Common Sense on Character

One of our KCS Habits of Mind, Body and Action

One of our KCS Habits of Mind, Body and Action

“It’s great to have him back, but I already run my class and raise my daughter according to his book.” — a KCS teacher

I knew it as soon as I heard Ron Morrish, speaker and author of Secrets of Effective Discipline and With All Due Respect, over 10 years ago. His message on how to develop self-discipline in children would transform my approach as both educator and mother of two young boys. Seven years ago he first spoke at KCS. This month he visited with faculty once again.

Many parents and visitors have remarked on the manners and behaviour of our students. Stand-out moments for visitors are how often they’re greeted by students and have the door held open for them. For a bustling community of 369 students, over 60 staff, and the many parents and others who join us each day, the atmosphere is happy, respectful and purposeful. While there are many good reasons for that, one is Ron Morrish and how KCS has incorporated his pointers into our day.

Ron is the first to say that much of his advice captures how many of us were raised. He says it’s the “common sense” that, unfortunately, is less common these days. So what’s included in this common sense on character? Here’s a small sample:

  1. Always model the behaviour you seek
  2. Teach the behaviour you seek; don’t assume children should know how to behave at all times
  3. Be clear and ensure follow-through on directions
  4. Make sure small things are done properly and consistently (manners, holding doors, routines)
  5. When mistakes happen, require a “do-over”; mistakes mean more practice doing things right
  6. Take proactive steps so children can be successful behaving as they’ve been taught
  7. This all takes persistent work

Parents, you’ll be glad to know that your children’s teachers spent an afternoon enjoying a refresher from Ron Morrish. And to the parents and educators seeking more self-discipline among the young in your midst, consider looking into Ron’s teachings. As it has for many of us, it could really make a difference for you too.

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

Understanding the Teen Mind

Working in education doesn’t make parenting easier. It does, however, let me spend part of my work time learning about why children behave as they do. Increasingly, what I learn is rooted in brain research. Once one of life’s greatest mysteries, the thinking behind behavior is being revealed like a classic whodunit, thanks to magnetic-resonance images of the living, processing brain.

Questioning MindOf all the stages of development, parents and educators strive hardest to understand the teen years. An exciting yet characteristically turbulent, boundary-pushing stage where adults may often be inclined to ask, “What were you thinking?”, we’re fortunate to now have an answer. Two parts of the brain feature prominently in adolescence. The prefrontal cortex is the part of our brain most linked with mature judgment and self-control. The amygdala is the seat of our emotions. The biological details of what these two are doing during adolescence are best left to worthier publications than this column, but a satisfying metaphor shared by Ron Morrish, behavior specialist, is that of a construction site. The prefrontal cortex undergoes significant growth and change from the preteen years until the early twenties. It effectively becomes a construction site that, like any other, is unavailable for regular use. Where does the detour take an adolescent mind? The amygdala. This helps explain the oft-incomprehensible emotional swings that the adolescent, and those in their wake, must ride.

This has big implications for what we do as parents and educators. Dr. Ron Clavier, Clinical Psychologist and Neuroscientist, has laid out these implications, and related strategies, in his acclaimed book Teen Brain, Teen Mind: What Parents Need to Know to Survive the Adolescent Years. Humour, extensive experience and knowledge of the physiological underpinnings of this amazing stage have made Clavier a most-welcome voice in my world at school and home. If there is a teen or pre-teen in your life, I’m guessing he would also be a welcome voice in yours.

Dr. Clavier is speaking at Kingsway College School, 4600 Dundas St. West, at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, February 6th. Admission is free, and copies of his book will be available for sale. More details are available at Parents, educators, teens and all others who want to better understand the intriguing teen mind are welcome to join us.

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

Sharing What We Know about Heroes, Big and Small

A hero is an ordinary person who finds the strength to persevere and endure
in spite of overwhelming obstacles.

–        Christopher Reeve

Need a hero? Look no further – we’ve cornered the market at KCS.

Every student is creating a work of art that represents either a hero or heroism to them. Students in grades one to five are each working on a teacher-led project. Students in grades six to eight have designed their project entirely on their own, choosing everything about it other than the theme. Each student has his/her own hero, and their own way of showing it. The Spring Showcase from May 17th to June 6th will be the richest, most interesting, and most inspiring exhibit of Sharing What You Know at KCS ever, I’ve no doubt.

Since reading a biography of Golda Meir in high school, heroes have always nestled in the periphery of my thoughts – all the big ones, the ones who stared down gross injustice, the ones who believed humanity could be better, the ones who courageously devoted their lives to it – reminding me to get off my duff and strive to live a life that matters.

I’m also recently thinking a lot about a smaller hero. Most people don’t know him, though all KCS faculty and staff, and many of our parents do, as well as many people like us in communities across the continent. He’s small in stature, quiet and humble in demeanor. In that way alone could he be considered small. A hero for me, he speaks a common sense about raising and educating children of character that few people speak. Challenging mindsets à la mode, he devotes his life to helping parents and educators be the better people they are capable of being.

This hero, Ron Morrish, is speaking at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic School on May 9th. You can also learn more about his message by visiting or reading his book Secrets of Discipline for Parents and Teachers: 12 Keys for Raising Responsible Children.

Heroes come in all sizes. Whether big or small, far away or right in our midst, their example has earned them a place in the periphery of everyone’s thoughts. Thanks to the artistry of our students, our Spring Showcase is KCS’s effort to make that so.

And maybe, just maybe, this occasion of Sharing What You Know might help us ordinary folk move one step closer to being heroes: people devoted to making humanity a little bit better.

Andrea Fanjoy,
Assistant Head, Academics