A Request

This past Saturday, I went to see the 15-year-old son of a friend play in a competitive soccer game in Oakville. The teams were first and second in the league, and the result would go a long way in determining the eventual league champion. Sadly, the circumstances helped fuel the spectators on the sidelines; I’ve seen it far too many times before. It wasn’t newsworthy, just disappointing and far too common.  I’m not sure what it is about minor league sports (or even parking lots) that can bring out some of the most unwelcome behaviour amongst adults.

Standing on a soccer field was part of my life for a dozen years as my son played soccer at a variety of different levels:  House League, competitive and for the high school he attended.  There were some real highs and lows throughout those years: making teams, getting cut from teams; seeing boys injured; going to tournaments; team get-togethers; winning League/Ontario Cup/National championships, etc.  I even helped manage the team for a couple of years until my knowledge of the beautiful game was not enough to enable the boys to improve their skills. Coaching was fun, but it’s sometimes harder to coach fourteen boys than it is to run an elementary school of almost 400 students (your greatest supporters and critics are standing only metres away watching your every move). In fact, it was liberating to find some outstanding people to coach my son Brandon not only about soccer, but about life.  By the time he turned 10, I moved to the role of full-time taxi driver and sideline supporter.

I enjoyed being a soccer parent. Our car rides to and from games, practices and tournaments, were a part of my life for over a decade.  When it ended last October, partially because Brandon was on hiatus from an injury, and partly because he had his own driver’s licence when he returned, I had mixed emotions.  This summer as I drove by kids playing soccer, I often found myself reminiscing about those times with him.  Those years seem to have gone by in a flash. But I quickly remembered how much you can do when you are not spending three to four hours a night five to six days a week driving to and from soccer fields across the province.

On Saturday, I was reminded what I didn’t like about being a soccer Dad:  the behaviour that you witness from some of the “fans” at the game. Shocking, juvenile, absurd or ridiculous are words that immediately jump to mind. The cheering and supportive comments were too often interspersed with continual criticism of the referees and comments about the players on the other team, who are still 15-year-old boys.  Right in front of me during the second half of the game, two moms got into it.  They called each other names, threatened each other and accused each other of things like sticking out their tongues at each other.  I thought, “Things still haven’t changed.”  The players, who were nearby, were smirking and smiling at such ludicrous behaviour by the adults even though they were in the midst of a hard-fought, competitive game.

Late this summer, my son learned that he had made the McMaster Men’s soccer team. Although he has yet to dress for a game, he trains with the team and is awaiting the opportunity to show his coaches his skills during a game situation. For now, during home games, he is in the press box with some other teammates. I’ve been attending the Mac home games since before the Labour Day weekend. While I like to think I’m social, I’m not too keen to listen to the spectators sitting near me while I watch the game, so I’ve started to watch the game while listening to various podcasts or music. Listening to Metallica with good headphones tends to drown out the unwanted noise.

On Sunday night, my wife and I were in Hamilton for a comedy show and we took Brandon out to dinner. I was recounting for him what happened on the sideline on Saturday in Oakville. After I finished, he shook his head and said, “It’s the same at university, Dad. You don’t hear it because of your headphones. My teammates and I watch the game and laugh at the commentary. It really hasn’t changed since I was 7 years old.”

Since arriving at KCS 18 years ago, I’ve watched and coached a lot of sports. Because games and meets are most often held during the school day, not all of our parents are able to attend. But those that are able to make it to a basketball game, swim meet or soccer tournament, have demonstrated year after year respect for all the athletes who are competing, the coaches who are doing their best on the sidelines and also to the referees (who are often young students). Our coaches appreciate that, as do our athletes. The other schools that we visit take notice and comment positively to our coaches about the behaviour of our fans. Let’s work together to maintain this record as a school. Then maybe we can figure out how to translate this to the minor sports fields, gyms, and arenas throughout the province. Go Cougars!

Three Habits for Aspiring Olympians

At KCS, we spend a lot of time talking about the Habits of Mind, Body and Action. So when Olympic bronze medalist Kylie Masse visited us, we were thrilled to discover that her advice for future Olympians lined up perfectly with three of our own Habits!

  1. “Never Give Up.”

We all face challenges. But you can’t let them stop you. That’s why we think one of the most important Habits for success in life is to learn to “Persist”. And Kylie clearly agrees. She spoke to us at length about the challenges she has faced, which ranged from losing international competitions to getting cut from teams. However, she always came back to the same mantra – “Never give up.” It was that drive and persistence that took her all the way to the Olympic podium.

  1. “Worry Only About What You Can Control.”

Letting go of control is a hard lesson for everyone. The first step is to “Think Flexibly” – a Habit that helps us to work effectively no matter what the circumstances. In Kylie’s case, this meant learning to accept that she couldn’t control the temperature of the pool or the noise of the crowd or the speed of the swimmer in the next lane. So she adjusted her attitude, changed her thinking, and focused only on the things she could control.

  1. “Have Fun!”

Kids today live in a fast-paced world, so it’s no wonder the levels of stress and anxiety amongst children is skyrocketing. That’s one of the reasons why we encourage our students to make it a Habit to “Find Humour.” As Kylie pointed out, she could have easily burned out after only a few years of intense dedication and training. But because she held on to her sense of fun and humour, she arrived in Rio with a smile on her face and a calm heart.

Many thanks to Kylie for sharing her story, to the Parent Network for supporting the Talk That Matters Speaker Series, and to Henry and Charlie for inviting their cousin to visit KCS. We may not all make it to the Olympics, but we can all take some guidance from her words of wisdom!

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U13 Boys Great Performance at the CAIS National Basketball Tournament

It was an action-packed three days of basketball as the KCS U13 boys participated in the CAIS National Tournament at Hillfield Strathallan College in Hamilton.  Playing a grueling seven game schedule, the boys worked very hard throughout the tournament.  Thanks to excellent teamwork and resilient play, the U13 Boys made it to the Division 2 semi-final match where they lost to Holy Trinity.

The prestigious CAIS National Tournament invites basketball teams from across Canada to participate. For the past five years, the U13 boys have represented our school both locally, and as far away as Vancouver, British Columbia.

Each year at the tournament, a single team is awarded the coveted Statham Award for Team Sportsmanship. The recipient of this award is chosen by the sixteen coaches, and given to the team that best exemplifies the true athletic spirit and character of the game of basketball. This year we are pleased to announce that KCS was chosen to receive this notable award!

Additionally, a student from each team is awarded the Jeff Trickett Award for his sportsmanship, heart, and hard work. Congratulations to Rocky for receiving this honour!

Special thanks to the Tevlin family for their continued generous support of KCS through the Tevlin Family Fund for Sport and Outdoor Education. A grant from the Tevlin Family Fund paid for the tournament entrance fee and coaches’ travel expenses allowing our boys to hone their competitive edge and showcase the exemplary sportsmanship skills present at KCS.

Congratulations U13 boys!

Everything a School Should Be – Part 2

Teachers join the profession to do their best for students. Doing one’s best includes a vast array of efforts, a sample of which were shared in Part 1 of this post.

Doing one’s best also means a determined, responsible commitment to constant improvement, wherever merited and as manageable.

At KCS, we’re constantly looking at what we do, identifying where we wish to grow, and taking measured steps forward from year-to-year. Many steps are identified by individual teachers, or grade partners, or divisions of teachers. Some steps are school-wide. Some are new initiatives; while others are ongoing efforts that began in previous years and continue to be an area of focus.

Here is some of what we’re focusing on this year:

  1. Living the Mission – Always our #1 focus, our mission is to be the defining force in developing lifelong learners. Currently, this effort includes Project-Based Learning; direct efforts to teach questioning skills; the growth of KCS as a Makerspace, with our new Innovation Lab and increased “making” throughout the school; the use of design thinking for deeper thinking, learning and problem-solving; and the launch of a new program called “High Resolves” in our senior grades as part of our global education efforts.
  2. Assessment – This is a multi-year area of focus. We launched a new report card last year and some adjustments will be made this year. We also launched our new secure electronic portfolio, Sesame, and we continue our roll-out to include all students from PK to grade 3. A blog will soon follow to explain why this is an exciting addition to KCS!
  3. Movement Project – This is also an ongoing area of focus under the leadership of our Director of Student Life, Tamara Drummond. Standing desks, chairs that allow for movement, fidget toys, and new practices that invite more frequent movement in the school day are becoming increasingly widespread throughout the school.
  4. Reading Evolution – A number of years ago we introduced a reading program that helped many of our students better consolidate the fundamentals of reading. The cumulative effect of this program is now a very noticeable increase in the reading skills of all of our students. Driven by internal data, reading instruction is evolving to meet the growing readiness for greater challenge.
  5. ELP and Reggio-inspired programming – Following widespread professional development, visits to other schools, and engagement of a consultant, the PK, JK and SK faculty have enthusiastically embraced Reggio-inspired programming as a strong complement to the Ministry of Education curriculum. While direct instruction on core skills will continue, students will also be given more time to practise being deep thinkers and learners through self-directed inquiry.
  6. Professional Development – PD has always been a regular feature of employment at KCS. All teachers have a generous budget for PD and they pursue various opportunities of relevance to their role. This year we launched a new means of sharing PD that allows all staff to see what others have done, and get a glimpse into what they learned. This is an efficient and effective new way to share professional learning and encourage greater awareness of the various PD offerings available to all.
  7. Canadian Accredited Independent Schools (CAIS preparation) – This merits a blog of its own, and one will follow later in the year. CAIS oversees a comprehensive accreditation process for independent schools that aspire to excellence. KCS is CAIS-accredited, and all staff will be working this year on an internal review in preparation for our upcoming accreditation review in November of 2017.

At KCS we’re constantly learning so that we can keep improving in all ways that matter, each and every year. Creative thinking is inspired when multiple challenges synergize into innovative solutions. Progressing thoughtfully and responsibly, changes aren’t always immediate. They’re discussed, and if considered worthy they’re piloted. If successful, they spread. When imperfect, they’re tweaked. And they’re not limited by the notion that we can only focus on a few areas. Collectively, there are positive changes happening throughout the school, based on what teachers feel needs improvement, and what they can manage well. Being everything a school should be includes constantly trying to do better. Doing our best means we won’t accept anything less.

Everything a School Should Be (Part 1)

Let’s take a moment and think about everything a great school should be doing for students. There’s the curriculum – collectively many hundreds of pages of content and skills, wrapped up in subjects, that schools need to make sure all students learn. Then there’s tailoring the curriculum, because ensuring all students learn requires adjustments for each and every one. On top of that there’s enrichment programming, character education, learning skills, collaboration skills, critical and creative thinking, leadership and citizenship, appreciation of nature and the arts, and so much more. Schools need to engage minds, inspire physical health and activity, develop resilience, and nurture the artistic spirit. Direct instruction matters. Project-based learning matters. Clubs, teams, field trips, inspiring speakers, cross-grade integration activities, and spirit-raising events matter. Throughout the delivery of all of the above, a school needs to help students with the inevitable bumps – social, emotional, mental, academic, physical – that happen and directly interfere with everything else if not well addressed. And all of this, and more, needs to happen in an aligned, whole-system manner so it’s optimal both in how it’s experienced and in the difference it makes. Without a doubt, a great school must do many things exceptionally well.

Yet to follow the dialogue, one might think it’s otherwise.

We hear boasts of schools that are outstanding on singular measures, but left wondering how these feats are achieved without sacrifice in other areas of the school. We read that schools should focus improvement efforts on only a small number of areas at once, as if all other important things can wait, for years. We learn of exciting new programs that have great appeal, but represent just a tiny fraction of what’s needed for deep, longstanding impact. This is fine reading, but none are the story that students most need. None are the story we should want for our children.

At KCS, we’re transparent in our unrelenting commitment to being everything a school should be. Our Four Doors to Learning program in academics, arts, athletics and citizenship reflects years’ worth of creative, collaborative effort so that our story is the full story students need. Our faculty are constantly adding new professional learning so that this effort reflects the wisest judgment we can muster. And we’re constantly striving to improve in as many ways we can, and in all ways that matter.

KCS is committed to being everything a school should be. If there’s anything singular about where we strive to be outstanding, that’s it. We know that other schools strive for this as well, but it’s a story we don’t hear often enough. It makes for a long story, with many lengthy chapters. In a busy world and crowded social media space, it’s a story that takes time to tell and time to hear.

That’s okay. Children love long stories. So should we.

Part 2 of this post, to be published shortly, will share the story of how KCS is constantly striving to improve in its effort to be everything a school should be.

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The KCS Terry Fox Run and the Grade 5 Classes

In the late summer of 1980, in an era long before instant messaging, Canadians across the country were glued to national news outlets as a sombre story unfolded. Terry Fox, who had covered over 5000 km on his Marathon of Hope, had abruptly ended his run near Thunder Bay, Ontario. Only a few short weeks before, a triumphant Terry was greeted by thousands of cheering well-wishers in Toronto’s Nathan Philips Square. Maple Leafs Captain Darryl Sittler presented Terry with an NHL All-Star Jersey and then joined him on his run surrounded by cheering supporters.

It was September 1st 1980, and I can vividly remember the imposing voice of broadcaster Lloyd Robertson announcing that the cancer that had taken Terry’s leg, had spread to his lungs and the future of the Marathon of Hope was uncertain. I will never forget seeing Terry, with his parents looking on, as he lay propped up on an ambulance gurney proclaiming, “If there is any way I can get out there again and finish it—I will…”

Fast forward to September 30th, 2016. Thirty-six years later, Terry Fox’s brave pledge echoes deeply throughout the KCS community. Supported by a team of dedicated parent volunteers and the entire KCS school Faculty, the students celebrated the legacy of a great Canadian by completing an amazing Terry Fox Run. Since its inception, the KCS community has raised over $250, 000 for Cancer Research and we have been recognized by the Terry Fox Foundation as one of its top ten schools. The annual Run also allows our Grade 5 classes to embrace an important leadership role.

Under the guidance of Mr. Sawyer and Ms. MacDonald, the Grade 5 classes educate our school community about Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope. Combining art, research and public speaking, each class prepares posters and presentations that share Terry’s amazing story and promote our September Run. This year’s theme was enriched through Terry’s own words as the students shared his memorable quotes. “Even if I don’t finish, we need others to continue. It’s got to keep going without me.”

The impact of this leadership opportunity is undeniable. Here are some insightful observations from the fifth grade leaders:

“I feel it’s very important to [stand up] and speak to the audience. Although my hands were shaking, I was hoping the younger kids would understand just what kind of a hero Terry really was!” I knew about Terry Fox before, but I was waiting for this exciting opportunity to help present the Run in grade 5. I was very impressed by the impact that Terry Fox had on all Canadians—I am surprised how so many years ago, word spread so quickly about him and his amazing acts.”

“I was nervous at first, but when I finished my message I was happy that I did it. I was really happy about how much the KCS community has raised for such an important cause. I was happy that grade 5 had this role because it helped younger students learn about Terry. Terry Fox was just a kid in many ways, he decided not to think of himself but others. He helped others realize that they can [make a difference].”

Thank you for a memorable day. Thank you to the Grade 5s for their outstanding job. We look forward to continuing this wonderful KCS tradition and celebrating the inspirational legacy of a true Canadian hero.

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

Our Athletes, Leading by Example

sportsAthletics are not my forte. My head and heart know the importance of being active. My body prefers curling up with something to read.

On this, our students are my teachers.

It’s been an exceptional term in athletics. Exceptional in determination, participation, sportsmanship and achievement. It’s time I shared how much our students inspire me.

Our students live our Habits on the court and on the field. Some already love the activities they join, and bring leadership, knowledge and experience from outside involvement. Some have little to offer in terms of skills before signing up, and yet bring a willingness to embrace learning and determination to try their best. Despite their nerves, they take that ‘responsible risk’, participate, work hard and grow as athletes. Side-by-side, our most experienced athletes equally take risks, such is the nature of sport and the many decisions inherent in trying to make successful plays. What they all practice through sport are many of the attributes they’ll use for success throughout life.

Our school’s model is designed for participation. KCS offers team and individual sports, as well as competitive and non-competitive options for physical activity. Rather than limit students to just one sport, as they age they’re increasingly allowed to try out for all. In cross-country, touch football and track and field, all who turn up have an opportunity to participate. Ninety-eight students were on our cross-country team, a number far exceeding any other school in the final championship. For those who aren’t as keen on traditional sports, we offer Active Games, Boot Camp, Dance Troupe, Wii Dance, yoga and more. Third term last year we introduced paddle tennis and baseball. In first term there were 12 athletic extra-curricular options and over 200 of our students participated in one or more. Childhood and youth are times for opening doors. At KCS, an exceptional number of athletic doors are open.

On sportsmanship, we couldn’t be more proud. From how our students handle themselves on the court and off, they regularly demonstrate that this rises above winning. If our team has a large lead, our athletes throttle back. When a teammate fell during the cross-country race, one young man stopped running to get the other to a teacher. When our fastest male runner lost to a faster female from another school, he complimented her for a great run and gave a high five. Our students honour the game, the athletes on all sides, and the officials. In doing so, they bring honour to themselves and KCS.

All of the above is more than reason enough to celebrate our athletes. But achievement is also an exception worth mentioning this year. First term alone our students earned championship banners and plaques in the following sports: U12 boys’ soccer, U14 girls’ soccer, U14 girls’ basketball and cross-country. In addition, at the Mentor Invitational Tournament, our touch football teams came first and second out of eight places.

All of this, and I haven’t even mentioned all the athletics our students are involved in outside of KCS: hockey, tennis, golf, dance, skiing, fencing, not to mention the daily collection of impromptu recess games.

To all KCS students who have embraced the ‘Be active’ habit, you set an impressive example. This habit and all you learn as a result will serve you well in all aspects of your life. It’s a hard habit to establish when older. But your unavoidable example, and the Habits poster that I face from my office chair, will tolerate no nonsense. I’m wrapping up this tribute to get out of my chair and follow your lead.

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

Winning Without Coming in First Place

On Monday morning, our grade 3 cross country team went to their meet at Heart Lake in Brampton.  I wasn’t able to attend, however, over the past 48 hours I have heard many comments from students and teachers that it was a great event.  As usual, I heard about how hard our students competed, how much they enjoyed themselves, and how this event was a wonderful introduction for our youngest cross country athletes.

And then I heard another story.  One that reminds me about the role an excellent coach, parent and teacher can have on a young person and how they choose to act.

One of our students fell at the beginning of the race.  There was a question about whether or not he was intentionally pushed, but in the student’s words, “only the guy who pushed me will know…”  He didn’t quit.  Instead he got back up and ran until he couldn’t run anymore.  After he finished running his friends came by, offered words of encouragement and checked in on him.  Another student helped him by going to get his lunch off the bus.  All wonderful gestures and not surprising from the students at KCS.  What made this story even more heartwarming was what happened when the student realized he could not keep running.  In the middle of the race, another boy stopped running himself and helped his classmate find a teacher.  After he did this, the student got back in the race and finished it.  The runner who was hurt said to his mom afterwards, “[He] stopped to help me”.

To Zach and Daniel, thanks for your efforts on behalf of our cross country team.  More importantly, thanks for doing what is right.  I’m proud to know both of you and you can be on my team any day.

Derek Logan
Head of School

What We Learned at Camp

Me to We Leadership CentreDuring free time, they returned to the familiar: basketball, soccer, Zombie Tag, and chatting with friends. It was a whole different story, however, when the grade 7 and 8 students at the Me to We Leadership Camp were in class.

Me to We is an offshoot of Free the Children, a charity established 18 years ago by a young man from Thornhill. What began as one 13-year-old’s mission to fight child labour has become a world-wide movement to inspire compassion and action among the young.

So, what did our students work on at their leadership and outdoor education camp? As rich and manifold as the jambalaya served at dinner, here is what I observed them directly learning:

To persist
To have the courage to share difficult thoughts
To reflect on how fundamentally our lives can differ from others in the world
To be silent
To listen
To be grateful
To work as a team
To be honest
To be mindful
To work through confusion
To question what happiness really is
To take responsible risks
To think by yourself
To experience some of the adversity that affects others in the world daily
To observe how difficult it is to DO what is right even when you KNOW what is right

“Goodness!” you might be thinking. What did the students think of that?

The first report received from a parent was that her son came home with two thumbs up, saying that was the best trip EVER.

And I’m reminded once again that the world is in good hands and will be a better place thanks to this young man and the many others who joined us at camp.

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