Going “out and about” into classrooms is the best time of the week. Having the opportunity to watch our teachers and students work together is amazing. Each week I see experiments, true discussions, writing, labs, and the traditional assessments of quizzes and tests. I also have the chance to watch unique projects and watch our kids present themselves at a professional level. Due to this process between our students and teachers, I know our WHS students have the ability to present themselves at the highest possible level - our kids are polished! As I have visited rooms, I have had the chance to do quizlets-live, and seen presentations on iPADs, Macbooks, presentation stations, and even podcasts. Throughout the year, I have seen many interesting lessons that included aspects from the following:
A Personality Test to Help with Collaborative Efforts
A Crazy Walrus Story about Cell Function in Biology
Building of a Camera
Using Organic Compounds for Children’s Names
A Defying Gravity Contest in Physics
And “basic rules” for Calculus.
As part of the 21st Century Consortium of Higher Performing Districts, I just returned from visiting one of our partner schools in Omaha, Nebraska. Part of our visit was to observe classes at Westside High School. As I walked the building, it confirmed my belief that the most important aspect of a quality high school is the teacher and student relationship. Westside and Westlake perform at very high levels even though we have very different daily bell schedules, state standards, and school funding sources. The important thing is what happens from bell to bell with our students and teachers. This is done quite well at Westlake and Westside. This relationship is critical, and I have a few data points that prove we are building strong, positive relationships. The first area is the number of students who spend their lunches with our teachers during their lunch. Our teachers are guaranteed a 30 minute duty free lunch, and I am impressed with how many of our teachers spend their lunch with our kids. This is a truly healthy sign at the high school level. The second area is a change in how we describe time spent in a tutoring setting. Our students now “spend time” with their teachers or “work with their teachers” as opposed to receiving tutoring.
So no more from this famous Economics teacher....
... or from Mr. Vernon!
Well, it has officially happened. As I visited classrooms last Friday and this week, it appears we are finally hitting the school groove in full stride. At some point in each school year, there is a new feeling on campus where calm arrives in the middle of the day to day. The calm describes our students and teachers who have made it together through a period of time where classes are finalized, the first tests and major assessments have taken place, and everyone is used to their new day to day schedule. This time happens a little different each year, and you may even feel this in your house as well as you have adjusted to the new routine for this school year. Each year can be very different but there is eventually a new normal established in our daily routines. Our students have solved their daily travel patterns on and off campus, have established studying techniques based on their courses and individual teachers, and settled into their extracurricular and off campus activities. Simply put, folks have found their routine. It almost reminds me of when Tony is walking through Brooklyn in Saturday Night Fever with a new attitude……….
We would like to remind you that we will have our first Early Release Day next Tuesday. We will begin classes at our usual time and end two hours earlier at 2:15 pm. This time will be spent on teacher professional development. Next Tuesday evening will be our first No Homework Night of the school year. Westlake High School was the first campus to have No Homework Nights in Eanes ISD during the spring of 2009 (if my memory serves me correctly). We began No Homework Nights as a way to alleviate student stress periodically at the high school level. After we were successful doing this for over a year and half, the district adopted these nights for the entire district to have as family nights.
We would like to take this chance to congratulate Coach Al Bennett for winning over 1,000 games in his career at Westlake High School. We would also like to thank all the volleyball players over the last 30 years for their efforts. Only three coaches in the state of Texas have won over 1,000 games. Coach Bennett has been a mentor for young coaches and teachers for many years at WHS. When we had the chance to honor Coach Bennett on this special evening, it was special for us since we have taught, coached, and collaborated on this campus for well over 500+ victories - lots of positive and not so positive experiences over this time period. One of our counselors, Caty Broderick, took this picture and felt this picture describes a career well spent and the value of a dear friendship forged through a school setting in a wonderful community.
We hope everyone has a delightful weekend!
A frequent question asked by new students and parents from out of state is “what is the deal with mums?” We usually answer that this is a Texas tradition without providing a historical answer. Homecoming mums began in Texas after the first homecoming event took place at the University of Missouri in 1911 - the official birth place of homecoming. Homecoming is a tradition designed to invite and welcome back alumni to a high school or university. The mum started as a chrysanthemum given to a girl by her homecoming date. As with most things, the mum has grown into more of an elaborate and larger piece of our culture in Texas. We are fortunate to have many PTO Volunteers who make mums for our students year round at WHS. The sale of these mums is a rather large fundraising event for the PTO which in turn benefits our students. Mums are still for sale and can be found at PTO Mums.
Homecoming at Westlake High School involves a week long of spirit days followed by a Homecoming Pep Rally in the stadium on Friday morning. All of our fall sports are recognized during this event. Our Homecoming Court is crowned at halftime of the football game Friday evening. We have our annual Homecoming Dance on Saturday night, which was very well attended last year. Certain alumni groups will also be receiving a tour of the building on Saturday. We invite all of our students and staff to dress up for our spirit days.
Homecoming is a tradition to celebrate the Westlake community and high school. We hope you will encourage your student to take part in our Homecoming events. In last year’s Reflections, I posted a picture from a simple Google search on 1980s homecoming dances. This picture caused a few folks to make some clever comments about the sweetness of my high school looks even though it was not me - it was a stock photo. So, I found a picture of me from the Kingwood Homecoming of 1989 to show how debonair I was back in the day.
I had to take this from a photo album that resides in one of my daughter’s closets. As I took the picture, Reese suddenly had a million questions about my former life. Reese was then joined by her sisters, Mary Elizabeth and Kate, in the direct questioning of homecoming, how could I be a king, did I win the crown, why is my jersey tucked in so tightly, did Nikki win queen and why is my hair so long? While Nikki and I did not win any crowns that evening, I did have the chance to have a nice moment with my three girls. If you are looking for an avenue to begin having a lighthearted and whimsical conversation about your past, break out a homecoming picture or two over the next week!
We would like to invite you to our Back to School evening next Monday from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm. Our building will be accessible beginning at 5:45 pm. Our rotations to our teachers’ rooms begin promptly at 6:30 pm. While we only can allot a small amount of time per class, we hope you will enjoy meeting your son or daughter’s teachers for a brief time period. Our teachers are looking forward to this evening as well because it’s a good opportunity to introduce themselves in person to our parent community. As a member of many principal groups in the state of Texas, I can honestly say we are one of the few high schools left which invite all parents to meet all their teachers in the course of one evening. While some say this may be antiquated in today’s modern era, we believe this is an important evening for our community. We are offering bus service from Forest Trail and Valley View from 6-9:30 pm as an option for parking.
With the campus being so large, we have a few groups who will meet in specific areas that evening during their class period:
Girls’ Track and Cross Country-CHAP Court
Girls’ Basketball-1st Period in the Competition in Gym and 8th period in Room 206
Girls’ Soccer-CHAP Room
Volleyball-1st Period in NGC Gym and 8th Period in the Competition Gym
Boys’ Basketball-Competition Gym
Boys’ Cross Country-Room 270
The following sports teams will not be meeting due to previous parent meetings: football, golf, softball, swimming and tennis.
As part of our commitment to providing the safest learning environment for our students and staff, we do have a working safety dog on our campus. We have a new dog, named Vido, who is working with us daily. Vido will be with one of our Travis County Sheriff’s Deputies, Brian Peals, who is one of our School Resource Officers (SRO). While Vido is adorable and very friendly, he is a working dog who can be approached at certain times that are determined by Deputy Peals. We welcome Vido to WHS!
While attending the football game on Saturday in College Station, we had plenty of former students visit with us during our game. It is always a positive experience to talk, reminisce, and laugh with former students. Most of these students are current or graduates of Texas A & M University. One of the major themes from these students was how prepared they were academically and emotionally for university life. They felt their Westlake experience gave them many advantages and an edge compared to their peers. It is affirming to hear students talk so highly of their teachers. Teachers, and their direct impact, are the key to their success in college. While you are visiting our campus Monday evening, we hope you enjoy meeting our outstanding staff which prepares our students so well for life after WHS!
Steve Ramsey: WHS Principal Blog
Principal's Weekly Reflections