Lower School's Educational Approach and Curriculum
Every aspect of the Westminster program has been designed to foster personal discovery and development. Along with the curriculum content, cultivating the student’s curiosity, intellectual skills, study and work habits, confidence in his/her ability to master unfamiliar material, and enthusiasm for learning comprise a major part of our goals for educating the children. While the academic program is interwoven with and inseparable from the school’s emphasis on all aspects of personal and character development, certain aspects that characterize daily classroom life can be articulated:
The atmosphere of the school is one of warmth, respect, and courtesy. Whether the child is interacting with teachers, staff members, bus drivers, custodians, museum guides, or classmates, these qualities are articulated, modeled, and nurtured.
The students wear uniforms daily and staff members observe a professional dress code. In addition to ensuring a nice-looking, appropriate presentation and avoiding fashion competition, uniforms and the staff dress code encourage a “ready for school” attitude and comportment.
Classes are small, ranging from 15–18 students, and children receive individual attention. In grades 3 – 8, teachers have the same students for two years. This allows the teachers to get to know students (and their parents) well, fostering trusting relationships and long-range perspective on the child’s progress.
The academic program is departmentalized, with specialists teaching all subjects. There is a carefully structured, thoroughly articulated curriculum for each subject, which progresses smoothly from grade to grade. Curriculum structure and delivery are overseen by department chairs and administrative curriculum specialists, ensuring ongoing review and improvement, and consistency from subject to subject and year to year.
Teachers are carefully selected from among well-qualified applicants. In addition to relevant educational credentials and experience, Westminster looks for kind, loving, inspirational individuals who are passionate about teaching and about the subject(s) they teach. Westminster teachers are trained and carefully guided by the administration, team leaders, and subject department chairs to ensure consistent and thorough implementation of the Westminster curriculum and overall program.
Instruction is presented in a teacher-directed, purposeful classroom environment that promotes in-depth understanding of subject matter; critical thinking and clarity of articulation; responsible study and work habits; and an appreciation of and desire for excellence. Organizational skills and the habits of good scholarship are taught and reinforced in every grade so that students learn how to learn. Homework is assigned daily in all grades, with the total daily amount increasing gradually, from approximately 10 minutes in kindergarten to 2½ hours in 8th grade. A regular schedule of quizzes, tests, and special projects is consistent from class to class and grade to grade. Teachers coordinate with one another to ensure a balanced study load.
Study-related and enrichment field trips are an important part of the Westminster program. Students enjoy an average of one field trip per month. After-school help is provided (at no extra charge) Monday-Thursday for any student who may be struggling with a particular subject, general study or organizational skills, or who would like extra preparation before a test. Students identified as needing extra remediation or enrichment in reading / language arts or math have the benefit of special resource teachers, who provide an individually tailored program (at no extra charge).
In general, Westminster promotes what we call “the golden triangle,” a mutually respectful, supportive partnership among parents, teachers, and the school administration. Regular, constructive communication among these partners is not only customary, but a part of school policy. Teachers are required to maintain certain levels of communication with parents, and parents are invited to communicate whenever they have a question or concern. School administrators are frequent participants at school events, well-known among the parents, and accessible to anyone in the school community who requests their attention.