Year-End Reflections from a First-Time Submarine Captain

Over the past few months, I often found myself thinking about an article I read by an American nuclear submarine officer. There was one line that really stuck with me – “If there is one thing my experience as a submarine officer taught me, it’s that you get comfortable being uncomfortable.”

Since COVID-19 turned our lives upside-down back in March, I’ve felt like a captain of a submarine. Because since then, everything that I took for granted about running a school has become anything but comfortable. The way we deliver our curriculum, the way our students interact with each other, the way our faculty works together, the way we run our clubs and assemblies – all of it needed to be re-thought, re-planned, and re-invented. I had to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and quickly.

The first few weeks after we closed our facility was the most intense experience of my professional life. I felt a bit like a first-year Head of School again, because so much was totally new and unfamiliar to me. But this time, I had to make all those new decisions in an incredibly short period of time. By all rights, it could have been a total and complete disaster.

Of course, sailing a giant pressurized metal tube with no windows hundreds of meters underwater should be a recipe for disaster as well. But the reason submarines work is very simple. It’s because of teamwork. No submarine captain can – or should – try to check every valve and plug every leak. Captains are only as good as their team of officers, sailors, and support staff onshore. Our KCS submarine has been successful these past months for many of the same reasons we’ve been successful in the past: because we’ve all been supported by an amazing community of students, faculty, staff, Board members, volunteers, and families.

As soon as I realized that we would have to close the school, I knew that everyone on our team would be ready to jump in, help out, and support each other. That’s because I’ve seen it happen again and again throughout my years at KCS. But seeing that kind of amazing teamwork in action on such a grand scale has been incredibly rewarding and humbling. These are intense times, but they have reminded me how lucky I am to be surrounded by such a great community of people.

That includes our parents and families as well. Just like our faculty and staff, our families have rolled up their sleeves and helped us make it through this experience. They have been our own “front line workers” these past three months, and we could not have made it work without their tireless efforts on the home front! I’m also very proud of how hard we worked as a school to give families the opportunities to ask questions or raise concerns, as their experiences at home gave us valuable insights and feedback that helped inform our thinking and decision making.

But even with all this support and teamwork, the pressure can build up. For years, I had a simple strategy that helped me deal with the stress of leadership. I would just walk down the hall, wander into a classroom, go outside for recess, and start chatting with our students. Believe me – if you want to feel grounded and rejuvenated, nothing beats a conversation with a student in one of our youngest grades. Five minutes of that puts everything I do back into perspective.

In many ways, not having that ability to regularly connect with our students has been the hardest part of this whole situation for me. That’s probably why I found myself looking forward to my weekly Hockey Card Club meetings.. Spending a half-hour just talking with grades 1-3 students about cards helped me remember why I do what I do. Because at the end of the day, it’s all about connecting with people. Every individual in our community matters, and maintaining that sense of connection between all of us at KCS has been our number one priority these past months.

I know that I’ll never actually be a captain of a submarine (I was in a Soviet submarine once, but didn’t enjoy the tight quarters given my size!). But this experience in the last three months has shown me that becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable is not just a survival tactic for submariners. It’s also a good reminder that navigating choppy waters is a lot easier if you’ve got teamwork, positivity, and a strong community on your side.

As we cross the finish line of a very unusual but ultimately rewarding school year, I hope everyone in our community enjoys a happy and healthy summer. As I reminded our graduates at closing ceremonies, be sure to always let our three school rules guide you. They served me very well these past few months, and I know they will serve all of you well, no matter where you go or what life throws at you.

Have a great summer KCS. I can’t wait to see all of you again soon!

-Derek Logan

Along with “How a Nuclear Submarine Officer Learned to Live in Tight Quarters”, another great read on the subject of getting comfortable with being uncomfortable is “Planning Your Future Is Pointless. The How and Why of Embracing Uncertainty”. Both articles provide interesting insights into how to handle the unique challenges of our times.

Supporting Well-being with Drama and Technology

One of the things I’ve always loved about teaching drama is the element of human connection. Drama helps us tell stories in ways that connects with our need to be seen, heard, and understood. It is an art driven by facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language – all elements of a shared common language that we each embody in our unique way. In other words, drama is a universal language that is also highly personal.

We know that connections are vital for well-being. So now, more than ever, our students need to feel connected to their community. And I believe that nothing builds connections better than sharing and hearing our stories. But how do you make those connections when we are so physically separated?

That’s the question I brought to my weekly meeting with drama educators from around the world. My Canadian colleagues in Korea, Spain, and NYC all shared what they have learned during their time at the heart of the COVID-19 crisis. They all agreed that students need the emotional connection of theatre, and many of them recommended I look into Flipgrid, an online video-sharing tool created by Microsoft.

Basically, Flipgrid is a way for students and teachers to communicate via short videos. It is highly customizable, has excellent privacy settings, and is presented in a way that is very engaging and accessible for a generation that is growing up using apps such as TikTok or Snapchat.

Alongside our wonderful students and fellow teachers, we took a responsible risk and piloted the use of Flipgrid in a number of different classes. It has proven to be a remarkable tool – not only in drama classes, but in many other disciplines. We’ve also incorporated it into student speeches, social studies projects, and games such as “All About Me” and “Guess Who”. We’re also using it as the backbone of our upcoming KCS’ Got Talent @ Home Edition!

The fact that students can rehearse and do multiple takes before uploading a final version has been a huge boon for those students who might normally feel uncomfortable speaking in front of a class, as it gives them a sense of control and agency over their responses.  Because videos go directly to the teacher, students who would rather express their ideas 1:1 feel empowered to have a voice. And for those who don’t like seeing themselves on camera, they can use filters, post-it notes, or a virtual whiteboard instead of their own talking head!

But probably my favourite aspect of Flipgrid is the way in which it allows students to build connections with others. Once a video is uploaded, students and teachers can post video responses to give individual feedback or accolades. Seeing your teacher’s facial expressions and hearing the tone of their voice as they talk to you about something you have made is a deeply rewarding and empowering experience. Kids who were feeling isolated or lonely suddenly feel seen and heard. Their social connections to others are strengthened, simply through the power of communal conversations.

Times of crisis are also times of opportunity. While the COVID-19 situation has given us many challenges, it has also helped us move outside our comfort zone and explore new and innovative approaches to teaching. This experience has reminded me to never stop trying new things, especially when it comes to exploring new avenues that help our students become more empowered, balanced, and connected.

-Teresa Pollett-Boyle, Arts Coordinator

Passion-Driven Learning at School and Home

The wisdom of the ages has taught us to strive for balance. To the extent that we practise it, we see the value it offers in health, happiness, and success.

Balance is also behind transformational learning.

For far too long, education has been designed with well-intended imbalance. The half of the equation most focused on – curriculum-driven learning – is absolutely valuable. For generations, students have shown up to school and worked their way through a long list of knowledge and skills. Learn the alphabet, count by tens, contemplate history, write with persuasion, dabble in science, and – of course – show what you know and can do with the content and skills adults choose.

This is a critical part of school. It helps students practise core skills as steps to mastery. But more is possible. Making room for students to bring their full selves – their passions, curiosity, and talents – makes for the full value in education that students deserve and we all need them to have. Balancing the school experience with time devoted to passion-driven learning means students not only learn in the area of their passions; if done right, it develops their core knowledge, skills, and habits of mind in precisely the directions we rightly seek in the curriculum.

Here’s how this works at KCS:

When students pursue their passions at school, they usually practise their research skills. Their curiosity is exercised and they develop their question-asking and problem-solving. Because they care, they read more (and read more complex text), they learn more, take more notes, and write with greater attention to quality. When expected to share their learning, which our teachers ask of their students, this information is synthesized and turned into a coherent written project or public presentation. In the case of some passions, sharing often means creating something to show their classmates. This might include building a model (real or virtual), coding a robot, drafting a business proposal, making a video game, creating works of art, composing music, or writing a book. The ownership and empowerment are palpable. While initial steps are often modest, robust seeds are planted that fuel intrinsic motivation, responsible risk-taking, persistence, and creativity.

Passion projects are a journey of self-discovery and determination. Animation, cooking, activism, architecture, and interior design are just a handful of topics currently being pursued and shared among our students. Infused with positive emotion, these are presentations that engage and move listeners, making what they’re hearing ‘stick’. They also inspire listeners, either to try their hand at what so excites the speaker or just to double-down on their own passions. In fact, there is copious scholarly research that demonstrates how passion is contagious. (For more on this, look no further than this TEDx Talk from the University of Waterloo.)

Our commitment to passion-driven learning is even stronger in this unusual time. From day one of our KCS At Home Learning Program, passion projects have been part of the Weekly Learning Plan (WLP) going home to every student. Encouraging students to devote part of their school week to pursuing their passions is as much about learning as it is about our other priority: well-being. Our facility closure and the physical distancing that has removed much of what used to bring happiness has also taken away much of our students’ healthy sense of control. A significant part of mental health is rooted in the feeling that we have control over important parts of our lives. Passion projects that are rooted in one’s own passion and pursued in a way of their choosing, at a pace that’s right for them, bring a powerful sense of control and source of joy back into our students’ lives.

Balance has always brought value to the KCS experience. Passion projects and “learning for the love of it” bring value to student learning. They also bring happiness, motivation, and inspiration at a troubling time. We’ll keep sharing internally and on our social media channels (#KCSPassionProjects) where those passions take our students. And we hope our sharing will inspire all in education to find the balance all students deserve.

Andrea Fanjoy
Head of Senior School

Dr. Matina Mosun
Assistant Head, Academics

Preparing to Make the Leap Online

There are a million aphorisms about the importance of being prepared for an emergency.

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Ben Franklin

“I don’t believe in luck, I believe in preparation.” – Bobby Knight

“Preparation for tomorrow is hard work today” – Bruce Lee

Some would argue that it was impossible to prepare for an event like COVID-19 and the subsequent move to online learning. But at KCS, we have actually been preparing for situations like these for some time now. Over five years ago, we created and put into place our Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Plan, a comprehensive set of responses to a number of drastic “what if?” scenarios that is audited and updated annually.

One of those scenarios outlined in the plan is a situation where the school’s building is no longer accessible, but the technology infrastructure is still in place. And as we all well know, we found ourselves in exactly that situation back in March of this year. Knowing that this situation – along with many others – could one day arise, we have been preparing for the worst by making regular strategic updates over the past few years to our technology infrastructure.

We transferred workloads and data to the cloud, along with our email system. We drastically cut down on local applications that have to be saved on laptops, and moved instead to web-based subscription programs. We also made an intentional choice to move away from desktop computers and towards a full fleet of microphone- and webcam-enabled laptops for all faculty and staff. Additionally, our faculty and students received a great deal of tech training to help them get used to Sesame, Edmodo, and the Google suite of apps. All of these decisions meant that our technology was nimble, mobile, and ready for remote teaching and working, long before COVID-19 came onto the scene.

When March rolled around and we realized that we had to “flip the switch” and move to an online learning scenario, we made the leap and got everyone ready. The academic leadership team developed an at-home learning plan that incorporated strong academics, mental well-being, and meaningful connections between faculty and students. We then took this plan and used it as a guide for our next steps. We had all staff and faculty take part in intense, focused, and scaffolded professional development designed to help them make effective use of Google Meet, Edmodo, and Sesame as communication and teaching platforms.

On the first Wednesday after March Break, we officially launched the KCS At Home Learning Program with homeform Meets at every grade level. Each class was assigned a “homeform buddy”, who would set up, record, manage, and post each Meet. By the second week of classes, we were hosting specialist classes for each grade, and all faculty were well versed on how to set up and run Meets.

Knowing that there was a huge amount of learning for our entire community, we decided to provide additional support for all our faculty, staff, students, and families. We set up a dedicated email for at home learning questions and reassigned staff to increase our Help Desk team from one full-time person to two full-time and three part-time people. Over the first month, that team also provided a great deal of one-on-one training to families and students, to ensure that everyone was able to get online and access all learning resources. That team also provided one-on-one training to faculty, to help them master a range of different strategies and tools that would help them teach online in an effective and engaging manner.

Of course, all the planning and preparation in the world doesn’t mean anything if the people you are working with don’t follow the plan. But if these past few months have taught us anything, it is that we are blessed with a culture of growth and flexibility here at KCS. Our faculty and staff have gone way out of their comfort zone and embraced this situation with positivity, professionalism, and drive. Additionally, our families and students have epitomized our third school rule – Try Your Best! All our students and families have worked incredibly hard to take on these new challenges, and we could not be prouder of them.

If you’ll indulge us one more preparation-themed quote, we like this one from Colin Powell. “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” We couldn’t agree more, and we think our success in making the leap online comes from the hard work and preparation of our entire community.

  • Stacy Marcynuk (Director of IT, Curriculum) & Adam Stoyles (IT Manager)

A Day in the Life of a Teacher Online

Life has changed considerably for all of us over the last six weeks.  Different routines, working from home, finding time to be away from screens, making time for exercise, etc.  For many of us, we have never been challenged to change so much in our lives over a such a short period of time.

For the most part, teachers are creatures of habit. Schools are built around timetables and routines that shape our daily lives. But in this current world of physical distancing and remote learning, our teachers have had to develop a whole new set of daily routines in order to teach their students, adjust their programs, plan ahead, assess work, and – of course – find time to look after all the other “life stuff” that has become much more complicated over the past month. Of course, the challenges of COVID-19 are global and wide-reaching, which means that everyone in our KCS community – not just teachers – are living much different lives these days.

Every teacher has come up with their own system to stay organized and teach effectively. Ms. Meleca in SK teaches some of our youngest students – a cohort that (unsurprisingly!) presents a number of unique challenges when it comes to learning at home. When she’s not spending time with her students on Meets (daily full class Meets, along with one-on-one and small group Meets throughout the week), she spends most of the day building and evolving an Early Years Program that is accessible, engaging, and appealing for five-year olds. Luckily for her, she’s part of an ELP team, all of whom are sharing resources and ideas during multiple WhatsApp chats and small group Meets every day. Those same ELP teachers also participate in a weekly Zoom PD meeting with teachers from other independent schools, where ideas and innovations are discussed. When she finally manages to tear herself away from her laptop, she can usually be found running errands for her sister (who is at home with a new baby!) or her parents. Oh, and she’s also trying to find time to re-plan her upcoming wedding, which was supposed to happen at the end of May! Busy times, indeed!

Another teacher who is planning and iterating with colleagues is Ms. Tenebaum. When she’s not in her grade 6 homeform, language, or social studies Meets, Ms. T can usually be found collaborating with her teacher partner Ms. Phillips. During those meetings, they plan upcoming lessons, reflect on what is and is not working well, develop support plans for individual kids, assess work, create organization strategies to share with their students, and brainstorm creative solutions to new problems. They usually meet up to four times a day. When she’s not working with Ms. Phillips, Ms. T spends time emailing with students and families or reaching out to the grade 6 specialist teachers to check in on how her students are doing in other classes. She also regularly participates in online learning and connects with colleagues from other independent schools to learn from each other. In the evenings, she checks in on her own kids’ schoolwork, shoots some hoops with the family, does a few household chores, and then relaxes with some TV or board games.

A positive daily routine is important for well-being, which is why some teachers have found that sticking to a consistent schedule is helpful. But probably nobody is better at that than “Ironman” Hayes! Here’s a peek at his daily routine: 4:59-6:00 AM – Wake up, make coffee, check email, and plan for the day. 6:00-7:30 AM – Ride indoor bike trainer while simultaneously filming “Working Out with the Hayes” instructional PE videos. 7:30-8:30 AM – Shower, shave, and get own kids (grades 2 & 5) ready for the day. 8:30-9:00 AM – 5S Meet. 9:00-10:00 AM – Work with own kids on math. 10:00-11:00 AM – Math class Meet or math extra help Meet. 11:00-12:00 PM – Science class Meet or science extra help Meet. 12:00-12:30 PM – Lunch with family. 12:30-1:15 PM – Go for 4-6k run with son. 1:15-2:00 PM – Work with kids on language/science/social studies. 2:00-3:00 PM – Planning and prepping for upcoming lessons, along with filming math videos. 3:00-3:30 PM – 5S meet. 4:00-5:45 PM – Bike ride and walk the dog. 5:45-6:30 PM – Spend time with his wife. 6:30-7:00 PM – Dinner. 7:00-8:30 PM – Brooklyn 99 time! 8:30-9:00 PM – Bath and bed for kids, and bedtime for Mr. Hayes as well! Whew!!!

As many of us have realized, working from home means that you often find yourself having to find new ways of doing things, as many of our typical approaches and strategies just don’t work in this new context. That’s something Mrs. Robins knows very well, as she and Ms. Hurley spend hours each day planning, reflecting on best practices for primary students in this learning environment, and developing new resources for their grade 3 students to use at home. She tries her best to provide resources like video lessons that the students can review on their own as often as needed, in order to better support their ability to do work with minimal parent involvement. Of course, these types of lessons and activities are not the ones she was providing just a few months ago, so it requires a significant amount of time to find and create these new resources. There’s also been a learning curve when it comes to technology for all our teachers, and Mrs. Robins is no exception. Along with learning new tech such as Google Meets, Jamboard (for “live” lessons), Screencastify, and more, she has also found time to support families and students with their technology learning. There’s also regular communication with families to ensure that the students are keeping up with the work and are not struggling academically, socially, or emotionally. Throw in the class Meets and small group lessons each day, and you see why virtual Pilates and family movie night have become a welcome break in the evenings!

We know that this is a stressful time for everyone. The teachers at KCS love what they do, and they are deeply committed to helping each and every one of their students manage this new learning experience the best they can. They have rolled up their sleeves and developed entirely new lessons and programs, all because they want their students to not only keep learning, but to also have a degree of normalcy in the midst of a time of uncertainty and anxiety. Sure, things aren’t always perfect, but that’s what happens when you are “building a plane while flying it”. We know you and your kids are working just as hard. So together, we’ll keep working, keep figuring things out, and come out at the other end stronger and more connected than ever.

 

KCS Land Acknowledgement – Grade 3 Students Share What They Know

At the beginning of this school year, grade 3 students embarked on a new learning journey. With an increased focus on the experiences of Indigenous communities in Canada’s history, our students gained a better understanding of what it means to apologize, what reconciliation means, and how we can help to make things right with Indigenous people.

The question posed to the grade 3 students was, “Why should our government be apologizing to Indigenous people?” The enthusiasm with which the grade 3 students approached this topic and the depth of questions asked along the way were simply astounding. Many adults continue to grapple with this important question. Some might wonder how eight- and nine-year-old children could possibly begin to understand these complicated issues. Well, not only did the grade 3 students learn more than we could have imagined, they also showed incredible initiative and leadership in doing their part to help Make the World Better.

After working with this year’s artist in residence – Lindy Kinoshameg from Wiikwemkoong Unceded First Nation – to develop and write a Land Acknowledgement, our students then considered how they might inform the rest of KCS about what a Land Acknowledgement is and why it is so important. Some students decided to share what they had learned by making posters to hang in all of the classrooms. Other students took on the job of creating a presentation to share with each class at KCS. They wanted to give all students some background knowledge before the Land Acknowledgement was introduced to the school. At Lindy’s final assembly at KCS, a small group of students excitedly shared the Land Acknowledgement with the entire community.

KCS teachers and students were impressed by what the grade 3 students were able to do. During the class presentations, our students received many compliments about their strong speaking skills and depth of knowledge. The grade 7s and 8s were especially impressed by the vocabulary used during these presentations. After all, ‘assimilation’ and ‘reconciliation’ are words studied in intermediate history classes!

The grade 3 students will remember all that they have learned through this experience. By letting the students drive their own learning, and by supporting them in their efforts to Lead to Make a Difference and Make the World Better, we were all reminded of the power of Project Based Learning.

So, if you have a problem to solve, try getting a young person involved in finding a solution. You will be amazed by the passion, persistence, and determination they will show when faced with a real-life challenge.

Setting Students Up for Exam Success at KCS

Imagine you are sitting in a rowboat all by yourself. You’ve been told you need to get to an island in the middle of a lake. But there’s one small problem – you have no oars. So, you struggle to travel in the water, splash aimlessly, and ultimately end up frustrated with your goal still out of reach. Having the right tools can make all the difference in feeling prepared and in control of working toward our goals. This was just one analogy shared during out exam preparation sessions with Study Spot, one of our many learning partners, this fall.

At KCS, we want to ensure that we have done everything possible to set our students up for success. This means we don’t just teach students what will be on an exam – we also teach them how to prepare for an exam.

It begins by embedding backwards planning into our grade 6-8 program as a way to build and develop exam preparation skills long before anyone sits down to write an exam. This year it also began by having the grade 6 and 7 students work with one of Study Spot’s academic coaches, where students and parents learned that preparing for a big test such as an exam begins with establishing study and organization routines that stick.

During these coaching sessions, the students are introduced to many exam prep strategies, such as making a plan, sticking to a schedule, self-testing, and maximizing the “spacing effect” (the phenomenon whereby information is remembered longer when studying is spaced out over time). They also talk about the importance of work/life management, the importance of sleep, and managing screens and distractions. Finally, they are provided with a wealth of planning materials, including study schedule templates, an action priority matrix, weekly planners, and guides to the pros and cons of different visual organizers and information capturing tools. (FYI – all of these materials are available for download on the Parenting Resource tile on the KCS website.)

Continued throughout the year, our teachers design their program in a thoughtful and intentional manner, as we know that it takes careful planning to teach kids how to thrive at school and in life. Our students will be writing exams throughout high school and university, so we know that now is the time to teach them these essential study skills and organizational habits. And even though exams aren’t a regular part of adult life, those skills and habits carry over in different ways. Exams teach you to be organized, deal with pressure, persist, ask for help, identify key points, and sift through large amounts of information – all useful lessons for adulthood.

We know that even after all this preparation, exams can still be scary. But that’s okay. When we’re scared, we rethink our habits and apply them in ways that make us better equipped to handle the unexpected. Every time we try something new or challenging, we get better at handling it. The exam experience helps our students become more organized, pay closer attention to their homework, and learn to prepare for future challenges. Many students feel a great sense of accomplishment as exams wrap up.

Our hope is that by the time our students leave us for high school and beyond, they will have learned new habits and had many opportunities to put those habits to work. We also hope that because there will be elements of frustration and challenge along the way, they will also leave us with a deep and genuine sense of empowerment and confidence. In the end, we don’t want anyone to feel stranded in a rowboat with no oars. We want them to have the skills and tools they need to take their boat and navigate toward any destination they choose.

-Dr. Matina Mosun

gray-boat-on-body-of-water-2784280

Gender Diversity at KCS

We often talk about how our students are growing up in a world that is very different from the one we grew up in. The most obvious change is the rapid pace of technological development and the impact it has had on us as a society. But I think there is another change that is just as significant and far-reaching, and that’s the way we now approach the idea of diversity and inclusivity.

While previous generations opened up the conversation around racism and sexism, the conversation these days is centered more broadly on the idea of intersectionality, which is a complicated word that simply means that everyone’s lived experience is different. We all have a unique history and story that are grounded in our ethnicity, culture, faith, gender, and sexuality. These are elements that we have always tried to talk openly about with our students, as we want them to build a deep and authentic sense of empathy for everyone they will meet in their lives.

Over the past few years, we have widened this conversation to include both mental health and the experience of Indigenous peoples. This year, we have made a conscious choice to further widen that conversation by developing our faculty and staff’s understanding of gender diversity.

rainbow-color-pencil-colors

Back at the start of January, every member of the KCS faculty and staff took part in an extensive workshop on gender diversity that was run by facilitators from The 519 – a Toronto organization that promotes inclusion and respect of the LGBTQ2S community. It was an eye-opening experience for many of us, as it asked us to challenge our own lived experiences and our understanding of what it means to be a “boy” or a “girl”.

To understand gender diversity, you have to realize that there is a difference between one’s biological sex and one’s gender. Biological sex is the category we are placed in at birth, based on discernable physical characteristics. Gender is the identity or “face” we show the world. It’s really about each person’s sense of their own gender identity, which may or may not align with their physical biology. It’s also worth noting that gender is not always a simple binary distinction (i.e., masculine/feminine) – it can be much more fluid and complex.

With a student population of approximately 400 each year, we know that we have 400 different individuals in our school, all of whom are on their own unique emotional journeys. We know that kids can only learn when they feel that they belong and are accepted. We must meet our students where they are, and the simple fact is that we will always have students who do not neatly fit into the traditional preconceived notions of gender.

So, if we want to be as inclusive as possible, then we have to keep trying our best to make KCS a brave space where every individual can talk openly about who they are, regardless of their ethnicity, culture, faith, gender, and/or sexuality. This means being aware of the language we use and the preconceptions we carry around with us. We know that these kinds of conversations can make some people uncomfortable, but we also know that it’s the right thing to do. Our students deserve to feel accepted and understood, and they must also learn to accept and understand each other. In many ways, it’s the most important lesson they’ll learn during their time at KCS.

– Tamara Drummond

If you wish to learn more about any of our diversity and inclusion initiatives, please reach out to Tamara Drummond, Director of Student Life, at tdrummond@kcs.on.ca. If you would like resources to discuss these issues with your own child in age-appropriate language, please speak to our librarians (or visit our online gender diversity collection) for books that can help start the conversation.

KCS Senior School Update #9 – And So We Begin

What a delight it was to announce that we had secured a site, a remarkable one, and let our community know that we will be opening our Senior School in September 2021.

One of the best parts of the announcement is that we can now speak more fully about all that we’ve been working on. The Senior School website shares our new location and many of the special features we have in mind for enriched student learning. The Town Hall, taking place tomorrow, February 11th at 7:00 p.m. in Canada Hall, will allow a number of us to speak and answer the questions that I know are currently bottled up inside many. And our new Senior School e-newsletter has been getting steady sign-ups and will provide dedicated monthly updates as of February 19th. We encourage every interested follower to sign up on our website so you can be sure to learn about our ongoing progress and any important dates coming up.

KCS Senior School Town Hall

And while we’re thrilled to share all the details with every adult who’s keen to listen, there’s one group that it has been a particular pleasure to engage.

Last week our grade 6 and 7 students learned that they will have the opportunity to meet with our architect and participate in discussion around design. Mrs. Drummond and I will also gather their thoughts on furnishings. We arranged a short trip to our site last week so they could see the building from the outside (going inside has to wait a bit longer) and so they could also start getting to know the nearby greenspace. They saw the Etobicoke Stormwater Management Facility, with ducks and tagged swans swimming in the frigid water. They saw the Humber Bay Butterfly Habitat, and the Home Garden that was distinctly designed to support various species of butterflies in their different life cycle stages. Our grade 6s got a peek at the wetlands a little to the west, and our grade 7s visited the Air India 182 Memorial in Humber Bay Shores Park East. During our walk, they were challenged to look, listen, and think of how this intriguing environment could connect with each of their school subjects.

Here’s a sample of how they said they could use this outdoor space for learning:

  • Poetry and descriptive writing
  • Building a working model of the Stormwater Management Facility
  • Learning to sail
  • Getting permission from the city to create French language versions of the many signs describing the area
  • Painting and sketching
  • Hosting our “Wake Up With the Arts” events on the boardwalk
  • Calculating the volume of water in the Stormwater Facility
  • Investigating the history of Air India Flight 182, the history of the neighborhood (including the Mr. Christie cookie factory), and the history of the Indigenous communities that used to inhabit this part of the city

This has been a special couple of weeks. Taking the students to our new site and introducing them to the endless learning that’s within a minute’s walk was a highlight. KCS now has two great campuses which our Junior and future Senior School students can now embrace as their neighbourhoods. There are so many possibilities. The learning has just begun for us all.

 

A Distinct Partner Ecosystem for Learning and Creativity: KCS Senior School Update #8

“Caring teachers who were skilled, experienced and took the time to understand me, encourage me, and recognize my achievements.” – KCS parent

Teachers have important areas of expertise. They have knowledge, skills, and dispositions that notably support student growth. Not surprisingly, when we asked KCS parents in our feedback survey what made for their most memorable learning as a youth, the most repeated answer was one or more teachers.

Other people have expertise in other things. Our parent and grandparent community, our alumni, and our growing network of KCS ‘friends’ bring expertise from every possible sector. They bring languages from around the world. They represent a wide array of cultures, demographics, and lived experiences. They have interests, talents, passions, and perspectives of great value.

Bringing these seasoned learners and practitioners together – teachers and others – and regularly connecting them with students (with their own knowledge and skills to share) provides an environment that is distinctly able to inspire learning and creativity. Learning is inspired by partners sharing their expertise, providing authentic projects, and offering field and co-op placements. The creativity they inspire comes from the unlimited addition of facts and ideas that students can connect in new ways. A favourite TEDx Talk, Bill Stainton’s “How to Be a More Creative Person”, explains how this works.

Our roster of learning partners is growing. The response of both our KCS community as well as those learning about us for the first time affirm that this is an idea which is immediately understood to have value. The partners who have already inspired learning at KCS have made the positive impact evident. We’ve also identified technology that will support making this community of learning partners visible to our Senior School students and teachers, so they know what expertise is available and ready to inspire. Finally, our curriculum is being designed so engagement with learning partners will be woven into every course, and that relevant learning and creativity will follow. From grade 9 through 12, our students will build an unparalleled awareness of the breadth of people who are shaping the world, and the many paths available for them to shape it in turn.

“Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.” – Bill Nye

A surprise hidden inside Stainton’s TEDx Talk is the story of how the beloved Bill Nye came to be ‘The Science Guy’. He was once the overlooked expert that, thankfully, has now informed and inspired millions.

We aren’t all experts like Nye. And we all have interests and perspectives that don’t need to be ‘expert’ in order for them to have value. A vast, untapped resource is in our midst, and keen to engage. Students, teachers, parents, extended family, alumni, and friends of KCS, make up what will be a distinctive ecosystem for learning.

To the KCS family and friends reading this, more information and an invitation to join this exceptional learning partner community will follow soon. To those new to KCS but keen to join our efforts to inform and inspire youth, reach out to us.

Join us in making unprecedented learning happen. Join us in shaping the future of education.

To learn more about KCS Learning Partnerships, please reach out to Andrea Fanjoy, Head of Senior School, at afanjoy@kcs.on.ca.