September – The Month That Was

Dear Parents,

It seems that our students and teachers are settling in to another school year and there is a positive energy flowing though our building.  It has been a pleasure to watch our staff so eagerly and collaboratively planning their lessons.  I find myself wishing I could sit in on them all.

As our students face their due dates and deadlines, the question becomes how do we support our students in a personal way, hold them accountable and help them to develop their time management skills?


As some students are coming to realize quickly, IWP (independent work period) is not a time when they can do nothing, but rather a time when they are free to choose which work they would like to work on. Freedom comes with accountability.

The weekly schedule balances the delivery of curriculum content with independent work periods. IWP is a tool to help our students to develop both their own time management skills, their self-advocacy skills and also to do some in-depth study. There is a clear expectation that the students are working during IWP but which project they choose to work on is up to them. For those who need support to know what to work on, directing them to their agenda often helps them to recognize the work that is before them and also reinforces the use of their agenda as an important time management tool. Often, but not always, the amount of homework that the students have is closely related to how effectively and efficiently they use their IWP, an interesting point for self-reflection that can be the catalyst for change.

The adults are available to the students during IWP, which provides the students with the opportunity to recognize any support they need and seek out that support, an important life skill. For those who are developing their self-advocacy skills, IWP provides the adults with a time to seek out the students who we feel need further support or clarifications and to provide individual and small group instruction. While a group of adolescents can certainly be loud, IWP is often a time that is certainly not silent. Our adolescents love to collaborate with one another and there is often an inspiring buzz in the room.


Our students are required to keep some kind of agenda, whether hardcopy or electronic, and are encouraged to record all of their due dates, deadlines, extracurricular and life activities in their agenda.  The agenda becomes a useful tool for our students but also the place where each student’s advisor can begin conversations and provide them with suggestions and support to help them manage their work and break larger tasks down into manageable chunks.

The agenda also serves as a good place for you as parents to check and get a sense of the work that is before your student.

Student Advisors

Each of your students has been assigned a student advisor. You should have received an email from your student’s advisor as they have each been in touch with you personally.  The advisors meet with the students regularly to check in, develop goals, provide them with support, suggestions and encouragement.  The advisors hold the big picture for each of the students and serve as one point of contact for you as parents.

While we seek to support your students in developing their independence, as parents, your insights and observations about your student’s experiences help us to know how best to support your student.  Please don’t hesitate to be in touch with anything that you think would prove useful for us to know.

Sarah Wheeler

Director, The Element High School