Hello WGHS Families, We are ramping up instead of ramping down for our upcoming holiday. This week, we'll undoubtedly see an outstanding production of Rumors by Neil Simon put on by our students and staff. Our students will be enjoying the traditional Turkey Day activities next week. This is an unequaled tradition that we are fortunate to have at Webster Groves High School. 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 KHS at noon on Thanksgiving. Have a great holiday.
Hello WGHS Families, 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. Sadly, they noted most students experienced lack of engagement, and “bored, disengaged compliance” during their day. However, in these recommended model schools, pockets of vibrant learning settings and a “hidden curriculum” in extra-curricular and electives that allowed students to do deep learning and rise above the norm with intellectually dynamic experiences. Mehta and Fine observed “…we stumbled into spaces that initially lay outside of our study—art classes, debate club meetings, newspaper, Model UN, athletic practices—these same students looked and sounded totally different. In these spaces, they were actively engaged and eagerly assuming roles as leaders.” Yesterday we celebrated multiple student-athletes who signed their letter of intent and will open Neil Simon’s Rumors on stage later this month. We know we are only sharing a chapter in their growth and development as scholars and performers in their realm. My belief is that these students have had exposure to an alchemy that will serve them well--we are as optimistic as we are proud.
Hello WGHS Families, This weekend marks another round of Daylight Savings, and November is a busy time at WGHS. Recently, members of our administrative team clandestinely conspired to dress as “versions of Matt” for Halloween. While I am not entirely sure it was intended as a compliment, I have labelled it in that manner. One person had contacted my wife and wore my high school letter jacket as ‘High School Matt.” That image made me consider our students that are now seniors and the version of themselves that they currently occupy.
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 recognition 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 several years ago: deep sincere care for our son by his coaches, an acknowledgement of the experience's impact, and a bond between teammates and staff that can be long lasting. I feel the urgency of our work with the limited window we share with your student in the classroom, on the field, or the stage. We hope they are experiencing impactful learning and mentoring this year that will put them on a trajectory to have lives of service and purpose. At times those lessons come in the form of correction or accolade, but ultimately, we work toward the shared goal of a more complete person as we part at graduation.
Hello WGHS Families, 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. The intervening years since Justice Kennedy's comment have not seen improvement. 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 role formal schooling has on developing character in individuals and the collective. However, character cannot be downloaded; it resists swift attainment in spite of the desire by parents and schools. Character is "engraved" and "deeply etched” according to Kierkegaard and the product of years of imprinting.
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. The best settings have balance of purpose and care that move our work closer to understanding a concept, a skill, or perhaps another person.
Hello WGHS Families, 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.
Hello WGHS Families, 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, This note is a repeat for our parents of grade 10-12 students, but the message is important for the time of year. 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.
Hello WGHS Families, 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.
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: Read a book. My mother is a retired reading teacher so this is a familiar directive, but we are now competing with ubiquitous devices for attention and time. This is a struggle in my home that I fear I am losing but no white flag yet from me. Play games. This is my new tack with a college-aged "child" in the house. I grew up playing spades in our extended family and we will still get a tournament going when we are all together so I will advocate for family time with the four us over a card game. Summer can be the perfect time for high school-aged children to engage in passions they are developing in music, art, or other activities that allow them to explore. Athletic camps or teams seem to gearing up for a more traditional summer of workouts, practices, or games. If interested in joining a Webster Groves High School team, please contact Jerry Collins at email@example.com. Summer is also a good time to sit down and discuss financial aid and other expenses. The Office of Federal Student Aid has prepared checklists geared toward students of all ages. Many high school students might also want to take the time to start developing their skills of collaboration and communication. Finding a part-time job can help students gain valuable experience-being directed by an adult that is not their parent can promote growth in teens. Volunteering is also an option. Youth-oriented summer camps, local museums, animal shelters and, of course, libraries are often looking for extra help during warmer months. This experience is not only valuable
Hello WGHS Families, As we set to close out our school year with graduation Saturday night and finals in the next week, I am called to reflect on the year. We had our last baseball game and last vocal concert just last evening, with more finality ahead. For our seniors, a more sweeping gaze is necessary and connects to the poem, "September, the First Day of School," by Howard Nemerov. The piece begins with a parent dropping off a child at elementary school and takes the reader through the parent’s experiences as a student and their hopes for their own child--very powerful and not fully known. The last stanza speaks to the adults in the school who care for the child:
Hello WGHS Families, 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.
Hello WGHS Families, 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.
Hello WGHS Families, Last night I spoke at the NHS induction ceremony for many of our junior students that applied and met the qualifications. In my comments, I noted the manner in which the class of 2024 started at WGHS, virtual and methodically more in-person as the year concluded. The unknown and unsettling nature of their first year was mitigated by their ability to embrace the illumination that education affords along with the art, athletics, and activities that enrich the academic experiences. They found refuge in the connections and community with classmates and our staff that provided the needed balance of challenge and support.
Hello WGHS Families, A candidate for a teaching position asked our committee to identify a unique attribute of Webster Groves High School. My response is that our size allows many academic, athletic, or club options for students to pursue, yet small enough for a student to find a role in one or more of those settings. A student may be a musician and part of an athletic team or be in a dramatic production coupled with membership in STUCO. I am resharing one of my favorite examples of this below, embodied by a graduate that was a scholar, an athlete, and an active member of several school organizations:
Hello WGHS Families, With a hint of disbelief, we find ourselves in a rite of spring: a hurried sprint to the finish line for the 2022-23 school year. Last Friday we acknowledged 185 students for service in the community during the Statesmen Service Awards ceremony. This week we enjoyed celebrating our senior athletes signing with their prospective colleges, and tomorrow we'll recognize over 110 students in the Top Hat Awards. Looking ahead, our graduation ceremony to honor the Class of 2023 is planned for May 20 at Chaifetz Arena--a 4-year year journey for our seniors at WGHS. It's gratifying to see some opportunities that allow us to come together, once again, and celebrate our students. As we look ahead, below are some of upcoming events:
Hello WGHS Families, FUTUREPROOF: 9 Rules for Humans in the Age of Automation by Kevin Roose is a book that has a fairly optimistic view of the clash between rising technology and humanity--think "Terminator 2." It offers some pointed suggestions to combat the wave of technology, much of it rooted in skills schools can greatly impact. In addition to the suggestions around discrete skills, he suggests habits of mind and dispositions, buoyed by the call of “maintaining humane values (empathy) in an age of new machines.” Below is a list from Kathryn Hume's blog on Education in the Age of AI that mirrors some of the Roose’s suggestions and details some skills that will be in demand for future workforce:
Hello WGHS Families, I hope all of our students, staff, and WG families had a restful break last week. The break saw many accomplishments by our students in athletics, activities, and the arts. Our WGHS community continues alongside students as trusted guides and mentors during the challenging journey of adolescence. Helping students do their best in school requires a team effort. Parents, families, students, staff, and schools all play important roles in this process. To help all of us learn how to make your child’s school experience as positive and beneficial as possible, please give us your honest, thoughtful responses to the questions below. Your responses will be completely anonymous. If a question does not apply to you or you do not want to respond, then you may skip to the next question. If you have multiple children in our school, please complete one survey for each child.
Hello WGHS Families, This week we observed our induction for the National Technical Honor Society, acknowledged our many All-State nominees from our music program, and our water polo team had their first match in many years. We'll also conduct our spring activities pep rally later this afternoon. The Annual Performance Report (APR) for Missouri schools was released this week and Webster Groves School District earned 92.3%. The scoring places WGSD among the top four districts in the area and the top 5% out of 553 school districts in the state. The APR measures areas of academic achievement growth for students in math and English language arts, as well as graduation rates, and culture and climate. We wrap up another seemingly surreal three quarters of the school year today. It is hard to conceive that our seniors are in their last quarter of schooling in Webster Groves. All classes seem to have a character and this group largely is community-focused, connected to each other, and having a great final year overall. Across the building, I am grateful for our students' engagement and growth thus far into our 2022-2023 school year. Please have a safe and happy spring break.
Hello WGHS Families, Thanks to all who had the chance to attend parent conferences this week. Our goal is to proactively make connections with our parent community, learn more about your student, and connect on how we might support each learner. I had many conversations with teachers and parents about our format, and I hope to continue improving the process as we navigate these intentional conversations. Thanks to the Parents' Club for providing a delicious lunch for our staff on Wednesday. We are so grateful for all the support our parents have given to our school and staff this year.
Hello WGHS Families, We are enjoying our two days of All Write here at the high school. It is akin to being in Florence during the Renaissance: musicians, visual art, writers, and spoken word are all around our building. The school bell noting the end of an hour reluctantly moves us from a place we want to linger in an idea, a production, or an artist sharing their journey. So many of our artists shared additional time and influence with our students. Professionals in all artistic formats share the stage with our many talented students to make us ponder the world around us more deeply and perhaps in a new way. We are grateful for our Chelsea Center team, faculty (particularly Todd Schafer), and students that bring us this celebration--it is truly a team effort. Please see the information below on our upcoming parent conferences. I hope you have a chance to connect with your child's teachers if warranted.
Hello WGHS Families, Each year, schools fret the public “ranking” that appears in media outlets that lays out a perception of a school hierarchy in our state and region. This often acts to facilitate a more robust conversation on the quality of schooling but acts to limit and further impoverish the dialogue. Most quantification of high schools is based around standardized tests that are administered in one day as well as other easily measured but arguably less important metrics. These customary measurements of students and schools often travel with parents’ educational and income levels and distort the work being done in schools. The lament of one’s zip code being destiny is too often played out in our educational system with glaring disparities in resources and opportunity, further compounded by limited information.
Students at Hixson Middle School have stepped up and started making meaningful changes
The Community Safety Pledge seeks to strengthen these building blocks by promoting eight best practices.
Camp Wyman Open House is Sunday, October 8
The new protocols standardizes language across all district buildings