Inside King's-Edgehill School

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter – Week 18

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Jan 21, 2022 2:33:48 PM

Dear KES Family:

Holding the door open for others is a thoughtful act. It is considerate and respectful. However, like shaking hands, holding doors is a casualty of the physical distancing measures put into place with COVID-19. One rarely sees it anymore.

Except at KES!

To my pleasure and surprise, two students have appointed themselves as door openers for students arriving in the morning. Facing a locked door and loaded down with book bags, hockey equipment, skis and snowboards, opening an exterior door is a challenge for our day students when they arrive. When it is a frigid -15 without factoring in wind chill, dropping everything to find one’s key is the last thing anyone wants to do. Recognizing this, Natalia Shaw ’27 and Bristol Quinn ’27, decided to help. Every day this week they have held the School’s exterior doors open for their schoolmates.

It is an act of kindness which warms one’s heart on the chilliest of days. The impulse to help others, especially when it involves discomfort, is at the core of great leadership.

A big thank-you to Natalia and Bristol!

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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter, Campus Life, bemore

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter – Week 17

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Jan 14, 2022 11:37:14 AM

Dear KES Family:

“Go out and play” was something my mother used to say to my brother and me all the time. We thought she just wanted us out of the house so she could have some peace and quiet. Perhaps this was her reason, but the end result was that we had the benefits of fresh air and of unstructured ‘free’ time.  These benefits are described in all sorts of incomprehensible and jargony ways by different medical groups, but in the simple language of the Help Me Grow organization:

Unstructured play allows children the freedom to explore, create and discover without predetermined rules or guidelines. It’s been shown to foster cognitive development while boosting physical development and social and emotional development. It specifically helps creativity and imagination, problem-solving abilities and social skills.

This week, public health restrictions have prevented structured team practices and sport. Free play, preferably outside, is the only option for our students. This is disappointing of course, but the end result has its own benefits. It has been wonderful seeing students tobogganing on Front Hill, playing soccer in the snow, learning disc golf at the Haliburton House course, or skating on the ice of the Birthplace of Hockey: Long Pond. On the basketball court, students are playing small group games of Round the World or HORSE. It is all good, healthy, and beneficial activity.

Twice this week I walked over to Long Pond and saw groups of boys and girls having fun together skating on the ice. Some had their own skates, others borrowed from our School’s supply. They had a portable speaker playing pop songs placed in the middle of the frozen pond. They greeted me happily. Here was a perfect example of the simple pleasures of going out to play.

It was idyllic, and a wonderfully Canadian scene.

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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter, Campus Life, bemore

Connect, Converse, Catch-Up – Tessa Firth '18

Posted by Mr. Rory Campbell on Jan 10, 2022 9:04:09 AM

Join Mr. Rory Campbell as he catches up with KES Alumna Tessa Firth '18 in the latest edition of Connect, Converse, Catch-Up!

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Topics: KES Alumni, bemore, kespride

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter – Week 16

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Jan 7, 2022 1:49:48 PM

Dear KES Family:

I love Christmas lights. For some reason they make me happy. It is not just because they herald the festive season, but because Christmas takes place during the darkest days of Canadian winter. Although they don’t actually provide any warmth, there is no question that Christmas lights warm things up on a cold night. It seems to me that winter is always a little darker and colder once people take their Christmas lights down.

This December we installed a ‘helix’ of lights around a maple tree in the Quad. The lights are fabulous. At nighttime the Quad is often a dark and un-inviting space in the winter. Although confined to a single tree, our new lights warm the whole area, casting an inviting glow from the dorms to the classroom buildings. Being a deciduous tree and therefore leafless, the long strand of over-sized bulbs is easily seen from all sides and from as far away as Vincent and Wilson House.

It is amazing how sometimes the humblest of additions can have the greatest effect. Little things make a difference.

These lights will stay up this winter, shedding a little light and good cheer throughout the heart of our KES campus long after the sun has set.

Looking forward to seeing everyone together on the 17th!

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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter, Campus Life, bemore

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter – Week 15

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Dec 17, 2021 2:12:37 PM


Dear KES Family:

One of the most famous “lockdowns” must be that experienced and chronicled by Anne Frank in her diary. Barely a teenager at the time, Anne and her family spent just over two years in a hidden apartment in Amsterdam. Needless to say, Anne did not have NetFlix or a TV, or phone, or any of the typical amusements teenagers have today. Anne had her daily chores, her writing, and her schoolwork to keep her occupied. She yearned for the freedom of a normal life, and to go to school like she used to…with her friends…with real teachers.

Life was not easy for Anne. She was moody and affected by her extended period of isolation and from being in such close and constant contact with the same people every day. However, she loved writing and derived great satisfaction from studying hard. At one point she explains how happiness is not given, but something you work for and earn: “You must work and do good, not be lazy and gamble, if you wish to earn happiness. Laziness may appear attractive, but work gives satisfaction.”

For the last two weeks our focus at KES has been on exams. It is an extended period of concentration, of work, of focus. It is not a happy time. It has its own unique set of emotions. However, there is absolutely no question the happiness that consumes the students upon completion of their last exam has a unique quality. As Anne describes, there is a satisfaction which comes from work. The joy the students are feeling right now has been earned. This gives it depth and permanence and release. Finishing one’s exams means that Christmas and holidays and family beckon. The joy of Christmas amplifies the satisfaction of a job well done.

This first term has been nothing short of miraculous. The efforts of the students and staff have resulted in unprecedented successes. Whether it was on the national stage with “Operation Remembrance” and the record shattering funds raised for the Terry Fox Foundation, or on our own stage with sold out shows of Heathers the Musical, the work of our students and staff has been rewarded. I am exceedingly grateful for everyone’s Be More attitude. 

This holiday has been earned. May it be the happiest one ever.

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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter, Campus Life, bemore

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter – Week 14

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Dec 10, 2021 1:39:02 PM

Dear KES Family:

When I taught English, I used to choose the literature we read according to a theme I wanted to study. One year, all the books, poems, short stories, and plays we studied were centered around the central theme of plagues. We started with the Old Testament and then moved on to some fabulous titles such as The Plague (Camus), Journal of the Plague Year (Defoe), Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez), and The Mask of the Red Death (Poe). For the last two years, I have been thinking about that course and wondered how it has prepared me for this pandemic. From time to time I wonder if the students who took my class have thought back and/or benefitted by everything we learned (as a matter of necessity there was a lot of science and epidemiology in the course too).

English teachers always hope that what they teach is relevant to life and, in the grand scheme of things, helpful.

One way of framing literature is through conflict: conflict with one’s own self, conflict with the people around you, conflict with nature, conflict with the state, conflict with God…the list is long. Like the current pandemic, plagues test the individual and society. All aspects of conflict present themselves and do so with relentless regularity. Plagues have the ability to make the world seem random and chaotic, and for individuals to feel powerless. As a result, literature about plagues tends to be very existential. Plagues create conditions which ask the big questions about the value of our lives, and the meaning and purpose of our existence. It is heavy stuff for the classroom, but I always felt that my students responded powerfully to the big questions being asked.

I have no doubt that the current pandemic is forcing all of us to think and feel in different ways about almost everything. We are all taking stock of what we value and what we believe, and, in many cases, we are being forced to make choices. We are also seeing how we differ from others and are constantly assessing how appreciative or resentful we feel as a result of other people’s actions and decisions. In a day and age when we are desperately trying to be more inclusive and to reconcile society’s past mistakes, the pandemic is creating conditions by which society in increasingly split and exclusionary and judgemental.

In Camus’ novel The Plague the central character is Dr. Rieux. He doesn’t have superpowers, and doesn’t fit any classic definition of a literary hero. In fact, he would reject any notion that he is heroic. And yet, he is a hero of mine. He looks after his patients. He suffers emotionally to see them in such distress, to see them die. When he reaches a point where his own humanity is interfering with his ability to help the citizens of Oran, he finds a way of hardening his heart so that he can carry on caring for them. In a hyperbolized way you could say he is a warrior, fighting a battle with death that he can never win, but that would romanticize the grim reality of his work.

I don’t want to romanticize the grim realities of life these days, but I sincerely hope that you and your loved ones find peace and love dominant forces in your lives this Christmas, and that a rejuvenating sense of hope comes to all of us in 2022.

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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter, Campus Life, bemore

Connect, Converse, Catch-Up – Hsiu-Ping (Patrick) Wu '14

Posted by Mr. Kevin Lakes on Dec 6, 2021 10:32:15 AM

Join Mr. Kevin Lakes as he shares profiles of KES Alumni. It's always fun and motivating to Connect, Converse and Catch-Up!

Fortunately, good schools are increasingly prioritizing the encouragement of diversity and inclusion. I recently had opportunities to contemplate plans of action with colleagues and students as we move forward with curriculum and extra-curricular strategies to ensure our community is aware of the nature of stereotypes and oversights. Even with the best intentions, we are all vulnerable to misconceptions. Perhaps this is why a recent Facebook post by Hsiu-Ping (Patrick) Wu ‘14 caught my attention and popped with prescience.

Patrick is an award-winning composer and violinist. He currently studies in Boston; however, he considers Halifax home. As a Taiwanese-Canadian, he eloquently expressed his perspective in a recent post:

“A colleague of mine recently asked me, ‘Can your music sound more Asian? Maybe add some pentatonic in it?’ I have studied western classical music, as well as traditional Chinese and Indian music. Should my music sound Asian? Should everything that comes from me be considered a part of ‘Chinese music?’ Can it not be simply Patrick Wu’s music?"

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Topics: Arts At KES, KES Alumni, ARTS, bemore, kespride

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter – Week 13

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Dec 3, 2021 4:27:14 PM

Dear KES Family:

Our Head Chapel Prefect this year is Stanislav Matkovskyi ‘22. A full IB scholar (11 current subjects plus calculus which he completed in August!), this young Ukrainian is also a dedicated cross-country runner and swimmer. At home his primary sport is boxing. He has a true love of learning and of reading. During the worldwide lockdown in the spring of 2020, Stanislav was at home in Odessa. Despite the time difference, he would Zoom in each afternoon to attend our morning chapel service on campus. In all my time at KES he is the only student I have known to attend chapel every day. Junior, Senior…it does not matter. He is always there.

Because of Stanislav, our long-silent chapel bell is now rung with enthusiasm each morning at 8:00am. He has resurrected a tradition which alumni from decades past would appreciate. As far as bells go, our chapel bell is a good one. Unlike the deep ding-dong of a large church bell, its double tone ding-ding hits tenor notes. Its ring is clear and surprisingly loud.

Chapel and church bells go way back. They signify more than a call to congregate. They are also a call to celebrate. Bells are rung to grant wishes and to ward off evil spirits. Wedding bells are undoubtedly happiness bells, granting prosperity and health, signifying good news. Over time, door knockers may have been replaced by bells because they are more easily heard by the occupants of the dwelling, but the happy belief that bells prevent bad spirits from entering your home made them popular.

Hikers in the Canadian Rockies wear “bear bells” to warn and ward off grizzlies. Shepherds around the world have bells on their livestock for easy identification, protection, and to help find them when they stray from the herd. I love choir bells in church, however, the most reassuring and beautiful chorus of notes I have ever heard have been made by herds of Maasai cattle in East Africa.

Many know the phrase ‘for whom the bell tolls’. Its origins are found in John Donne’s meditation on the inter-connectedness of humanity, that none of us is an island, that we are all “a piece of the continent, a part of the main”.  The pandemic has certainly proven this to be true. From the very first day we have all been in this together.

Whether it is our specific day to attend chapel or not, when Stanislav rings the bell, he rings it for all of us. It is a celebration. We are here. We are “part of the main”. We are connected and therefore strong. If the bell’s ringing happens to ward off an evil spirit or two, so much the better.

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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter, Campus Life, bemore

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter – Week 12

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Nov 26, 2021 1:59:32 PM

Dear KES Family:

For parents and educators there is tension between keeping children safe and preparing them for life. Building strong and confident children is impossible if we over-protect and coddle them. As life requires us to have good judgement, it is imperative that children are given opportunities to make decisions on their own and to experience the consequences of bad decisions, and the exhilaration of good ones. As parents and educators, we are constantly weighing the benefits of exposing our children to risk.

For example: instead of having a fence around our Tanna Turf we put boulders. They look great, they keep cars out, and they are used for everything from seats for spectators, exercise equipment for jumping and push-ups. Little does anyone know they are not “to code”. To protect the field from cars, the boulders are not placed far apart. Being so close together, children are tempted to jump from one boulder to the other. This leaping from rock to rock carries unacceptable risk for municipalities and public schools and so there is a code which dictates that they must be placed further apart than we would like (the width of a vehicle).

Frankly…I want my students jumping from boulder to boulder. I want them to have to make all the decisions necessary for a safe leap. Are they wearing the right shoes? Are the boulders wet and slippery? Is the rock within their jumping range? Is the surface too uneven? Are there some boulders which they can jump safely and some they cannot? Learning to say no, is just as important as learning to say yes.

So…are snowballs allowed or not allowed?

Most schools disallow snowballs. They are dangerous. Children cannot be trusted to make judgement calls about the texture of snow (cannot be icy or too hard/granular) or their aim (not at the face/eyes) or around buildings (might break a window) etc.

To me…learning how to play safely when one is a child is essential to learning how to act as an adult. On top of that, learning the social rules about how to play boisterously is equally important. Children need to learn to play fairly and not to gang up, to throw more softly to younger children, and to make a snowball fight a game that ends in laughter and inclusion and not in tears and exclusion.

Wednesday this week was magnificently snowy. It was a joyous day made even happier by the reaction of our international students who had not experienced snow before. How wonderful it was to see students change into their bathing suits and run through the storm bare legs and all. (There is nothing like the delicious tingle of snow on skin.) The students soon learned that it was “perfect” for snowballs and snowmen.

As teachers we kept watch and made sure that no one got hurt. The senior students did a good job of this too. Is there risk of harm every time one throws a snowball? Of course. The greater risk, however, is the harm created when opportunities to learn good judgement and social skills are eliminated.

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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter, Campus Life, bemore

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter – Week 11

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Nov 19, 2021 4:02:30 PM

Dear KES Family:

The schedule of events for the rest of this term was sent to students this week. It happily includes traditional and “normal” events like the Headmaster’s Christmas dinner and the semi-formal dance, the Advent Christmas Services of Lessons and Carols, and…Christmas exams. Okay, so maybe exams are not considered happy occasions, but they are a sure sign of getting back to normal.

I have not researched the student body for exact figures, but at least half of the School has never experienced a proper examination period or written full length exams of any kind. For those who have written exams, these may have been two years ago. That is how long it has been since we had our last set of formal exams at KES. Needless to say, the mere mention of exams to some students raises their heart rate.

Performing under pressure is a life skill. It is as important in drama as it is in sport and in exams. In the workplace, being able to perform under pressure is a necessity. Preparation and practice are keys to success. Goodness knows, one wouldn’t want to take a penalty shot in soccer without ever practicing them in training. Similarly, the cast and crew of the School musical (Heathers) have a dress rehearsal today in preparation for Thursday’s opening night performance. Practice and rehearsal don’t eliminate stress, but by building confidence they make pressure and performance more comfortable and familiar companions. 

My concern right now is that some students will be overwhelmed by the thought of exams, and not their reality. Basketball players may dream of sinking a clutch basket in the dying seconds of a game, but few students share that same excitement about exams. They may have written hundreds of tests in class, and thousands of assignments at home, but lack confidence when it comes to writing a big test. 

Years ago, I had the good fortune to play golf with Hockey Hall of Famer Paul Henderson (remember his winning goal in game seven of the 1972 Canada Russian series?). A superb athlete, he was a master at positive self-talk. Before putting the golf ball, I could hear him talking to himself in a positive manner. Here was one of our nation’s most famous and popular athletes telling himself, “I got this.”

It is hard to believe that in a month’s time we will be three days into our Christmas holidays. Until then, I wish our students the very best in preparation and study. “You got this!”

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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter, Campus Life, bemore

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