Dear Westchester Families,
In last month’s newsletter, I began a series of articles about the intentional community that we continue to build here at Westchester. Much of what makes our school unique and powerful emerges from a culture that has been crafted and cared for by countless teachers, school leaders, parents, trustees, and students over the years. I wrote in December about one element of this culture, our faculty, highlighting the ways in which these very talented teachers are given opportunities to innovate, collaborate, and build lasting, caring relationships with their students.
The second way in which we build community at Westchester concerns how we work to instill in our students good habits—moral, academic, and personal. Our model for this approach reaches all the way back to Aristotle, who had a great deal to say about what it means to live a life of integrity. He taught us that “[e]xcellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.
Westchester is a community in which we constantly teach and model good habits—of mind, speech, behavior, and work. The moral, academic, artistic, and athletic excellence of which we speak in our mission statement lives and breathes on our campus and in the daily lives of our students and teachers.
Here at WCDS, we make no apologies about how hard we expect our students to work, and our graduates leave for college having learned the value of daily, disciplined academic study. As they move through our program from Kindergarten to the twelfth grade, our students learn day in and day out how to manage their time and keep up with their academic obligations while continuing to fulfill their extracurricular commitments, be they to a team, a club, a school play, or a volunteer organization.
Our culture also allows students to develop strong personal and organizational habits and to learn to take ownership of and responsibility for their decisions. As elementary students move to Middle School, opportunities for independence, leadership, and responsibility increase; by the time students reach the Upper School they are given even more latitude on campus during the school day. All of these efforts are intended to help them learn to make responsible decisions about their time.
Faculty members work to develop strong habits of mind in our students. In addition to learning literature, economics, chemistry, and the like, Westchester students learn to practice the habit of excellence in their pursuits. They learn to speak, write, and think with clarity and discipline; to train and compete with focus and vigor; and to and present themselves with dignity and care.
Our Code of Conduct offers us a guide by which we can make the practice of moral excellence visible and consistent in our school community. As speaking positively, doing our best, honoring commitments, and serving others become routine, our students learn to live the kind of excellent lives of which Aristotle speaks above. All of us work deliberately to ingrain these and other habits of excellence in our students and to model them in our own lives. As days become months and months become years, these habits of excellence take root.
“We are what we repeatedly do.” Our intent here at Westchester is to inculcate in our students strong habits of mind, behavior, work, and moral excellence as we prepare them for all of the challenges that lie ahead in college and in their adult lives.
Head of School