J.R. Neiswender | September 7 | Cougar Chronicle

Dear Upper School Families,

We know that in this unusual year, where parents are likely not coming onto campus nearly as frequently as in the past, we want to make sure that we continue to communicate effectively with all Upper School families about the academic, extracurricular, and social progress that we see our students making each and every day.  To that end, we have a variety of upcoming events that we want to bring to your attention that will allow us to share what’s going on with your students and the community as a whole. 

First, we all miss the opportunity to get together in person and have a traditional “Back to School” night this fall.  In its place this week, our Director of Studies and Director of College Guidance, Marshall Gray, and I will be presenting a virtual Curriculum Night this Wednesday, Sept 9 at 6:30pm.  Wednesday evening we will discuss the various departments, course sequences, and opportunities available for our 7-12th grade students here at The New School.  

Another upcoming program of note to which I want to draw your attention is College Night, also virtual, on October 1 at 6:30pm.  That evening Marshall Gray and I will again team up to discuss the college application process, changes we are seeing nationally in the ways college admissions offices are dealing with COVID, and the many ways in which The New School curriculum and the TNS college guidance program support our students through every step of this process.  We hope any and all interested Upper School parents will join us that evening for the first of many college-related offerings for students and parents throughout the 2020-21 school year.

And finally, even though we have just hit Labor Day, we are already planning for the end of our first academic quarter in mid-October.  To that end, as a faculty, we have begun discussing Conferences, as well as comment writing and grade reporting procedures for this fall.  I know conferences have taken on a variety of forms in the Upper School over the years, and not surprisingly, this year they will look a little different yet again.  This fall during the week of September 28-October 2, each student and their Upper School advisor will participate in a virtual conference with parents where everyone will be able to discuss academic progress in each class, extracurricular activities and clubs that the student is involved with, and other elements of how the fall semester has gone to that point.  These conferences allow each family to connect with the advisor and discuss the school year for each student.  Prior to conference week, teachers will be providing class-by-class information to the advisors so they will be able to speak knowledgeably about each of the student’s courses at that point in time, and the advisors will also work with the students so that the students feel comfortable playing an active role in discussing their own academic strengths and struggles so far.  Advisors work each and every day with the students, and this system allows them to continue to be the best first point of contact between families and our TNS community.  Does that mean families cannot ever talk with teachers?  Of course not.  But this system allows for the advisor and the family to connect on the things that are going well, as well as the things that may need additional follow-up, and then to set up those needed extra steps with individual teachers moving forward.   Sometimes problems are just emerging around conference time - late September is often the time in the school year where review material is in the rear-view mirror and the challenge of new material is beginning to set in.   The advisors, looking at the entire picture for a student through these conferences, can provide the necessary guidance to establish connections with teachers with whom the student needs to spend more time and study techniques that will hopefully aid the students in balancing their various academic and extracurricular responsibilities successfully.  Teachers will continue to connect with and support upper school students directly, both in and out of class, and these conferences will establish the best ways for everyone to know how things are going before our mid-semester grade-check and teacher comments that will come home in mid-October.  More details about these conferences and how to set-up the conference with your student’s advisor will be on the way in the coming weeks.

J.R. Neiswender

Head of Upper School         

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