Inside King's-Edgehill School

Joe Seagram, Headmaster

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Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter -- Week 18

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Jan 25, 2020 8:34:05 AM

Dear KES Family:

Generally speaking, a little bit of tension is good. A parachute without tension in its lines will fail. A fisherman who allows slack in his line may lose his catch. A team that is too relaxed will not perform to the best of its abilities.  However, too much tension causes lines to break, athletes to “tense up” and choke, and relationships to erupt into conflict.
And so it is with the Coronavirus. We need to be sensible yet sympathetic, confident yet wary, prepared but not pre-occupied.  It is a delicate balance and one can sense the tension that is gripping the globe and starting to be felt in our School.  While I marvel at the intellectual, economic, and political horsepower that is coming together to deal with the virus, my thoughts are with the families of everyone affected.  Even for us at KES, the Chinese New Year is typically a happy celebration. It is muted this year and fraught with concern for family and friends in affected areas. Simple questions like: “Will I be able to travel this March Break?” may not have simple answers.  The answer for most is yes…for now…it depends... This may change. Tension rises in times of uncertainty.
While I don’t worry for a second that the combined international resources are putting protocols in place to put this outbreak behind us, in times like this I worry about rising levels of anxiety and fear. These are negative emotions that will affect not only our ability to go about (“to perform”) our daily routines successfully, but will adversely affect our relationships and personal health.  Being blindly optimistic is foolish, of course, but we can be optimistically diligent in how we access information and respond to it. At the School, we are keeping a watchful eye on developments to ensure that everyone in our community remains safe.
For the billions of people worldwide who gather with their families for Chinese New Year, this year’s celebration will likely not be the happiest.  Given the current travel restrictions and overall concerns, many will not see their family this year.  Many community celebrations have been cancelled. Streets and squares and gathering places are empty in some parts. Typically, one would wish prosperity, health, success, and happiness to those one meets at this time of year. Perhaps more than other years these wishes are most heartfelt and meaningful. 
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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter -- Week 16

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Jan 13, 2020 8:28:10 AM

Dear KES Family:

Years ago, on the morning of September 11 th, 2001, my Grade 9 class and I emerged from camping in the northern Ontario wilderness after a week of service: cleaning campsites, gathering garbage, and repairing damaged ‘thunder boxes’ (outhouses). As we waited for our school bus to pick us up, all our thoughts were about food, showers, and clean clothes. Those dreams were quickly shattered when the bus arrived, and the driver told us about the horrible events of “9/11”. As it did for so many, our world changed that day. We lost a kind of innocence. Certainly nothing could have been in greater contrast to the environment we had enjoyed the previous week and the harmony of my international group of 14 and 15-year olds.
As we gathered for assembly this week, I pondered the question of every educator: what do I say? Should I mention world events? Is it appropriate to focus on the wildfires in Australia or the extermination of an Iranian general? I don’t believe in a sanitized education but then again anxiety levels in youth have never been so high. It is almost two decades since 9/11. None of our students were born when it happened. Perhaps their childhood was not as innocent as mine. Terror was simply a genre of movies in my day. As for forest fires, I remember learning in school that they were necessary and good. Some species of trees, like the Jack pine, need the heat of the fire to release the seeds packed away in their pinecones. Nobody is saying that wildfires are good anymore.
It is a surprise to most students upon their return to the School that the Chapel is still decorated for Christmas and the morning readings and carols are selected to reflect the events which occur after the Birth of Jesus. It is about this time when the three kings or wise men follow yonder star and deliver their gifts to baby Jesus. It is also a surprise to the students to learn that it was at this time in the Christmas story when King Herod orders the death of all male children under two years old in Bethlehem. It is an event described in the Gospel of Matthew known as the Slaughter of the Innocents.
It seems that our lives are constantly touched by both joy and sorrow, often in close proximity. To be our best selves our hearts need to be open and vulnerable to experience joy and love, and yet strong enough to withstand those elements which threaten to overwhelm us. And so, what did I talk about during assembly? Inclusion and belonging and social health. We are healthier when we feel like we belong and are accepted as a true friend for who we are. The closer and more genuine our friends, the stronger we will be. We can handle anything together.
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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter -- Week 15

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Dec 13, 2019 6:34:52 PM

Dear KES Family:

Did you know that the youngest “student” we have on campus is six months old? Yup! Math and Science may not be on the curriculum at that age, but Physical Education is. As such, every Friday morning we host Parent and Tot swim lessons in our swimming pool. It is a delightful and happy time for all: the water is warm, and the Spafford Pool has magnificent windows overlooking the Dill Farm and the distant slopes of Ski Martock.
I have many happy moments during each week, but on Saturday mornings, about 30 Primary, Grade 1 and 2 basketball players (called Little Dribblers) make me smile every time! They come to have fun with basketballs and learn the basics of shooting, passing, and dribbling (of course).

When our KES middle and high school students are not filling the pool or the gym, many others are. Lane swims and aqua fit classes start in the early morning and go until noon. On Sundays, for example, we would have up to a hundred children between 3 and 12 years old taking Red Cross swim courses. It is surprising for some to learn that the community of Windsor and West Hants can take everything from strength and conditioning lessons, basketball skills courses, and swimming instruction pretty much every day of the week at KES. It is also inspiring to see our alumnae enjoying our campus facilities too, including Class of 1953 graduate Ruth (Creighton) Taylor!

Our examination period is almost over and students are beginning to make their way home for the holidays. It has been a most memorable and successful term. Wasn’t it just last week when we hosted the Terry Fox Run? Was Remembrance Day really over a month ago? Can it be that the final notes and verses of Chicago have been replaced by Christmas Carols already?

Time passes and, as usual, I am amazed by all that goes on at our School. A well-deserved holiday is due for all. I hope that everyone in this magical extended family of ours has the merriest of Christmases and the happiest of New Years.
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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter -- Week 11

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Nov 22, 2019 9:49:42 PM

Dear KES Family:

I was at an education trade show recently, and all the vendors had give-aways. Most of the time the “freebies” were discount Halloween candy but whether the vendors were offering treats or something to wear (like a pin or ball cap), each had something to give to people as they meandered by. I remarked upon it to a friend and was told that studies show if you give something to somebody, no matter how small, they automatically feel beholden to you. In short, the mini Caramilk bar I was eating was a sales tactic, and the guilt I was feeling was not because of its empty calories but because I had taken something and not given anything back.

Fast forward to this week. By courier, I received a really cool book entitled Launch from a uniform supply company. This is a $33 book (before tax) and with shipping represents a significant expenditure.

I also returned to my office one day and discovered I had been given a funky blue chair. It looks a little bit like a blue mushroom. It is valued at about $300 and is supposed to be really good for one’s posture as well as for fidgety students (or Headmasters?) as it swivels, compresses, and wobbles a bit.

I am waiting for the follow-up phone calls and emails from both the uniform and furniture supplier. They are coming for sure. Obviously, I cannot give back the Caramilk bar I ate, but in fairness I did actively reach into the vendor’s candy bowl and scoop it out. Maybe I owe them something? However, what do I do about the book and the chair that are in my office? I never asked for them. Do I owe them something? Are they mine to keep? Do I spend money to ship them back?

The book is a curiosity because it came from a uniform supplier but is not an article of clothing. The chair is from a specialist educational supply company. Does that make a difference? Are these bribes or samples? Or, are they “baubles”: something shiny and attractive designed to get my attention?

I am not looking for a new uniform supplier nor am I in need of new chairs right now, but if I was would I owe these vendors my business? I wrestle with these issues because, well, ethics are important and how I act reflects upon the School and our core values.

There is no doubt that we are all faced with these issues every day.  How many of us use a store or coffee shop washroom and feel compelled to purchase something, or try a food sample in Costco with no intention of purchasing the product? The funny thing is that I cannot even remember which vendor I took the mini Caramilk bar from. Maybe not the best sales tactic after all!
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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter

Headmaster's Weekly News letter -- Week 10

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Nov 16, 2019 9:46:16 AM

Dear KES Family:

Imagine a pink elephant. Picture it clearly in your mind.
Now, try not to think about it. Whatever you do, don’t focus on the pink elephant I just asked you to imagine.
Hard to do, isn’t it? That was one of the exercises a group of the staff and I went through this week during our Mental Health First Aid course. One of the topics we covered was stress and anxiety, and clearly one of the hardest things for anyone to do is to stop thinking about something that is “top of mind”. It takes significant mental discipline to put aside things that stress us. Whether it is a parental divorce, a failing grade in a test, or scoring on one’s own net, these things are very hard to ignore. Understanding how life’s challenges can affect the mental, social, and emotional health of our students (and ourselves) is important for all of us.
It was beneficial for me and my staff to learn the differences between stress and anxiety and how these things present themselves in our lives. For me, personally, I hear the words stress and anxiety used daily, and almost interchangeably, but not until this week did I fully appreciate how different being stressed is from being anxious. Moving forward, this understanding should help us support our students better.
I know how effective support can be in helping someone feel better. I felt it this week and am most grateful for the kindness I received. You see, I hate making mistakes. When I do they are my personal pink elephant, no matter how hard I try not to I think about my mistake(s) and worry about them. Constantly. I can feel my skin flushing, my heart rate rising, and my innards going hollow and sinking.
My mistake came on Monday in front of the entire School and all our guests. In the hush and solemnity of Remembrance Day, I misread the Honour Roll.   My eyes, my brain, completely missed the right hand column of Alumni who paid the ultimate price in the First and Second World Wars. When I realized my error, I apologized and read the names I had missed, but I was deeply mortified. When I finished, I could feel that familiar inner worry building deep within me. I felt that I had let the Corps, the faculty, our guests, and the Fallen down.
Fortunately, I was immediately swept up in the warmth and reassurance of the KES family. The 254 Cadet Corps had performed admirably throughout the parade and two ceremonies (in Town and on campus), honouring the true spirit of Remembrance Day. As we laid our poppies en masse at the Cenotaph, hugs and happy faces greeted me. I tried to apologize to a group of parents and my concerns were instantly minimized. One lovely soul remarked that I had read the second column seamlessly. And you know what? Because of the warmth of our KES family, my pink elephant pretty much disappeared and I was “good to go” (as Major Hynes would say) for the rest of the day.
It is so easy to cast stones when someone makes a mistake. “Rubbing it in” is indeed such a cruel thing to do and yet it seems to be increasingly common. That our King’s-Edgehill School family embraces our community ideals of “gentleness, learning, dignity, and respect” sometimes seems counter-culture and rare. This week I realized just how fortunate we are.
It’s hard to comprehend the warmth of the KES community until there is a moment like that.
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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter -- Week 9

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Nov 4, 2019 2:35:23 PM

Dear KES Family:

As the beat and energy of Michael Jackson’s Thriller got everyone moving at our Halloween Dance last night, I could not help but be a little in awe (and envious) of the moment. Thirty-six years after its release, Thriller still inspires movement and joy on the dance floor. This generation also knows the proper dance moves, too! He did not know I was watching, but it was clear that Mauricio Alvarez, all dressed up in his sleek black suit, felt hat, and costume, had the whole zombie- Thriller dance routine memorized!

It is remarkable how the posters and music of bygone eras have survived. When I was in high school, our dorm rooms were decorated with Pink Floyd, Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Bob Marley posters. Those are still in vogue in the dorms today, as are their songs. There is a resurgence of Abba and Queen and Beatles songs (inspired by theatrical and cinematic productions), all of which have the capacity to yank us older folks out of current days to our teenage years. Even the sound tracks to popular movies like Marvel Comic’s Guardians of the Galaxy feature throwback songs like “Hooked on a Feeling” by Blue Swede, “Ain’t no Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye, and “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac.

Research has shown powerful connections between music and memory, as well as music and emotion. It is being used increasingly in therapeutic settings and with the elderly suffering from Alzheimer’s. However, I think we all know intuitively that music has the capacity to transport us back in time, and to elicit feelings associated with those times. Hearing Thriller last night took me back to a time when, for a brief moment, the planet stopped spinning as people across the globe literally held their breath waiting for the simultaneous world-wide release of Michael Jackson’s extended (14 minute) Thriller video on December 2 nd, 1983. It was a joyous time.

Halloween at KES is also a joyous time. The humour, the costumes, and the candy (!), all make for a memorable day of fun. I imagine that someday in the distant future, our current students will hear songs which remind them of their days at the School. I hope that the feelings they have then will be wonderfully warm and happy reminders of good times and great friends.
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Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter -- Week 6

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Oct 12, 2019 1:46:57 PM

Dear KES Family:

Us and them, cat and mouse…ugh. I would hate school if the relationship between students and staff was adversarial. Being on the same side, having the same goals, and not letting the big teacher desk come between us, is essential to creating a happy and respectful school culture. When we realize that we are all in this together, and anyone’s successes and achievements make us all feel good, then something really magical happens on campus.

There have been many magical moments this week. I was in awe this Wednesday during assembly at the students’ reaction to Mr. Pat LePoidevin’s original bagpipe composition and “gift” to Mr. Kevin Lakes and Major Hynes. The piece is emotionally stirring and, as I marvelled at Pat’s piping on stage, I noticed that all 361 students shared my attention and appreciation of the music and significance of the moment. Huge applause by all.

Hiking Cape Split with the entire Grade 9 class on Monday provided me an opportunity to see how special the group is. Despite the time pressure to be back at school early for everything from soccer matches to volunteering at the hospital, these young men and women made their way through the woods and rugged trail with laughter and good spirits. On the return journey, the group needed less than 90 minutes to hike the final 7kms! How wonderful it was to see Ms. Cummings, Ms. Sullivan, and Mr. Lakes walking and talking so naturally and happily with everyone the whole time.

Although twelve-year-old Cooper Pape ‘schooled’ me with his soccer skills in the week’s staff/student soccer match, I loved the spirit of the event. It was competitive yet not adversarial. Both sides wanted to win. There was applause for good plays on both sides…and lots of laughter for not-so-good moves. For me, the spirit of the game was summed up in a spontaneous reaction from Grade 10 student Josie King. She is a fine multi-sport athlete and, by absolute fluke, I happened to block one of her shots on net with my foot. Her immediate and positive response of “great play” as she chased after the ball illustrated superb sportsmanship and healthy confidence.

If I were a student here, I would want to be in Mr. DeCoste’s drumline, and Ms. MacLean’s cast of Chicago, and Mr. MacLean’s or Ms. Hannah Sinclair’s Chemistry classes. The thing is, everywhere I look I see enthusiasm and passion being shared. Be it debating or dance, yoga or math, basketball or history, there is a sense that we are all in this together. It makes a difference when we do things together and don’t simply walk around with a whistle or a mark book. It makes a difference when our own children (and babies!) share in our Thanksgiving supper together.

This Thanksgiving, I am extra grateful for the school culture of acceptance and togetherness we have. It is rare and precious. No doubt it will be tested in the months to come, but I trust we will weather those storms when they come.
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Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter, Week 5

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Oct 4, 2019 6:47:17 PM

Dear KES Family:

An interesting thing happens when we turn our brilliant LED stadium lights on at night: the light removes the darkness on campus. Sounds obvious of course, but in removing the darkness we remove fear. We also create community and opportunities for joy that did not exist before.

With the turf field brightly lit, the evening snack after prep is better attended. Girls and boys from the satellite houses around the field (Buckle, Vincent, and Vair McLellan) are more likely to make their way to the Dining Hall to join their friends. Although we have street and path lights, the reality is that without the turf’s stadium lights, the walk is darker, the shadows deeper, the trek more intimidating.

Last night after prep, 22 students joined me and Mr. Foley to play touch rugby under the lights. It was glorious fun. Playing with us were not only boys and girls, boarders and day students, but a parade of nationalities: Canada, Ireland, South Africa, China, Japan, Finland, and Mexico. Feeling a bit like rugby stars under the lights, we played until call-up for “lights out”. While we were playing, a single female student ran around the track circling us again and again for the better part of an hour. I marvelled at her, but it was my wife Belinda who remarked how, without the lights and perhaps without us playing on the field as well, it is unlikely this girl would have felt safe running alone in the dark.

The American poet, Robert Frost, once described the nighttime forest as being “lovely, dark, and deep”. However, this is a rare observation. Being scared of the dark is much more common. Scores of writers from Edgar Allan Poe to Shakespeare to Anne Frank (as a teenage girl she wrote how a ‘candle can defy and define the darkness’) have described the night or darkness as anything but lovely.

Our LED stadium lights are the first of their kind in Atlantic Canada. They are absolutely incredible, shining a shadow-less light that is direct and does not bounce or wash across the Town of Windsor and the residential areas adjacent to the School. They use so little electricity that they operate for under $5 an hour. Despite being higher than our tallest tree on campus, they have withstood everything Mother Nature and Hurricane Dorian have thrown at them in the last year.

My appreciation for these lights is growing daily. Their benefits are beyond what first meets the eye.
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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter

HeadmasterWeekly Newsletter -Week 4

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Sep 27, 2019 8:55:07 PM

Dear KES Family:

Growing up in downtown Montreal and Toronto in the 1960s and 70s (makes me feel so old!), my friends and I spent all our free time outside. Parent free, we rode bikes, climbed trees, played shinny hockey in winter and pick-up baseball and football in the summer. My friends and I knew where the raccoons lived, and which ponds had turtles or frogs or goldfish. We would play catch with the local police officer on foot patrol, and he knew all our names and where we lived. When I split my forehead on a teeter-totter, he was the one who looked after me. It was a different time, but I loved those days when you could simply go out and play, returning home once it became dark.

Life is different for children now. That freedom I enjoyed is long gone. Or is it? Being just outside of a small town, surrounded by farms and forest, and blessed with wonderful facilities, I see our students happily discovering the joys of “going outside to play”. I thought it was a lost art, but I see so much evidence of unstructured fun and the obvious conclusion is that unstructured play is natural and supervised structured play is not play at all. It is unnatural.

If you could see the fun created outside during break, or lunchtime, or that wonderful hour after supper and before prep, you would understand what I mean. Skateboards and bicycles come out, swing sets squeak their timeless tune, balls are kicked or thrown, children run and roll (it always amazes me how our younger students will lie down and roll around on the turf field!) and laugh and squeal. We provide frisbees and spike ball sets, soccer balls and footballs, etc, but we don’t structure the play, and we don’t force anyone to leave their room. We provide the time and space and equipment and simply ask that it be respected.

Although it is “indoors” the same could be said of the gym, or of Mr. Smith’s music room or our new recording studio, where many a free hour is also spent in creative musical play. (I believe that playing a musical instrument is very athletic and healthy – for all sorts of reasons, of course.)

It has been said that this young generation has been sheltered, forced to grow up too fast, and incapable of unstructured play. What I have marvelled at this week are the many positive and impressive signs of youthful wellness. I am seeing healthy play and healthy relationships. I am also seeing true empathy and respect towards others (something definitely missing from my childhood where every joke was at the expense of someone different from me and my friends).

In the photos below, I hope you can catch a glimpse of the joy of childhood I see every day.
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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter

Headmasters Weekly Newsletter -Week3

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Sep 21, 2019 12:10:50 PM

Dear KES Family:

Each year we invite everyone to come to campus to help us raise money for cancer research. On Sunday, with the rest of the School and the community of Windsor, I ran the Terry Fox Run for the Cure.

Two days later I attended a funeral for an alumna who passed away from cancer at age 26.

I have wrestled with the dueling emotions of sadness and anger this week. However, I am also mindful of Terry Fox’s heroic journey and the positive impact his life has had. We run for him, but we also run for those who are close to us who have been touched by cancer. Although the Terry Fox Run appears as a whole school community event and a “fun” fundraiser with family and friends and our pets (lol!), it has a powerfully personal relevance and purpose. This year (for me at least), more than ever.

I am also struck by the number of alumni and staff and former staff at the funeral on Tuesday. We were a large and tearful and diverse group. It speaks to the strength and intimacy of the bonds created at our School. Seeing the happy photos from School events – in a prom dress or rugby hoodie – reminded me of how important these days are for our students, and how important it is that they are happy days.

I remember when the President and Chancellor of Acadia University, Ray Ivany, told me that what distinguishes King’s-Edgehill students was their ability to navigate life’s grey zones. In class or in campus life, he discovered that our graduates were good at understanding life’s complexities, of seeing good and bad together, at understanding that life combines joy with sorrow, injustice with generosity, or senselessness and purpose.

And so at today’s soccer tournament, we begin fundraising for the victims of Hurricane Dorian in The Bahamas. It is the students who are reaching out and making the effort to help people they have never met in a country only a lucky few have visited. They feel it is important to do something. I am hugely impressed. Out of destruction and despair comes action, love, and hope.
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