Milestones and Moments

For students, teachers and parents, September is a month that stirs up a flood of memories.  Perhaps you can recall a vivid memory of a particular first day of school that stands out from the rest.

This week marks an important milestone for two unique groups of KCS students.  One group will take the first steps of their educational journey in our Early Learning Program; meanwhile, our grade 8s have officially marked their last “first day of school” as an elementary student.

It is said that time has wings and in that spirit, we wish the classes of 2027 and the class of 2017 a happy, successful and memorable school year.

Engaged with their art projects and preparing for their outdoor education trip to Norval–our youngest and our oldest students mark their KCS milestones

Learn, Adapt, Launch, Repeat – Design Thinking at KCS Part 1

HeadandArrowssmallEarlier this year I wrote about our debut with design thinking. For readers still unfamiliar with what that means, here’s my attempt to describe it:

Design thinking is a process that takes a group of people from ‘complex problem’ to ‘solution’ in ways that are exceptionally correlated with success. Design thinking deeply engages all stakeholders, requires them to empathise with all affected, and reins in the more typical ‘rush to conclusion’ so creative win-win thinking has time to emerge.

While the specifics can vary according to task and organisation, the method is clear and comprehensive. Thanks to Project 2051 at the Canadian Accredited Independent Schools (CAIS) Leadership Institute last summer, I became acutely aware of its power and potential. Inspired, we have adopted design thinking, adapted it to meet our needs, and launched two new innovations that are rocking our world.

The earlier blog explained how we’ve established a new form of student leadership that allows all interested senior students and staff to work together to make KCS the best it can be. Here’s the design thinking process we’re following:

  1. What is the design challenge?
    1. What problems are you aware of that need fixing?
    2. What challenges are you aware of that are worth addressing?
    3. What opportunities have occurred to you that are worth pursuing?
  2. What do you need to know?
    1. Who is affected?
    2. What are their perspectives?
    3. What research can inform you?
    4. What can you learn from others’ experiences?
  3. What ideas address your design challenge?
    1. What can you think of?
    2. Which are win-win for all?
    3. Get feedback from a larger group
  4. Act
    1. Pilot at a small scale
    2. Reflect and iterate
    3. Expand to address the challenge

We started as a small but intrepid group. Since our November launch, the group has quadrupled in size. The design challenge we’ve chosen to pursue first, identified by a grade 7 student, is the following: “How do we better enable differentiated learning at KCS?” We’ve since conducted a survey with the grade 6 to 8 students to learn more about how they best learn. Later this month, we’ll be launching this year’s Student Voice topic so we can hear from all students about differentiated learning and how to improve it. The KCS by Design members are currently preparing frequency distribution graphs and PowerPoint slides so they can share their findings through presentations to faculty, senior students, and the whole school (separately), as well as through presentation boards in the foyer for parents. Finally, Mrs. Drummond and I have launched a new elective as a prototype that makes more differentiated learning possible at KCS. That exciting venture will be Part 2 in the story of “Learn, Adapt, Launch, Repeat”.

This is what all leadership should be built upon. Engaging, listening to, learning from, prototyping with, and informing the whole school community makes smart innovation possible. I can’t wait to see where this journey goes. The inspiration that began with Project 2051 energises every step of the way.

Andrea Fanjoy,
Assistant Head, Academics
You can follow Andrea on Twitter @afanjoy.

Build Pride and Confidence in Reading and Watch Self-Esteem Soar

There’s a young student at school who I have worked with for a couple of years now. When I first met her, she was a bright-eyed, energetic child, with a wonderful imagination, who delighted in challenging me to games. When she was able to surprise me or beat me at a game, the laugh that rang out of her was pure joy.  She was an absolute delight – confident and happy.

But the next year, she was less enthusiastic, especially when it came time to read out loud. In fact, she would often have spontaneous aches, pains, or itchy bug bites that would prevent her from reading to me. I soon realised that she was no longer feeling confident about reading, and no amount of reassurance from me seemed to help for more than a few minutes.

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Ms. Pollett-Boyle working with Lexia. Her holiday outfit courtesy of KCS Spirit Day – Beach Day.

Mid-year, I introduced her to Lexia.

At first, she needed encouragement to use the program, and a little support to help her understand the instructions. But once she had a little taste of success, that started to change. Soon, she was regularly coming up to my desk to tell me about the 20-second humorous videos that tell the student they have met the target number of correct responses for that task.  (As we know, brain research shows that humour creates new neural pathways which help move new knowledge to long term memory.)

Passing a level in Lexia is the equivalent of a third of a grade level – or one term. Each level has scenes from a particular place, and the mini videos are connected to that location. Students travel the world as they progress. The day this student received her first visit from our Assistant Head, Academics, Mme Fanjoy, to congratulate her on moving up a level in Lexia, it was a real turning point in her motivation. It was an enormous achievement, and she knew it – and it also meant she was leaving London and going on to explore Paris!

Her new motivation to pass another level was evident. Each day she would stop me or Mme Fanjoy to tell us she had worked on Lexia the night before (a fact I already knew, because teachers can check on their students’ progress online). One day she came into class and told me she was having “Lexia dreams” at night, in which she passed 30 levels all at once.

Then, on one sunny spring day, I was out on yard duty for recess. I watched as this student ran full speed toward me, all the way from the entrance of the park, with a huge smile on her face. Of course I already knew what she was going to tell me (I had been rooting for her at home the night before, when I checked in to Lexia to see how she was doing), but nothing could have beat that look of pride and confidence that she had when she told me she had passed another level. Goodbye Paris – hello NEXT LEVEL CITY!

Teresa Pollett-Boyle
Learning Strategies Teacher, Drama teacher, Arts Coordinator

Drinking From the Stanley Cup

Three or four of you might have watched the conclusion to the NHL season last night.  If you are really interested, you may have watched the postgame celebration on the ice and in the dressing room with the Cup.  You may have asked yourselves, I wonder what the liquid is they are drinking when they pass the Stanley Cup around.  A KCS grade one boy has the answer.

Last week, I was sitting at my desk at the end of lunchtime, when two grade 1 boys asked if they could come in and speak to me.  The first boy asked me if I could do anything I want in my job.  Before I was able to respond, his sidekick looked over at a poster I have in my office with Bobby Orr drinking out of the Stanley Cup after winning it in 1972.  At the bottom of the poster it states:  TRIUMPH:  “The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”—Thomas Paine.  He asked me who was in the photo and why is he drinking out of the Cup?

I told him the photo was of Bobby Orr and it was taken in the dressing room right after the Bruins won the Cup.  This caused him to pause, look at the poster and then back at me and ask, “So he was really thirsty so he poured some water into the Stanley Cup and had a big drink?”  “Exactly,” was my response.

Derek Logan
Head of School

KCS: Known In Ottawa

Last night, my wife and I attend a fundraiser for CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health).  I had the opportunity to speak to Dr. David Goldbloom, the newly appointed Chair of the Mental Health Commission of Canada.  You may recall our school was very fortunate back in January to have Dr. Goldbloom lead our Encouraging Dialogue panel on Mental Health and Our Children.

On Tuesday, he was attending a conference on Anti-Stigma and Mental Health in Ottawa.  As he came out of the conference, our grade 6 students were getting off their bus.  Our students are in Ottawa for four days as part of their end of the year trip.  He asked them where they were from.  One of our students said, “KCS”.  His response was, “You mean that great school in Etobicoke, Kingsway College School?”  The student was incredulous that he knew about KCS, but in his words, the “group were obviously very proud of their school.”  As Head of School, I love to hear these stories about our students and school.

Derek Logan
Head of School

Sandbox Learning

Imagine our Habits of Mind, Body and Action were grains of sand in a sandbox.

Mixed in the sand are heaps of creative and flexible thinking, collaboration, clear communication, and persisting. There’s sharing what you know, listening to understand, finding humour and making the world better. There’s even some showing self-control in the sandbox, but those grains may be a little less numerous somehow…

Now imagine playing in that sandbox.

Thanks to our electives pilot, I don’t need to imagine it. I get to play in that sandbox. Every Wednesday five grade 6 students and I meet for the Modern Languages Mash-Up elective. With the full support of Rosetta Stone language learning software, each student is learning the third language of their choice. Mandarin, Japanese, Spanish, Italian and Filipino are now languages being learned at KCS.

The sandbox part of the elective is the video we made for the showcase. The students had learned they were required to make a multi-lingual video where they each speak their respective languages. The rest was up to them. Thanks to all the various Habits, we were well on our way to making a tale of global conflict at high sea. Though we all brought various skills to the task, none of us had ever done all we attempted for this project. One jumped at the chance to write the script. Another set to work on Garageband, composing the musical track that would capture the mood of our saga. A third suggested we use Lego to enact the story, an idea that was met with a resounding “YES!” (and resulted in the precipitate drop in showing self-control – Lego is a powerful temptation apparently). Two others worked on the visuals, from building the Lego ships to putting together the iMovie. Most of us, at one point or another, didn’t know how to do what we were trying to do. That’s when we most felt we were in a sandbox. And that’s when I knew my little group of students and I were honing our lifelong learning skills. Our Habits were getting a healthy workout.

Much has been said about the unprecedented challenges and opportunities inherent in the decades to come. If ever the world was straightforward, it is decreasingly so. Tomorrow’s workers will likely face pretty bleak sandboxes sometimes, where they don’t know what to do but they must act anyway.

Our students will bring the Habits to their sandbox, plus some special experience playing in it.

I’m not yet sure how our movie will be received. Our plan, is for it to go viral once it’s posted on our KCS YouTube channel. You see, dreaming big is also part of playing in sandboxes.

But if it doesn’t reach blockbuster status, the educator in me knows it was all still worthwhile. The Habits have value beyond the making of this video.  And playing in sandboxes has value beyond the playground.

Andrea Fanjoy,
Assistant Head, Academics

Grade 1s outside my office

A few blog posts ago, I wrote about what two grade one boys said outside my office during one of our Spirit Days.  Moments ago  I overheard another two grade one boys says to each other:  “I wish my schedule was:   “Gym, Gym, Gym, Gym, Lunch, Recess, Recess, Recess.”  Dream big, boys.  You just can’t make this stuff up.  Enjoy your weekend everyone.

Derek Logan
Head of School

Being Remembered

During our chapel service on the last Friday before the March break, I said goodbye to one of our grade 1 students who was leaving KCS the next day to move to Sweden with his family.  As Josh was a grade one student, he had only been around KCS for the past seven months, but he will be remembered positively in many ways by his classmates and teachers.

Before leaving for chapel, I was speaking with Ms. Murphy about Josh.  His friends had made him a book to take with him:  Things We Like About Josh.  In the book it mentioned that Josh always played fairly, he was a fast runner, a funny guy and a super soccer player.  The book spoke volumes about the person he is becoming at such a young age.  For me, I will always remember Josh as being very respectful.  He would always say hello to me or give me a high five.

We will miss Josh around here this week and in the years to come, but we know his move to Sweden will bring about many memories and adventures.  It got me to thinking:  when a person leaves a place (work, school, etc.), how would they want to be remembered?  Just prior to the March break our 35 grade 8s decided on which schools they are going to attend for high school:

Bishop Allen:  5
Branksome Hall: 2
Etobicoke School of the Arts: 2
Father Redmond: 3
Greenwood College: 7
RSGC: 4
St. Clement’s School:  2
St. Michael’s College: 6
St. Mildred’s School: 1
Upper Canada College: 2
The York School: 1

As the grade 8s finish their final term at KCS, I hope that they will all consider the question:  how do I want my classmates and the staff and faculty to remember me at KCS when I leave?

Derek Logan
Head of School