Hello WGHS Families, Public schools are an engine of possibility for children and progress for communities. I am proud to be working with the students and communities in the Webster Groves School District and to have a role in demonstrating our progress. I am sharing some from last week and beyond.
Hello WGHS Families, I like to provide some insight into decisions around WGHS and communication to our students and families. We have adopted the default stance of "how might maximize opportunities for teaching and learning with the given conditions?” In the last several years we either move forward on plans, adjust aspects, or cancel the event. Those decisions are impacted by timing of external events, trajectory of public health concerns, and flexibility of the programing. Most, if not all, are done in consultation with district leadership, other educators in the region, staff, and students.
Hello WGHS Families, Disruption has always been a part of the human experience, and we have seen much in the last few years. In schools alone, COVID, ChatGPT, and the churn of personnel across the economy has loomed large for us. While much is out of our direct control, we can engage in those circumstances to find a most workable solution forward. We are entering into an important phase in our year when we are charged to replace teachers that are retiring, moving, or otherwise not joining us for the next year. Adding Zoom to our process lets us remove some barriers to the initial phase of our process. We have the candidates teach mini-lessons in a class with our students in the content they are studying, as has been the practice for many years here at Webster. After the lesson, I debrief the students on what resonated and what they might need further clarity on to better understand the topic that was shared. The students have proven very insightful in their observations and questions as they have seen many formats of instruction in their time at WGHS. They are consistently great ambassadors and increase the desire for our candidates to work at Webster Groves High School. I am excited for where we are and where we are headed.
Hello WGHS Families, I am writing this as we are wrapping up our Class of 2027 parent program to preview the next four years, and I have a mixture of excitement and weight. In one realm, I am elated to share our current work and aspirations for students and families at Webster Groves High School that will join us as early as this summer. I am equally concerned about what our current Class of 2023 families would have envisioned for themselves. Four years ago, many may have harbored a specific vision of what the high school experience was going to be and for a very particular set of outcomes. And I would suggest, today, most of you would admit that the time here was very different from what you imagined as your student enters into their final semester. I hope that it has been a journey of triumph and constructive learning, possibly with the modest sting of disappointment in the latter. Reorienting after disappointment can lead to profound introspection and provide clarity around what is most important. I also anticipate that our teachers, coaches, and sponsors played a role in support of the successes and the trials along the way that will be elemental lesson for what lies ahead. I am grateful for this school and the people who come here every day to learn, teach, and share.
Hello WGHS Families, We have passed a milestone in the year--second semester has begun. Whether you have a freshman with greater confidence as they enter a more familiar space or a senior that is running on fumes (or all points in between), we hope they enter each day with hope and belief: Hope and belief that they are gaining clarity in who they are and are becoming, hope and belief that they will be people of impact in the world around them, and hope and belief that Webster Groves High school is a place that moves them forward. My time around our students certainly instills more hope and belief in me that their work as scholars, artisans, and citizens will be for the betterment of our collective future. We are excited for what lies ahead in the second semester.
Hello WGHS Families, We had another great week last week, seeing students and staff preparing for finals in the classroom, as well as winter concerts and sports. I had the pleasure to attend the winter choir concert (an experience unlike other choir shows--find a way to get to one) and the A Capella show last Friday. One artist that had a song that really showcased her voice was sophomore Valletta Thurmon, singing an a capella version of Ellie King's "Ex's and Oh's."
Hello WGHS Families, We have plenty of information below on finals, but I wanted to share another aspect. As parents of children taking finals, we can provide some counsel to coach them along in the process that they should own. I am sharing some items as both a parent and an educator that gives effort in both, not always to the result I sought:
Hello WGHS Families, We've had a big week with End Of Course testing and adjusted schedules to accommodate the blocks of time needed to administer the End-of-Course exams in the approved windows as required by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. We want our students to do their best on assessments, but we recognize results provide some information but not a complete picture on students' learning and progress. I know I appreciate the instruction around critical content, skills, and dispositions not reflected in those assessments.
Hello WGHS Families, We are ramping up instead of ramping down for our upcoming holiday. Last week we saw a outstanding musical put on by our students and staff. In addition, our boys' soccer is playing Friday and again Saturday after making the final four. Our students will be enjoying the traditional Turkey Day activities next week. We are getting even closer with ticket sales, door decorations, and game prep underway. I am excited to see the renewed process and pageantry for one of the truly unique defining experiences for our school and community. While the pep rally, ChiliFest, and game are eagerly anticipated, I may be the best prepared for Tacky Day (plenty of red and white attire to be found). We invite all to join us on Wednesday night for ChiliFest, followed by our community pep rally at Roberts Gym at 7pm, and then again for the game at Moss Field at noon. Have a great Thanksgiving.
Hello WGHS Families, At our Community Open House this weekend, we'll share information on how students can be more involved and connected at Webster Groves High School. Students who are involved beyond the school day on average have better school experiences and outcomes, such as higher attendance and academic performance. I have recently connected with a book called Deeper Learning, written by researchers Jal Mehta and Sarah Fine, in which they conducted observations and interviews of students and staff over six years from purportedly successful innovative high schools that were suggested as “leaders” in preparing students for the demands of twenty-first century life.
Hello WGHS Families, This weekend marks another round of Daylight Savings, and November is a busy time at WGHS. We are excited to open our doors on Sunday, November 13 to the WG community at our Community Open House from 1-3 p.m. Our Community Open House features the chance for our community to learn about our outstanding educational programs at WGHS. Visitors will be able to get a glimpse of the WGHS student experience, learn about our innovative program offerings, and even take guided walking tours of the building.
Hello WGHS Families, As we look ahead to our annual Friendship Dance, I pause to think of my own daughter's experience. As a parent of a high school student, I want most for her to have a memorable and safe night with her friends on a night when some might see the opportunity to engage in substance use. As a school community, we are making efforts to help educate our students in health classes, coordinating visits from Preferred Family Healthcare, and educating students in other settings about the concerns of underage drinking and related activities.
Hello WGHS Families, I have had the recent honor of participating in some senior recognitions moments in our athletic and activities programs--always a bittersweet event. While it is endearing to hear what the particular program has meant to students and families, it is a reminder of the finite time we have with all of our seniors and our hopes for them. Our family experienced that rite of passage two years ago: deep sincere care for our son by his coaches and an acknowledgement of an impact that can be long lasting.
Hello WGHS Families, I am so grateful to be an educator with the access to the work our staff does with children. As will undoubtedly be the topic of conversation next week at conferences, students don’t always find qualified success in the first attempt. Learning, especially something complex, requires repeated exposure and corrective feedback. I saw a great example of this yesterday.
We are excited by the collaborative work from our staff on behalf of students that is materializing this fall. Much of the work is generated in our Late-Start mornings--thanks to all for accommodating that time for our staff to think deeply about the learning experiences and supports for classes.
A recent broadcast from the Harvard Graduate School of Education noted the need to take a holistic approach to student wellness by schools. Dean Bridget Long said, “Healthy kids translates into the opportunity for high-quality learning. And the opposite is most certainly true. . .simply put, it’s hard to concentrate and to learn when your health is suffering.” That residue of stress and duress from the most recent conditions have driven some difficulties we have experienced previously.
Hello WGHS Families, zoom_out_map We are several weeks into the new school year, and this is a time when challenges begin to present themselves to our children. Initial competitions and tests have taken place, and with it an internal sorting begins as we weigh experiences with outcomes. The relentlessness nature of parenting today immerses us in the trappings of high school credential acquisition and the college search process in a manner that can feel overwhelming. It can feel vast when we as parents feel the need to support our teen to fully access all the resources that are available. In these pursuits, we too often chase short-term wins that unfortunately undercut our child’s emotional development and ability to navigate the world around them.
As we enter into September, calendars are getting more crowded with national testing dates, a litany of high school activities, and numerable community options. Please take time for yourself and your child to slow down, to linger, to connect with each other. Parents of high school students often scurry from one event to another and have not prioritized the time we have remaining to see and listen to each other. My wife and I have aging parents that warrant, not yet demand, our limited time. Our oldest is in college with our youngest in high school--the time has gotten away from us in our home, it feels. When looking back, our remorse centers around times we oriented our lives around something that in retrospect seems trivial now. I hope you take the time to count the cost of each item you and your child say yes to in your day. Engage in those you select, and do not look back on those you declined.
Thanks to all of our Webster Groves families for their support for an outstanding first week of school. We have seen so many strong indicators for the upcoming year--many students involved in after-school activities, earnest classroom settings, and students prepared to learn. Tonight we have the Activities Fair and Selma Street Dance, where our students and faculty will celebrate our first week with energy and excitement.
Hello WGHS Families, Many years of research has estimated that after the “summer slide,” the average student loses a little more than one month’s worth of skill or knowledge in math and reading by the time school resumes in the fall. And there has been evidence of further decline after the virtual periods/instructional disruption we have endured. Below are some low-tech options that I will be nagging my children about the coming months:
In making final cuts of my graduation speech, I cut this excerpt from the school year book from 1920: "Another vacation and we are back at school, but not for long. Twice our school work has been interrupted by the influenza epidemic but nevertheless, we study hard and pass our tests. 'A cork cannot be kept under long.'"
There considerable information available to advocate for wellness and the impact physical activity can have on it. Long-term benefits of mitigating lifestyle conditions such as obesity, heart disease and dementia have been well chronicled. I would like to address the more temporal concerns of mental health, cognitive function, and positive impact on learning issues such as ADD. The connection between mind and body is crucial to personal growth and development as consistent exercise can help you be better and allow you to do your best work.
Anthony Kennedy served as an Associate Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court after Reagan nominated him from 1988 until stepping down in 2018. After retiring, he spoke of a “crisis of civility” facing our nation, a lack of devotion to responsibility and rationality. Historically when the nation has been in a real or perceived predicament, education has served to salvage our republic. Part of the effort relates to the developing character in individuals and the collective community we share. However, character cannot be downloaded; it resists swift attainment in spite of the desire by caring adults and schools. Character is "engraved," "deeply etched,” according to Kierkegaard and the product of years of imprinting through experiences, both good and bad.
Above is a piece from last week's AP art display, one of many that students produced that caused me to pause and ask questions of the artist. In this case, she had created a series that marked the progression through a grieving process that concluded with this piece.
Michael's tasks at the NGA will be focused around computer science and cyber security.
Persons interested can file at the district office at 400 E. Lockwood Ave., Webster Groves.
Both students are passionate about creating change and bettering the community.
Elementary music teachers perform