WMS/PTO Newsletter
November 2015
Principal's Corner

Dear WMS Families:

I was having lunch with a dear friend last week, and she shared a story that has stayed with me. Her daughter, Hannah, who graduates college this spring, is in the process of applying to graduate programs. Hannah recently attended an open house for such a program and was struck by the fact that over 50% of the applicants in attendance had come with their parents. She couldn’t believe that as college seniors most of her peers were with their parents. What disturbed her further was that many of the parents were the ones asking the questions on behalf of their disinterested looking children. As my friend and I shared this story with others, listeners across the board have been aghast at the situation. Yet this doesn’t change the fact that over 50% of those parents were in attendance. So how did that evolve? If we do not want to be the ones hand-holding our adult progeny through the graduate school process, what do we need to begin to do now while our students are in middle school to shepherd them into adulthood?

This summer I read an interesting article on the nprEd’s website, “ How Schools Are Handling an ‘Overparenting’ Crisis ,” which may shed some light on the question. It is a brutally frank interview with Julie Lythcott-Haims, the author of How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare your Kid for Success , and Julie Lahey the author of The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go so Their Children Can Succeed . In it Lahey summarizes the problem as she sees it, based on three years of research, “Kids are anxious, afraid and risk-averse because parents are more focused on keeping their children safe, content and happy in the moment than on parenting for competence. Furthermore, we as a society so obsessed with learning as a product — grades, scores and other evidence of academic and athletic success — that we have sacrificed learning in favor of these false idols.” Lythcott-Haims adds, “Our kid becomes chronologically adult but still expects us to tell them what to do and how to do it, and is bewildered by the prospect of having to fend for themselves as an actual independent human.” Much of the hand-holding they argue is motivated not just by protection, but by parents’ egos. Lahey argues, “They are not extensions of us, nor indicators of our performance, and it's unfair to saddle them with that responsibility.”

As a principal and parent I ask myself, “How do I contribute to this dynamic?” At times I feel like I send mixed messages. I know that I sound like a broken record when it comes to advocating that middle school is a time to let your children make mistakes and skin those proverbial knees. Let them fail and figure out how to get back up. Regularly, I find myself imploring you not to come running to drop off forgotten items or calling to ask us to remind your child about afternoon plans, which is a huge interruption to classroom learning time. It is not that we dislike seeing parents, it is because the rescuing is truly a disservice to students. Yet in the next breath I ask you to actively monitor your children’s online presence, as social media can be a hotbed for making bad decisions.  Additionally, teachers may be in contact asking you to play a more active role to ensure homework production. To make it even more complicated, I am well aware that each child has different needs and requires varying levels of parental involvement along their journey. For example, one of my three children can out-plan me any day of the week while another sees “plan” as a proverbial four letter word. It is not school versus parents or parents versus school but rather a collaborative partnership that can help navigate this terrain as we seek the delicate balance between supporting and monitoring and letting go.

Identifying and understanding the complexity of an issue is the first step. Seeing ourselves and our roles in a problem and making changes come next. In their books the authors outline numerous strategies for parents to make critical shifts in their parenting. I will offer out Lythcoth-Haime’s quick advice for three things parents can begin to do immediately to avoid the overparenting trap:
  1. “Stop saying ‘we’ when you mean your kid. ‘We’ aren't on the travel soccer team, ‘we’ aren't doing the science project and ‘we’ aren't applying to college. Our kid is.” Language matters. In using the pronoun “we” parents inadvertently give children the message that they are incapable of doing things independently.  “We” is a sign that parents may be overinvolved or overinvested in their children’s achievements.

  2. “Stop arguing with all of the adults in our kids' lives…teachers are under siege from overinvolved parents insistent upon engineering the perfect outcomes for their kids... If there's an issue that needs to be raised with these folks, we do best for our kids in the long run if we've taught them how to raise concerns on their own.”  You might consider rehearsing with your child how she might approach a teacher or coach with a question or a concern, empowering her with the skills to self-advocate.

  3. “Stop doing their homework. Teachers end up not knowing what their students actually know, it's highly unethical, and worst of all it teaches kids, ‘Hey kid, you're not actually capable of doing any of this on your own.’” There is a fine line between helping or supporting and taking over.  Instead of doing, help your child identify where he is stuck and rehearse with him how to ask for specific help from his teacher.
I know that I do not want to be the parent sitting with my children navigating their graduate school or employment paths.  I want them to build the skills and belief in their own abilities and achievements to confidently make decisions for their future as Hannah has done. Following her open house Hannah called to thank her mother for allowing her to develop the independence needed to choose her own direction. Isn’t that a phone call we’d all want to get?


Betsy Gavron

Science Olympiad Season is Back!
All Grades
Science Olympiad will be starting up on Tuesday, November 17th in room 116, from 2:30 - 3:30. Our first meeting will introduce the Science Olympiad events for this year's state tournament on March 5th and allow potential new members a chance to see what SO is all about. Practices will be held on every Tuesday between 11/17/15 and 3/05/16. All interested 6th, 7th, and 8th graders are welcome!  Please email questions to:
Pause Française
November 18
2:30 - 3:30 PM

This year’s Pause Française will take place in the WMS cafeteria on Wednesday, November 18 from 2:30-3:30.  7th and 8th grade French students will display their projects on the Regions of France and French-speaking countries. There will be food and beverages served from all over the Francophone world. 
7th Grade
By November 20
Food Donations

Attention 7th grade parents!  We are hoping for help in putting together Thanksgiving food baskets for needy families in our community. Specifically we are looking for boxes of stuffing, cans of cranberry sauce, jars of gravy, small bags of sweet or white potatoes, sparkling cider, apples, butternut squash, boxes of dates, cranberry or corn bread mix, and frozen pie crusts. Each student will have the opportunity to sign up for one of these items in homeroom. Items should come in before Friday, November 20. Thank you for your support!
It's Coming! The WMS Gift Card Calendar Drive!
Beginning November 13

You can watch the Gift Card Calendar fundraiser video prepared for students by WMS teacher Jada Williams:

Last year’s Gift Card Calendar Drive was a great success and we are hoping to match or exceed the results this year.  On November 13, middle school students will receive 5 calendars to sell. (We hope you will request more!)  Each calendar has a suggested donation of $10. Patrons complete the information requested and students return each entry form with the $10. Each form is entered into the drawing and is eligible to win a gift card EVERY day during the month of January.  Each day a name will be drawn from the entries and the winner will receive a gift card (value $100). The name is then returned to the bin making it eligible for future drawings. Since the gift cards are mailed to the winners and are for national chains, the Gift Calendar makes a great present for out of town friends/relatives - easy to send and easy to redeem

All money raised by the Gift Card Calendar Drive is used for grade-wide field trips (to such places as Washington D.C., Cape Cod, NY Caves) that enrich our curriculum and provide learning experiences throughout all three years of middle school. The fact that we make all trips inclusive learning experiences (regardless of a family’s financial need) speaks to important values that make our school community such a special one. The Gift Card Calendar proceeds enable the school to offer financial assistance to students to help them afford trips that may have been previously cost prohibitive.

This year's $100 gift cards:  Visa, MasterCard, Home Depot, Lowes, iTunes, Amazon, Sears, Uno Pizzeria, TGIF Fridays, Barnes & Noble, Outback, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Macy's, Best Buy, and Kohl's.
Artist of the Week

Sydney O'Rourke
Title:  "A Tree in the Fall"
Media:  Pencil & Watercolor
Middle & More Coffee
Monday, November 16
8:45 - 9:45 AM
WMS Library

Come share a cup of coffee with 6th grade House Leaders, Tom Halpin, Kelly Hagan and Chitra Mills, and the 6th grade guidance counselor, Amy Parker, and discuss the "Transition to Middle School," with a particular focus on the social and emotional qualities of sixth graders and the sixth grade academic program. While we planned this to be of particular interest for sixth grade parents, all parents are welcome -- join us and share your perspectives. Please contact Cathy Scholz at cscholz89@gmail.com if you have any questions. We look forward to seeing you!

WMS Really Needs Your Help!
November 16 - December 11

Our Gift Card Calendar drive is starting next week and we can't run this fundraiser without lots of help! Our students distribute Gift Card Calendars for a suggested donation of $10 each and then return the remittance slips with the money collected to their teachers. Daily, we need parent volunteers to count the money and slips from each homeroom. We try to get four to six volunteers for each day and it usually takes (depending on volume) between 60 to 90 minutes to count and tally everything. 

Please consider volunteering--we really need you!  

It's fun to hang out at school with other parents and count money!  And...you'll work a bit with Rob Reddington who is always entertaining! Volunteers are needed daily November 16 to December 11 from 9:00 to 10:00 a.m. (longer on high volume days). 

Sign up here:  http://vols.pt/daY861 

Thank you from the entire WMS staff!

Standards Based Assessment Pilot
Thursday, November 12, 8:45 - 9:45 AM
WMS Library

If a student has a B+ on a progress report, what does that really tell you about what she has learned? You probably infer that she is not at the top of the class, but that she is doing pretty well.  You know that she can do some math, but which concepts are solid, and even more importantly, which concepts need further practice?   The B+ average could tell several different stories, but does not clarify how the student is performing in relation to the learning goals. This distinction is the fundamental objective of standards based assessment.   

Join Ms. Gavron and the math department curriculum leaders on November 12, from 8:45 - 9:45, as they explain Standards Based Assessment, the pilot the math department is implementing this year. We will discuss the rationale and answer your questions about this assessment practice. We look forward to having you join the discussion.

Upcoming Events
11/10:  Picture Retake Day
11/11:  NO SCHOOL, Veterans Day
11/12:  Middle & More, 8:45 - 9:45 AM
11/13:  Q1 Ends
11/17:  6th Grade Music Concert, 7:30 PM
11/18:  Pause Française, 1:30 - 2:30 PM
11/19:  MS/HS Jazz Concert, 7:30 PM
11/20:  Q1 Report Cards
11/25:  11:15 AM Dismissal
11/26 & 11/27:  NO SCHOOL, Thanksgiving