Inside King's-Edgehill School

Joe Seagram, Headmaster

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Headmasters' Weekly Newsletter - Week 32

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on May 13, 2019 7:12:39 AM

Dear KES Family:


Managing risk is a life skill. It needs to be learned (preferably taught but some of the most indelible lessons come the hard way). If we eliminate risk altogether then we do our children a disservice, spawning an anxious generation that is unable to be exposed or vulnerable: physically, emotionally, socially, or financially. Calculating risks and rewards, judging potential consequences, mitigating harm: these are essential skills that all of us use every time we drive a car, make an investment, ask someone out on a date, or choose an activity.

I believe in meaningful risk. I believe there is joy to be found in a well-rounded and perfectly thrown snowball. Students are allowed to throw snowballs at KES – just not at windows or at someone’s face. The new swing sets have an element of risk. It is foreseeable that a student, in an ill-conceived effort to show off, may do a risky dismount and hurt themselves on the ground. Or, someone texting with their head down could walk in front of a swinger and get kicked in the head. (Some lessons come through experience!) There is joy in swinging and if one swings responsibly the risks are acceptable. With coaching and practice and testing, sixteen year olds may drive cars. Taking part in activities where one’s judgement will determine whether there is a good or bad outcome is essential to success in life. When we had our students swinging pick axes and mixing cement by hand at a construction site in rural Tanzania, I think they learned more than the school group which came after us and was forbidden to do the same by their teachers.

Which brings me to rugby and last week’s provincial decision to ban it for safety reasons. It has since been re-instated, but there is an implicit promise on the part of Rugby Nova Scotia to structure and operate the high school game and league in such a way that it is safer for all participants. Much can and should be done in terms of training and development, coaching techniques and player preparation, but the reality is that rugby players will always be putting their bodies in harm’s way. There will always be an element of risk attached to the game. Whether that risk is acceptable or not will remain a choice for parents and students and school administrations.

I find joy in the game of rugby. I have since I was thirteen years old. Without doubt my love for the game is intimately associated with the fear I must control when I play. Every time I step onto the rugby pitch I know, as does everyone else around me, that I can get hurt. Injuries are foreseeable, bruises and abrasions are likely. Perhaps because it is so physical the game has acquired a unique culture. The opposing team is not the enemy. There is respect and affinity for anyone who plays the game, and anyone who wants to play (regardless of size and ability) is able to find a way to contribute on the pitch. All you need is courage and determination. I would never force or persuade anyone to play. It has to be an individual choice. However, regardless of their age or body type, for those who take to the field I have nothing but profound respect. There are lessons one learns out there in the fray – about oneself, one’s teammates, and about life – that are difficult to find anywhere else.

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Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter - Week 32

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on May 4, 2019 4:01:58 PM

Dear KES Family:


Our new Strategic Plan has three strategic priorities: 1) Balance the Four Pillars, 2) Wellness, and 3) Financial Stability. Some of our work is visible to all (such as boosting the Arts Pillar by adding dance to the curriculum and co-curricular offerings) and some work is yet to be revealed (such as boosting summer revenue with high performance camps in basketball, hockey, dance, soccer, etc). However, I was thrilled to see that one of our wellness initiatives came to light yesterday. Happily, and to considerable excitement, we installed two swing sets! These are not part of a “playground”. Instead, they are positioned in community areas with sunlight and, we hope, contemplative views. Not many high schools have swings but many thanks to 2018 graduate Tessa Firth (whose idea it was) we have our first two!

It was with dismay that we received the news from the governing body of high school sport in Nova Scotia (the NSSAF) that the rugby season was cancelled. It came as a surprise to everyone. In a meeting today with representatives of the NSSAF and representatives from schools with rugby teams, we were told that since 2016 rugby has been on every NSSAF Board agenda. We were informed that there were difficulties communicating with the NSSAF’s School Insurance Program and recent comparative data on injuries suggests that rugby is not a safe sport. The NSSAF Board meets three times a year and in its May 2nd meeting the decision was made to cancel the season. Rugby is no longer an NSSAF sport. We have been told that the NSSAF is hopeful that the governing body for rugby in the province, Rugby Nova Scotia, will pick up the pieces of the season. However, we were also told that there were no prior conversations with Rugby Nova Scotia (or Rugby Canada or other provinces’ governing bodies) or about helping mitigate safety concerns this season. This being the case, there is a bit of a scramble going on to hastily put something together. Not a great scenario. Despite the passionate pleas of hundreds of high school rugby players at a demonstration in Halifax today, and despite a petition with over 10,000 signatures, the NSSAF stands by its decision. Unless Rugby Nova Scotia can mobilize its clubs and insurers to take on the high school program, there will be no more provincial high school rugby this spring.

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Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter -- Week 30

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Apr 28, 2019 9:16:10 AM

Dear KES Family:

Earth Day was last week. We did our bit. We picked up garbage in town and we turned down the heat (completely off in some places) and our students wore sweaters to stay warm. It catalyzed some good discussions. At my Headmaster’s Council meeting our Junior School representative Hannah Bryant brought forth initiatives for re-usable shopping bags, turning down the heat permanently, and making compost collection more efficient. Mr. Alguire’s Environmental Club is meeting and forging ahead with its initiatives too. However, this morning I watched a Ted Talk on YouTube and realized that what we are doing are steps in the right direction but are not enough.
 
A fifteen year old Swedish girl, Greta Thunberg, delivers a message in her Ted Talk on climate change that we must all hear. It is crystal clear and, quite frankly, accusatory. Her voice is a cry which pierces through the wilderness and touches a nerve. It certainly touched me.
 
As I write this note I am acutely aware of the contrasting Canadian states of emergency declared in Biggar, Saskatchewan because of wildfires and in Ottawa, Ontario because of flooding. Images of flooded streets and ruined homes in Quebec and New Brunswick fill the news. The contrast of fire and flood tell their own tale. No one is immune to climate change.
 
Greta’s story is fascinating. She objects to school and refuses to attend as she believes that traditional schooling has failed the planet and addressing the global crisis of climate injustice must be our top priority. She is articulate, well versed in multiple languages and the sciences and math. She appears supremely educated and capable. Recently, Greta addressed the United Nations (that address is on YouTube as well) with a piercing message for all the adults in the room. She, and this generation of children she speaks for, might just be the voice of change that our planet needs. Her Ted Talk is 11 minutes long. Take the time to watch and listen. Click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAmmUIEsN9A
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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter -- Week 29

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Apr 22, 2019 8:34:48 AM

Dear KES Family:

April is proving to be a cruel month, offering glimpses of spring warmth and sunshine and then showering the KES campus with rain. In one of the extended periods of sunshine, I was quite excited to hike through the back campus trails by Turtle Pond and see two turtles basking on a log. (An aptly named body of water!) Surrounding them in the water were schools of goldfish. They had emerged from the icy depths to enjoy the warmth of the shallow water close to shore. I was pleased to see the goldfish and turtles again. Our environment seems so fragile these days that examples of healthy ecosystems seem rare. I don’t know why there are gold fish in the pond but each year there are more and, it should be mentioned, at six or eight inches long the older ones are getting quite big.
 
The artificial turf on Jakeman field continues to bring joy to the School. Be it after hours on a Saturday afternoon, or late in the evening with the lights on, it gets as much use as it does during the daily sport period. It is simply marvellous having five different teams use the field (and its generous end zone areas) each day. Having the track team running circles around us (literally and figuratively!) during sports practice is an absolute joy too. We all seem to pick up on each other’s energy.
 
I have to admit though, that a highlight this week was watching Guy Payne coaching his sprinters last Sunday afternoon. It was gloriously sunny and Guy and his runners were in fine form. I was three years old when Guy first started coaching track at KES. 52 years later, he is still out there in his free time helping student athletes get stronger and faster. And loving it the whole time!
 
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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter -Week 28

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Apr 13, 2019 9:30:19 AM

Dear KES Family,


The story is told by Prince Harry that in the early days of their courtship, Meghan Markle’s (now the Duchess of Sussex) first visit to Windsor Castle to see Harry’s grandmother went very well. The reason for the successful visit was that the Queen’s beloved corgis, who had always given Harry a frosty reception, greeted Meghan warmly and happily. The royal canines gave their instant approval. The Queen’s quickly followed.
 
Belinda and I don’t have corgis but we do have two small dogs, both of which partake in receptions and School events with regularity. When hockey legend Guy LaFleur came to our home during the Long Pond Classic, Guy spent most of his time on the kitchen floor playing and petting with Zuri and Nara. Similarly, hockey famous tough guy Chris “knuckles” Nilan, would have much preferred scratching Nara’s exposed belly (she has no shame…) than signing autographs for the other guests. Who knew that these “larger than life” hockey players were so sensitive? (Guy confided that his little tea cup dog sleeps on the bed.)
 
And so on Tuesday night at 9:30pm, I made my way across the snow to the Dining Hall with Zuri and Nara for an evening walkabout. We did not actually make it into the Dining Hall itself as in the hallway were a group of students who spontaneously started petting and playing with Zuri and Nara. It was great chatting with Susana and Andrea and all their friends as well as Christian and Duncan and everyone who meandered through the hallway. Evening snack was ending and everyone seemed relaxed and happy. Zuri and Nara were in heaven with all the attention and quickly picked up the Spanish instructions they were given (Zuri is half Papillon so being a Spanish breed it was easier for her…).
 
While I sometimes lament that we are all generally more relaxed, expressive, and affectionate with animals than with people, I love the interchange that takes place. Perhaps our true selves show more clearly? Or, maybe dogs can sense who we really are inside. It was clear that all the students were happy and comfortable and in a ‘good space’. Christian mentioned that I should bring them around during exams. Maybe I should. Studies have shown that petting an animal reduces anxiety and lowers heart rate and blood pressure.
 
Be it the Mess Dinner, the record-breaking long assembly this week (superb prom-posal, Lane!), or the way in which the students embraced the winter storm which hit, I am finding the student body relaxed and fun to be with. As one Mess Dinner guest exclaimed after the student reception, “I have never seen such confident children. It is such a rarity to meet teenagers who look you in the eye.”
 
Sincerely,
Joe Seagram

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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 7, 2019 6:11:17 PM

Dear KES Family:

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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter -- Week 26

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Mar 30, 2019 7:04:11 PM

Dear KES Family:

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Topics: About King's-Edgehill School

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter -- Week 24

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Mar 3, 2019 6:07:17 PM

Dear KES Family:


Okay…where did February go? Wow, that was fast!

They say that if it were not for the weather we would not have anything to talk about. I try to avoid the subject as a result. However, when the wind chill takes the temperature below -30 Celsius it becomes a significant feature of one’s life. When not one but two water pipes freeze and burst, the resultant flooding is worth a remark or two.


I have never seen it rain indoors until last night. Stepping into the Fauchers’ apartment in Buckle House was like walking into a torrential downpour. The burst sprinkler pipe on the top floor sent cascades of water through every cranny and crack of the ceiling which then flooded the second floor before consequently cascading yet again through the first floor ceiling into the kitchen and dining room areas below. Within minutes the fire trucks started to arrive as did our own staff. The instant response from our community was remarkable.

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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter -- Week 23

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Feb 22, 2019 7:33:15 PM

Dear KES Family:


The last time I went with KES students to Africa, our service work took us to the Maasai village of Ngare Sero in northern Tanzania. There is no electricity or running water. The traditional agrarian lifestyle abounds. Outside the fence of thorns which protects our campground are the ageless bomas and mud dwellings of the local people. The sounds of goat and cattle bells, the bleats and bovine moos, fill the quiet stillness of the evenings. Located in the depths of the Rift Valley, it is excessively hot during the day. Dust devils swirl and heat waves shimmer and distort the horizon’s edge. Ancient volcanoes stand watch over the baked land and alkaline waters of Lake Natron.
 
Outside our campground children wait, hopeful for a morsel of food or a charitable shilling. We are advised not to feed them, not to give them anything. Tears flow. On both sides.
 
Life is not perfect in North America, but how could one even begin to describe to the children we will meet the technology and wealth involved with an Uber Eats app on an iPhone, or the Boston Pizza concept of “finger cooking”, or a HelloFresh weekly menu and meal delivery service?
 
The difference we will make there will be in education, in building classrooms and food shelters and water supply. The 26 KES students and their families have done an admirable job raising money to help fund the projects that the tribal elders have requested we undertake. I have no doubt that our labour and sweat (and funds) will make a huge difference in the lives of the children and families in the Lake Natron area. However, I think the lessons we learn from our experience will make the biggest difference of all.

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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter

Headmaster's Newsletter -- Week 22

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Feb 15, 2019 5:31:09 PM

Dear KES Family:


Monica Schafer, our Director of Student Life and Wellness, stopped me on the way out of Thursday’s Cultural Fair Show. Like me, she was glowing from the hour and a half student performances we had just witnessed. “I was looking at all our junior students, our youngest ones, and wondering what they were thinking?” she exclaimed. “It was all just so different and so great! One could not watch that show and not be in awe.”

Shortly thereafter as I was walking down the Junior School corridor, young David Helyer (Class of 2022) stopped me and commented on the afternoon’s exhibition and show. It was clear that he was still trying to process all he had felt and seen in the theatre. Looking me in the eye he exclaimed, “That was interesting wasn’t it?”

He was right. All of it was.

How wonderful he was interested in all that he saw. It is not every day one sees interpretive dance to a poem read in a foreign language, or Karaoke to a stylized video of a young Chinese hero who has been rejected by his gods. Whether it was the African dance numbers, the Spanish pop songs, or the ninjutsu board-breaking demonstration, every single performance was greeted with enthusiasm and support by the entire School audience. For a glorious afternoon, all of us were proudly and happily immersed in culture. Not just global culture but the culture of artistic expression as well. I wish I could put properly into words the feeling of community we were sharing. Perhaps this feeling has been building beautifully since Twin Day on Monday and the subsequent Winter Carnival, and the Valentine’s Dinner and Dance, etc. Yesterday that feeling of togetherness and belonging reached a kind of crescendo.

Spirit Week is meant to alleviate some of the mid-winter blues that February can create. It is a fun and light-hearted week of dress-up days and special events. What I saw this week was actually a revelation – a glimpse into our true School spirit and culture. I love what I saw.

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