They Grow Up So Fast

Primary Project FairToday I was at the front doors as students and their parents began arriving for our annual Primary Project Fair.  It was wonderful to witness the smiles on the faces – and that was just the parents!  As usual the students put forth their best efforts to create terrific projects that each of them can be proud of, but there was certainly some sense of relief on the part of many parents that this project was over at least for another year, and maybe forever (if they no longer had any children entering grades 1-3 in the future).

As a Dad of a 15 year old and a 17 year old, I can certainly empathize with that feeling among the parents.  I remember looking forward to the end of some project, recital, or experience with my kids.  But this morning also reminded me of a couple of parents that I was fortunate to come across when my kids were younger who shared some advice that has stuck with me (incidentally, you get a lot of advice as a Head, some helpful).  One of these individuals was a KCS parent, who I encountered early in my career at our school who said to me, “Before you know it, they will have grown up, and you’ll look back on these times more fondly than when you were going through them.”  I have to admit, with my daughter about to go off to university in September, that message has come to mind many times during this, her grade 12 year.  There are times this year when I wish we still had grade 13 in Ontario.

The other parent is somebody I have spent quite a lot of time with over the years as a result of my son’s soccer.  One night, we were on the sidelines on a cold and rainy night, and I must have said something that sparked him to turn to me and say, “You only have a few years in your life to do this sort of thing, and when it’s over, you’ll miss doing it.”  You hear a lot of things as a parent involved in minor sports with your kids, much of it not worth repeating.  However, this comment really resonated with me both then and now.  I’m already anticipating feeling like this even though we still have a few summers left of club soccer, and maybe some university soccer afterwards.

It was so good to see so many of our primary parents, grandparents and friends here today to show support for our students.  Your memories of this project may be different than what your children remember, but I am confident you will look back on this time at some point in the future and miss it, at least a little.

Derek Logan
Head of School

Hope You Enjoyed the Last 54 Days

European Battlefields trip

The St. Julien Memorial – a Canadian war memorial located in the village of Saint-Julien, Belgium. KCS European Battlefields trip 2013.

My last Blog post was February 12th.  A couple of times each week since then, a thought comes into my mind that I need to write another post.  Each week I feel guilty for not writing, but then I start on something else work or family related and another week passes by.  The guilt begins again, I begin something else, and then another week passes without another post.  It’s not that I haven’t been doing things the last eight weeks.  I’ve been down to Philadelphia to attend the annual NAIS conference for educators across North American; attended a trip to the Canadian battlefields in Europe along with 74 other students, teachers and parents from KCS during the first week of the March break; prepared for Board meetings, strategic planning sessions, and staff meetings; read books; watched my Leafs on their playoff push while laughing at the hockey commentators and their inability to predict any trades; attended plenty of soccer training sessions with my son; celebrated a 75th birthday for my Dad, a 70th birthday for my mom (hi mom, thanks for reading!), and a 93rd birthday for my grandmother; bought Eagles tickets for July 11th.

In short, life happened, my blog posts didn’t.  Life went on for you, and the fact that you didn’t read a blog post from me may not have made a difference in your last 54 days.  It got me thinking about all the things we try to cram into each day, and if we didn’t do them, what would really happen?  Maybe this blog post made you think for a second, maybe it was a non-starter; maybe it was a happy distraction in your day.   At least for me, I no longer feel guilty about not writing something, my ‘writer’s block’ has been overcome and I’m already enjoying working on my next post. Stay tuned…

Derek Logan
Head of School

Time for Awe and Appreciation (Tribute to Wonderland!)

Wonderland!Readers who saw this year’s musical Wonderland! know why it’s time.

Respond with awe and appreciation is one of the KCS Habits. Of course, the world has plenty of things that are awesome and worthy of our appreciation. Trouble is, most of us don’t stop and recognize them enough. Even at KCS, where wonderful things, big and small, happen quite regularly, it’s the other habits that tend to get the most air time.

Well, the musical put this habit front and centre. Awe is the absolute right word to describe this wonderful show. And appreciation to match is due.

The primary students sang with heart, confidence, and charm. It’s clear many of our youngest students are already destined for a future on stage. The dancers performed throughout with style, grace and polish. The chicken dance will be among the many unforgettable moments! The chorus and band immersed us in delightfully memorable songs. The performers amazed us with their evident talent and commitment to their roles. Their efforts have inspired performers-to-be. And then there’s the many people behind the scenes, from tech crew to the many teachers, parents and grandparents who invested hundreds of hours planning, directing, organizing, sketching, sewing, shopping, thinking creatively, problem solving and just generally making something huge happen.

It was awesome. Thank you.

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

Morning Surprise

This morning I arrived at KCS at my usual time, 7 a.m.  Normally, I am one of the first people in the school.  I get here early to answer emails, check phone messages, scan the newspapers, and just to have a bit of quiet time before the energy of 300+ children descend on the school.  Today, as I drove into the parking lot I noticed a couple of our faculty’s cars – Mrs. Hoggarth and Mrs. Marcynuk.  As I arrived at the main doors in my still sleepy state, I was greeted enthusiastically by one of our grade 5 students.  Then I walked down the steps and was met by three or four other wide-awake and highly – I repeat, highly – energized grade 5/6 students.  My quiet time was gone.  It reminded me of the day, just over three years ago when I arrived at the front door only to be met by Dave, the project manager of our third addition, who informed me that we had a flood in our second addition (which you may recall we had to close for over six weeks).  It’s amazing how quickly our state of mind can change when prompted appropriately…

These dozen students and our two faculty members were getting ready to get on a 7:15 a.m. bus to a school for Canadian Literature event.  You can bet that when I was 11 or 12 years old, I would not have been so highly energized at 7 a.m. in the morning to go to such an event (probably not at 10 a.m. either!).  As usual, a KCS teacher had that inspirational touch with a group of our students.

Derek Logan
Head of School

Our People + Effort = Successful Change

Last week we announced our proposed amalgamation with St. George’s on-the-Hill Nursery School (SGNS).  The faculty and staff of both schools reacted to the announcement with a positive mixture of excitement and anticipation as we tackle our future together.  Both organizations understand the benefits of amalgamation.  I really didn’t expect anything less.  And here’s why.

I joined KCS back in September 1999 as the grade 8 homeform teacher.  At that time I taught history, Language Arts and geography to our grade 7 and 8 students.  In 1999, KCS had one class in each grade, and we had approximately 150 students in the school.  Our  staff was about 25 people, a number of whom still teach at KCS today.  Halfway through my first year, I was happy with my decision to join the KCS team.  Even then, I knew this was a great school.

Over the past fourteen years, KCS has grown to 317 students and 46 faculty and staff.  The school has faced many opportunities and challenges along the way – some planned for, others unanticipated.  We’ve opened two additions to the school, one in March 2003, and one in December 2009.  Those of you who have lived through a renovation know the inconveniences you have to live with during construction. We have managed our school through an economic recession and a flood in February 2010 that closed six of our classrooms for an extended period of time.  Through each opportunity or challenge, I’ve watched the people at KCS listen, ask questions and propose solutions, and then get to work to make sure KCS comes out the other side a better school.  And importantly because of that can-do, positive attitude, we’ve created many memories and had many laughs along the way.  I know that the people at SGNS have had to face similar opportunities and challenges over that same time period that they have successfully dealt with.

Change either succeeds or fails due to the efforts of the people involved.  Based on past experience at KCS, I am confident that the people at SGNS and KCS will all grow and learn together as we amalgamate the two schools at this exciting time.  We have responded successfully to opportunities in the past, and I feel the future will be no different.  In fact, with such a positive outlook with the faculty and staff of both schools, I am certain we will be better together.   We are excited for the outcome of the vote at both upcoming AGMs, which will put a stamp of approval on this project and enable us to move forward.

Derek Logan
Head of School


“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.”
-Rudyard Kipling

We have a saying at KCS. As soon as we try something new and all goes well, it immediately becomes known as a tradition.

Part of the beauty of traditions is that with each occasion, the story of that tradition grows. Christmas is a story with a chapter for every December. Remembrance Day is a tradition with a chapter for every service.

And last Thursday was the celebration of another special tradition – Chapter’s Night. Of course, it also comes with… ahem… chapters.

I remember the second Chapter’s Night. It took place a long time ago when we used to have winter. It was a dark and stormy night and the elements proved a formidable foe, antagonist if you will, to all who eagerly tried to attend. I was teaching French that year and had offered to have my grade 6 students perform a French play.

Luckily, my car made it through the snow. Many of my students and their parents weren’t as lucky. We delayed the performance and rounded up any present and willing classmates. Excitement and angst at the imperfection of the situation filled our veins.

In the end, like all good stories, we persevered and the students performed undaunted for the crowd. And like all good stories, I recall that it was a magnificent performance. The story ended Hollywood-style.

Last week was a wonderful new chapter in our Chapter’s Night tradition. The weather has clearly learned it will not deter us and has moved on to challenge others elsewhere. KCS parents, students and staff came out in huge numbers to mix, mingle, shop and enjoy wonderful performances. And KCS is a richer story as a result.

Thank you most sincerely to everyone who worked to keep the story growing. It’s unforgettable.

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

It All Started With Two Words

FootballI grew up a Notre Dame football fan.  My Uncle Bill was an usher on fall Saturdays at the stadium.  As a family we used to drive to go to the games in South Bend.  My son and I have continued to go to at least one game a year for the past four years.  To me, there’s no better way to spend a Saturday afternoon in the fall than at a college football game south of the border, especially when they are putting together a great season like this year.  So when I see somebody with an Irish shirt on, I will usually talk to them.

A couple of years ago the younger brother of one of our grade 2 students (at that time) walked by my office as I was on my way into a Finance Committee meeting.  He had a polo shirt on with an ND logo.  I said to him something like, “Nice shirt.”  He stopped, looked up at me, and said quite confidently for a four year old, “Do you like Notre Dame?”  We then spent the next five minutes talking about the team.  He quizzed me on my favourite players, etc.  Sadly, I missed the first five minutes of our Finance meeting and likely missed a discussion on something like “leading Indicator”, “long-run average total cost”, or “tactical asset allocation.”

I was so impressed with this young boy, that I emailed his father about my encounter.  Since then, all of our conversations, whether with the Dad or his son begin with our most recent observations on the football team.  Last year my son and I met up with this KCS family at the Air Force game in South Bend.

And here’s where the story gets even better.  Usually at the start of every school day, when Mme Giguère arrives at KCS and opens the French classroom across the hall from my office, she pops her head in and we talk about sports:  football, hockey, soccer, golf, etc.  (I will miss not only her talents in our primary French classes as she goes on maternity leave in February, but I will miss out on these conversations).  At some point during these informal meetings over the past couple of years, we discussed Notre Dame and the story above.  She has a cousin whose husband, Brad, played for the Irish at the turn of this century (no, not the 1900s!).  Mme Giguère let Brad know about our student.  He took the time to write an inspirational letter to him, which I understand is now proudly posted on the young boy’s bedroom wall.  And in return, his Dad was able to find a number of tapes he had recorded of games in late 1990s, made a copy of them on a DVD, and sent it back to Brad.  For the first time, he was able to sit down with his four children and have them watch him play in games at Notre Dame.  Small gestures, kindly done, lasting memories for many people.  Really, it doesn’t take much to make a difference in the lives of others.  I’m proud to be surrounded by people who do this daily in our community.

Derek Logan
Head of School

Making a Difference, Thanks to Parents

I knew it as soon as I heard them.

Two Moms, climbing the stairs near the Multi-Purpose Room, heaved a huge sigh.  This was the week of the annual KCS Lip Sync and these intrepid volunteers had just led a dance rehearsal with their children’s class. We crossed paths in the stairwell, we chuckled over the challenge, and off they went.

KCS Lip Sync 2012This is to thank all the parents who devote their time to helping make KCS the special place that it is. We have parents who volunteered through the summer to mentor new families. We have parents who have worked endless hours in the store. We have parents who commit their days and evenings to committee and board meetings as well as in the role of class parents. We have parents who organized an outstanding Welcome Back BBQ! We have parents preparing for our upcoming Special Lunch, parents helping in the library, parents hosting grade parties and parents who have helped supervise field trips.

And those of you who attended last week’s Lip Sync for grades 1 to 4 know that we also have a very special group of parents who are willing to do what for most is unthinkable: choreographing and teaching dance to our youngest and least focused, even dancing alone as the children’s example, in front of a Canada Hall full of spectators. What a terrific show of spirit, confidence and the joy of dance to start the school year.

Thank you to all who have already made a difference at KCS and thank you in advance for making a difference in ways to come. We’ll keep teaching your children to lead and make a difference. And we’ll point to you as examples to follow.

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

My Top Five Favourite Stories from September

I must admit, compiling a list of my favourite KCS stories from the last month was difficult.  But I thought I would give it a shot.

#5.  Seeing so many of our former students attend the Welcome Back BBQ and hearing from a Dad of grade 9 student that his daughter told him she misses the welcoming feeling of the KCS community at her new school; she particularly misses her teachers.

#4  Having a grade 5 student come to Mr. Marshall and I to volunteer to help out with the touch football team this year.  We asked him to come to my office to have a conversation about how he thought he could contribute to the running of the team.  We expected him to say that he’s be willing to carrying the balls/water, help pick up the pylons after practice, etc.  However, when he was asked, he looked at us, paused a moment, and said confidently, “Offensive coordinator.”

#3.  Those of you who were able to attend the BBQ last week will have seen the vendor with the donuts.  About 7:45 that evening, I ran into a family whose grade 3 son had eaten his fair share of the donuts as well as some cotton candy.  You can only imagine what the rest of the night was like for the parents…  Anyways, I let the student know that we were going to install one of those donut machines at the front entrance of the school on a permanent basis.  I wish I had taken a photo of his face.  It looked like I had given him the best present possible.

#2.  Hearing the story from a proud mom regarding her son’s accomplishment in being a part of the cross country team, finishing the race, and being embraced and encouraged by his teammates as he crossed the finish line.

#1.  Being called “cute” by a grade 1 student (see my September 5th Blog for more information on this story).  My two high school age children kid me about this almost daily.

As I finished writing this, just after lunch recess, a grade 2 student popped his head in the door of my office and said, “Hi Mr. Logan.”  As usual I asked him what he was doing.  He told me that he had had just come from the main office where he had picked up an icepack.  Naturally, I asked why.  And for the rest of this story, you will need to ask me in person.

Derek Logan
Head of School

From Humble Beginnings: KCS European Battlefield Trip

Today we held our first European Battlefield club for our students who will be attending our school’s trip to the Canadian battlefields in France, Belgium and England next March.  In preparation for the trip, student participants in both grades 7 and 8 attend a battlefield club bi-weekly to help them to understand some of what they will see when they arrive in Europe for their 10 day trip.  My son, who attends grade 9 at a high school in Oakville, will be going on this trip with me in March (my daughter attended the last trip and my Dad the very first one).  Like many of us do before we visit a place for the first time, I am having my son watch movies, read and look through photos from previous trips in preparation for March.

I can still remember as if it was yesterday, coming back from a history conference in 2001 that was held in Montreal, where I met over 100 history teachers from across the country.  At the conference was a former history teacher (Don Bogle) from the Durham region, who was working for a school travel company in his “retirement”.  He asked if there were any teachers who were interested in organizing a battlefield trip for their school.  I joined a group of 20 teachers expressing interest.  As in most groups, the level of interest and a willingness to do the work don’t often match:  four of us ultimately organized trips for our schools for 2003. I guess it’s always easier to decide not to bring change to an organization than it is to do so.  We were the only elementary school willing to organize a trip.

I can remember coming back, sitting down with Dr. Z at the time (my predecessor as KCS Head), explaining what I wanted to do, and then after a few discussions, he agreed to let me go ahead and organize our first trip.  I assume at the time, he may have had some reservations, but the work that I had done with him in the past certainly gave him the confidence I could pull this off.  I knew the impact of travel on my own understanding of history, and although there would be a tremendous amount of learning and understanding in order to make this happen, I was confident the benefits to the participants would be proven over time.

As usual, there were many naysayers who questioned my sanity in taking grades 7 and 8 students (and their parents!) overseas.  “To Quebec is okay…to France?  You must be losing your mind!”  Others would look at me when I told them parents would also be invited to attend as we needed a certain number of people to make the trip happen.  These folks, many times teachers, would often shake their heads and back away slowly.  Planning a trip overseas just after 9/11 only added fuel to the doubters fire.  I still remember, about two weeks before we left in March 2003, we held a meeting in the library for all participants.  A father stood up and asked me in front of the group, “What do you plan to do if terrorists storm the plane?”  That moment will be forever etched in my mind.

A photo from 2003 of our first group of students, Ms. Gaudet and I at Vimy Ridge.

Needless to say, that first trip was a success that we continue to build upon.  We have taken over 250 KCS students, parents and teachers on these bi-annual trips so far.  And from those first four schools, dozens of schools across the country have followed the path our four schools began; we often run into boys from St. Andrew’s College in Europe during our trips.  The naysayers back in 2002 could not see out into the future or what was possible in student travel and the positive impact it would have on the participants.  Parents who attended the trip with their child(ren) often return to me years later to talk about the lasting impression the trip made.  My favourite story is the Dad who called me the day after Remembrance Day in 2005 – he and his daughter had been on the trip in March of that year.  He left me a simple voicemail:  “Hi Derek, this is Dave.  I now understand Remembrance Day.”

Dawn Biljetina and Jenn Macdonald have continued to build on the success of those first few trips.  An important part of their effort was the formation of a battlefield club that participants would attend prior to the trip.  Ms. B quickly realized that the participant’s experience on the trip would be so much better if they had read something, researched, watched documentaries, movies and YouTube clips on the wars, before they arrived at the ultimate classrooms:  the battlefields in Normandy, Passchendaele and Vimy.  Certainly not a novel or revolutionary idea from a teaching perspective, but one that helped enrich the trip for the participants.  It was great to sit in the battlefield club today and see the learning the students are undertaking themselves and with Ms. B in preparation for March.