“It’s not where you go, it’s what you do there.” This is the advice of Dr. Denise Pope, Senior Lecturer at Stanford University and co-founder of Challenge Success, a non-profit affiliated with the Stanford University Graduate School of Education. She spoke to our community earlier this month for a workshop on “A Healthier Approach to College Admissions.” With humorous anecdotes and an engaging PowerPoint presentation, as well as her perspective as a parent who has gone through the admissions process with her own children, Dr. Pope emphasized that fit should be valued over rankings. Keeping a level head during the college search process is key for the well-being, engagement, and sense of belonging of all K-12 students.
One of my favorite parts of the evening was when Dr. Pope handed out forms with a series of criteria for choosing a college or university to everyone in attendance. The form had 29 categories. For each category, we had to determine whether each was ‘‘not important”, “nice to have,” or “essential”. Here are just a few of them: 1. Diversity of the student body/faculty. 2. Community service opportunities. 3. Mental health services & supports. 4. Small class sizes. 5. Undergraduate academic reputation. It quickly became clear that no two people had the exact same marks or criteria. This brought home the ‘fit’ factor. What might be the right place for one student might not be the right place for another student. Dr. Pope also shared that popular college rankings, such as US News & World Report, used just ten factors to create their rankings, and by a show of hands it was noted that within our group very few present had prioritized any of those particular factors (Morse & Brooks, 2022).
Dr. Pope also told attendees about her experiences when she was touring colleges and universities with her son. After a long car ride, they had arrived at one of the schools that her son had identified as a top match school. But when he saw the small size of the town, and had done a little research, he realized that the town only had three restaurants. Being a foodie, he could not fathom attending a school in an area with such limited cuisine options. He told his Mom, “I will not go to this school.” Taken aback, Dr. Pope reminded her son that there were several reasons this school had made it onto his college list in the first place. But she could tell her son’s mind was made up; the school was not for him. They quickly crossed it off his college list, got back into the car, and drove away because a good fit on paper may not always be one in person.
When I meet with one of our WSP students, my goal is for the two of us to identify schools where they can see themselves being happy; academically, socially, intellectually, mentally, and emotionally. We map out a plan for future success, not just in college, but in life. No stone is left unturned. We look at average classroom sizes, retention rates from freshman to sophomore year, but we also look at schools that have a cappella groups or choirs if a student has a love for singing. For another student on the Walbots, WSP’s robotics club, it could be making sure a college has a similar student group for them. College rankings are never discussed; personal fulfillment and happiness is our chief topic of discussion.
Dr. Pope reminded me that while the college search process is not an easy one, there are so many reasons to be hopeful that a student will make the decision that is right for them. As my high school seniors receive many of their admissions decisions over the next few days and weeks, I am excited for what lies ahead for them. Their best days are still to come!
A new study published in the JAMA Pediatrics suggests yet one more reason to manage tech at home. “Tempting as it may be to hand them a smartphone or turn on the TV as a default response, soothing with digital devices may lead to more problems with emotional reactivity down the road, a new study has shown,” writes Madeline Holcombein in a recent CNN article [link].
“‘Even slightly increasing a child’s emotional reactivity, that just means it’s more likely when one of those daily frustrations comes up, you’re more likely to get a bigger reaction,’ said lead study author Dr. Jenny Radesky, a developmental behavioral pediatrician.” Read the rest here.
Who hasn’t been there? Especially while trying to work and school at home during COVID. And if you haven’t, a long break from school filled with extended family and friend visits and extra tasks to complete might send you there.
Sometimes these habits can be hard to break. I recall when my, now 21-year-old, son was in kindergarten, a teacher telling us “A lot of televisions seem to ‘break’ during kindergarten.” Our TV didn’t actually “break,” but throwing a cloth over it did wonders. However, as we all know, it just isn’t the TV in the corner seeming to allure us for some temporary peace and quiet anymore; everywhere you turn there is a tempting device, especially if you turned to them during the last few years.
I always found rather than taking something away from my children, it was easier to instead give something new or different. Even waaay back when I was a child, my mother had a plastic tub of rice with cups, measuring spoons, and sieves in it; kept away only for rainy days. I may not have enjoyed that if it had always been available, but it certainly made the rare indoor rainy day very exciting!
by Jennifer Britton | Business Office Assistant & Alumni Parent
As a twenty-something-year alumni parent, volunteer, and current staff member, there are still moments when being in this community fascinates me or brings me unexpected joy. Two most recent ones come to mind. The first was on a recent Saturday when 1st, 4th, and 6th grade parent Leyla initiated a parent work day to do, what for me has been a long-term dream, a rehabilitation of our well-loved Winter Faire games infrastructure. There were coffee, baked goods, paints, buckets, rags, bins, prizes, drills, sand paper, batting, moss, tiny trees, strings, and more! The parking lot was transformed into an elves workshop (which used to be the name for our crafting workshop back in the earlier Faire days!!). Moms, dads, dogs, and kids all chipping in to make each game look brighter and more appealing to future games players. You’ll have to wait until Faire day to see the results but anyone who has been to the faire in the last four years or more will notice the upgrades. This makes me want to sing the folk song “Simple Gifts.”
The second experience involved goose bumps, the arrival of which one cannot control. I was in a junior/sophomore math class and the seniors were gone so the class was gifted with a special lesson on a fun applied math activity with Ms. O. She had mentioned that this had been shared with the faculty once and that added to my intrigue, plus she alerted me that it was about gerrymandering. It was fantastic, not only the actual manner in which she explained the history and set up a very relevant, hands-on application for it (we got to play with “stacking” the districts for a fictitious state legislative race) but also how the students engaged in it. I’m a huge verb fan and one of my favorites that I wish for us all is engagement. The students picked up on the assignment right away (asking fewer questions than I, by the way) and began feverishly to draw their district salamanders. The level of chatting was delicious as they went through three rounds of drawing their sacred lines of demarcation. But the debrief, the “why” and “what could happen if…” and “what else could be done instead?” series of questions and answers was gobsmacking to listen to. Students really grasped the shortcomings of this system and one student who was familiar with elections, current elections, in Israel chimed in with insights about an alternative used there that has parties so disparate that it has its own level of mayhem, confusion and ineffectiveness. Just another day in a Waldorf math class. Commence goosebumps (another fun verb, commence).
An interview with WSP Parent and Early Childhood Assistant, Yixin Zhang
by Christine McQuade-Hsu | Advancement Director
How did you celebrate the Lunar New Year when you were growing up?
I was born in China and grew up in China. Although we have many festivals, Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, has been my favorite festival since I was a young kid.
In my memory, when I was little, my parents didn’t have any days off except during Spring Festival. They stayed at home and the whole family was very busy shopping, cleaning, cooking, etc. My sisters and I were allowed to watch TV shows at any time without time restrictions.
The most important time during the long Spring Festival was New Year’s Eve. My parents usually spent the whole day preparing for the New Year’s Eve dinner. You could find almost all of the best food on the New Year’s Eve dining table, which were hard to obtain for daily meals, or foods with good meanings, ie. fish was a must-have, as it means “surplus”, having surplus year after year, surplus in money, food, and clothes.
New Year’s Eve dinner belonged to the whole family. The fireworks were the favorite activity for young children. My sisters and I were allowed to stay awake to see the fireworks at midnight. Every family fired the fireworks starting around 11 pm and continued for about one and half hours. The loud sounds of fireworks drowned out all of the other sounds: people’s talk, TV shows, etc. People enjoyed the noises and wished the best for the new year in the splendid flames of the fireworks.
My sisters and I were not allowed to get up late on the first day of the Spring Festival although we went to bed at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Another round of fireworks sounded violently again in the early morning.
Afterward, every family member changed to new clothes dedicated to the new year. My sisters and I bowed down to my parents to wish them a happy new year with good health. My parents sent the red envelopes to each of us, which was my whole year’s allowance. I usually spent the money on books and magazines.
Then, my favorite festival tradition followed: dumplings for breakfast, which was a tradition for the first day of the Lunar New Year, and particularly special compared to our everyday breakfast of porridge. When I was young, dumplings of all kinds were my favorite food.
We spent the entire first day visiting neighbors, friends, and relatives, with every pocket filled with candies. People in the streets had smiling faces and greeted each other: “Guo Nian Hao!”, which means “Happy New Year!“
Children were gathering together to show off their new clothes, and to compete for who got the maximum amount of candies and the best candies. Boys played with the small firecrackers which didn’t need a lighter but when slammed into the ground would cause a crisp sound to pop up.
What are some of your favorite ways to celebrate it now? Now, I live overseas with my family. Usually, we have a simplified version of the Chinese New Year celebration. We keep the main elements of the traditions: dumplings, red envelopes, cleaning, visiting, and greeting friends, inviting relatives for the New Year’s Eve dinner.
Instead of spending time watching TV shows, we go outside to attend the celebrations in some museums. San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum is one of the places I recommend to everyone who wants to know more about the Chinese New Year.
The Lion Dance is also a good one. I had never seen it when I was in China because it was popular in the very South of China, and I was born in North China. My daughter Yumeng, who is a 6th grader now, was fascinated with the Lion Dances when she was little.
Could you suggest any activities, recipes, crafts for others to try? If writing Spring Festival couplets in Calligraphy are too difficult for you, Paper Cutting is a craft that you definitely want to try with your children. You could follow this video to make a beautiful pattern for your windows.
Some people refer to the Lunar New Year as a Spring Festival. Could you explain? The Spring Festival has a long history. It originated from the activities of worshiping gods and ancestors at the beginning and end of the year in the Yin and Shang Dynasties which was more than three thousand years ago.
In ancient China, the Lunar Calendar was used officially and popularly, like today’s solar calendar. The New Year’s celebration started on the 8th day of lunar December and ended at the night of 15th day in lunar January as the Lantern Festival. The peak time of the whole celebration was the first day of the lunar year to celebrate the coming of the spring and people would begin the farming tasks after the long winter break. People worshiped the gods for a smooth, happy, and good harvest year.
Spring Festival was another name for the Lunar New Year.
Do you have any new year’s wishes you’d like to share? The British poet P.B.Shelley said, “If winter comes, can spring be far behind?”
As 2022’s Spring Festival is coming on February 1st, the year of the tiger, according to the legend of Chinese New Year, the monster of “Nian” who ate people once a year during the beginning of the New Year, was scared by the loud noise of fireworks, the red staff i.e. red decorations including red couplets, red paper cuttings sticking on the window glass, red clothes etc. The “Nian” never comes again.
I wish the world will conquer the “monster” of the COVID-19, which will be going away soon and never come back, as what the wise ancient Chinese did to “Nian”. And that we will have a really nice spring without masks. Our beautiful smiles will be fully presented and we will be breathing freely the fresh air anywhere.
Happy Spring Festival! Happy Lunar New Year! Happy Chinese New Year!