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Back to School Post-Pandemic: Tips to Prepare Your Child

As we look toward fall and what we all hope will be a “more normal” start of school, there is a sense of excitement as well as a sense of concern. Many children have been home for a full year or more and on top of the normal start-of-school jitters and butterflies, they have the added weight of post-pandemic re-entry fears. We asked our psychology team here at Westtown to share some advice to help children of all ages prepare for school this fall. 



As the Dean of Access and Equity and administrator of the Full Access Program, I have the awesome privilege of providing resources or financial assistance to under-resourced students in all divisions of our school —regardless of race or ethnicity— to enable them to fully participate in school programs. When I think about equity and equality, my primary goal in leading the Full Access Program is to ensure that everyone in the program gets what they specifically need to be successful. In doing so, that doesn’t mean that every student in the program will be provided with exactly the same resources or level of financial assistance. Part of my joy in supporting the over 90 Full Access students in the program this school year comes from knowing that by addressing individual rather than group needs, I am connecting with students where they are, and directing funding to where it can do the greatest good.   


Get Prepped for Finals!

For some students, simply hearing the words “finals” and “week” used in the same sentence is enough to conjure up thoughts of stress, anxiety, and caffeine fueled all-nighters sponsored by Monster Energy drinks. However, in a year that’s been as tumultuous and fraught with never-ending cascades of challenges as 2020-21 has, making it through finals week unscathed can feel like an especially daunting task. With the right set of strategies, students will not only face their finals with confidence but also will create a foundation of effective work and study habits that will benefit them in college and beyond. 

Regardless of whether it is a freshman preparing to take their first high school final, or a senior who is getting ready for their last one, creating a study schedule should be the number one priority when it comes to preparing for exams. Building an effective study schedule helps to identify knowledge gaps, reduce procrastination, and limit the stress and anxiety that comes with trying to cram everything in at the last minute. Because each student has their own learning style, the best way to build an effective study schedule is to create one that fits one’s individual needs. Check out the following tips for creating a customized A+ Study Schedule from Westtown’s Learning Center:

  • Prioritize the weakest subjects first.
  • Have a clear understanding of what will and will not be covered on the exams.
  • Choose a visual format to organize tasks, deadlines, and materials needed.
  • Make the schedule, then stick to it.


Motherhood Reimagined.

I am what you call a Single Mother by Choice. I chose to intentionally have a baby without a partner using an anonymous donor. I had always been career-driven and at 29 years old, I knew that if I did not have a baby soon, I would forgo the idea altogether. For me, this was both the easiest and most difficult decision I had made in my life. It was easy because I knew I wanted to be a mom and did not need to wait for a partner to make this happen. It was a difficult decision because it would be life-changing and could not be taken lightly. 


Learning and Growing in A White Affinity Space

In her blog post of June 2, 2020, Marissa Colston, Westtown’s Dean of Diversity of Inclusion, listed “Tools to Help us Heal” after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. Colston reached out specifically to White people to do the following: “Continue to educate yourself.  If these recent events are shocking to you and you don’t understand that they are part of an ongoing, predictable pattern of violence against people of color, take the time to continue to educate yourself on the history of systemic racism in this country.”


“If You Build It, They Will Come” Creating Spaces Especially For You

“If you build it, they will come,” a popular Field of Dreams movie reference, was a central theme in my upbringing and has remained so in my adulthood. Although this famous quote arose out of a desire for the film’s main character to take a leap of faith in order to revive a bygone era, its essence can certainly apply in a multitude of situations. Never have I understood the importance of “building” something “so they will come” more than I did when I moved to Delaware County, PA. Here, where belonging is insurmountable, a swift realization of my pungent new reality hung above me like a dark cloud. As a Black woman and native New Yorker who was always taught to be bold, bright, and outspoken, I noticed that I was not quite welcome. It was an unspoken “you are not welcome,” but nonetheless an unrelenting truth. Not having a place that is especially for you might be manageable for some. However, my core thrives on connecting with others and community building and is, therefore, a central part of my make-up. 


Get Your Garden Ready…as a Family!

Spring is in the air and that means it is time to get your garden ready!  Whether you are working with a backyard garden, a container garden, raised beds, or just want to know how to start the process, we have some helpful information for you. Recently, our in-house expert Tim Mountz, Sustainable Agriculture Teacher at Westtown School, shared his thoughts on gardening. Farmer Tim, as he is known to our students, reminds us that gardening is a great activity for the whole family AND can get kids excited to eat fruits and vegetables. So step away for the screen, grab your shovel, and let’s get to it!   

If you do not already have a garden or set area, here are some suggestions for choosing a location. 

It is best for your garden or container to be in an area that receives direct sunlight for the majority of the day.  An area close to the kitchen makes it fun and easy for transport. Remember to plant some of our aromatic friends such as lavender, rosemary, and sage. Don’t  worry if you do not have land, containers are great for smaller, portable gardens!   

When should garden prepping begin?

If you are interested in prepping for a vegetable bed, now (March/April) is a great time to start raking and weeding the area. Be sure to dig and rake to loosen all the soil below. Roots like loose soil and will grow better in this environment.  Once you clean out the area, let it soak up the sun and dry out. If you are more interested in perennials, now is the time to  cut them back. You can do the pruning and have your little one help gather the cuttings. The cuttings are a great addition to your compost, too!


DOING THE WORK: Anti-Racist Teaching and Community Building in the Era of Black Lives Matter

I come from an intellectual tradition that sees scholarship as akin to combat. I was trained to see scholarly jousting as the means by which we refine and sharpen ideas. Consequently, as the brutal summer of 2020 unfolded, I channeled my anger, fear, and the viscous existential dread of being an Afro-Latino into a pugilistic fervor. I loaded chapters and articles onto my syllabi like ammunition into a magazine and answered calls to arms all over our new-found digital battlegrounds. Out of this work came both the class and podcast, We Can’t Breathe! [hereafter WCB!], a project designed to speak to and elucidate the landscape of contemporary anti-Blackness. This was a project subtended and made possible by Westtown’s own, always emerging anti-racist commitments. Put simply, WCB! wouldn’t have been possible at any other institution where I’ve worked—and at no other point in time in Westtown’s history. 


Why Affinity Spaces Give Me Life

When I was in middle and high school, I was often the only black student or student of color in the classroom. I lived in Vermont and, at the time, it was the whitest state in the nation. At age 11 I had moved from Philadelphia with my family. I knew that in other regions of the country it was very different racially, but my reality as a pre-teen and teen in Vermont was often isolating as a black person. I was always the only one in the room. When a racist incident would happen towards me, I would feel even more isolated because my friends —who were also white— didn’t understand that what they said or did hurt me. Sometimes I would be in shock and wouldn’t know what to say. Sometimes when I found the courage to confront them my attempts to explain and educate them didn’t always go well. They would explain it away or say that’s not what they meant. They would say things like, “We don’t see you as black,” or “You aren’t like other black people.” This was not only infuriating but also would invalidate my feelings and experiences as a young black woman. I found that more and more that I didn’t want to talk with them about race, and could only find solace at home with my parents and younger brothers. In the comfort of my home, I could breathe easier because I didn’t have to explain myself or ask for validation.


Curl Up With A Good Book


Winter is here and this year, more than ever, we are hunkering down at home.  When it’s cold outside, what better accompaniment is there to your favorite blanket, chair, and hot beverage than a good book?  Whether you like to read alone or gathered with your family, we have some great suggestions from our in-house experts —our librarians—at Westtown School

Lower School Suggestions from Lower School Library and Media Specialist – Heather Tannenbaum

  • Heather’s top new pick!  Author Matt de la Peña and illustrator Christian Robinson (the team behind the Newbery Medal and Caldecott Honor-winning Last Stop On Market Street) are back with Milo Imagines the World, a beautiful new picture book that celebrates the power of imagination. Every Sunday, Milo and his sister take a long train ride to visit their mother. To entertain himself on the ride, Milo watches the people around him and draws what he imagines their lives are like. Eventually he comes to realize, you can’t really know anyone just by what they look like. (All ages.)
  • Looking for something like your childhood favorite, Charlotte’s Web? Try Saving Winslow by award-winning author Sharon Creech. Louie is not great at keeping pets alive for long. So when his dad brings home a sickly mini donkey named Winslow, will Louie be able to save him? His strange new neighbor Nora is doubtful, but Louie is determined, especially because caring for Winslow makes him feel connected to his brother who is far away in the army. Will Louie be able to prove to everyone —and himself — that he and Winslow are both stronger than people expect? (Grades K and up.)


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