Thanksgiving Break is one of the major markers of the calendar year in all of our lives. It signals the arrival of fall in Texas, the near completion of a semester of school, and the beginning of a long winter break. One of the greatest aspects of this break is the almost forced reflection this day may cause in everyone’s life. The title alone says that this is a day to be thankful - and this is a very personal reflection. As we age, our notions of being thankful have also changed. This quote I chose to share is from one of my favorites of all time. Thoreau immediately takes me back to my senior AP English class. What I was thankful for back in Kingwood, Texas as a seventeen year old is definitely different than as a father of three, husband to a wonderful wife, and educator in the best district in the state. Thanksgiving is one of the rare days that you are allowed, and nearly expected, to talk to your children about the important things in life. Take the time to have this conversation during the break. Whether this occurs during the Turkey Trot, watching the first holiday movie of the year, driving to do some shopping, or just hanging on the couch, take the time to discuss the ideas of happiness with appreciation – which is my simple explanation of being thankful.
We wanted to keep you up to date on student professional development. A few weeks ago we offered an iPad Base Camp for Sophomores (similar to the one we offered for Freshman). All Sophomores experienced hands-on stations (during their SS class) that supported them with reaching optimal instructional and organizational usage of their device with applications like Notability and tools like "Speak Selection" and "Text to Speech" which are embedded within the software of the device.
Additionally, based on student feedback, we will be offering a series of Lunch and Learns for students at the Juice Bar in the library:
There are times in life when we need to be reminded that life can be full of joy. As I attend lots of events on and off campus for our students, I have the honor of watching parents witness the joy of their child finding true joy in their activities. During this last week, there were several major events when I saw pure joy. After watching our fall play performance of “Once in A Lifetime”, I was able to visit with parents at the conclusion. The excitement and pride shown by the parents of actors, make-up artists, stage hands, and lighting folks was truly tangible. While congratulating our senior football players and parents before our last home game, the smiles, hugs, handshakes, and tears were the culmination of a joint venture between child, parents and coaches. As I watched our band perform at the State Marching Contest, our parents had brilliance in their eyes. At the conclusion of our last volleyball playoff game, there was a connection between parents and players that contained hundreds of emotions in a simple 3 to 5 second glance. As I visited with our PTO Executive Council on Monday afternoon, all of the parents had similar stories of emotions of joy during this first part of the school year, whether they were talking about choir, orchestra, cross country, TEC Crew, Robotics, etc. This district is special for the lifetime of memories we can create together in shared experiences.
One of these shared experiences is Live Oak. My twin daughters attended Live Oak this week, and we are still discussing the events of the week. There is joy in these stories. I am including a couple of shots from this experience to remind us this week that our kids can bring us instant joy through their simple joy. The Westlake difference can be summed up by Reese’s statement on catching this fish, which is one of many she has caught during her lifetime: “Yeah Dad, I know we have caught fish before but this fish is from Live Oak. My friends saw me catch this one. My teachers saw me catch this one.” Never underestimate the strength of this district and the “joys” that may come along at any moment. Our community of students, teachers and parents is special.
We continue to send you thoughts about resiliency this week as well. It's always a great day to be a Chaparral!
Parents and Teachers of the Middles and Chaps:
As parents, we all struggle with the digital age and the impact technology can have on our children. Children learn self-management skills and resiliency by having the opportunity to think for themselves. Julie Lythcott-Haims notes in her book, How to Raise an Adult, parents who over-monitor their child’s grades electronically may possibly miss out on opportunities to teach children how to think for themselves, and/or take responsibility for their actions (Lythcott-Haims, 2015). Media Rules: Healthy Connections in the Digital Age is a parent education event that was held at Stanford University. A full recording of the event is available on YouTube. This article offers parents “specific advice on how to navigate the media revolution”.
As part of our District’s goal for Social and Emotional Learning, we will be sharing with you some common messages as secondary campuses and elementary campuses. These messages are based on the following schematic and visual representation:
The five rings represent the five competencies of Social and Emotional learning for our district. The first skill is resiliency. Resiliency can be defined as “Learning to cope with manageable threats (like failing a test or forgetting one’s lines in a play) to our physical and social well-being and is critical for the development of resilience” (www.challengesuccess.org). Resiliency falls under the heading of self-management and is an area that we hope our students have the necessary skills in so they can cope and manage with college and university life, or any endeavor, as they leave Westlake High School. As we all know, life can be demanding and full of challenges. The idea of the Weekly Reflections is to get you to reflect. Here a few more quotes to get you thinking about how you, as a parent, help your young adult deal with opportunities for growth through resiliency.
As part of the National Consortium of High Performing Districts, I attended a conference in Highland Park last week. The Consortium of schools are eight districts/high schools that are from Highland Park-Texas, Palo Alto-California, Manhattan Beach-California, Chicago-Illinois, Edina-Minnesota, and Omaha-Nebraska. The idea of resiliency and how to teach this skill is part of our conversation as we (principals, assistant superintendents, and superintendents) continue to hear from universities stating that some students arrive on their campuses without this skill. We have heard from admission folks at Cal Berkeley, University of Chicago, Northwestern, Harvard and many other schools that a certain percentage of students may lack this specific skill which cannot be measured by a standardized test or proven on a transcript. This information always challenges us to reflect as a campus to make sure that we are preparing students for the next stage of their life. As a parent, it also allows me the chance to gauge where my daughters are in their development as well.
As I watch and interact with our students, there is a high level of resiliency in our students as they deal with family situations, academics, normal teenage life, and in extracurricular events. We have some very talented teachers, directors, coaches, counselors, and administrators who teach this skill at the highest levels. If we can help your child with any issue, please allow our experts to help you and your child to develop one of the most meaningful skills that we can all agree is crucial to success.
It's always a great day to be a Chaparral!
Steve Ramsey: WHS Principal Blog
Principal's Weekly Reflections