our students will begin class at 8:45 am and be released for the day at 2:10 pm. Our buses will run as normally scheduled in the morning and depart around 2:15-2:20 pm in the afternoon. This time is dedicated to professional learning for our staff. With any changes to our bell schedule, there comes an adjustment period. Please feel free to share any feedback you have after this first Early Release Day. We will have our first No Homework Night of the year on that same Tuesday evening.
These two events take place the day after our annual Back to School Night. Back to School Night is Monday, September 12th, beginning at 6:30 pm. We look forward to visiting and meeting with you on our campus. Our teachers are ready to tell their story to you about the year your child will have them. You should have received an email on Wednesday detailing the evening and a printable copy of a blank student schedule.
Last Friday, I had the opportunity to visit all of our senior English classes. When I was an administrator at WHS previously, I would venture into senior English classes sporadically throughout the year. This usually coincided with major events, and it was a time for some solid reminders. My visits Friday were as memorable and fun as ever. My reminders were simple: let’s make good, quality decisions so as not to limit all of our futures. Let’s be mindful of the influence of peers and to always do the right things which are many times the smallest of things. We talked about our ability to tell our story-not to allow one event to define who we truly are. We even talked about our future class reunions-you might want to follow up on this one. We even discussed the unique environment that exists at Pride of the Hills High. There was not a message delivered that you have not delivered as a parent. That is why I call them “reminders”. As a parent, I have seen the impact a teacher, coach, director, counselor or administrator can have by simply relaying our community’s expectations. We talked about this wonderful start of the Class of 2017. This is a tremendous group of kids as can be seen by the exceptional leadership they have displayed for our other students. It has been one of the best starts, if not the best start, I have seen since 2002! This is truly a special class of seniors. While visiting 28 classes over 8 periods in one day can be a whirlwind, the ability to connect directly is one of the joys of being able to work with our students.
One of the intriguing take-a-ways on Friday may help guide us in how seniors still may want to be treated. I was talking about using folks on campus as resources for large issues (college applications, admission, college choice, managing relationships, etc.) as well as giving us feedback for smaller concerns. One small concern that was resolved was the purchasing of additional microwaves for our students to be used for breakfast and lunches. This was a nice surprise for our students. Some of our students were discussing how everything seems to be a “big” issue in their homes since they “will be on their own” soon. This group mentioned how everything now turned into an adult conversation for any of the smallest issues. The response from our students was that our kids, even seniors, sometimes just need a “cheeseburger and large milkshake” to help them navigate this period of time. So maybe next time a quick trip to their favorite burger place might be in order when we feel obliged to impart wisdom that needs to last a lifetime.
It's always a great day to be a Chaparral!
One of the small but always eventful activities I conduct in the morning is a walk of the building. This is a fabulous time to get a true pulse of the building from our students and staff. One of the strengths of this age is their maturation mixed with an innocence that can be refreshing. As I took my walk on Wednesday, I visited and listened to many conversations that will give you a short look into our students. One group of students was discussing and studying for their first chemistry test. The kids were anxious, nervous, while also excited to demonstrate what they had learned so far. Their teachers had done a quality job, and they were prepared. I then walked up to a group of high performing juniors who were in a heated debate-and I mean a spirited discussion. Is chicken really a breakfast food? Are beef tacos a true breakfast item? What has happened to breakfast-the days of cereal and toast? As I was returning to the commons, a student approached me about a new service project for our campus. He wants to honor the work our custodians do by allowing students and or student groups to help our custodians in the café and in their stocking of common areas like our restrooms. Our kids are the best, and they are the reason that our staff shows up every day ready to work with them and for them.
At our New Parent Meeting in August, I had a few parents approach me about when is the best time to talk to their teenagers about school and the beginning of the year. With the upcoming three day weekend, I believe this may be a fine opportunity to sit down and discuss the first two weeks of their year. The extra day of not being in the school routine allows our kids to be more reflective. Your children will also have two weeks of experience to draw from as well. With our annual Back to School Night quickly approaching, this is a nice conversation starter.
Please mark your calendars for Back to School Night on September 12th. While many high schools have an event like this, we are one of very few that allow for an evening of walking each schedule with personal teacher time. I would also proudly proclaim that our attendance by our parents is at the highest levels in the state. This is a night that our staff can feel the importance of education and the value and appreciation you place in their hands daily. We will be sending out detailed information on the 6th.
Our educational technologists wanted to communicate some beginning of the year information:
The new school year of 2016-2017 has commenced with a new crop of devices that offer a marked instructional improvement over our last generation of iPads and include a full keyboard as well as features like side by side and speech to text. To ensure that these devices are used to their fullest capacity to empower and engage students in their curricular content, we felt that it would be beneficial to provide a checklist of tasks that will be helpful to support students as they use these devices educationally throughout the school year:
Check with Your Student Checklist (5 Things). If any of these things are a "no", please visit the WHS Bulb site for step by step directions to support your learner.
iPad Professional Development for Students and Parents: In the next few weeks, we will be offering AIST (Advanced Individual Skill Training) to support seamless functional use of these skills (dates to come). Additionally, an iPad Base Camp will be offered during school for students to support them using their device to its fullest instructional potential. If you are interested in attending or volunteering to help with any of these learning opportunities, please complete the form here.
Have a wonderful and safe Labor Day weekend!
Always a great day to be a Chaparral!
Steve Ramsey: WHS Principal Blog
Principal's Weekly Reflections