Head of School Weekly Email: Pausing Routines & Making Time
December 10, 2023
Dear TA Families,
Re-Cap: Half-Day on Friday
As I shared with students yesterday, we designed the December half day to pause our daily routines and create time for a range of ‘big picture’ activities, together as a school community – in our small group advisories, as a whole school of 300+, and with our grade-level classmates. The special schedule featured:
- A showcase assembly featuring arts and academic performances and athletics recognition. (Check out the kudos section below for more details and links.)
- An advisory session for students to reflect on and document milestones and goals in their academic journey. This activity was customized for the different grades; some worked on their personalized learning plan (PLP), others on their portfolios, and many also did an interest survey. So check in with your student about the focus of their work in advisory on Friday. What insights, questions, or goals arose for them from the activities?
- Workshops led by the counseling department for high schoolers, also related to academic and post-secondary planning: 9th and 10th graders developed their accounts in Naviance, the college and career readiness program we use at TA; 11th graders got a tutorial on interpreting their PSAT scores; and 12th graders learned about scholarship opportunities, especially the resources provided by VSAC.
- On the fun end of the spectrum: winter outdoor hangout time with classmates, featuring hot chocolate, donuts, and a bonfire.
- On the not-fun end of the spectrum: a schoolwide lockdown drill, a regrettable but necessary obligation of schools these days.
The half days in our calendar allow for much-needed collaborative time for our TA educators too, and yesterday afternoon was no exception. Once students left for the day, teachers had extended time for grading and planning, a session together as part of our DEI initiatives, and a holiday gathering.
Student Learning Spotlights
It’s that time of the semester, when students gear up to put their learning to the test – in the fullest sense of the idiom. They are pulling together the skills and knowledge they’ve learned over the months into culminating experiences, such as performances, papers, projects, and more (and, yes, traditional paper and pencil assessments too). For some students, this includes the extra effort of going beyond the limits of the school day to create more time to share and extend their learning.
- Kudos to our high school performing artists for putting their talents on stage and delighting a live audience with their festive winter concert this week. The concert featured students in Whit VanMeter’s instrumental music and stage band classes and Jeff Seabaugh’s chorus class. The musicians and singers are also performing at school assemblies this month (Dec. 8 and Dec. 11).
- Kudos to the 8th graders who have continued developing their audio stories. We featured their process last month (in my HOS email 11/3/23 and in a TA website news story) – and now their projects are complete and ready to share with the world. Students are hosting an evening listening session for families on Dec. 13, and some were bold enough to have their projects featured at assembly yesterday.
- Kudos to students in the environmental studies and outdoor education class who took on the challenge of a solo overnight in the TA woods last week, spending the night in a shelter of their making and minimal supplies. Read more about this unique ‘assignment’, including a couple of students’ reflections on what they gained from the experience.
Carrie Brennan, Head of School
Featured photo: The high school chorus and teacher/conductor Jeff Seabaugh invite the audience to join them in a sing-along. Thank you to TA volunteer Dan Grossman for the photo – and check out his website for many more of the winter concert.