Welcome Letter from Dr. Young

Welcome to the 2018-2019 school year at West End Middle, where we build up one another through experiences that grow IB learners!
This weekend I had the opportunity to go for a run. Running is one of my favorite forms of exercise, but one that is more difficult to find time for now that we have three children under the age of five at home. While I was running (and pushing a stroller, of course), I started to think about why I enjoy running. For me, it goes back to growing up in Boston and watching the Boston Marathon. Every year in April, swarms of runners and spectators take to the streets of Boston. The first time I saw this event live, I knew I wanted to run someday. The energy around the event is contagious. Finally, in 2005, I decided to run. It was an experience I will never forget. There is something about being a part of a group of runners, regardless of whether you are trying to win or just trying to finish, that makes the experience so rewarding.
This year at West End, we are looking to create the same rewarding and exciting experience for our students with the introduction of our new house system. All students have been assigned to one of four houses: Clover, Corvid, Tower, or Zephyr. The houses include students and staff in all grade levels, and students can earn points for their house in connection with our school-wide Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS) system.
Every three weeks we will hold a school-wide house meeting. During this meeting students will be updated on the house point standings and we will introduce a house challenge. These challenges will be inquiry-based and will require teamwork, consensus building, and collaboration. At the end of each nine weeks, the house with the most points will receive an additional incentive.
Here are some of the ways we believe the house system will benefit our students and improve our school culture:
• Help students establish an identity and sense of belonging as part of a group. This is particularly important for students who are new to West End and transitioning into a new school environment.
• Emphasize collaboration and teamwork. House challenges will provide an opportunity to work toward a common goal.
• Connection with teachers across grade levels. By working in cross grade-level teams, students will have an opportunity to work with and develop bonds with teachers they may not see during their regular classes.
• Student mentoring. By working in cross grade-level teams, students will have an opportunity to mentor and provide leadership to their classmates.
Schools around the country have successfully implemented houses in recent years. I recommend reading this article if you would like to learn more about the benefits they have observed.
When I think about this house system, I think about my experiences as a runner. When you run you can set your own goals. Our PBIS system still includes incentives for students based on their individual accomplishments. But we hope our students see the benefit in the team, the collaboration, and the camaraderie that comes with the houses. Hopefully they will feel that same connection to their classmates that I felt for my fellow runners in Boston (without having to run 26.2 miles to do it).
If you have any questions about the house system and our school-wide PBIS expectations, please do not hesitate to ask.