Hello from Mr. Buckley

March 5, 2019

Dear Upper School Parents,

It was great to see so many of you during our recent parent-teacher conferences. Conferences are important moments between family and school when our partnerships are strengthened and our understanding of each child as a learner is in sync. As each of your children are wonderfully different, conferences offer a specialized blueprint for continued growth to help guide each individual student as we all work together and move into the future.  

And the future is bright for all your children because we are focusing on the right things here on West Shore Drive. Most notably, students across grades have worked hard to navigate intentional challenges in the classroom in order to build strong academic knowledge and skills, which we know are critical for keeping all doors open as they move into the future. They are also going beyond the purely academic and are exercising and applying their academic knowledge in real and exciting ways. Some examples of applied learning in action:


  • Students have written their own school mission statements using principles of Toaism and Confucianism
  • Students have studied, researched, and discuss real measures on the Massachusetts ballot
  • Students are writing their own unique versions of the Odyssey
  • Scientists who created Rube Goldberg contraptions are now creating windmills, using their knowledge of energy, force, physics, and the experiment cycle.
  • Language students have used their fluency to communicate in Spanish with local community members.

We know that these kinds of new, real, and meaningful experiences lead to better understanding and overall academic growth, particularly considering the early adolescent brain and how it responds to what is new and challenging.  Check out more about the adolescent brain here: The Young Adolescent Brain.

Students are not just using their academic skill in creative and new ways. They also are making the effort to use their voices, to take risks, and to take initiative. For this, we merely need to listen to our 8th graders who have worked tirelessly to craft their This I Believe capstone essays—work they began during the summer.  Through writing, storytelling and public speaking, their goal has been to use their academic skill and voice to communicate and persuade a wider audience of the importance of one of their closely held beliefs.  Below are a few quotes and themes from speeches that have been delivered during Upper School assembly over the past four weeks.


  • "Live every day and second in the moment."
  • "One trip to Philadelphia changed the way that I saw things. The U.S. should do more to help the homeless."
  • "Smiling helps me send love to others in ways that I may not be able to otherwise."
  • "When things go wrong, don't go with them."
  • "I believe in grinding your teeth and clenching your fists. I need to be on the edge of my seat to accomplish something."
  • "If you imagine and really believe, you can succeed."
  • "Take a chance and don't waste time overthinking. That just makes you indecisive."

Those are the voices of strength, character, and confidence. Yes, good things are happening on West Shore Drive. By focusing on the right things—academics, applied learning, and student voice—we are giving our students the power to write their own stories and determine their own futures. But that doesn't happen overnight. Rather, it takes one conference at a time.



Ryan Buckley

Ryan Buckley
Head of Upper School


75 West Shore Drive, Marblehead MA 01945 | towerschool.org

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