KCS Student Tour Guides Leaving an Impressive Legacy

Having been part of this wonderful KCS community for over 18 years, I have had the pleasure of seeing many amazing things. Over the years, we have doubled our grade 1 to 8 classes, we have successfully amalgamated with St. George’s Nursery School to become a Pre-Kindergarten to grade 8 school, and our facilities have improved in countless ways thanks to our three additions and the retrofits we have done. On a personal note, I have had the immense pleasure of seeing my own children flourish here.
KCS Student Tour Guide ClubHonestly, I could probably write a blog like this on a daily basis; there are so many wonderful things that happen here each and every day. Over the past few months however, I have been simply amazed by the dedication and hard work of our 25 magnificent grade 8 Tour Guides. Since mid-September, every day at recess I would have a handful of them poking their heads into my office asking if they could remain inside to practice giving tours. And practice they did. Staff members often commented on how devoted the students were and how seriously they were taking their role of school ambassador.

We had two Open Houses this week, one in the morning and one in the evening. Both were very well attended by prospective families. Following Mr. Logan’s presentation, I stood by proudly as the Tour Guides approached visiting families to introduce themselves. The Tour Guides smiled warmly, made eye contact, introduced themselves, and gave firm handshakes. They confidently led groups out of the Multi-Purpose Room to begin their tours.

KCS student tour guidesNumerous families commented on how poised and capable the Tour Guides were. The students spoke about our facilities, explained our Four Doors program, described our clubs and teams, shared personal experiences, and they answered a multitude of questions. I must admit that I even learned a thing or two about the school from them!

I was struck by how proud the grade 8s are of their school, and how delighted they are to share this with others. I have to say that I thoroughly look forward to Fridays at 12:40 p.m., our Tour Guide Club, when I get to spend time with these mature, dedicated individuals.

When the tours were done last night, I walked the students up to the lobby. I asked two of the boys if they had enjoyed the experience. The first replied that yes, it was great and he was happy that he was able to answer all the questions he had been asked. The second gave me a big grin and said: “That was awesome! I had a great time!” These responses perfectly sum up the positive attitudes and the exemplary behaviour I have seen time and time again from the grade 8s this year. They are certainly leaving an impressive legacy in their final year at KCS, and I am sure they are well prepared to move on to their new high school adventures next fall. I, for one, will not forget my experience with them anytime soon.

Lise Lacroix,
Director of Admissions and Operations

Design-thinking Debut

Future Design School Workshop at Kingsway College School

Inaugural KCS By Design workshop.

Have you heard of design thinking? If not, you might want to read further. It’s a process full of possibility, that’s literally changing countries. In a school that aspires to making the world better, it belongs.

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. San Francisco-based IDEO is renowned as a source of world-changing design thinking. Schools and organisations around the globe that have lofty aspirations are following their lead.

KCS is too.

KCS recently launched our new KCS By Design program. It leverages design thinking and Web 2.0 technology to connect interested senior students and staff in making KCS outstanding. It is open to all students in grades 7 and 8 and all staff who wish to join. Involvement can be as simple as joining our dedicated Wiki, where members can post what they see as challenges, problems or opportunities for KCS. Involvement can also be as significant as students and staff working together to make solutions happen.

As part of KCS By Design, members were invited to attend our inaugural workshop on design thinking, facilitated by Future Design School on November 3rd. The students and faculty in attendance chose to pursue a challenge posed by a student: How can we better enable KCS to differentiate learning? We’ve started an exciting journey to figure that out. Many other ideas for how to improve KCS were also identified, and these are now posted on our Wiki for others to run with.

While two FDS facilitators worked with our intrepid group, we learned that other FDS facilitators were in Paris leading a group of CEOs through the exact same design-thinking process. Good to hear.

We’ve always known our students were destined to make the world better. It’s nice to know that CEOs are learning to do the same.

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

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.

“Make Something that Does Something” with littleBits

littleBits at Kingsway College SchoolParents at Curriculum Night could probably sense my excitement at bringing the Maker Movement to KCS. Now that the students are back, it’s time to get making.

This will be a marathon, not a sprint, but tinkering with electronics has already started for students visiting the library’s new Imagination Station. Students can borrow the littleBits Workshop set and readily start creating things that “do something”.

What might they want to make? These videos help tell the story of what others are making with littleBits, from the young and novice, to the older, more serious, make-it-yourselfers:

littleBits is an amazing new tool helping to bring electronics to the masses. I’m excited to see how this innovation in turn will inspire our students.

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

Who We Become

“The quietest people have the loudest minds.”…This is exactly how I would describe myself. It’s like it was written for me. But KCS has helped me express all that creative energy swirling through my mind by teaching me about the importance of communication, the importance of patience, and most of all, the importance of being yourself.” — A grade 6 student

LearningEach May, our grade 6 students write a final five-paragraph essay describing the most important ways in which they’ve grown over the course of the year. The three paragraphs that followed the one above described in detail how the myriad of lessons, projects, opportunities and personal choices throughout the year led to this student’s self-assessment. It’s all part of how this one student came to know more about what matters in life. All of our students have their own story of growth.

That’s half of what I love about KCS. Each day we’re surrounded by students growing, whether in reading, writing, math, research, public-speaking, confidence, leadership, service, performance, creativity, empathy and every other possible way that matters.

The other half of what I love about KCS is how, as a member of staff, we also get to grow. While we collectively bring many strengths to our jobs, and we gladly share them with our students, we’re all also constantly growing, whether through curriculum reviews, workshops, returning to university, endless online courses, professional learning networks, professional reading, and frequent meetings, formal and informal, to address challenges, seize opportunities, and just become better every day.

This summer had me learning about design thinking, electronics with Littlebits and programming with Arduino. Three years ago, I never would have imagined I’d be learning those things! I’ve also been learning a lot about all the creative energy that can be expressed with these in the KCS tool kit, and I look forward to sharing more about how this will increasingly happen at KCS in upcoming blogs.

There’s actually a lot more I love about KCS, but watching students grow, and having the opportunity to grow alongside them, is what I anticipate most as the new school year is set to begin. KCS students can look forward to a great year of learning ahead. KCS staff look forward to the same.

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

No Place Better Than Kindergarten

Kindergarten. When people ask what I do for a living and I tell them I teach Kindergarten, I get a range of interesting reactions. Many people respond with a look of fear or dread on their faces and incredulity at the idea of spending one’s days with a room full of 5-year-olds. Others speculate about how much fun it must be to spend one’s days in Kindergarten, perhaps reminiscing about their own fun-filled Kindergarten years. Having spent the last school year as my first year teaching Senior Kindergarten after teaching a variety of other grades for 16 years, I can assure you there is no place I would rather be.

What is life like in Kindergarten?  Well, there is no shortage of energy; that is for sure. It oozes out of their little bodies and minds every minute of every day. Their curiosity knows no limits, and their endless enthusiasm is extremely contagious. I have to say that it is truly inspiring to see the world through the eyes of a group of 5-year-olds. They explore and wonder and try to figure out the answers to their multitude of questions. Their imaginations take them beyond the limits they may come to know later in life. Wooden blocks become underwater sea castles, roads, storefronts, or forts. Little bits of paper become “dudes” that travel around the classroom in the hands of their creators. A few sticks, some paper, and a whole lot of tape are magically transformed into a kite or a flying machine of their own invention. When Kindergarten kids find something they want to do, they approach it with determination, creativity, and persistence. They are not afraid to try something new. If it doesn’t work the first time, they make adjustments and try again. Taking responsible risks happens naturally every day, without a second thought. The way Kindergarten kids embrace learning creates a magical environment where anything is possible.

In so many ways, the kind of learning that happens in Kindergarten should be used as a model for older grades. At KCS, many things happen that try to preserve that spirit of learning for the love of it. While there may not be the same flexibility in terms of subject matter, the more we can let kids hang onto learning for the love of it and in ways about which they are passionate, the longer we can let the magic continue. Because why shouldn’t all students have the opportunity to say, as did one of my students to a classmate last year, “My face hurts from smiling so much!” That sums up the world of Kindergarten.

Kerrie Robins
Senior Kindergarten Teacher
Kingsway College School

It’s a Team Game.

At KCS, we have our very own Amazing Race in grade 7! And you’ll have to trust me that so many things about it are indeed amazing. In teams, students complete projects that span many subject areas. Because that’s how life is. We don’t learn things in silos. Everything connects! Learning includes information about: travel advisories and blogs, music, games, global challenges, comparison of statistics, environmental stewardship, maps, and more. Our students prove that when given the opportunity to learn and the adults get out of the way, great learning can happen. In grade 7, the culmination of this learning leads to the Amazing Race Challenge. Groups of students solve clues to get from one area of the school to another. Each challenge requires them to use their skills and knowledge, perseverance and group effort. It is a wonderful snapshot of their growth in learning in so many areas. Successful groups encourage each other, are empathetic, show leadership, and play to each member’s strengths. It’s a team game.

What happens behind the scenes is a team game too. Teachers excitedly work out logistics, research new technology, bring forward innovative ideas, and brainstorm solutions.  Who is more excited on the day of the Amazing Race Challenge: students or teachers? It’s hard to tell. Although I’ve been at KCS for 15 years, I’m still very humbled by how willing our team is to: jump in, propose ideas, organize, supervise, take photos, offer prep time or materials, try new technology tools, and so MANY more little and big things.  They put the students first in all that they do. I’m honoured to be part of the team. It is a team game.

Ms. Gaudet
Grade 7 Teacher and Citizenship Coordinator

The Last Seed

I’ve wanted to write a blog for quite some time. Working with our grade three students is always inspiring as they look at everything with such curiosity and wonder. Today I was inspired to put into words a very special story that is happening right now. It brings tears to my eyes as I try to put it into words.

Every year in grade three, we read the Dr. Seuss story, The Lorax, as part of our plants unit and to symbolize Earth Day. This is a wonderful story about how saving one ‘truffula’ seed can be the start of a new tree and eventually a new forest that future generations can enjoy.

First, some background. My father went into a nursing home about a year ago. He was (and in his mind still is) passionate about so many things: family, friends, fishing, music, watercolour painting, building projects, and gardening. The list goes on. When my husband and I purchased a cottage 17 years ago, Dad was thrilled, as it was a lifelong dream of his to own a cottage. In the early years, he and my mom spent more time than we did at the cottage. He took pride in keeping every blade of grass manicured, in growing tomatoes and of course, flowers. He still talks about the ‘projects’ he needs to complete at our cottage, even though we know he is no longer able to pursue these passions.

My father has a special love for ‘Four o’ clocks’. These beautiful, delicate flowers are named Four o’clocks because they open in the afternoon sun each day. Every year Dad planted them, and then harvested the seeds at the end of the season to be replanted the following year. He taught my two children how to collect the seeds. The last seeds he collected with my children are about 8-10 years old. He now only comes to the cottage for a few days at a time, so the seeds have gone unplanted for many years, sitting in his old toothpick jars in my kitchen drawer. My wish is that he can come to visit his favourite place in the world, even though it is unlikely. Because of this, the rest of the story…

This year we planted our Four o’clock seeds as part of our science unit in grade three. We called them ‘truffula’ seeds, at first, but I wanted to share this story with my students, so they are now in on the secret that the seeds are actually Four o’clocks. Both classes planted Papa’s seeds, but sadly, none of them germinated. However, I had a few left over, so I threw them into a dish, watered them, and crossed my fingers. Amazingly, ONE seed germinated.

The students and I believe that this is a small miracle. We are watching our little baby plant and pleading that it will survive. Our hope is that I can deliver it to Dad in his nursing home to share a little bit of the cottage with him and to make him smile with pride. I have promised to plant it this summer at our cottage, and if it reproduces, I will collect the seeds and pass them onto the children when they are in grade four. If they each plant their little seed, Papa’s Four o’clocks will live on in our gardens for future generations to enjoy. And by doing so, a special part of Dad will live on as well.

Jackie Madigan
Grade 3 Teacher
Kingsway College School

Layers for Learning

I often think of the show Wipeout, and its unconquerable obstacle course, as a metaphor for what we do. The more appropriate way to describe how KCS works, I suppose, is to talk of layers. Whichever works for you, it speaks to the big back story of what happens at KCS and it’s what needs to happen in any school striving to reach all students.

Every school has objectives, many dozens in fact. We have academic objectives in every subject and grade. At KCS, we have equally significant arts, athletics and citizenship objectives, though that doesn’t necessarily set us far apart from numerous other schools. Our Habits of Mind, Body and Action are a further set of objectives, but having them is not what matters. What matters are the layers of effort designed to achieve them – the number, the variation among each, and the ongoing commitment to keep adding layers to make sure no student leaves before our objectives are achieved.

I’m regularly reminded of this. The other week, I popped by one of our grade 5 classes. They were in the midst of an impromptu speech-giving activity, where students volunteered to pick a topic from a bag and give a 45-second speech in front of their classmates. Having already done this previously, some students assumed a semi-Rex Murphy polish, naming their moments in the spotlight “Nonsense with Noah” or “Yapping with Yarema”. Tomorrow we will experience our monthly “Wake Up With the Arts” showcase, where students volunteer to perform in the lobby. Friday mornings are typically spectacular student-led assemblies that have students from SK to grade 8 speaking to the school, including everything from reading a brick to leading school-wide contests such as “Minute to Win It”. This month was the impressive Primary Project Fair. French plays in most grades are around the corner and we just recently enjoyed the annual Café Couguar, our French café for the KCS community hosted by grade 8 students. I could go on at great length. Let this suffice as a peek into a few of the many layers that go into just public-speaking, one of many key objectives that we work endlessly to achieve with every student.

Too often, discussion on the topic of education centres on one practice over another. It supposes, erroneously, that one approach could be enough. In reality, education that makes a difference with every student needs a multitude of approaches, layers if you will, so if one layer doesn’t work for one child then the next one might, and if not that one then the next. Anything less than that will likely reach some students but be insufficient to reach all.

Wipeout isn’t my go-to program for professional development, but I’ve joined my boys at the TV often enough to see how, by design, no contestant can make it from start to finish without being “caught” somewhere along the way. That’s where the metaphor works. School has to accomplish many things with each and every student, and must ensure it does so before those students move on.  It’s no easy task, and something the profession continues to struggle with. The answer won’t be found in one approach, or two or even three. It’s in the multiple various layers of intervention, and the ongoing commitment by teachers to never end in their quest to find the layers that work for each of their students.

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

YOUDAY – Empowering Young Students in Physical Education Class

YouMatterThe students in the SK Physical Education classes are taking on new responsibilities this term as they become “teacher” for a day! Every Tuesday, or as we call it in P.E. YOUDAY, one lucky student teaches the entire class! By actively participating in class, always trying their best, following direction, and demonstrating sportsmanship, the SK students have proven they are responsible enough to take on this hard-earned opportunity! It all began when I started hearing things like: “Can we play this game where one person goes over here and they have to tag the other ones that are over there, but then they need to freeze and –” Or, more simply, “Let’s play Zebra freeze dance tag!” Well, let me tell you, in a 25-minute period, it was becoming a challenge to grasp what these students were talking about! Kindly asking them to “tell me later” was becoming a habit I had to break. I wanted to make sure I actually gave them the opportunity to “tell me later” and share their ideas with the class in a meaningful way. And so it became YOUDAY.

Students, whom we call Mr. or Ms. [insert last name here] for the entire class, lead the students through a warm up activity and game of their choice. They can select a game they already know, or take the challenge to create a new one. Whatever they choose, it is their choice to make; a choice that empowers them by developing their leadership skills, strengthening their public speaking skills, and most importantly building up their confidence.

It is remarkable what we see in our students when we put them in the spotlight:

  • I see the kindness and respect the students have for one another.
  • I see the quiet students confidently jump into a leadership role.
  • I see the students’ understanding of fairness and inclusion.
  • I see the students’ knowledge of games with rules.
  • I see the students reinforce the importance of playing safely.

The SKs are thrilled to have their fellow peers teach them. They are thankful and appreciative towards them. Giving up power and control isn’t the easiest thing for a teacher to do, but it is well worth the outcome! Now, when I hear the students’ conversations, it reaffirms why implementing something like YOUDAY is so powerful!

  • I hear: “Ms. X, you are the best teacher ever!”
  • I hear: “Mr. X this is awesome, thank you!”
  • I hear: “I really like the game you made up Ms. X!”

And the top FAQ in SK’s PE class is “When’s it going to be my turn?”

Elissa Meleca
Teacher, Early Learning Program