2017 NAIS Equity Design Lab: Culturally Responsive Teaching: A Teacher’s Experience

By Jeanne Watson-Smith

IMG_2502I attended the NAIS Equity Lab with a knowledge and love of brain research. Zaretta Hammond, Design Lab leader, connected my past professional development with what we know about best practices for fostering the learning of students of color. Hammond made it quite clear that micro aggressions and  teacher inability to grasp a student’s cultural frame of reference affected the student’s success in school. In essence, when a student of color is not fully understood, is marginalized, or is made to feel uncomfortable, their brain shuts down and no learning takes place.  From neuroscience studies we know that under stress the amygdala sends out cortisol which freezes the learning processes of the brain and puts it in a defensive mode. No learning can take place when the brain is in fight-or-flight mode.

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Blu Seeds: Explorations and Reflections from the Adirondacks, Summer 2017

By Jeff Waring, Art Teacher at Westtown School 


For the past 15 years or so, I’ve traveled to the northern Adirondack park, usually in mid July. Our family meets for a week at an old Great Camp just west of Saranac Lake, once used by Cal Coolidge as his Summer Whitehouse. Here among the history and the beauty we intentionally unwind and unplug. Perched on a ridge overlooking Osgood Pond, our setting offers access to pristine paddling, meandering trails, and solitude. The fragrance of pine, the softness of the forest floor, the towering trees, the moss, the fungi, the deadwood, the loons’ laughter, and the flow of water all refresh and reinvigorate my soul. There’s a lean-to close by where I usually set up an impromptu studio, and daily visits offer me the time and mental space to paint. My annual one week visit always feels right, yet always too short. Continue reading

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Where does beauty fit in?

As a member of the Mastery Transcript Consortium, Westtown is exploring what we value and how to assess it. Yesterday, the faculty team focused on these discussions had its first meeting. Towards the end, as we were discussing how one assesses skills and whether or not our own list of Global Competencies was the complete list of content, skills and habits of minds we want for our graduates, a colleague asked, “yes but where is the place for beauty?” Continue reading

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“The Real World”

peters projection south

South-up Peter’s Projection

Last week in a faculty meeting a colleague explained that our work was fundamentally to prepare our students for “the real world.”  We all have phrases that make us cringe. Along with “the real world,” a few others on my list include “getting outside my comfort zone” and “thinking outside the box.” If the work of education is to get kids ready for the “real world,” than what is the psychic space we and our students inhabit while they are in school? If its not the real world, then where are we? Where are our students? Furthermore, how do we value the place and space of our children’s education, if it is something other than “real?” Continue reading

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Award-winning Environmentalist and Triciclos founder visits Religion Class

Westtown faculty strive to bring the world to our students just as much as we work to send our students out into the world.

Kevin Eppler shared this report about a recent visitor to his Business and Society Class.

This morning, Westtown’s “Business and Society” (Adv), a course offered through Westtown’s Religion department,  hosted award-winning entrepreneur and environmentalist, Gonzalez Munoz to class.  Continue reading

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Librarian Nirvana: Or the Past Feeds the Future

By Lynn Clements

Spending a week in Oxford, England, as a participant in the summer Oxbridge Teachers’ Program, offered an opportunity for intellectual stimulation and professional development in a beautiful, historic setting. For a librarian, the opportunity to explore the riches of the Oxford libraries, under the leadership of the retired director of rare books at Oxford, was professional nirvana. Time was spent talking with Oxford University librarians about digitization of collections, and universal issues of concern to academic librarians, such as the balance between print and electronic resources, space utilization, and budget constraints. A look at rare children’s books was of particular interest to our group of school librarians, as well as many first editions by the likes of Chaucer, Austen, Carroll, Tolkien and Carroll.  Continue reading

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