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Parent FAQS

A school is a complex organization of relationships, rules, traditions, and assumptions. Here, we have collected some of our parents more frequently asked questions. We welcome additional questions. Have a question you would like to submit? Send it in!

What is SAS philosophy on homework?

At SAS we prefer to think of assignments, at least at the upper school level, as out of class work, rather than homework. This work is an important component of the educational process. It helps to reinforce the work done in class, establishes self discipline, and fosters a sense of intellectual independence.
Recognizing our students' busy schedules and the need for individual and small group help, work periods are built into the daily schedule. The number of work periods increases with each grade level: sixth graders have one, seventh graders have two, eighth graders have four, and upper school students have eight. Work periods are a valuable tool and, when used effectively, provide students time during the school day to engage in out of class work.
If a student finds that the amount of out of class work is insufficiently challenging or problematic given their other obligations, we encourage the student to speak to their teacher or advisor.

Is it my responsibility to keep up with my child’s schoolwork?

Generally, no. As students enter SAS, we want them to start taking personal responsibility for their work and assignments. If we see a problem developing, we will inform you. If you are a parent of a younger day student or an older child with organizational challenges, you may want to simply ask “What do you have for homework tonight?” If your child seems confused about what they’re expected to complete, encourage them to check Renweb where all assignments should be listed. Our houseparents will do the same for our boarding students. We encourage you not to do for your child what they can or almost can do. It is through that struggle that they will grow.

How will I know how my child is doing in school?

You will receive updates on your child’s progress eight times a year and even more often if any problems develop.

Mid-Quarter Reports for Middle School students provide 2-3 sentences about the content of the course followed by a 5-6 item checklist of learning and behavioral expectations. Student performance will be evaluated on a 1-4 scale for each item. Grades on quizzes, homework, tests, etc. will be included.

The Head of Middle School reviews mid-quarter reports and quarter narratives and works closely with middle school teachers and advisors to identify students who are having academic difficulties. If your child is having academic difficulties, you'll hear from the teacher, Ms. Knoll, or your child's advisor to discuss strategies.

Mid-Quarter Reports for Upper School students provide a detailed progress report generated by Renweb that will allow you to see all grades received so far in the quarter and the assessment of all homework assignments. If your child has a current average under 75 in any class, you will also receive a comment from the teacher.

Quarter Reports for all students will include information on what the class has been doing, narrative comments on your child’s performance, and a grade for the quarter for Upper School students and Middle School students in Upper School courses (math and language).

The Head of Upper School reviews mid-quarter reports and quarter narratives for Upper School students and works closely with teachers, advisors, and househeads to identify students who are having academic difficulties. If your child is having academic difficulties, you'll hear from the teacher, Ms. Black, the Learning Resources Coordinator, or your child's advisor to discuss strategies.

We encourage you to look over these grade reports with your child or, if your child is in residence at SAS when the report arrives, schedule a phone or Skype call with your child to discuss the report. Look together at trends regarding organization, completing assignments, participating in class, performance on quizzes, etc.

I’ve contacted my child’s teacher. How soon can I expect a response?

Our teachers are expected to respond to parent communications within one business day. Please keep in mind that we keep our teachers very busy with classes, coaching, and residential duties which may, at times, delay their response. If the situation is an emergency, always feel free to contact the Administrator-on-Call (AOC) 931.636.4720.

How does SAS encourage internal motivation in my child? How can I encourage internal motivation in my child?

At SAS, we believe that real change comes from within a person, and that change requires process, hard work, patience, and perseverance. Until genuine interest -- the one true motivator -- kicks in, we ask our students to trust us and to trust that all that we ask of them - attendance, attention, out-of-class work - is important. We know that every class will not be inspiring, but that habit and hard work are important both before and after a student finds inspiration. Students are encouraged to embrace hard work and trust that gratification will come. We strive to help students find pleasure in work and in work well done.

When a child appears to be unmotivated, our first goal is to determine whether his or her lack of motivation is disinterest or inability. It is easy for a child to feign indifference to mask what may be a learning challenge.

As a parent, the most difficult part of this process is patience. Try to recognize and encourage the interests your child does demonstrate. Avoid putting too much emphasis on external motivators such as grades, rewards, and, even, your praise. Rather than praising your child, use words of encouragement. Studies show that telling a child, "You must have worked hard on this." is a better longterm motivator than saying, "Wow, this is really good." or "You are so talented."

Ways to Encourage Internal Motivation
  • Help your child to establish achievable and measurable goals.
  • Have your child record his or her goals.
  • Communicate with your child's teachers and advisor to be sure that the goals are realistic.
  • Revisit your child's goals together regularly and readjust as necessary.
  • Offer encouragement, rather than praise.
  • Encourage your child to be resilient. Even for those who are motivated and inspired, achievement is 99% hard work.
Motivation isn't a skill or a character trait. It's a frame of mind. It can be elicited, and students can learn to draw it out from themselves. To say that someone is "motivated," tout court, is incoherent. Motivation is directed at a specific thing or set of things. Helping students find their own reasons to care about academic material, whatever those reasons may be, is one of the best things SAS can do. ~ Jude Ziliak '05, Boston University '09

Why is my child's backpack so heavy?

Every instance of overloaded backpack syndrome is a little different. If your child's backpack is too heavy, it could be that your child:
  • does not want to use their locker and decides instead to carry everything all the time.
  • is afraid of forgetting materials needed for homework and packs everything in their backpack after school.
  • happens to have homework requiring lots of heavy books and supplies.
  • Encourage your child to take a few minutes at the end of the day to think about what materials they really need for homework.
  • If your child does forget something essential for a night's homework, don't encourage a "bring everything home all the time" solution.
  • Encourage your child to use lunch periods and work periods to work on homework. Completing homework for even just one class can really lighten the load (literally and figuratively).
  • Keep track of the number of occasions when a given night's homework requires lots of heavy books and supplies. If that number becomes excessive, let us help you work on an individualized solution for your student.

What is a parents’ role in course selection?

Middle School students’ only choice in classes is the language they choose to take. Your child will make that decision, although we encourage you to discuss the pros and cons of their options.

Each spring, returning Upper School students will work with the Head of Upper School, the College Counselor, and their Advisor to choose their courses for the following year. If you have concerns about the courses that have been chosen, we encourage you to contact the Head of Upper School in the spring. At the beginning of each semester there is a two-week drop/add period during which students may be able to make changes to their course schedule.

Why is SAS so expensive?

SAS provides individualized instruction; supervision; a large campus of facilities for academics, residential life, arts, and athletics; worship; weekend activities, health care; sustenance; transportation; and more. We work hard to keep costs as low as possible, but all of this is expensive. In fact, the cost to educate a child at SAS is greater than the tuition we charge. The SAS Fund and capital fundraising initiatives help to supplement tuition income. We do what we do because we believe that what we provide is valuable, important, and transformative for young people. We would love to offer this education more generously, and we continue to seek endowments and other income to make the SAS experience available to more families.

Why is the SAS dress code what it is?

We believe it is important to guide students in how to dress for formal occasions, work, school, athletics, and play. Dirty or indecent clothing is never appropriate or suitable, nor is clothing that is distracting or provocative. The school dress code emphasizes neatness, cleanliness, and modesty, while still allowing a wide range of clothing choices. ~ St. Andrew's-Sewanee School Student Handbook

The dress code at SAS allows students to dress in a manner that reflects what they will be doing that day – formal occasion (ex: Model UN day), sporting event (ex: athletic jersey), class (indoor or outdoor). We encourage students to dress neatly and modestly. We also want everyone to wear clean clothes and to feel comfortable learning without being distracted or offended.

Why is the Internet unavailable to boarders at night?

We have asked students not to use the Internet from 11 pm to 5 am and have cut off access from our server at that time for two reasons:
  • It is our hope that by “unplugging" for these six hours students will be able to get more rest each night.
  • We also hope that it will help students with their time management and organizational skills by prioritizing assignments.

How can I help my child to make social connections at school?

In addition to their classmates, students make strong friendships through the afternoon programs and clubs in which they participate. These friendships often span grades and the Middle and Upper Schools. Encourage your child to be involved at school, and to attend arts and athletics events. If you are a day family or live in driving distance, persuade your child to invite a friend to spend a weekend day or a night with your family. Ask your child to invite an international student to spend the holidays with your family. If your child is an Upper School student, day or boarding, encourage them to participate in Weekend Activities.

My child shared something with me about another child that has me concerned. What do I do?

Contact our Dean of Students Laura Clay. She will investigate the situation and, if necessary, address any issues without compromising our students’ privacy.

What’s the best way for me to get to know other SAS parents and my child’s friends?

Your child benefits from having classmates from across the country and around the world, but it can sometimes present a challenge for getting to know their friends and their friend’s parents. If you live nearby or are coming to visit, plan to attend events on campus and athletic contests. Volunteer to help with on-campus activities like assisting with the concession stand and SAS Fund phonathons or off-campus as a parent admissions ambassador. Offer to host a gathering for SAS in your home or hometown, a great way to get to know current families, alumni, and prospective families in your area.

What is the school's book purchase and buyback policy?

In an effort to provide our families more flexibility, convenience, and competitive pricing for book purchases, SAS uses MBS Direct for book purchases and buybacks.

The online book store opens in July. Families are expected to purchase their child's books from MBS Direct before the school year begins. Boarding students may have books shipped directly to the school.

The MBS Direct Book Buyback Program is done at the end of final exam week. Books eligible for buyback can be dropped off, along with the EZ Drop Buyback Quote, in the Simmonds building.

Questions? Contact Shawna Midgett.

My child wants to invite a boarder home, what do I need to do?

Call the Academic Administrative Assistant to issue an invitation and arrange logistics for check-out and pickup. Be aware that when a boarder is in your care school rules apply both to the boarding student and any day students present. We expect students to have adult supervision.

Why does the Upper School have Friday night detention?

Over the years, SAS has experimented with a variety of penalties and disincentives for tardiness and minor rules infractions, including Saturday morning detentions, work crews, and write-offs. Because students value their Friday night freedom, Friday night detentions, especially with the added ban of technology, has been a good deterrent for most students who need additional motivation to avoid unacceptable behavior. Students with an excess of detentions will be required to serve Saturday morning, too, and an action plan for dealing with their disciplinary issues will be put in place.

Detention serves as a deterrent for most students, but not all. For our Middle School students, we sometimes find the need for a more immediate penalty which usually means a lunchtime detention.

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