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.

 

Our Vision, Made Real: Senior School Update #6

“The KCS vision for a new type of high school in Toronto is remarkable on three fronts: it is in demand; it will serve the needs of an entire population of forward-thinking families and students; and the incredible depth of study and research that is going into the design, based on what leading schools all over North America are doing…” – Grant Lichtman

Our fundamentals were established. Our vision document was clear. In January 2017, a Task Force of 40 parents, past parents, board members, and staff set out to research how these two things were being realized in leading schools all over North America. Many hours and 100 pages of research later, the group convened to build a prototype.

What would the student experience be exactly?

What timetable framework would enable our vision?

How would learning partners help enrich student learning?

How would the facility be designed to encourage deep learning?

How would assessment practices support optimal learning?

On June 15, 2018, we identified the features of the KCS Senior School model. While our full output was too long for this blog, here were some we intended to embrace:

Student Experience

  • Deep, relevant projects
  • Regular engagement with external experts
  • Community-based experiential learning
  • Student-driven learning (including passion-driven learning)
  • Relationships (Collaborative projects, Advisory, open as community hub in off hours)

Time

  • Math and French courses all year for optimal learning
  • Other courses semestered or trimestered
  • Longer periods for most courses
  • A protected time block when students are tasked with self-directed projects and learning experiences
  • A quality Learning Management System for every course so students can easily access course-related learning when and as much as needed

Partners in the System

  • Identify the different roles learning partners can play, from one-off engagement to co-op placements
  • Build a large roster of willing partners from within and outside the KCS community
  • Identify an online tool that will facilitate and help manage student/teacher/partner engagement
  • Assign an administrative role to provide oversight and support
  • Engage students in the identification, selection, onboarding, and design of the student/partner experience

Facility

  • Quality space for learning of all kinds for students, teachers, and learning partners
  • Lots of room to display student work and to support entrepreneurship (products for sale)
  • Places to build community, enjoy a snack or meal, hold assemblies, give presentations
  • Fitness room and easy access to outdoor space for nature and physical activity
  • Makerspace, art, and recording studios

Assessment

  • Leverage e-portfolios to capture learning journey and growth
  • Authentic assessment via performance tasks
  • Assessment of competencies in addition to knowledge and skills
  • Ongoing student reflection
  • Traditional assessments where worthy

We left the prototyping exercise in agreement, knowing our work wasn’t done but that our progress was palpable. The next step was to put our thoughts in front of others. What did they think? Ever serious in our efforts, that was a task that merits its own update.

 

 

Our North Star: KCS Senior School Update #5

Grant Lichtman, author, educator, and changeleader, was clear. He would only help us develop our Senior School model if we were prepared to include a large, mixed group of stakeholders.

We also needed a vision document – a North Star – so that this diverse group would be clear on where they were headed.

We drafted that document. In addition to the fundamentals shared in a previous post, the North Star for the KCS Senior School included the following essential features:

  • a clear framework and process that establishes authentic student leadership in their learning and experience as the norm
  • the intentional inclusion of student passions and interests in the core learning experience
  • deeper learning that includes extended investigation of a topic, significant student voice and choice, expectations for creative thinking, and authentic purpose
  • a nimble curriculum, timetable, and experience so there is ongoing room for student leadership, voice, choice, as well as learning across grades, across the curriculum and learning through external experts
  • the intentional and regular inclusion of external experts, partners and facilities to enrich student learning through presentations, mentorships, co-op placements, field work, field trips, research and more
  • the expectation that graduates have been regularly required to look at topics from different lenses (cultural, geographical, political, socioeconomic, Four Doors etc.)
  • a nurturing, strong and thriving community as the foundation in which remarkable learning will take root and bloom

(From our full vision document “The Senior School to Strive For”)

Grant Lichtman has worked with hundreds of schools and thousands of educators across North America. He had the same response to our vision document as the 40 staff, parents, past parents, and board members who joined our Task Force. It was sound, it made sense, it was exceptional.

It’s what we all wished school could be.

The Forces to Be Better: KCS Senior School Update #4

Our most recent update shared that the KCS Senior School model includes all the fundamentals. That shouldn’t come as a surprise.   As many of you know, we take the ‘responsible’ in ‘responsible risks’ very seriously. So why not stop there? Why not model ourselves as a great version of a wholly recognizable secondary school?

Future updates will explain the distinctive features of our model. Before those updates, it’s worth sharing why we felt the need to rethink certain aspects of the high school experience. It’s all rooted in our commitment to our three school rules, in particular our commitment to respecting our community and to trying our best.

Here are four forces shaping education and our Senior School model:

  1. Demands for deeper learning are coming from a growing number of voices. Traditional education was founded on the need for schools to impart knowledge and core skills. The world has changed a great deal in the intervening 150 years. While knowledge and skills continue to matter, students and the world they inhabit expect and require more. New teaching practices like project-based learning and place-based learning are spreading for their enhanced ability to not only teach the knowledge and skills students have always needed, but also for their ability to develop our Habits, most aligned with success after formal schooling.
  2. Increasing alignment of expectations among students, parents, post-secondary institutions, employers and our profession is providing unprecedented support for change. Global interdependence, climate change, and the growing digital economy have implications for everyone. The evident need to prepare for an increasingly complex future means that all stakeholder groups are calling for practices that develop students more thoroughly as skilled, creative, agile, action-oriented thinkers. RBC’s recent Future Skills Report “Humans Wanted: How Canadian Youth Can Thrive in the Age of Disruption” is a recent example of this call for change.
  3. Well-being is a growing area of focus because it’s a growing area of concern. Many studies, both local and international, have reported on the downward trend in youth mental health. The reasons behind the trend are multiple, and schools are increasingly reflecting on the roles they play in either exacerbating or potentially mitigating any factors.
  4. Pioneering schools are demonstrating that becoming better is both possible and sought by parents and students alike. The Senior School Task Force committed to researching dozens of such schools over the course of five months in 2018. High Tech High, Design 39 Campus, and The Downtown School (a new downtown campus for Lakeside School) are three of the many explored. The unique features of the proposed KCS Senior School are being leveraged to positive effect elsewhere. Our commitment to trying our best is compelling us to bring worthy features here.

Grant Lichtman, author, consultant and change-leader serving schools throughout North America, including KCS, has succinctly summarized four arguments for change within the profession:

  1. We must
  2. We want to
  3. We know better
  4. We can

At KCS, these four arguments have always driven our commitment to do better. They remain the arguments behind our senior school model. Our three school rules wouldn’t allow us to do anything less.

KCS Habits _ 2017 Redesign_crop

EIkesALWwAAxrA1

The World That We Design

Last week, we were treated to our annual spring concert – a wonderful showcase of our extracurricular bands and choirs. The arts do so much to make the world better. In fact, beyond the pleasure of listening to beautiful music, this concert included a message from our primary choir that struck a particular chord:

We can live in a world that we design.
A million dreams for the world we’re gonna make.
(“Million Dreams” by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul)

Part of educating students (and raising children) is preparing them for the world they will eventually face, independent of us. Much of that world is what it is, for better or for worse (sigh). Of course, we’re getting them ready for that. But the world is also what we collectively make it. At KCS, we’re teaching our students how to design the world they face for the better. Here’s one recent responsible risk where we did just that.

In May, Ms. Hooper, Ms. Gaudet and I joined our grade 8s on a trip to the WE Global Learning Centre downtown. This was the culminating event of a year spent learning about human geography, including forces shaping the human experience and our relationship with the planet. Against a backdrop of global challenges, they also learned about the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs were where our grade 8 students would both demonstrate and leverage their learning for the better.

At the WE Centre, our grade 8s pitched social enterprises to experts from the WE community, enterprises that they created from scratch to help address one or more of the U.N. goals.

They created enterprises to help address illiteracy, pollution, access to clean water, gender equality, health and wellness, climate change, poverty, education, plus life below and above water. One enterprise, Hakuna Njaa (meaning ‘No hunger’ in Swahili), was a proposed restaurant that would allow hungry Torontonians to help fund food and nutrition programs in areas facing a food crisis. “At our restaurant, people won’t just be paying for food, they are paying to make a difference.” Their pitch wrapped up with:

“We’re hungry for change. You should be too.”

We don’t know if our grade 8s will go on to further pursue their social enterprise plans. Their time at KCS is soon over and our Student Entrepreneurship Program (StEP) won’t follow them to their high schools. What they will take with them, however, is something that will follow them wherever they go. Here’s how one parent described her son’s reflection on the day:

“Listening to [my son] describe how inspired he was to be at the office yesterday and how meaningful it made it for the kids to have the “experts in the field” vote on the projects…the whole experience from start to finish has absolutely made an impact and a difference already. It made [him] think more deeply for example about believing he could actually make a difference, which I feel is an enormously empowering thing for kids to feel in this era of knowing so much about problems that affect the world, and yet not feeling like they can always help…or make an impact.”

Part of preparing students for the future is preparing them to design it, and instilling the knowledge and confidence that they can. We’re heeding the message. Our students are dreaming. And it’s music to our ears.

(Note – This partnership with WE, including an introduction to social entrepreneurship, instruction in making a strong pitch, and expert feedback and judging through the day, was supported by the KCS StEP Fund, thanks to the generosity of KCS parents and 30th Anniversary Diamond Gala sponsors)

Five Reasons Why Education and Entrepreneurship Belong Together

I’m new to the world of entrepreneurship. For most of my career, my passion for education left little room for interest in the business sector. While I respected business as a worthy passion of others, I saw no obvious reason why it belonged with mine.

But passions are funny – sometimes they take you to unexpected places. In my case, education took me to entrepreneurship, social and otherwise, and I won’t be leaving anytime soon.

Why do entrepreneurship and education belong together? Here are five reasons driving my newfound conviction:

  1. Mindset

Let’s be clear. I’m not saying everyone has to be an entrepreneur. Many good people are needed in professions, corporations, and public service. Many others commit themselves to political life, volunteer work, homemaking or other worthy pursuits. That said, everyone, whatever you do in life, benefits from the traits found in entrepreneurship. Habits such as embrace learning, think creatively, listen to understand, act with empathy, adapt, take responsible risks, and lead to make a difference bring interest and happiness to life, in addition to value. They should be inherently developed at school. Entrepreneurship is one powerful way to do so.

  1. Agency

Agency is a sense of control in one’s destiny. It includes the know-how, confidence and inclination to act so as to shape that destiny. It has been frequently observed that too much of education and growing up today includes an over-abundance of adults assuming control, telling kids what to do and how. Agency matters and its decline, some psychologists have argued, helps explain some of the decline in student mental wellness. School should intentionally carve out time where children and youth can take the reins, pursue responsible risks, and be in charge while challenged to make something good happen. Design thinking and Integrative thinking are processes students can use to exercise agency for meaningful impact. Like toddlers learning to walk, entrepreneurship will let them exercise agency, and see what they’re capable of making happen.

  1. Relevance

“Why do we need to learn this?” This student lament has reached cliché proportions and is still widely dismissed with the response that relevance will become evident when they’re older. Some of that is true, and pushing back on instant-gratification-run-amok has a place. Entrepreneurship, integrated where relevant to the subject at hand, lets students live the relevance of learning. At KCS, a group of grade 7 students completed a geography project by designing an environmentally responsible product for our school store. Through our StEP entrepreneurship program, they’ll be supported should they choose to launch this social enterprise. That’s relevant.

  1. Future-readiness

There’s no denying that disruption is underway in the work world. While many argue automation will create new jobs, there’s little doubt that it will also increasingly overtake any tasks that can be captured by an algorithm. That said, there remain many things automation will never do. RBC recently released Humans Wanted: How Canadian Youth Can Thrive in the Age of Disruption, emphasizing the need for humanity’s most fundamental traits. An entrepreneurial mindset, and the agency to exercise it, are uniquely available to humans and will be rewarded with opportunities that no technology can touch.

  1. Purpose

If you’ve found your purpose, you know how positive a force it is. While not all people would say they’ve found it, there’s no reason to think it’s reserved for the few. In fact, it’s easy to argue that we do too little to help all youth explore this part of themselves. What if education made time for children and youth to explore how they want to make a difference? What if education directly supported them in making that difference, and let them experience the setbacks, successes, and next steps that ensue? What if we graduated students who care to have a positive impact, who have experienced the rewards of doing so, and who have the capacity and agency to follow-through in their corner of the world? These would be graduates energized and intrinsically motivated with purpose.

Of course, there is much more that belongs in education beyond entrepreneurship. And there are examples of entrepreneurship that don’t reflect the values many of us wish to develop in youth. But where our aims meet is where education and entrepreneurship belong together. And where we can do better, we will. We can’t help it. That’s our entrepreneurial mindset at work.

DSC_6274

Just Call Us ‘Guides on the Ride’

Thirty years ago I started teacher’s college. ‘Sage on the stage’ was how we were taught to teach back then. Thanks to 30 years of students, that practice has been humbled into one role among multiple others. This summer, all KCS faculty and I learned about a promising new option, that of ‘guide on the ride’, from the book Empower by A. J. Juliani and John Spencer. I’m strapped in with my helmet on. My current ride? Cryptocurrency.

Yes, cryptocurrency.

In September, we launched our new StEP entrepreneurship program. StEP invites students with entrepreneurial ambitions to pursue their big ideas, learn the basics, access mentorship, and potentially acquire seed money for viable ideas. As soon as this new opportunity was announced, a student stepped forward. His passion? You guessed it.

My role in this program is to support all grade 6-8 students who take the same first step, connect them with mentors, and provide basic instruction in value propositions, minimum viable products, design thinking, prototyping, customer interviews, and prepping pitch decks. What I provide is significantly enhanced by our partnership with Future Design School and a growing list of established entrepreneurs in the KCS community who are willing to speak, entrepreneur-to-entrepreneur, with our students.

Thirty years ago, cryptocurrency didn’t exist (that was still 21 years away). Now I get a front row seat in this and other budding areas of potential entrepreneurship at KCS. Guiding students on journeys they chart is full of unforeseeable learning, accented with bumps and hidden curves. Like the up and down of a roller coaster, it’s impossible to know where the journey will go and much scarier than the experience of a lecture. Though just one month into the year, multiple other teachers at KCS are telling me of their own trips into the unknown. The excitement and trepidation expressed in my office evoke summer memories of Wonderland. We’re strapped in and hanging on. This year promises to be an interesting ride.

Making a Difference – As an Entrepreneur

I received an email the week before Labour Day from a student who graduated last June. Subject line: Our tutoring business. That’s what happens when entrepreneurship takes root in your school.

It was a distinct pleasure to announce the launch of the KCS Student Entrepreneurship Program (StEP) at our annual Curriculum Night. Our pilot last spring was an evident success, not just for the students who embraced the opportunity but also for the contagion that hit a passion-driven group of grads who explained they spent all of one summer night together at a cottage hatching their business plan. Each going to different high schools, they wanted to find a way to stay tight-knit. When they landed on their idea of offering tutoring services for interested families at KCS, their passion was locked in.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), in its Learning 2030 report, declared the “students who are best prepared for the future are change agents.” The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report shared an estimate that 65% of today’s primary students will have jobs that don’t exist yet. Further evidence of the times a-changin’ was a story on CTV that announced the gig economy was substantial and growing in Canada. In this mix are multiple, global challenges looking each of us square in the eye. This is not what traditional schooling prepared us for. But it’s an opportunity for those equipped to be the informed, responsible change agents the world needs. The future is for the difference-makers, in whatever field and position they find themselves, in whatever capacities they choose.

The entrepreneurial mindset is already well established at KCS. The Habits of Mind, Body and Action that include the hallmark attributes of quality entrepreneurial pursuits have been our waymarkers for over eight years. Service learning, which is the intentional integration of curriculum and community service, has been part of KCS for 14 years. Authentic, ubiquitous student leadership, where students pursue their passions to make a difference (no election needed), has been part of our core offering almost as long. Now we’re adding an unparalleled opportunity for middle school students to become authentic entrepreneurs (social, not-for-profit, or for-profit). It includes structured guidance on the entrepreneurial path, the support of external experts from Future Design School, the challenge of pitching one’s plan to a panel of entrepreneurs, and the opportunity to earn mentorship from an established entrepreneur and even seed funding to get started. The KCS 30th Anniversary Diamond Gala on May 4, 2019, will raise funds to support this new dimension of KCS. And the generous involvement of entrepreneurs in our community will give successful students a uniquely inspiring learning opportunity on the life of a difference-maker.

The young have always been known to be dreamers. The fact is, we need them to remain dreamers. School needs to kindle those dreamers into meaningful change-makers, and KCS has always assumed that responsibility. With the addition of StEP to our many other offerings in student leadership, the height of our efforts to make dreams a reality match the height of the changing world students face, and the opportunities available to those ready to make them.

For Those Willing to Leap

“Experience does not go on simply inside a person…Every present experience is a moving force…influencing what future experiences will be.”
-John Dewey, Experience & Education, 1938

This was the opening quote at our 2018 return-to-school faculty meeting. Recognising that KCS students have always had a plethora of wonderful learning experiences, we reflected on how these experiences, and in particular the balance of experiences, in turn shape the experiences to come.

Many positive initiatives are underway at KCS. Initiatives inherently require a leap, a responsible risk, and the recognition that the first effort may not be as anticipated. They’re experiences of particular potency, often unsettling, earning early pushback, with the possibility of failing*. Our Habits equip us to embrace the challenge of initiatives and grow as a result of doing so. We see the leaps among our students, and we see how they grow by fighting through them, and subsequently enjoying what the future experiences offer as reward. We also see the leaps among our faculty, who equally grow by grappling through our areas of focus, and enjoy the pleasure of seeing how their leaps enhance student learning and agency. And we see how each experience of individual students and teachers positively shape the landscape where future experiences will take firmer root. These are exhilarating moments to witness.

Equally exhilarating is to learn about how the Habits are fueling other members of the KCS community to embrace huge initiatives and shape the subsequent experiences of those around them.

I learned recently of a parent who has undertaken the exceptional initiative of seeking public office for the first time. A longstanding, active member of our community, the KCS Habits are as much a part of her mindset as they are our students and faculty. Lead to Make a Difference, Take Responsible Risks, Do What is Right and more have helped propel her to step in where she noticed leadership was deeply needed. She admitted to the same struggle we all face when taking a leap, but shared that the values and messages of KCS helped reinforce what she knew she needed to do. She also shared her delight at seeing how her actions are inspiring similar courage, persistence and determination in her children. They’re rightly proud watching their mother step forward, challenge power, and work to make the world better. They’re now taking more of their own leaps. Experiences, influencing future experiences.

Parents, share your leaps with your children as we share our own at school. Share how you’re taking responsible risks, how it may be unnerving at times, how it often includes mistakes, how leaps always require courage, persistence and many of our other Habits. Where possible, invite your children into those leaps so your children are part of the experience. And see how doing so influences the future experience for both yourselves and your children.

The future needs individuals exceptionally equipped to make a difference. The job of preparing them begins in childhood. Let the experiences begin.

*F.A.I.L. = First Attempt in Learning

Speak Up