As we delve into the second semester, I want to pause and take a moment to reflect on our exceptional teachers. Our teachers are at the heart of what we do, and they are masters at building connections with their students and unlocking their potential.
Research shows that things like motivation, attention, and creativity increase when children feel happy and comfortable. Our faculty work incredibly hard to understand their students as individuals—identifying their strengths, passions, and challenges—and then to use that knowledge to support learning in the classroom. From the beginning of the year, our faculty encourage students to think about who they are as learners and then use that information to identify the tools the students’ need to be successful.
Here are just a few examples I’ve seen recently of how our faculty build connections and create a welcoming and nurturing environment so our Dragons can thrive:
- Utilizing flags from different students’ backgrounds in a lesson on fractions;
- Creating lesson plans that reflect students’ hobbies;
- Incorporating an international student’s native language into Morning Meeting and into a Word Wall to increase classroom participation;
- Staying after school to help students with their work and their essays for the high school application process;
- Creating clubs to share common interests with students – crocheting, Irish dancing, anime, science fiction, and fantasy book club;
- Attending games and performances, both at WES and outside of WES, to remind our students that they are always willing to “show up”; and
- Continuing to provide an exciting learning experience for students in the classroom while simultaneously teaching those in quarantine.
Feeling safe and connected in a classroom is the first requirement for students to learn. In such a personal and supportive environment, our students take risks because they are not afraid to fail. They collaborate because of the positive relationships that are built, and they persevere because of the support they are given. I am truly grateful for each one of our talented teachers and everything they invest in our students.
Head of School
I walked into one of our Pre-Kindergarten classrooms this week only to be immediately surrounded by a bunny, a scientist, a polar bear, and a fox. Our Early Childhood teachers have been busy taking advantage of our wintry weather to immerse the students in units about the seasons, Arctic life, penguins, and hibernation cycles.
One of the fascinating attributes of Early Childhood education is the rich learning that occurs through play–even some of the simplest activities have a significant purpose and foster critical brain development.
In Pre-Kindergarten this week, the students explored the Arctic tundra. After learning about this ecosystem, the children brainstormed ways to create an Arctic tundra in their classroom for dramatic play. They dressed up as animals and scientists and went hunting to look for food (stuffies). A sensory table filled with ice and water provided opportunities for our Dragons to practice descriptive language, expand their vocabulary, and have conversations around scientific phenomena (ie, why does ice melt). During writing time, they utilized inventive spelling to write one fact about an arctic animal.
In Kindergarten, they are investigating the 17 different species of penguins, using resources from National Geographic Kids and Scholastic News. Morning Meeting is filled with waddles, bows, gargling noises, and head shakes as the children greet one another. Today they studied the various parts of the penguin and also put on a blubber “glove” as they explored how a penguin is able to stay warm in freezing waters. At home, the children are each researching one type of penguin. Then they will create a poster sharing information about their species and make a presentation in front of the class in a few weeks, practicing their public-speaking skills.
In the next few weeks, Nursery will discuss hibernation and go on a bear hunt. This beloved favorite brings our youngest Dragons all through the building as they explore different habitats that one might expect to find a bear. When they return to the classroom, they discover their bear is sleeping (because he is hibernating). However, he leaves a snack and a note for all of his friends.
I’m incredibly thankful for our creative educators who create such rich and meaningful learning opportunities for our Dragons.
Head of School
Next week begins one of the most exciting parts of the year for me–it’s when Middle School Director Kristin Cuddihy and I meet with the secondary school leadership teams to present our candidates for admission to their high schools. Over the course of the next two months, we will visit roughly 15-20 independent schools and have the opportunity to present the strengths of each student and the contributions they will make to their new school communities.
It’s one of my most joyful experiences as an educator because I love reflecting on our students’ accomplishments and growth. The Class of 2022 is exceptionally talented: it counts leaders, performers, writers, and athletes among its ranks. These Dragons are highly independent, but also extremely supportive of one another. They have led the SGA to new heights and broken records for their charitable fundraising efforts and canned food drives.
During these conversations with Admissions Directors and Heads of chool, we will discuss our students’ personalities, academic gifts, their role in the Grade 6 musical, and the instrument they love to play. I’ll share about their prowess on the field, the leadership they have displayed, their fantastic contributions to the robotics club, and what they learned during our recent trip to Utah.
At WES, we value relationships, which is truly reflected throughout this entire process. Kristin and I meet with every family individually during the summer prior to Grade 8 to discuss each child and their unique set of needs. Our recommendation letters highlight the relationships our students have built with their peers, teachers, and coaches. Our admissions team provides mock interviews and encouragement for the process. And it all culminates with these one-on-one opportunities to highlight our Dragons’ gifts with the school leadership teams.
Graduation every year is bittersweet. While I hate to say good-bye to our time with our passionate and accomplished students, I feel a tremendous sense of pride in sending them to their new communities. They are truly kind, confident, and prepared, and I await eagerly to hear tales from their new adventures.
Head of School