Shanda Lee Exults in National Choir Competition with Exultate Chamber Singers

National Champs! Our very own Shanda Lee, along with fellow choir members from “Exultate Chamber Singers”, recently won First Prize at the National Competition for Canadian Amateur Choirs, in the category of Mixed-Voice Adult Chamber Choirs.

Shanda has been singing with this talented group for three seasons. Exultate recently won the national competition for amateur choirs this past summer which was open to all ages and sizes of groups.  Earlier this year, Exultate, along with the other competing choirs, submitted four songs to their chosen “Adult Mixed Voice Chamber Choir” category.  The choir learned at the beginning of June that they were selected as one of three finalist choirs, and at the end of June CBC radio announced them as the winner in their category. One of our competition submission tracks was played on the radio during the Sunday morning program Choral Concert.

Link to music here.

The choir also submitted an entry to perform at “Podium” the National Conference for Conductors which happens every other year, and were chosen as one of the groups to be featured during the concert at the conference in Montreal in May.

Since 1981, Exultate Chamber Singers has become known for sensitive, precise singing, richness of tone and blended sound throughout a wide dynamic range. Founded and led for 30 years by conductor and organist John Tuttle, the choir form a passionate, committed ensemble with a wide-ranging repertoire. Exultate gained a reputation throughout Canada for excellence as a result of its pattern of success in the CBC National Radio Competition for Amateur Choirs, frequently appearing in the competition finals: in 2000, and again in 2004, Exultate won both First Prize in the Chamber Choir Category and the Healey Willan Grand Prize from the Canada Council for the Arts.

We are incredibly proud of Shanda and her achievements outside the walls of KCS. We also consider ourselves very lucky to have her as part of our Arts team, as her passion for and commitment to excellence in vocal music sets a wonderful example for our entire community!

shanda choir

Putting the “Home” in Homework

Homework is often seen as a thankless job, but when it’s approached in the right way, homework can be an amazing opportunity to build relationships, make connections, develop healthy routines, and cultivate a positive sense of ownership over one’s own learning. Because it’s not about getting homework done. It’s about how you get it done.

Teamwork & Support

While we want our students to be independent, that doesn’t mean homework should be a solitary endeavour. Start by sitting down with your child and have them pull out their agenda or log on to Edmodo. Ask them to walk you through their upcoming assignments and projects, and then have them explain their homework timeline for the next few days or week. This ensures that your child is learning to plan and manage their own responsibilities, but in a way that allows you to provide them with advice and feedback before the work piles up and becomes unmanageable.

Making Connections

One of the benefits of homework is that it can help you learn a bit more about what your child is working on in school. Once you know what they are discussing and exploring in class, you can help them make connections between their learning at school and the wider world. If you are aware of what your child is working on at home, you can use that as a jumping-off point to initiate and extend conversations that will help them take their learning to the next level. Parents who do this often tell me that a quick homework chat can end up sparking deep and wide-ranging family conversations over dinner.

Healthy Routines

Homework will be a part of your child’s life for many years, so now is the time to develop a consistent set of homework routines and habits. Start by having them block off time that is just for homework – the earlier in the evening, the better! Adjust the schedule to accommodate personal and family commitments such as sports teams or activities. Have them set up a space where they will always do their homework. They may want to retreat to their bedroom, but you should encourage them to work in an area that has fewer distractions and better access to help. While the dining room table may be a slightly noisier workspace, it is a location that ensures you can keep an eye on them and redirect their attention as necessary. Sticking to a consistent time and space will help make homework a more calm and focused experience.

Staying Positive

Helping your child develop a positive attitude towards their homework is probably the single most important piece of this puzzle. If you stay positive in the way you talk about homework, you can help your child understand that there is value in the experience. If you talk about homework as a way to develop and improve upon their skills, then you help your child create and foster a growth mindset. If you talk about homework as a way to become more independent, then they learn to have confidence in their abilities. And if you talk about the ways in which you can use homework as a way to learn from each other, then they learn to both share their knowledge and seek out help when needed.

The School’s Role

Of course, teachers have a big role to play in making homework a positive and healthy experience. Faculty at KCS follow a set of homework guidelines to ensure that homework expectations are clearly communicated, flexible, relevant, and motivating. Of course, they also strive to ensure that the amount of homework given is appropriate and reasonable. For more information on KCS’s homework policies and guidelines, please consult the Parent Handbook and the Homework at KCS document.

At the end of the day, homework is something that kids need to learn to manage. And if they learn to manage it in a positive and proactive way, it will end up being a rich and rewarding experience. Homework is like most things in life – the more you put into it, the more you get back.

Ensuring the Fundamentals: KCS Senior School Update #3

To be a defining force in developing lifelong learners, By stewarding a learning environment that inspires us to reach our ultimate potential.

– The KCS Vision and Mission Statement

We take our mission seriously. The KCS Senior School will build upon the strong foundation of the current KCS program, providing the same commitment to developing lifelong learners and adding unparalleled opportunities for students to discover and realise their potential. We look forward to explaining the distinctive features we have in mind. But first, let me share all the fundamentals included in our model:

  1. Our facility will be mindfully designed to support learning, collaboration, and community-building. We are working with Oliver Beck, principal architect at Architecture Counsel, to help us choose a site that fits our vision and then design it to be a beautiful space meeting our needs. The chair of our senior campus committee, Greg Dunn, is a partner of the global architecture firm Adamson Associates. For those wondering about the quality of space we aspire to offer, we encourage you to visit their firms’ websites to see the kind of projects they represent.
  2. The Senior School syllabus will include all mandatory credits and a wide variety of elective credits for students who seek to pursue sciences, technology, the arts, humanities, business and more.
  3. Students will be challenged and inspired by exceptional teachers. The faculty will oversee and guide students, ensure safety, communicate with parents, and assess student learning for report card purposes. In addition, the presence of an Advisory teacher for each student, who will oversee their learning and success over their four years at school, will play a significant role in ensuring all the fundamentals are in place and serving students well.
  4. As in all schools, our senior students will gather at the school each day, and will have time in class that includes teacher-led instruction. There will be content they need to learn, and there will be quizzes, tests and exams in addition to assignments and projects. Like the current KCS junior school, the senior school will demonstrate that an optimal program benefits from a variety of strategies, chosen intentionally and with each student in mind.
  5. Students will also be taught in a distinctly impactful way so that their learning “sticks”, addressing a weakness long recognized in more traditional approaches to teaching and learning. Under teacher oversight, students will not only learn the core knowledge and skills required in each course, they will have enriched programs thanks to project-based learning, place-based learning, the engagement of external experts, and notable experience in applying their learning for actual impact.
  6. Our school will offer a variety of extra-curricular activities in academics, arts, athletics, and citizenship, led by teachers, students, and external experts, on and off-site.
  7. A sense of belonging, commitment to well-being, and the habit of community engagement, both within and beyond the site of our school, will be infused throughout the learning experience.

KCS has a long history of innovative practice. It also has a long history of being highly responsible. We’re proud of what those dispositions have helped us build in grades PK to 8. And we’re excited to show how they can make for a remarkable senior school.

Three Heads Joined Together (For One Last Time)

What brings three KCS heads together?  The 2019 Canadian Accredited Independent Schools (CAIS) Heads & Chairs Conference.  Last week marked the annual event, this year held in Niagara Falls, that gathered Heads and Chairs from CAIS schools. As always, our own Derek Logan was in attendance. And as always, he was excited to spend some time, share advice, engage in constructive conversation and fellowship with Hal Hannaford and Glenn Zederayko, two former KCS Heads of School.

This year’s conference theme highlighted “School Culture and Climate: Bringing Community Well-Being Into Focus.” The KCS reunion was a bit of a bittersweet one, as both Glenn and Hal have decided to make the leap into retirement at the end of the school year. Glenn will be leaving his post as Head at Glenlyon Norfolk School in Victoria, while Hal will be moving on from his role as Head at Selwyn House in Montreal.

Along with former Head Dave Richards, Hal and Glenn were instrumental in making KCS the amazing school it is today. In their time since leaving the halls of KCS, all three former Heads have spread the message of “Respect, Manners, Try Your Best” to schools and institutions across the country.

From all of us at KCS, we send our best wishes to Glenn and Hal as they take the next step in their lifelong learning adventure and enjoy a well-deserved retirement. Now we just have to find some new friends for Derek to hang out with at next year’s conference…

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Photo Caption: Dr. Glenn Zederayko (L), Hal Hannaford (C), and Derek Logan (R) share a laugh at the CAIS Heads & Chairs conference.

Redefining Success

On October 24, 2019, we will be hosting the next installment in our ongoing Encouraging Dialogue speaker series. This time, we’re fortunate to have the chance to hear from Robyn Meagher and Jason Dorland, two former Canadian Olympians who will share their powerful message about the importance of relationships when it comes to coaching, teaching, parenting, and life in general.

Jason’s sport is rowing. For many years, he subscribed to the “warrior” approach to coaching and training. He was driven by aggression and winning at all costs. His coaches yelled, belittled, and used anger as a tool for motivation. But when he finally made it to the 1988 Olympics, his team’s devastating failure made him reassess his entire attitude towards competition and coaching.

Another huge factor in this reassessment was meeting Robyn Meagher, a middle-distance runner who represented Canada at the 1992 and 1996 Olympics. She came from a very different tradition of coaching – one grounded in serenity, calmness, and an understanding that each athlete is an individual with their own complex emotional needs and history.

At first, he was skeptical of this seemingly wishy-washy approach to training for elite athletes. But over time, he came to realize that this style of coaching actually led to better results, even at the highest level of competition. Now the two of them work together to provide practical tips on how parents and teachers can coach children through their successes and failures, with greater acceptance and fulfillment.

I personally have found Robyn and Jason’s message to be a profoundly transformative one. After hearing about their work through former KCS Head of School, David Richards, and learning about their work with both the Conference of Independent Schools of Ontario (CIS) and the Canadian Accredited Independent Schools (CAIS), I decided to bring them in and have them work with our entire faculty to help us learn how to better understand our students. A third of our faculty took part in a four-day high performance training session this past summer. Over the next two years, the rest of our faculty will also take part in this training. I know this will help us to not only better tailor our teaching and coaching to our students, but also help us remember to “push the pause button” in all our relationships.

Relationships are like icebergs – we know what’s on the surface, but we may not know what’s going on underneath. Which means we need to stop and take a moment to understand where people are coming from. Twenty-five years ago, I would walk into a class and teach a lesson. And if a kid didn’t get it, that was their problem. Now, we know that we must take the time to understand where each student is at, and then meet them where they are.

That means learning how to build our relationships with students, coaches, teachers, parents – everyone. It means pausing and not jumping to conclusions. Once upon a time, we would say, “I’m the coach, I’m going tell you what to do, and there’s no room for questions.” But as Jason and Robyn have discovered, that approach just doesn’t work.

Kids can’t learn until they are ready to learn. And being ready to learn means feeling safe, empowered, mindful, and cared for. But you can’t make a child feel all those things unless you’ve taken the time to build a relationship. You have to realize that you are bringing your perceptions and biases to every interaction you have with another person – whether it’s your spouse, your colleague, your student, or your child. You have to pause, think about that person’s intentions, and then give them the benefit of the doubt as you move forward to help them grow and learn. That can be hard to do, but that’s exactly what Robyn and Jason are here to remind us to do.

I hope many of you can take the time to join us at this wonderful event. We all deal with complex relationships every day, and I believe that Robyn and Jason’s message can help all of us to better manage those relationships and understand the people in our lives. I really feel that you will find the ninety minutes worthwhile.  I hope to see you there!

Encouraging Dialogue: Success Redefined will take place on Thursday, October 24 at 6:30 PM in Canada Hall. This is a free event, but we ask you to please register here so we can plan appropriately.  

19-103 KCS Speaker Series Poster_v2_HIRES Proof

 

Connecting KCS with the World

How do you connect elementary students with the world?

You rethink elementary school.

At least that’s how we’re doing it at KCS, and it has led to relationships with experts from an unlimited array of fields, many of whom with a global reach, including journalists, artists, social entrepreneurs, edtech developers, and many more. Rethinking school includes stepping outside our walls (literally and figuratively), welcoming external experts in, and seizing opportunities when they appear to enrich student learning. Here’s a current example.

KCS has recently partnered with engineering.com, a GTA-based business that shares a newsfeed for “the global community of engineering minds who make a difference” (modelling the KCS Habits!). How big is this community? The site enjoys 2.6 million unique visitors each month, and its social media following includes 1.4 million on Facebook and 44,000 on Twitter. Eight thousand have gone one step further to embrace their newest initiative, ProjectBoard, where they can share the problems they’re solving and get feedback in return.

How did we meet?

Part of my role as Head of Senior School is to notably increase our KCS community of learning partners – individuals and organisations who bring learning to our students, in ways beyond what field trips and guest speakers usually provide. A significant learning partner we established over a year ago is the Centre for Social Innovation, a multi-thousand strong community of entrepreneurs, agencies, and charities sharing coworking and co-learning space in Toronto, New York, and London, Ontario. Engineering.com, like KCS, is a member.

The problem-solvers engaging with ProjectBoard form a community where we believe students belong. KCS is now the first school to join this global network of engineers who are using the online platform. This beautiful tool allows our StEP and Makerspace students to share their creative work, engage in dialogue in our KCS “Makerchat”, and receive comments on their creative process. As a desirable feature, ProjectBoard also allows us to share our student initiatives with the global engineering.com community and through our social media.

KCS is an amazing place to be. The world outside KCS is also amazing. Rethinking school is bringing the two together. What follows, we’re finding, is the unlimited learning students deserve.

Be the ‘I’ in Kind

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” – Aesop

Initiated in 1992 by the World Federation for Mental Health, October 10 is recognized in over 150 countries as World Mental Health Day. The purpose of World Mental Health Day is “raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health.”

Here at KCS, we have made it a priority to do just that by promoting student well-being and educating both our students and our families about mental health. By recognizing World Mental Health Day and other events that promote mental health awareness, we can broaden everyone’s understanding about the importance of taking care of not only our physical health, but also our mental health.

The focus of World Mental Health Day this year is suicide prevention. This is a topic of great importance as more than 800,000 people die by suicide a year, making it the principal cause of death among people fifteen to twenty-nine years old. While we know this is a troubling and complex issue, we must do our part to help remove the stigma that surrounds talking about suicide and its impact on all age groups.

However, we also know that this is a challenging topic for many of our learners to understand, so we wanted to address the issue in an age-appropriate manner. Therefore, we have chosen to help recognize World Mental Health Day 2019 by inviting all of our school community to share in one simple message – being “The I in Kind.” One simple act of kindness can brighten someone’s day, let them know they matter and that someone cares about them. This gesture can make a significant difference in one’s day.

To help share this message, we hung a banner in our school lobby and are asking everyone to literally be the “I” in kind. Of course, this is not a new topic in our school, but this week our teachers have spent a little more time talking to the students about what it means to be kind and how it shows others that you care.

Students are being encouraged to “catch” each other being kind and then write about it. As well, we are encouraging everyone – students, faculty, staff, and parents – to take their picture in front of the banner, share it on social media, and spread the word about how sharing acts of kindness can also help spread awareness about the importance of mental health education.

Kind acts are like a stone thrown into a pond. The acts ripple outwards and have impacts we may never even know about. Every single one of us will have people in our lives who will struggle with mental health issues at some point. But when we talk about mental health, we help those in need feel less alone. And if we make the world a kinder place, we create ripples that can ease pain, give hope, and maybe even help save a life.  I got caught being kindtamara i in kind

Orange Shirts & Student-Driven Leadership

As one of the 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission reminds us, education is an important aspect of reconciliation. At KCS, we are working hard to educate ourselves so that the future looks better for everyone. On September 30th KCS took part in the nationwide Orange Shirt Day for the first time ever. It was all thanks to Liesl and Vivian, two young grade 5 students who decided to make a difference at their school and in their community. This is their story, told in their own words…

Liesl’s Story

My name is Liesl and I am 10 years old. My friend Vivian and I learned about the history of residential schools and the inequalities faced in education in Canada today. We made a presentation to educate our classmates last year, and this year we decided that it would be a good idea to think about Orange Shirt Day.

Our first job was to get our school ready for KCS’s first Orange Shirt Day, which is a day to remember the impact of residential schools on Indigenous people. We had to do a lot of preparation for Orange Shirt Day, but we got help from Ms. Gaudet and our parents. We got together during summer to work on a slideshow about Orange Shirt Day, which we would later present to grades 5 to 8 in Chapel. We also made a slideshow that wasn’t as intense for grades 1 to 4.

We then met up one weekend during the school year, where we made our own handmade orange ribbons for students and teachers to wear on Orange Shirt Day. We used orange ribbon and cut it 18cm long. Then we glued the ribbon to look like a breast cancer ribbon. Finally, we put safety pins in the middle of the ribbon, so students and teachers could wear the ribbon on their shirts. We also had a lot of fun making announcements on the P.A. system and at Chapel to remind students and teachers to wear an orange shirt school on September 30th.

I am so happy that I am able to help educate KCS about Indigenous peoples, their history, and their culture. I hope I can do this until grade 8, because it is so much fun!

Vivian’s Story

Orange Shirt Day is a day for honouring Indige

nous people. Indigenous people had to go to horrible schools, where their personality was unwillingly changed. Their long hair was cut, and they were forced to change their original names to English names. Liesl and I educated the grade 5 to 8 students about these terrible residential schools. For the younger kids, we talked about how amazing our school is and how lucky we are to be at KCS. We also created Orange Shirt Day colouring sheets to get everyone into the spirit, and to help everyone remember the date.

We realized that not many people have an orange shirt, so Liesl and I went through the process of making approximately four hundred orange pins. First, we had to decide what kind of pin we were doing, and decided on doing a breast cancer-shaped ribbon. We cut an enormous amount of ribbons, then we had to glue them all. Unfortunately, at our first get together we only made 77, so we had to make more at our houses. We ended up making enough for all the students and 27 extra ones for the staff.

Orange Shirt Day was an amazing experience for Liesl and me. It took a lot of work to research and plan the special day, but it paid off when we watched our work unfold. It was incredible when everyone came to school wearing an orange shirt!

Everyone at KCS is incredibly proud of Liesl and Vivian’s leadership. By taking on this challenge, they reminded us that we can all work together to do what is right. We’ve begun the good work that is required on the journey toward reconciliation. For example, our grade 3 students will soon benefit from a visit with Talitha Tolles, Community and Capacity Development Coordinator at the Toronto Aboriginal Support Services Council. We are proud that our students are passionate about learning more and are willing to take on leadership opportunities in this area. To read more about student-driven leadership at KCS, check out these blogs about student-led projects, the power of student voice, and student-run clubs.  

Your Answers to Our Questions: KCS Senior School Update #2

“GO DO IT! We are in.” – KCS Parent

From January 2018 to June 2019, the Senior Campus Committee engaged in research to build our school model, testing it with parent and student feedback as it was developed. Our effort began with a Task Force of 40 parents, past parents, board members, and staff to research exemplary schools throughout North America. That was followed with market research led by an external firm to hear from grade 7 and 8 parents and students on elements we were considering. Finally, last spring, a KCS survey invited all families to share some of their thoughts about high school, features we were exploring for our model, factors they’ll be considering for their children, and questions they had for us. 50% of families responded and generously shared their comments. It has been evident from the beginning that many parents are interested, see the need for a KCS Senior School, and see the value of the model we’re building.

Here is some of what we learned from the school-wide survey:

  • 82% of parents said they were interested in learning more about the Senior School and open to considering it for their children
  • 81% said location and ease of their child’s commute is a consideration in the choice of high school
  • 90% said they believe the high school experience needs to evolve from what they had to better prepare students for the futures they face
  • 88% said they believe the distinguishing features we intend to offer provide valuable learning: extensive engagement of external experts; regular offsite learning; a program that invites students to exercise leadership in their learning in an area of interest; and experiential learning (including field placements, collaboration with external organizations, entrepreneurship, travel, and opportunity for co-op)
  • 83% were interested after learning about what we expect to be a smaller population of students, potentially 160 at full enrolment
  • When asked about how critical exclusive access to green space and an on-site high school gym were in their choice of high school, 50 and 56% respectively said they were critical
  • After learning all of the above, and also learning that this model is expected to cost parents less than other independent schools and to provide a distinctly enriching learning experience, 64% of parents said they remain interested in our model

Then we asked parents for their questions. Here’s a sample:

  • How will it compare to other top secondary schools?
  • What will this school actually look like?
  • What’s special about these four distinctive features – partners, offsite learning, including student interests, and experiential learning?
  • What would a regular day be like?
  • How will it prepare them for university?
  • What kind of athletics and arts programs will it offer?

We are excited to see the high level of interest based on the number of questions we continue to receive. Our goal is to answer the questions as honestly and as quickly as we can through these updates.

Questioning has deep roots at KCS. It is a questioning mindset, one we directly develop, that makes rich student learning happen. That same mindset is at the root of our efforts to build the KCS Senior School. We welcome all who wish to add their questions. Welcome to the dialogue about how great education can be.

 

 

Building Leaders, One Recess at a Time

When we think back to our childhoods, many of us remember happily roaming the neighborhood with a pack of other kids, planning games and settling disputes with minimal adult assistance. But when we look at our own children and students, it’s clear that the way kids play today has fundamentally changed. And this change has led to many young people in this generation who haven’t been given the opportunity to build their own capacity for leadership and independence through play.

Here at school, we see the fallout of that new reality most clearly during recess. For many kids today, recess is one of the very few times when they are expected to take part in unstructured and undirected play. So it’s not really surprising that we see some kids struggling with social interactions during recesses. That’s why we need to proactively help our younger students develop the skills they need on the playground.

To do this, we’re turning to some of our older students. As Grade 6 teachers, we see a wealth of untapped resources in our grade 6 and 7 students. We know they can do good things and make their community better, but they can only do that if we show them how to build their own capacity for leadership. Because when they do, they end up seeing themselves as capable members of their community who can serve as agents of change.

This year, a number of Grade 6 and 7 students have stepped up and taken on the responsibility of becoming our first set of Community Recess Leaders. It’s a big job with a lot of responsibility, so we knew we had to help set these leaders up for success. The first step was a full day of leadership and conflict resolution training provided by one of our education partners, Playocracy, a local agency dedicated to helping kids develop social skills through the power of play. The training included team-building activities, role-playing, and exploring positive traits of leadership. The students also created their own games and spent the afternoon teaching their games to kids in grades 1, 2, and 3. Throughout the process, they reflected and iterated their games based on feedback and experiences.

The next step is for the leaders to put on their bright orange vests and head out onto the field during recesses. During recess, the leaders will help strengthen our community by mentoring younger students, leading games, and providing conflict resolution for students in grades 1-4. By being out there on a regular basis, all the leaders will be given plenty of hands-on experience in leadership and mentorship.

We know that this is a tricky job filled with potential pitfalls. That’s why the leaders will also participate in a weekly meeting with both of us (Ms. T and Ms. Phillips). During those ongoing support meetings, the students will reflect, debrief, and test out new games with each other. They will also work their way through a comprehensive leadership training manual that was provided to them by Playocracy. Of course, we will still have a full roster of teachers out on duty in the park every day to help our leaders and other students deal with issues that may arise.

We’re very excited about this new initiative, as we feel it will help build leadership and independence across the entire school in a very organic and child-driven way. The initial few steps have been very successful and heartening, and we are looking forward to a year of growth and learning alongside our first cohort of Community Recess Leaders. Watch this space and our social media channels for further updates throughout the year!

Lauren Phillips & Kirsten Tenebaum

If you’re interested in learning more about student leadership at KCS, check out our blogs on student-created social enterprises, helping at the Special Olympics, and student-led learning.