WMS / PTO Newsletter
November 13, 2017
Message from Principal Gavron

My mother is a wise woman who has taught me many lessons through the years. One of the most valuable that I try to keep at the forefront is the importance of striking balance in life. While growing up, the refrain, “Everything in moderation,” was the background music of our household. I wish I could say I have mastered this equation. As both a principal and a parent, I find it can be easy to get caught up in the culture of too much. However, results from our WMS Parent Survey (link) , and Our Metrowest Adolescent Health Behavior Survey (link) both highlight concerns about students stress that lead me to continue to worry about our ability to collectively to get it right, particularly when it comes to homework, afterschool activities, and messaging around achievement.

Six years ago the film The Race to Nowhere: The Dark Side of America’s Achievement Culture directed by Vicki H. Abeles made its debut, and many joined us for a community viewing at WHS. In her film, Abeles thrust the underbelly of high-performing, affluent, suburban school districts into the spotlight. She featured the stories of stressed out students, educators burnt out by the pressures of teaching to a test, and doctors lamenting about the health consequences of a high-pressure, achievement-driven culture. The quest for perfection, the need to begin building resumés as early as elementary school, the push for kids to enroll in accelerated courses at all costs, the over-scheduling of extracurricular activities, and the endless hours of homework were shown to create a recipe for migraines, sleeping problems, stomach pains, anxiety issues, and depression: all symptoms of children’s’ lives being out of balance. The overall emphasis on product over process and grades over learning was worrisome to say the least.

The question for me became: can we find a way for academic excellence and emotional well being to peacefully coexist? As a faculty we have been thinking hard about this ever since. Homework was identified as one piece of the puzzle within our control, where we could take action. While homework has not been eliminated in the wake of the film, we have taken pause and re-examined our practices as we considered some fundamental questions:

  • What is the role of homework in a student’s education?
  • What amount of homework is appropriate at each age?
  • Does a large homework load lead to gains in achievement?
  • Does too much homework tempt students to cheat to complete it, rather than think through it to learn?
  • Do we help students prioritize assignments and learn to put down the pencil when enough is enough? 
  • Do we build in enough homework-free time so families can enjoy low-stress togetherness?

I have asked teachers to make explicit efforts to monitor the quantity of work assigned and spend more time starting assignments in class so students leave class having begun an assignment (often the most difficult hurdle). We have also worked to help students build skills for “Setting the Table” (add lino Setting the Table Docs we shared with parents) so they can become more competent independent learners. Our relatively new commitment to Catch Up and Breathe - CUB weekends twice a month is one small way we have tried to have an effect in this arena.

Knowing that balance looks different for each learner we are challenged to differentiate to support the academic and emotional health of all our learners. A set of assignments might be too much for one student, just right for another, and not nearly enough for a third. Our survey of parent reflects this.

In June, 184 parents responded to our survey that, “The amount of time my child spends on homework each night is...
  • Too Much 28 15.22%
  • Too Little 35 19.02%
  • Just Right 91 49.46%
  • I'm Not Sure 30 16.30%

As parents, you play a critical role in the homework equation. We rely on you to provide us with feedback when the homework load gets out of balance. We urge you to monitor whether a course is providing an appropriate level of challenge or whether your child is in over his or her head. Be aware of signs of perfectionism and overworking that can easily take hold in middle school. Seek counsel with our teachers and guidance staff to find the unique recipe for balance for your individual child.

In addition to communicating with the school around homework, parents play a pivotal role in navigating the extracurricular terrain.   In survey of students last spring, 109 out of 584 students reported finding their extra-curricular activities to be stressful. Casual conversations with middle schoolers reveal rich after school opportunities, but students often have bags under their eyes and yawn their way through those conversations. Reports of going from private music lessons to club soccer and onto late night basketball practice are dizzying, and some students regularly report not having enough time to complete homework assignments.  It’s easy for after school activities to begin to take on a life of their own and thereby compromise a child’s emotional balance. The menu of options is overwhelming – year-round athletics, dramatic performing groups, dance classes, music lessons, religious education, scouts, club offerings, academic teams, tutoring, enrichment academic offerings, and the list goes on. Parents do not want their children to “miss out” on possibilities and opportunities. They don’t want their children to be left behind their peers and see the proverbial “keeping up with the Jones” may be seen as the only option. 

Two summers ago psychologist Dr. Rob Evans offered Wayland administrators some interesting insight about parental worries. He shared the fact that this is the first generation that parents are less certain that their children may be less well off and secure in their future than their parents. Competition for college feels tougher than ever for coveted spots, and even a college degree does not guarantee employment in a desired field. Years of college debt may loom large. In what feels like a competitive environment there can be a sense of unease that cutting back on activities might mean missing out and putting one’s child at a disadvantage. This leads to a culture of pressure around performance and our kids are feeling it. Even in homes that don’t over-emphasize success, students often feel the stress within their peer culture. 

No one can do it all, however. As parents you have to help your child place limits on his or her extracurricular undertakings. Avoid getting caught up in what other kids are doing and focus on what is best for your child. Then take the time to assess. 

  • Is this activity a good match for your child’s interests and skills?
  • Does your child find joy in his or her pursuit of it?
  • Does keeping up with extracurriculars still allow your family to maintain a sense of equilibrium?
  • Does your child’s schedule allow for adequate sleep and essential down time?
  • Is the activity creating unnecessary stress and interfering with student expectations?

These are important questions to ponder when seeking and maintaining after school balance.
Finally, I encourage you to consider the explicit and implicit messages we send our children around achievement. The following questions are worthy of consideration as it is easy to inadvertently contribute to a high-pressure environment.  How does your family define success and communicate messages about success? Do earning A’s and enrolling in honors classes matter most, or do kindness, honesty, and a balanced pursuit of one’s passions get equal billing? Can you help your children separate self worth from academic performance? Do you emphasize grades over rich learning, or does effort take precedence over outcomes? Is it okay at times for good to be good enough? With these questions in mind, please talk with your child about his or her experiences in school. Keep an eye out for signs of stress and anxiety, and seek guidance when issues are still small. When in doubt, choose calm and support over stress and competition.
As is often the case with a thought provoking film, the issues raised in The Race To Nowhere elicit more questions than answers that keep us thinking for years. As a learning community we have the power to continue to re-shape our norms and take small steps towards a healthier, more balanced existence for our students. Collectively, we can monitor our homework culture, examine the extra-curricular landscape, and be mindful of the language we use to communicate what we value in education. To effectively model balanced living for our students, as adults we too need to talk the talk and walk the walk. I encourage you to embrace, my mother’s wisdom, “Everything in moderation.” 

Respectfully,

Betsy Gavron
Special Education Parent Advisory Council
SEPAC Meeting Postponed

Due to the scheduling conflict with Wayland Town Meeting, Tuesday's SEPAC Meeting (11/14/17) with guest speaker Dr. Angela Jones, HRS, has been  postponed . We are in the process of rescheduling this event and will post the new date ​when finalized. Thank you.
Inviting all middle school students to join the cast and crew
of this year’s musical…
Performances March 21-24, 2018
 
All 6 th , 7 th  & 8 th  grade students are welcome!
To join, all you need to do is come to rehearsals:
 
Monday, November 13 until 4 pm
Tuesday, November 14 until 4 pm
Monday, November 27 until 4 pm
 
To learn more about PIPPIN go to:  www.mtishows.com/pippin
Trying out for Basketball?
Informational Meetings on Tuesday Nov. 14th
7th & 8th Grade Lunches
Room 124 (Wellness Classroom)

  • Coaches will be available to answer questions and go over try-out expectations.
  • 7th & 8th graders interested in trying out MUST be registered through FamilyID.com, and
  • have a current Physical Exam record on file with the school nurse, in order to participate.
  • 
Tryouts are as follows:
Boys :
11/30 2:30 - 3:30
12/6 3:00 - 4:30 (study from 2:20 - 3:00)
12/7 2:30 - 4:45
12/8 2:30 - 3:45
Girls:
12/4 2:30 - 4:45
12/5 2:30 - 4:45
12/6 1:30 - 3:00
From the Office re:
Thanksgiving Recess

Although school is in session through 11:15 am the day before Thanksgiving, we understand that some families need to start travelling before that time. We ask that you let the office know in advance if your student will be out before or after the Thanksgiving recess. Thank you, and have a safe & Happy Thanksgiving!
PTO NEWS
Middle & More Coffee TODAY!
November 13th, 9:00 AM, WMS Library
The    next  Middle & More     Coffee    will be       "Talking to your Kids about the Difficult Stuff - Sexuality, Self-harm, Drinking, Drugs and More"       led by Dr. Dossie Kahn. held on Monday, November 13th from 9:oo - 10:00 AM in the library. Please join us!
Please contact Sejal T. Srinivasan,    sejsri@gmail.com   ,   if you have any questions.
REMINDERS (from previous emails)
7th Grade Rachel Carson House Holiday Helpers!
Homeroom collections from November 6th - 15th
BRING GOODS IN by THIS WEDNESDAY!

Each 7th grade homeroom is challenged to create a basket to donate to Wayland residents in need through Parmenter. Please check our House Blog for details  HERE.
Annual Drive for Coats for Kids begins today!
November 13 - January 7th in the Front Lobby

Bbbbrrrr! As it gets colder, we start to think of bringing out the fall and winter clothes. Check those closets and see if you have something to donate to Coats for Kids! Donation guidelines are listed below. We will have boxes in the front lobby to accept your donations. Thank you for helping to keep others warm during the season!
We accept: Warm, winter coats for children & adults that are gently used and good quality. All sizes needed ( especially XL & Pre-K sizes ).
ARTIST of the WEEK
Artist: Sophie Roman
Grade: 6
Medium: collage & ink
UPCOMING EVENTS
ALL GRADES:
11/13 -  Middle & More Coffee  , with Dossie Kahn, Library, 9:00 AM
11/15 -  Pause Francaise  , French Culture Event, Cafeteria, 1:30 - 2:30 PM
11/17 -  WMS School-Wide Calendar Fundraiser Kick-off
11/21  WMS/WHS Jazz Concert,  Wayland Middle School, 7:30 PM
11/22 - Early Release , No Lunch, 11:15 AM
11/23 - NO SCHOOL - Thanksgiving Break through 11/26
11/30  WMS/WHS Band Concert, Wayland High School, 7:30 PM

7th GRADE:
1/29/18  - Cape Cod Parent Night, 7:00 PM

8TH GRADE :
11/16 -  King Cluster to EMK - during school hours
11/21  Martin Cluster to EMK - during school hours
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