WHPS Blog

Supporting One Another After a Tragedy: Yesterday’s School Shooting in Uvalde, Texas

Written by Seth Pozzi on .

No doubt, you went to bed last night agonizing about the news broadcasts about the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. Our deepest sympathy and hearts are with the CHILDREN, PARENTS, families, teachers, and entire community experiencing this tragedy. When events like this happen, it can strike a chord in us that goes deeper than just knowing there’s not any credible threat to our school community. These are raw and valid feelings that parents, children and teachers may be experiencing.

AT SCHOOL TODAY

  • Morning Assembly: We did point out to the students at Morning Assembly that the flag will be halfway down through Saturday. We used brief, simple terms, saying that this is a way we show our support for people in our country, far away from us, who are very sad. 
  • Morning Meeting: During Morning Meeting, especially in upper elementary classrooms, we provided space for children to share what they have heard and ask questions. Throughout the day and week, if elementary students ask questions, we will continue to answer them honestly, following the guidelines and rules of thumb below.

While violence and death are incredibly sensitive topics that each family will ultimately decide to address in their own way, we wanted to share some information and resources that we utilize as educators in deciding how to talk to children when they have questions. 

ENGAGING IN DIFFICULT CONVERSATIONS

How do we reassure children that they are safe, while still being honest with them about what happened? We've compiled some resources that we hope can support these kinds of conversations

RULES OF THUMB

  • First and foremost, a rule of thumb for parents and teachers when discussing any mature topic, whether it has to do with school safety or puberty or peer pressure, is to follow the child’s lead.
  • Don’t avoid talking to your child about what happened. If you avoid the topic, your child may find the event even more threatening or think it is simply too horrible to speak about.
  • Invite your child to tell you how s/he feels, but avoid leading questions, such as “Are you worried about being safe at school?”
  • Answer the questions they’re asking honestly but reassuringly, but don’t delve deeper into the topic than they take it. Give children the facts they need to know now, but avoid discussing your fears or anxiety about the future.
  • Correct any inaccurate information: If your child has misconceptions or inaccurate information, correct them in a simple age-appropriate way.
  • Reinforcing safety is important with very young children. Emphasize that the incident happened very far away from us and let your child know that we have wonderful people who are doing everything they can to make school a safe place for learning and having fun with friends and classmates.
  • Stay calm and use “emotional self-control” when talking about this topic. The emotions you express will influence your child’s feelings. If you are feeling emotional, it’s better to STOP and take some time to get more regulated and think about what you want to say to your child. 

SCHOOL SAFETY PLANS

At times like this, parents often have questions about school security and safety. Here are some of the steps we have taken and are taking to ensure the continued safety of our community.

  • PARTNERSHIP: We are part of a School Safety Task Force with LAPD Topanga Division. As part of the task force, we have a direct line of communication with the Senior Lead Officers, which enables us to work together quickly and efficiently on threat assessments, investigations, and any other safety concerns that may arise. 
  • PLANS & PRACTICE: Our school has an approved School Safety Plan. School safety encompasses multiple domains within the school environment that must be reviewed altogether when assessing the level of safety for students and staff. All students and staff participate in safety drills to test their preparedness and understand their roles and responsibilities in the event of a crisis. Our most recent practice event was May 10, 2022, with all students and staff. We will also be working with the School Safety Task Force to determine what additional lessons, plans, or training we can glean from this most recent tragedy. Note: WHPS does not conduct high intensity lockdown drills.
  • TRAINING: Our administration is in regular communication with our LAPD Senior Lead Officers, and we are discussing the latest information about school safety to maintain comprehensive plans for preventing and responding to threats. In addition, we have hosted training for other school directors in the San Fernando Valley.
  • COMMUNICATION & MONITORING: We take every piece of information and every concern seriously. Parents, we ask you to continue to report anything you see, hear, or sense that could affect student, staff or school safety. In addition, we closely monitor the school grounds through our closed circuit camera system. 

Our administration team understands that this is an emotional and tricky topic to broach with children. If you have questions, concerns or other feedback, please don’t hesitate to speak with me or anyone on our administration team. It is incredibly important to us that ALL children and families feel supported as we process this most recent tragedy.

In sadness and solidarity with the Robb Elementary School community.

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Head of School

The NEGATIVE effect of too much too soon

Written by WHPS Preschool Directors on .

The article below addresses a recent longitudinal study that is getting a lot of attention. The study affirms many of our core beliefs about quality Early Childhood Education. Here are six of the top evidence-based practices families should look for in a quality preschool


Some new research was recently published that has had early childhood educators buzzing. For many of us, it reaffirmed what we already know about quality Early Childhood Education (ECE). For policy makers, it calls into question recent efforts to push more three and four-year-olds into elementary schools. Essentially, it demonstrated short term gains for overly academic ECE programs, which diminished by the end of elementary school. The research strongly points to the long-term benefits of developmental, play-based Pre-K over heavily structured worksheet-driven programs. 

"A statewide public Pre-K program, taught by licensed teachers, housed in public schools, had a measurable and statistically significant negative effect on the children in this study."

Why is PLAY so important for preschool aged children? Research has shown us that preschool aged children learn best through play and exploration.  Play with a purpose.  Play that allows children to discover concepts through hands-on activities that ignite all of their senses. Outdoor experiences that last longer than elementary school recess.  This is the type of learning that young brains are receptive to.  

As a parent, it’s difficult to know how to best prepare your child for the inevitable transition into kindergarten. Is it best to have a school day that resembles kindergarten, or should there be more time for play and overall social emotional development?  Which way better prepares young children for school-age learning? The study done in Tennessee public schools highlights why putting too much pressure on children in Pre-K programs does not always lead to higher success rates in the future.

Quality play-based preschool programs do not exclude children from learning literacy, math, and science. The way in which play-based curriculum is structured and presented embraces all developmental areas that quite literally builds the brain through its design. This is a timely reminder of the neuroscience that supports creating joyful, meaningful, enriched, and socially interactive experiences as part of a high quality ECE program.

Note: This is one of the reasons WHPS uses a comprehensive research-based developmental screening with all our applicants for TK and K. We take the decision about each child's placement quite seriously and work with each family on determining the best path and trajectory. If families have any questions about the best path for your child's success, please feel free to speak with our Preschool Directors or Elementary Principal.

Black History Month - 2022

Written by Seth Pozzi, Head of School on .

February is Black History Month. February is a time to celebrate Black history; it’s also a great time to recommit ourselves to diversity and inclusion across the curriculum. 

CELEBRATION (see video below)

I’m very excited about this month's events and programming. PAWS brought in The Marshall Dance Company for a special student workshop. In addition, all Oxnard campus classrooms received customized Black History Culture Kits (from In KidZ, founded by one of our WHPS families), with teaching resources and even a set of multicultural crayons and some other cool swag for each student (thanks to the Rocklin family for this amazing donation!)

CURRICULUM
At WHPS, we believe schools can teach content in authentic, meaningful ways kids can understand and relate to, while still addressing some of the hard truths of the past and present. We are inspired by the work of Columbia University Teachers College Reading & Writing Project (TCRWP), whose research underpins much of our elementary curriculum and has come to the forefront of promoting curriculum that recognizes and fights oppression and promotes anti-racism. Our recent adoption of Stamped (for kids) stemmed from their work, and has led to some wonderful dialogue, perspective-taking, and critical thinking in class discussions. 

REPRESENTATION
As explained by one of the TCRWP staff developers, literature can serve as mirrors and windows to reflect children's own experience and help them appreciate and understand the experiences of others. Last year, we held a reverse book fair seeking to broaden all kinds of representation (race, gender, ability) in the classrooms. In the past several years, Elementary students conducted an audit of classroom libraries, and Preschool has been working on implementing quality anti-bias education and leveraging learning centers and play to expand representation.

LIFELONG LEARNING
Lastly, as adults we all need to remain committed to lifelong learning. We have some great resources on our blog and our YouTube channel that we find educational, interesting, and/or inspiring. I encourage families to check them out.

Leadership Notebooks: A uniquely WHPS learning tool

Written by Jacey Dexter, Elementary Principal on .

WHPS is an individualized academic program, which means each student is on a unique learning path. One of the most powerful tools we have developed that serves as the backbone to this approach is something we call a Leadership Notebook (AKA Leadership Binder). In the Leadership Notebook, teachers work with each student to set, track, and achieve academic and personal goals.  

Leadership Notebooks help each student develop an understanding of their strengths, while also planning meaningful ways they can strengthen those areas that don't come as easily. In the years since we launched this program, I have seen wonderful growth in student engagement, enthusiasm, and pride in their learning. 

SLCs are right around the corner, February 22-23. This is your next opportunity to take an in depth look at your child's goals and progress, together with the teachers and the most important stakeholder, your child! For families already in our elementary program, sign up links will be coming out next week. 

In the meantime...
I am excited to share a glimpse inside a Leadership Notebook with one of our 5th graders, Ava Grace. Enjoy!

 

Anti-Bias Education in Action (Early Childhood Education)

Written by WHPS Preschool Directors on .

Anti-Bias education is an important component for the WHPS curriculum. Our staff have been engaged in ongoing professional development on this topic. At last month’s preschool professional development session (both campuses), we screened a new film, Reflecting on Anti-bias Education in Action: The Early Years. We looked at vignettes demonstrating effective anti-bias teaching strategies and reflected on our own teaching practices. While the film is geared toward Early Childhood Education teachers, we encourage parents to check out some of the interesting ideas and language discussed.  

There are four areas of anti-bias education that we believe are part of a high-quality program. The more parents and teachers can embrace these goals, it will help make an even better future for our children and society. 

Goals of Anti-Bias Education

  1. Identity - Nurture children in feeling strong in their identity, without feeling superior to others.  Helping children to be comfortable in their home, as well as their school culture. This goal aims to develop each child’s confidence, self awareness, family pride and social identities.  
  2. Diversity - Promote each child’s comfortable, empathetic interaction with others from diverse backgrounds. Help children learn to express comfort and joy with human diversity, use accurate language for human differences, and form deep, caring connections across all dimensions of human diversity.
  3. Justice - Foster each child’s capacity to critically identify bias and nurture each child’s empathy for the hurt bias causes. Help children increasingly recognize unfairness (injustice), have language to describe unfairness, and understand that unfairness hurts.
  4. Activism - Cultivate each child’s ability and confidence to stand up for oneself and for others in the face of bias. Help children develop a sense of empowerment and the skills to act, with others or alone, against prejudice and/or discriminatory actions.

You can read more about these goals from The National Association for the Education of Young Children. It is important to continually revisit and refine these habits in our lives at school and at home. One concept from the film that we will be exploring further is persona dolls. We are excited to share more information in the coming months.

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