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Keeping a Stiff Upper Lip or Digging Deep?

Making the CAIS

Keeping a Stiff Upper Lip or Digging Deep?

by Stuart Grainger, Headmaster at Trinity College School

The start of an academic year brings a new energy to those of us in education – students, staff and faculty alike. A fresh beginning provides another opportunity to set short-term and long-term goals, another chance to sharpen habits and routines and, ultimately, the ability to make our lives and communities better.

One of my objectives this year is to have more conversations. Or rather, more conversations that are meaningful. All of us that work in organizations, businesses and communities have daily conversations that are professional and polite. But do we also seek to dig deep, prompting conversations that are more personal and, as a result, often more informative and productive? Or do we tend to avoid these more sensitive but meaningful conversations, instead holding a stiff upper lip against discourse that may be uncomfortably emotional in nature? I suppose we first need to ask ourselves: do we wish to continue to learn and improve our relationships and our businesses, or simply aim to maintain the status quo?

I think the tendency for many people is to bypass conflict, not get too emotionally involved and avoid getting too deep into people's lives.

But what if the "lives" we are considering are children? Your children. Do you have those tough conversations with your kids or do you find yourself diverting awkward topics? I confess that I tend to find it easier to talk about challenging topics facing adolescents with our students, as opposed to my own kids! I need to change this predisposition.

That said, I wish to share an occasion of when I opted to dig deep with a student. I believe that the end benefits of our interaction – if somewhat unexpected – were laudable. A few years ago I prompted a conversation with a student regarding his unusual timing and pattern of leaving the school campus during the day. And while graduating students are permitted, with permission, to leave campus, I found it odd that he was leaving in the middle of the day so many times a week. So I approached the student and asked him about his frequent departures. He told me that, in fact, he was not leaving campus but rather going to the art room at the other end of campus. However, I was concerned that I wasn't getting the whole story.

I thought, here is an opportunity for me to be direct, to dig deep, so I asked him if he smoked. He said no, but was clearly nervous and avoided my eye contact. I let him know that we had help for him if he was interested in quitting the habit. I didn't want him to be embarrassed or fearful of any possible punishment; I was very clear that he would not be in any trouble if he admitted an addiction and stepped forward for help. He continued to deny smoking.

The next day, I had a call from his father. The dad appreciated that I had a conversation with his son; in fact, he was very grateful that I would take a personal interest in his child's health and well-being and had concerned myself with his travel patterns during the day. But, his dad told me that since his son was an asthmatic, he was quite sure his son did not smoke! And, indeed, it was confirmed by both father and son (then and years later), that there had been no smoking taking place.

So, in fact, the headmaster got it wrong on this occasion. But, as it turns out, my good intentions were what mattered. The dad and I have chuckled about this interaction many times since and will continue to. For my attempt to "go deeper" was interpreted as a caring and concerned gesture. It also gave me an opportunity to apologize to a student who was being honest and was justifiably nervous when being quizzed by the headmaster! Most definitely an added benefit of this interaction was that the student realized that I was human too.

As educators and parents, it is important that we prioritize talking on a deeper level with our kids to discover and discuss what they are thinking and doing. Whether this has to do with course selections and university placement or their attitudes on relationships and drug use.

If you are interested in a good read on this topic, Now I Know Why Tigers Eat Their Young: Surviving a New Generation of Teenagers by Peter Marshall is one of my long-time favourite books.

Let's face it, kids are talking with one another on a deeply personal level. So, let's dig deep, injecting ourselves into the conversation.

Keeping an Open Mind

By Helen-Kay Davy, Principal of Havergal College

Technology makes things more convenient and speeds up our access to information. But it can also limit what we discover, understand and believe.

In our desire to educate our students – to give them the tools to navigate complex, sometimes contradictory systems – shouldn't we be seeking technology that opens doors rather than closes them, technology...

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The Benefits of Live-Time Assessment

The Benefits of Live-Time Assessment

by Martin Jones, Middle School Principal and Craig Davis, Senior School Principal at Mulgrave School

Following on the work of John Hattie and others, Mulgrave has recently been focusing on efforts to improve teacher feedback, as well as student expectations and target-setting, in order to improve student learning.

Our initiative, Live-Time Assessment, involves openly sharing key assessment results and feedback with both students and parents soon after the assessment takes place ...

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Who We Are is as Important as What We Do

by Dr. Josep L. González, head of School at TFS – Canada's International School

In the midst of developing our new strategic plan for TFS – Canada's International School, I was struck by how we often talk about what we do but seldom about who we are. This sort of fundamental insight is particularly relevant for TFS because we are in a unique position, geographically, intellectually and academically ...

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Perhaps It's Something in the Water

by Dr. Glenn Zederayko, Head of School at Glenlyon Norfolk School

Every school encourages a caring and community-minded experience for its students, but that doesn't fully explain what makes Glenlyon Norfolk – located on the western edge of the country, in Victoria – such a special place.

Perhaps it's something in the water. Or, more precisely, perhaps it's the fact that we are situated at the boundary of land and ocean, with the world there at our doorstep ...

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Building Canada's World School for Boys

by Dr. Tom Matthews, Headmaster at St. George's School

St. George's School is halfway through its ten-year strategic plan, One Boy at a Time. By any measure, it's a big and bold plan. We are positioning St. George's to be a world leader in the education of boys. We started with the basics, which for us meant recommitting to being deliberately and proactively a boy's school. In this era – when some single-gender schools remain so for reasons of tradition, and while others are considering or have already become co-ed – that in itself is a major commitment ...

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Keeping Our Focus

by Laurence Kutler, Head of School at Talmud Torah | Herzliah

What will our students remember ten years from now? I think it's safe to say they won't remember individual tests and assignments – those numbers and data that sometimes are in danger of consuming all our energies and focus.

I do think they will remember the humanity of our school, the warmth of the teachers and staff, the nurturing community that we focus on creating at Talmud Torah | Herzliah ...

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Singing Our Light

by Allan Hardy, Principal at Greenwood College School

At Greenwood, we believe strongly that students should be provided with multiple opportunities to challenge their minds, their bodies and their spirits. And now we have a spectacular artwork that demonstrates these beliefs.

"Singing the Light," by Toronto artist Sarah Hall, is 60 feet high by 18 feet wide and continuously spans five floors of our school. The central tree that stretches the length of the piece, together with the birds that come to rest within the piece and then fly off on their own, are allegories for the school community ...

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Our Students are Masterworks

by Ted Spear, Ph.D., Head at Island Pacific School

At Island Pacific School we believe that when kids are given a strong foundation and the right kinds of support, they can achieve truly remarkable things.

This belief is put into practice in our Masterworks program. Small by design – IPS has a total of about 65 students spread across Grades 6 to 9 – our school has created an intellectually creative challenge for our graduating students ...

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Neuchâtel Junior College Celebrates 60 Years

Neuchâtel Junior College - Bill Boyer, Head of School.

"We have many of the same concerns as other CAIS schools," says Neuchâtel's Head of School, Bill Boyer, "and that includes refreshing our facilities, fundraising, and ensuring a compelling education inside – and especially outside – the classroom."

"What is unique about our school is that we renew our entire student body every year. We offer Grade 12 only, and so each and every year we see a new group of students. That has its challenges and its pleasures."...

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Leveraging Our Power

by Martha Perry, Principal at St. Clement's School

As the product of a girls' school, I believe strongly in the presence and the nurturing of women in leadership. It is a comfort to know that CAIS believes in this as well.

Over the last four years, a module on Women and Leadership – first started by Kathy Nikidis, past Head of Miss Edgar's and Miss Cramp's School – has been included at the CAIS Leadership Institute. It has been important in fostering conversations among female colleagues about research, candid experiences, and considerations of next steps ...

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The Importance of a Blank Page, and Some Deep Thinking

by Graham Hookey, Head of School at Kempenfelt Bay School

Since 1984 I have written a weekly column for local newspapers in the communities in which I have lived. My purposes are quite simple. First, I feel that discussions surrounding education and parenting (the main thrusts of my writing) are both necessary and helpful. I throw ideas up in the air, share the insights and research of others, and then hope some of it settles in such a way that it's helpful to parents as they take on the ever-challenging role of raising children ...

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Can You Fly?

By Jason B. Rogers, Headmaster at Rundle College

When I was five years old, if someone had asked me this, I probably would have answered, "I might not be able to fly now! But I'm about to take off!"

I remember donning my Superman costume and running in circles in my backyard attempting to get a little bit of lift. My younger brother, who so often was the innocent bystander in need of rescue, often sat by awaiting my triumphant arrival ...

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Finding the Magic

By Paul G. Kitchen, Head of School at Rothesay Netherwood School

In 1965 I was a new grade 9 boarding student beginning what I thought would be a grand adventure. Both of my brothers had spent five years at boarding school, so I didn't ask any questions. When I was going into grade 9, it just seemed that it was my turn. Little did I know that my turn would end up lasting 46 years ...

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The Business and Joys of Education are Unlike Any Other

By Blayne Addley, Headmaster at Halifax Grammar School

The Halifax Grammar School is currently designing a new campus. It's being brought to life founded on the core principals of collaboration and group-work, and will celebrate liberal arts education, which I strongly believe will help develop the best and brightest opportunities for our current and future students ...

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The Story of Keisha (or, never underestimate the impact you can have on the life of a child)

By Dorothy Byers, Head of School at St. Mildred's-Lightbourn School

Human beings are socialized creatures: we need social interaction to thrive. Working in education enables the development of deep relationships with the children, parents, and adults with whom we work. The impact of these relationships may take years to understand or come to fruition. Let me share one that is profoundly impactful in my life ...

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Perhaps We See Some Revolutions Only in Retrospect

By Geoff Dowd, Principal of Trafalgar School for Girls

My undergraduate readings in education during the early 1970s created a fair degree of internal cognitive dissonance: they included Ivan Illich urging us to de-school society and Neil Postman disparaging systems that focused too much on how to make a living, rather than live a life. Taught by professors long removed from school classrooms (if they were ever there), I seemed to learn more about why education was not working...

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Everything Flows from Relationships

By Jim Power, Principal of Upper Canada College

Growth mindsets, 21st-century learning skills, cross-cultural competencies – these are among the important topics vigorously promoted in schools these days. But it's important to remember something that has been true since Plato first wrote about his cave: schools are, at their deepest core, about the fundamental and pivotal relationship between student and teacher...

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