Inside King's-Edgehill School

Joe Seagram, Headmaster

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Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter -- Week 37

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Jun 11, 2021 5:03:56 PM

Dear KES Family:

I can hardly wait for tomorrow. At noon on Saturday, our Closing Day Ceremony movie will be released. A “Faucher” production, it promises to be well crafted and sprinkled with a unique mix of formality and humour. For the first time I have no idea what our Valedictorians are going to say. Typically, I would read their speeches well beforehand but as   Sarah and Righo  are off campus and have filmed their speeches separately, their parting words are joys to be revealed.
 
 
Additionally, many of our endowed scholarships will be presented by family members who have recorded their part of the ceremony. These promise to be lovely and meaningful additions. That the main recording takes place in Convocation Hall makes the whole production extra special.
 
The date has been set for our in-person   Graduation Ceremony, as we look forward to welcoming the Class of 2021 back to campus on   August 20th  for what should be a day long celebration of their educational journey.  I look forward to that happy day and excited “send-off” just a few weeks before they start their university careers. (Oh…and   Righo and Sarah  will have another Valedictory to give!) Students on our high-performance teams will soon be returning to campus for training, and summer courses in Physics and Calculus are about to begin.  Hooray!
 
Most of all, I look forward to a return to “normal” next year. Staff have already received their first (and in some cases, second) vaccination, and as children 12 and over in Nova Scotia are eligible to be vaccinated, many of our students have already been jabbed. I am also thrilled that we have the ability to vaccinate students onsite next year. Most of all, I was reassured when Minister Hadju announced yesterday that in the near future, fully vaccinated travellers to Canada will not have to isolate for two weeks when they arrive. This is great news for our international students who have access to vaccine at home. Those who don’t, we will look after when they arrive. As the school year gets underway, Nova Scotia should be in Phase Five of its opening plan and all public health restrictions will be optional.
 
The light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter and brighter.  What a wonderful feeling to start the summer with!
 
It has been a memorable and remarkable school year. My heart bursts with gratitude for everyone’s hard work. The students were exceptional, the staff happy and professional, and the School’s population of wildlife, of foxes and deer, crows and ravens, of turtles and raccoons, remains as healthy as ever.
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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter -- Week 36

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Jun 4, 2021 5:31:22 PM

Dear KES Family:

There is something very exciting about seeing a brilliant idea.  The creators of last evening’s Arts Gala, Toven MacLean, Jeff Smith, Sandy Stewart, Sven Dietrich, Karlee Sinclair, Stephanie Cummings, and Jonathan Cheverie had several but this one struck me as genius: rather than have the ceremony dominated by adults, why not hand it over to our most creative students and alumni. As a result, our wonderful host Victoria Dubois, invited alumni from the Class of 2020 to present the special awards. It was fabulous seeing current students and their performances recognized by our Arts superheroes of yesteryear on screen.  Hearing them speak about their experiences at KES before making the presentation to their friends and former schoolmates was magnificent. My heart leapt when Class of 2020 graduates Mya Snarr, Ella Brown, Ohemaa Ofori, Katie Goddard, Max Cole, Eva Redmond, and Annalise Emery appeared on screen. Better than at any Academy Awards ceremony, the presenters were eloquent, gracious, and hugely enthusiastic. Be it in dance, drama, music, voice, visual art, the media arts…it was obvious that the Arts programme at KES occupied a special place in their hearts and memories.
 
I also realized how much these young graduates hold a place in our hearts.
 
Mya Snarr described how fondly she remembers Ms. Sandy Stewart’s hello every time she entered the Art room. I love this. Being greeted warmly each day says so much about the connection between teacher and student, the connection between space and creativity, and the joy of feeling welcome and safe. I know that Sandy greets everyone warmly. She has made her studio a cozy and comfortable oasis separate from the high energy hubbub of the main campus. For Mya, a boarding student for six years, I am sure the Art Studio was a place not only to create but to re-create.
 
How we greet people is important. Saying hello is such a simple thing but done well it has a lasting impact. It may have seemed like a simple bit of fun for Mr. Faucher, Mr. Walsh, and Mr. Chandler to put together their own award ceremony for the morning screening, but that daily ritual for all students and staff arriving on campus welcomed everyone and never failed to put a smile on our faces. And how much fun it is to recognize Sean Hurley’s chivalry, Natalia’s daily jokes, or Mr. Trace’s perfect hair!
 
I hope we don’t have to do morning screening next year, but somehow we have to ensure that every student carries memories with them of being welcomed warmly every time they came on campus, entered a class, stepped into the theatre for rehearsal, or joined their team for practice.
 
The Arts Gala can be found on YouTube.  Make sure you watch right through to the finale – best song ever!
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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter -- Week 35

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on May 28, 2021 7:55:15 PM

Dear KES Family:

Surprisingly, this has been an eventful week. Here are three highlights:
 
  1. Dr. Kevin Walsh, a local dentist and parent of two wonderful alumnae, has for many years looked after students needing emergency dental care.  He is a good friend and part of our KES family. This week he successfully summitted Mount Everest. His twenty glorious minutes flying the Nova Scotia flag on the highest point of our planet represent a rare accomplishment. Interviewed by CTV Atlantic from Base Camp last night, I was struck how uplifting his success is for all of us.  It is a great story for our School, our town, and our province.
  2. There are only seven students left on campus. Our Canadian boarders have gone home and almost all of our international students have been tested, loaded up with official travel documents, and have made their way home already. Online courses continue but with such a diverse student population, the difference in time zones is a challenge. David Curry reported to me with great admiration that during his ToK class, Stanislav Matkovskyi and Gleb Proshkyn zoomed in from Ukraine and Ben Bednaraand Lukas Schmidt did the same from Germany, despite it being midnight their time! The continued commitment to learning is remarkable.
  3. One of the reasons our campus always looks so beautiful is because our groundskeepers are so good. Be it flower beds, lawns, or our many shrubs and trees, Chris Northup looks after pretty much everything that grows. When we constructed the turf field a few years ago, Chris had Jakeman Field’s topsoil scraped off and saved in a massive pile behind Vair MacMillan House. It was a brilliant idea because every time we need topsoil we have our own supply. With the recent construction of the new Learning Pavillion, we needed to level and shape the ground around it. True to my mother’s old saying, “Waste not, want not”, this week Chris has used topsoil from the old Jakeman Field to even out and seed the ground. It seems like such a little thing, but we live in a time when everything is disposable, and few things get fixed. This kind of forward thinking seems rare. For us, even “dirt” has value and shouldn’t go to waste.
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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter -- Week 34

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on May 21, 2021 5:07:27 PM

Dear KES Family:

A few years ago, Belinda gave me a book on survival. Written by Cody Lundin, it has the usual descriptions of how to prepare for your expedition, what to include in your emergency kit, how to start fires and build shelters, etc. However, what really caught my interest was how much emphasis he put into the absolute necessity for having a positive attitude and controlling one’s fear.
 
In Lundin’s list of the eleven essential skills and know how that people must possess to survive, at the very top is a positive attitude.  “Survival,” he says, “is 90 percent psychology.” How we think affects our mood and our body in tangible and powerful ways. Research has shown that attitude, self-esteem and humour influence changes in heart rate, hormones, and body chemistry.  I agree with Lundin when he writes, “How we think and feel about the world affects our perception about everyone and everything.”
 
So where am I going with this?
 
Without question, we are all in a kind of extended survival situation right now. We are all dealing with uncertainty, with fear, and with the uncomfortable conditions imposed upon us by this pandemic. How we react to these changes dictates how we treat those around us, and how we treat ourselves.  Over 2,000 years ago Horace wrote, “Rule your mind or it will rule you.” Two millennia later and this advice is still awesome!
 
Keeping our happy thoughts, keeping a positive attitude, is a skill that we must learn. It is essential for our health and the health of those around us. Like any other skill, it requires effort to acquire.  Ruling our mind takes effort. Does it take more effort than sprinting front hill or studying for a math test? I don’t know, but it seems to me that the reward is not only a healthier and happier life for oneself, but for those around us as well. Totally worth it. Like Sidney Crosby shooting thousands of pucks for countless hours into an old clothes dryer, the work pays off.
 
I texted back and forth with Head Girl Sarah Bell this week. At one point she wrote, “It is unfortunate that our year was cut short, but I’m so thankful that we got the solid 7 months we did get.” I love this. I also love that in the weeks ahead we will have so many virtual celebrations. Be it the Athletics Banquet, the Arts Gala, the Grade 9 Graduation, or our now famous Closing Day Ceremonies movie (produced by Faucher Films!), there are many wonderful things yet to come.
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Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter -- Week 33

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on May 16, 2021 4:33:04 PM

Dear KES Family:

Here we are.  It is a beautiful sunny day.  Blossoms are bursting forth, grass is being cut, the new Learning Pavillion’s main structure assembled (gorgeous!), and every single test result has come back negative.  Whether it is on or off campus, staff and students or close contacts of the original positive test result, every result continues to be negative.
 
This morning I asked our very happy   School Nurse, Sue Cole, what this means. Her answer was immediate and simple. “It means we are awesome!” 
 
It means that the affected staff member was awesome at sticking to health protocols before and after learning of the positive result. (It is still a mystery where the infection was picked up.) It means that since September the cleaning staff has been awesome at sterilizing high touch areas and keeping the School safe. It means that everyone, from staff to students to visitors, have been adhering to the rules just in case we had a positive case. It means that all this effort since September was worth it. Imagine that…a boarding school with in-person classes and full daily sports and clubs programmes, has a confirmed case of COVID-19 amongst its residential faculty and no one else gets the virus.  It is awesome indeed.
 
Our close contacts remain in isolation but having just received their second negative test result, we are pretty confident their release to freedom on Wednesday at midnight won’t be extended.
 
It has been a record year for admissions. Be it Canadian students or International, we have been receiving more applications for next year than ever before. The pace has not slowed in recent weeks despite the third wave which has rushed through most of Canada. This week I interviewed a thoughtful young woman from Nova Scotia. When I asked her why she wanted to come to KES she replied: “I want my high school years to be ones that I remember with fondness and excitement, and not simply a period of time that I have to endure before I get on with my life.”
 
Our Head Boy this year is   Righo Etou. Before he departed this week for his new home in Montreal, he came to my office to say goodbye.  We took a moment to reflect on his journey here. “King’s”, he said, “has been my home for so many years.” 
 
Righo came into boarding from Congo when he was ten years old, speaking beautiful French but very little English. Despite being the youngest in his class, he was always the tallest and the gentlest and kindest soul around.  It was with fondness and excitement that we reminisced over his time. Righo had just turned 12 when we summited Mount Kilimanjaro together. He was always “up” for anything. Be it battling hard with   Mackenzie Smith  in basketball, playing percussion and rugby alongside   Jem Logan, or ordering calamari at every opportunity, Righo’s high school years were anything but a ‘period of time that he had to endure’.
 
Outside my office window right now is   Tammy Lazo de la Vega (Class of 2021). She leaves for Mexico soon and is taking pictures of her home: Jodrey House. Like so many students at our School, she has immersed herself into everything and created a rich and multi-dimensional experience that she will be able to look back upon with fondness and excitement.
 
The pandemic has changed the way we thought the school year would end. However, each one of our students can look back upon this year and be immensely proud of how much they have done despite every challenge they have faced.  From shattering all previous records for our Terry Fox Run to having the only Remembrance Day service in the province, having two theatrical performances and a spectacular Arts Review and Cultural Fair, winning Silver at the national debating tournament and placing fourth in the world in robotics, we have done things safely and to an exceptionally high standard. 
 
As online classes will continue into June, each day brings another departure for home.  While I am sad to see each student leave, I am proud of all they have accomplished. Keeping their friends safe is perhaps their biggest accomplishment of all.
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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter

Headmaster's Newsletter -- Week 31

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Apr 30, 2021 7:13:33 PM

Dear KES Family:

I presume like most Nova Scotians, I have watched our Chief Medical Officer of Health’s live briefings with a kind of fascination and respect. I don’t know when he started at the helm of Public Health in Nova Scotia, but he and his staff were of immense help back in 2009 when we had the H1N1 (swine flu) epidemic.
 
Anyone watching the news over the last year has had ample opportunity to see each province’s political and medical leaders in action. The different approaches and prioritization of competing priorities (political, economic, medical, social…), as well as the adherence to science and humanity, has been fascinating to witness.  I continue to be immensely proud of the leadership in our province. It is remarkably steadfast and consistent.
 
I think all Nova Scotians draw strength and direction and comfort from Dr. Strang’s leadership and the support of his team. What fascinates me is that through all of this he has maintained a personal touch, and from time to time has contacted the School directly to help guide us.
 
We work very hard to create an “oasis of kindness” here on campus. KES needs to be a safe and loving place where students and staff feel welcome and cared for. In reference to the pandemic, Dr. Strang has said, “And when this has passed, may they say that love spread more quickly than any virus ever could”. 
 
This is a different kind of love isn’t it?  It’s not romantic, Romeo and Juliet love.  It’s not like loving chocolate or Christmas morning.  It is about a collective positive regard for every single one of us. It is a hope that concern and caring for each other will spread from person to person.  In a way it is symbolized by the Nova Scotia Strong heart which is captured on flags and maps and carvings displayed in front yards and windows and bumper stickers throughout our province.  It is about collective strength and good will and kindness. It is about forgiveness and grace.
 
We will get through this. When we do, I hope we can say that love spread faster than the virus. It is something we can all work on.
 
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Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter -- Week 30

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Apr 23, 2021 5:39:38 PM

Dear KES Family:

Spring is here. The crocuses and early tulips and daffodils are adding a splash of colour to the fresh green of our fields. More and more students are spending free time outside and the happy shouts and laughter of teenagers at play fill the campus throughout the day. It is a joyful kind of music.
 
There are other sounds too. The campus is alive with birdsong. Beyond the usual caws of our resident black birds, we have barred owls and starlings and robins, bald eagles and Canada geese, a delightful pair of mallards making their home on Turtle and Long Pond, and a yellow-bellied sapsucker that brings me no end of amusement. Blessed with the best name of pretty much any creature in the animal kingdom, this yellow-bellied sapsucker has made the entire campus his home (aka “territory”) with a unique technique.
 
You see, yellow-bellied sapsuckers are like woodpeckers in that they tap trees. Unlike woodpeckers which bore big holes looking for bugs, the sapsuckers tap horizontal lines in their trees, and then lick the sap which oozes forth. They will return to these trees and eat the bugs which have been attracted to the sap. In the spring, like woodpeckers, sapsuckers will arrive early to their chosen spot and tap as loudly as they can to establish their territory and attract a mate.
 
Which brings me to our resident bird.
 
This gorgeous little guy has discovered that if he rat-a-tat-taps on the metal traffic sign by Vair MacLellan House the acoustics are such that the sound is amplified throughout the campus. It is incredibly loud! Any competitor for his territory must think he is the biggest and scariest bird ever and stay away. Any female suitor for his love would no doubt be very impressed. Clearly this strategy is a success because each spring he signals his return with this cacophony.
 
The early bird may get the worm, but this fellow gets the campus.
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Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter -- Week 29

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Apr 16, 2021 5:32:20 PM

Dear KES Family:

My father-in-law is a retired art teacher and a prolific artist. Even though he is quite good, none of his hundreds of paintings can be found in galleries or on the walls of private buyers. His life work is in his own house or in the homes of his children and extended family. In a labour of love, Belinda has put together a photo album and chronicle of her father’s life which includes over 150 images of his artwork.
 
Years ago, KES’s student production of   Rent stole our hearts. In a mini-reprise this year, our current students sang the show’s wonderful song “Seasons of Love”.  I have always found the lyrics both beautiful and haunting. They ask “…How do you measure the life of a woman or man? Is it in truths that she learned, Or in times that she cried?...”
 
I don’t know how one’s life is measured, or whether one should even attempt a calculation. It seems to me that the song, like Belinda’s book, is about love and remembering the love that one has shared in one’s life. (“Remember the love...remember the love…sing out, give out, measure your life in love”)
 
There are places in the School where students have left their mark. One can find signatures and names of students from the past few years penned on the display table in the School Store. Over the decades students have scratched and etched their names into the wood of the pews in the Chapel. On the oldest stones of Convocation Hall are the names of Alumni from generations past. I used to get upset when I saw the names. I thought they were a kind of graffiti. Now I feel a sense of kinship, a kind of love. I see them and remember the faces and their antics and their stories. As time has passed I can now put faces to the names of Alumni who attended long before I arrived in 2008. They warm my heart.
 
Today I am attending the funeral for   Joshua Michael Baker (Class of 2013). We are all feeling the loss. Through our tears we are sharing the stories and remembering the love.  There was a lifetime’s worth of love in that young man, and for him.
 
I wish I knew where Josh wrote his name.
 
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Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter -- Week 28

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Apr 9, 2021 5:48:54 PM

Dear KES Family:

Batman has his utility belt stocked with special gadgets. Superman has his superpowers. Spiderman has his spider abilities and some cool tools (like the web spinner he attaches to his wrist). Although I have asked Santa numerous times for a crystal ball and a magic wand (both would be awesome to have!), like Santa himself, these items only exist in my imagination.
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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter -- Week 27

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Apr 2, 2021 5:17:05 PM

Dear KES Family:

It has been a week of Easter bunnies and chocolate eggs, of environmental action, of Chapel and IB and sport and drama and cadets and robotics and art and math circles and science fair regional preparation.  Even though it has been a short week, it has been packed.
 
Meanwhile, all our day students and boarders who left campus over the March Break have been Covid-19 tested. It is incredibly convenient to have the ability to test on campus, and getting results back lickety-split is very reassuring to all. This was the third time I have been tested, and I was quickly reminded how invasive and uncomfortable the procedure is. Our Health Services Coordinator, Sue Cole, told me that all the students were amazing when they had their test. I love thinking that our students have grit. From the youngest ones in Grade 6 to our graduating students, there were no whiners.  That says a lot, I think.
 
On that note, Thursday afternoon was miserable. Heavy rain and heavier winds drove the April Fools Day cold through to our bones. Horrible conditions for a track workout and yet there was coach Phil Hadley with Aria MacDonald and Francois Richard (both Class of 2021) and Katie Goddard (Class of 2020) running laps and literally “going through their paces”. As they worked through the driving rain on the track, thirty-five boys were getting their first taste of fifteen-a-side rugby, and the turf was seeing its first rugby in twenty-five months. Considering that the rest of the School was on Easter Break at the time, it was an impressive display of commitment.
 
Grit is what helps our students persevere when life is tough, when work builds up, and when obstacles threaten to get in the way. Grit is the passion that fuels dreams and the desire for success. It is the energy that keeps us motivated and moving despite challenges. It is what builds resilience and lays the groundwork for success.  After a week like this one just past, I am thrilled with what I am seeing on campus.
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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter

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