Grade 2 Students Learning to Build Our Wall of Service

“I wanted to play the piano for a nursing home. But they never answered my call. So I went around my block giving Christmas cookies out. I did this because I wanted to spread Christmas spirit.”

KCS Student Donation to Bloorview Children's HospitalOther grade 2 students cleaned up local parks, read to kindergarten students and collected donations of various worthy items. Some did chores to donate money. Unlike the young man who didn’t hear back from the nursing home, one student was lucky enough to spend time volunteering and singing Christmas carols at a seniors’ residence. For every grade 2 student, there is a heartwarming story of service.

In late fall, the grade 2 students at KCS are officially introduced to the expectation that they, as individuals, are expected to make a difference. Though this message is shared with all students from PK, and we have many younger students earning bricks for the Wall of Service, the grade 2 unit on service is the first time they’re all expected, on their own, to think of how to make the world a bit better and then make it happen. With much gratitude from us, parents are asked to help make their child’s plan possible. Hearty discussions, problem-solving, and persisting no doubt went into much of this activity, just like it does in any important work. At the end of the effort, the students shared in a writing assignment what they did and how they felt for all their efforts. Emphatic expressions of happiness were the widespread reply. One further explained, “It made me feel good to give instead of take.”

KCS Student Spends Time at a Seniors’ ResidenceEach grade 2 student received a ‘brick’ for their act of service, and each has now been called up at assembly to share what they did, for which they received loud applause. By telling the school about their collective efforts, the whole KCS community continues to grow in its knowledge of how each one of us can follow their lead (there’s no end to the ways we can each make the world a bit better!).

Thanks to the grade 2s and others who earned bricks recently, KCS is looking forward to a dress-down day on April 17th. More importantly, thanks to the grade 2s and all others taking the initiative to make a difference, the world really is a bit better for many. Most importantly, with this unit behind them, the world now has 40 more individuals who are ready and able to keep making a difference.

According to one write-up, one woman at a park, upon seeing two students cleaning it up, said “That’s amazing. Way to go!” We agree.

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

How a Tradition Was Born

It’s funny how things come to be.

KCS has quite a few traditions. Many are from before my time so the story of how they began will have to be told by someone else. There’s one young tradition, however, that some of us have had the good fortune of watching from birth. It’s unique to KCS and both the result of and engine for much of what’s special here. It’s called Compliment Friday.

As the name suggests, this tradition takes place every Friday and is the community service project of a group of five to six students every year.  At assembly, these students come forward and announce to the school that it’s Compliment Friday, to which the school responds with a resounding cheer. Yes, it always starts the same way, predictability being a hallmark of tradition. Other students are then invited to come to the front and publicly share a compliment, or thank you, to one or more people. Each week, the theme changes. Last week, compliments were for teachers and classmates. The week before, pets. Over the years, there have been all manner of public outpourings of appreciation.

Contrary to what you might expect, Compliment Friday didn’t emerge from Shangri-La. Though there’s much that’s wonderful here, KCS remains part of a real world that sometimes includes conflict, missteps, insecurity and poor judgment. Despite our many proactive efforts, social bumps continue to be part of growing up.

This tradition began with a group of students who had been struggling with getting along. Friendships started, ended abruptly, then started up again. Feelings were hurt, sometimes healed, then, sadly, hurt again. When it came to our attention at the end of their grade 7 year, many steps were taken. One was the introduction of class meetings.

Now taking place in all grades throughout the school, class meetings have three parts. Students and their teacher usually sit in a circle, and the meeting begins with an “around-the-room” sharing of compliments. After this affirming start, the students collaboratively discuss and problem-solve an issue that needs attention. The final part of a class meeting is another “around-the-room” where students and teacher share something going on in their lives that others might not know about. It’s a powerful way to build connections and encourage empathy. The class meeting proved very effective in turning around relationships in this group of grade 8s. They were so pleased with the exercise that these same students came up with Compliment Friday as their community service project for the school. It has taken place practically every Friday since then.

An environment of regular, public gratitude is as wonderful as it is rare. These students turned a negative situation into a unique legacy of positivity.

And for that, this is a heartfelt public thank you.

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