Inside King's-Edgehill School

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter -- Week 34

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on May 30, 2020 9:13:35 AM

Dear KES Family:

I did not think I would feel this way. Despite having an empty campus this term, the familiar mixture of sadness and exhilaration is still making its presence felt. That end-of-year feeling overwhelmed me after yesterday’s final Chapel service, and I barely held it together while watching the Arts Gala on Tuesday or listening to the final Podcast this morning (hosted by grads Eva Redmond and Duncan McLaughlin).
In her Grade 9 Graduation valedictory address last night, Jessica Ugwoke spoke about coming to the School from her home in Newfoundland and finding a new home at KES. She described the sense of belonging and support she felt when she arrived, calling KES her “emotional home”. What a wonderful thing to be able to say about one’s school!
This sentiment is expressed time and time again in the Podcast by the graduates of the Class of 2020. Whether it is Duncan McLaughlin describing catching for his brother who was pitching during the School’s first baseball game, or Ava Benedict saying that KES has “just been like my family”, or Emily Coady expressing how she instantly felt a “huge sense of family”, it is clear that there is a special closeness which binds us. KES feels, figuratively and literally, like family. The feeling expressed by Jessica in Grade 9 is echoed by Class of 2020 grad Heavyn Beals’ recollection of when she came to campus “it just felt like home”.  
This is why all spring we have missed each other so much. The campus, the nest, has been empty. Our family gone, our home has not felt the same. (Just watch the Fauchers’ hilarious three-part mini-series on our YouTube channel, and you will see how crazy we have all been without everyone around.)
However, despite the distance between us, we have maintained our connection to each other. Through imaginative use of technology, we have preserved the emotional home. It sounds so cliché but, although we are not together, we have never really been apart.
Huge hugs to all. The KES family is alive and well. (As are the ravens, thank goodness!) Congratulations to all.
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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter, Distance Learning

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter -- Week 33

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on May 22, 2020 5:32:37 PM

Dear KES Family:

It was with delight that I saw our exuberant Class of 2020 twins yesterday! Tae Woo and Parker Kim came to campus to pack up their rooms. With them was their cute little cousin Oscar. Their excited voices reached out to me as I walked by their dorm window (see photo below). It is impossible not to love these boys. They radiate happiness and good humour everywhere they go. Hardworking, creative (brilliant dancers and musicians), athletic (martial arts masters!), and funny, they have the unique ability to make friends with everyone. My heart aches to think that they, like so many grads, will leave without a farewell hug. Their flight home to Korea is next weekend.
The “Forget Me Not” flower is a delicate blue celebration of spring. It is in full bloom right now, lining the trails of the woods in our back campus by Turtle Pond. In places they make a thick and lovely carpet (see photos below). Years ago I spent an adventuresome but lonely four months working in Alaska. The “Forget Me Not” is their state flower. Living in my tent without any amenities for that period of time was both wonderful but tough (no mail, no electricity, no phones, no running water except for rivers and creeks). I was completely cut off from my world. Not the world, world as I was working and having the experience of a lifetime, but my world of family and friends and familiar environment. Every time I saw Forget Me Nots I had a melancholic pang for home.
I am feeling the same way for our students and staff now. No doubt they have similar emotions – instead of being here and gathering for the Athletic Banquet, or dressing up for the Cadet Ball or Arts Gala or Prom, or heading out for the annual trip to Quebec or PEI, our students and staff are finishing the school year away from their KES world.
There are virtual celebrations lined up for the week ahead. We are also trying to see if we can have a drive-thru graduation ceremony of some kind (in addition a future homecoming celebration when we are allowed to gather in person) on June 12 th or 13 th. This information is all available elsewhere but what I really want to say in this newsletter is that no one is forgotten. You all matter to us. We miss you.
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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter, Distance Learning

Headmasters Newsletter Week 32

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on May 15, 2020 9:53:43 PM

Dear KES Family:

We have just announced that King’s-Edgehill School will be opening in September with “real” classes. Boarding and Day students will be warmly welcomed to campus on opening day. Because we believe that the best teaching and learning environment is personal and not virtual, our provincial health authority has helped us create daily screening protocols and operational guidelines to keep everyone healthy. These will be refined over the next four months, but our guidelines include providing a safe and comfortable two-week off-campus isolation period for international boarders upon their arrival in Nova Scotia. They also include everything from shields for our kitchen staff to daily temperature and health checks for our students. And the highest quality hand sanitizer everywhere!
I don’t know why it is, but it seems that anything we do at King’s-Edgehill School ends up in the media. I am well aware that different universities across Canada have declared they will only be offering online instruction in September. For sure, our announcement is counter-current and will likely draw some attention. However, we have always held ourselves to the highest standard of education and given that we have a beautiful and contained 75 acre campus (with facilities that rival some small universities), we can continue to offer the very best in personal, caring, education. Goodness knows we already have the smallest class sizes in the province and are one of the smallest high schools in Nova Scotia. All this is to say that I expect our little school may draw some big headlines this long weekend. Maybe not. Frankly, I would prefer to enjoy some time with my family and not Zoom this weekend.
Although I have never been a country music fan, I am quickly becoming one. In general, I find it soothing, often funny, and typically stocked with old-world family values and sentiment. A lyric from the song called Ten Year Town this week has stuck in my head. It goes like this: “I didn’t come this far to only go this far.” No matter where we are living, we have all put much effort and energy to stay healthy, to stay home, to keep ourselves together during this most emotionally trying period of time. It has been challenging for everyone. These lyrics remind me that we didn’t come this far together to only go this far together. As the world starts to open up in its phases and stages, each one will represent a new challenge. If we meet the challenges of each phase successfully, then together we will move on to the next and the next. The same is true for our grads. You did not come this far to only go this far. The school year is almost over. Finish this stage of your life well and prepare to launch yourself into the next.
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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter, Distance Learning

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter-- Week 30

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on May 1, 2020 6:47:35 PM

Dear KES Family:

I am so glad it is May.
Although nothing concrete actually happens when one month expires and another begins, I am sure we are all happy to put April 2020 behind us.  There was a definite shift in the news this morning too. Plans for re-opening are being revealed across the country. Like daffodils and tulips in the spring, Canadians are starting to emerge from our winter homes in search of the sun and each other. Like you, I can hardly wait.
Before we all left for the March Break, seven weeks ago, Reverend Curry cautioned us all to “be careful, not fearful”.  His words preceded any state of emergency declaration in Canada, and were spoken when our airports were still busy with business travellers and families on vacation. Time has passed and our “fear of the other” has risen.  While I have no doubt that we will all be much, much better at washing our hands in the years to come, I worry that social and physical distancing has created a climate of distrust and fear. Will we ever shake hands when greeting strangers again?  Will we ever be comfortable packing into a movie theatre and sharing our popcorn with those beside us? Will we be comfortable using cash for purchases or holding doors open for people to pass through before us? 
I don’t think we fully understand how this time has unsettled our youth. Generation Z (born after 1997) has a ton going for it.  True “digital natives” they have never known a time without the internet and laptops and mobile phones. They are adept at finding the truth from multiple sources of information and are highly connected, entrepreneurial, and embrace change and individuality. In fact, a defining characteristic is embracing diversity as normal, not threatening.  Perhaps above all, Generation Z craves human connection and seeks a voice.  On the flip side, from diabetes to depression, Generation Z battles with unprecedented physical and mental health issues. Staying home and away from friends, being inactive, dealing with an “invisible enemy”, is not helping.
While it may seem that this generation is the best equipped to deal with distance learning and being “shut in”, recent surveys are showing that they don’t like it. It is affecting attitudes towards universities as well as primary and secondary school.  Simply put: School without friends, or clubs, or sports is not just less fun, it loses its meaning.  A recent survey across North America is showing a decrease in university aspirations amongst the Class of 2020 by as much as 20%.  As many as 26% of university students are saying that they won’t return in the fall if their university opens. This number is increasing, and may be even higher as we approach summer. Gap years are the hot trend right now.
I worry that this pandemic has the potential to inject fear where there once was confidence and companionship.  The changes are both large and subtle. From worrying about the environment to worrying about human contact, the shifts in our society have been rapid. In February we avoided plastic bags and single use plastics. In April we brought them back and embraced their use. I don’t think we can pretend to ignore the impact of our messaging. Saying that liquor stores are an essential service is not lost on our youth.
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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter, Distance Learning

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter -- Week 26

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Apr 24, 2020 9:11:01 PM

Dear KES Family:

Men. We have to be better.
The statistics tell the story. Every mass shooting in Canada has been committed by men. Between 1982 and February 2020 in the USA there were 113 mass shootings by men, 3 by women. In Canada, over 6,000 women and children sleep in shelters every night because it is not safe for them at home. Worldwide, 96% of tactical shooter and first person shooter video gamers are male.
Men. We have normalized violence. From mixed martial arts to ice hockey, from John Wayne and John Rambo to John Wick, from Call of Duty to Fortnite, we normalize fighting in our lives. We have to do a better job preventing it from being real or normal.
Whether it is nature or nurture, whether because of our upbringing, our DNA, or levels of testosterone, or some anthropological propensity that is a throwback to times when we were hunters and gatherers, we (me included) are generally attracted to violence. Men. We have to do a better job of resisting our impulses. We cannot let impulse become action, nor fantasy become reality.
All of us, men and women, know the difference between good and bad, right and wrong. What defines us as good people or not is internal discipline. We all struggle with temptation and thoughts of things that we know are wrong. We would not be human if we didn’t. All of us wrestle with our dark sides. We all battle with the desire for pleasure or the onslaught of anger and rage. Even Paradise has its forbidden fruit, its temptations. What defines us is our moral compass and our internal strength.
Of all the lessons we must learn as we grow up it seems to me that the most important are these two elements: our set of morals and our ability to live by them. To be the best partner, or child, or parent, or friend…we not only need to be “good” but strong enough to be consistently good. Weakness is not a lack of muscle fibre but of moral fibre. Weakness is a lack of moral strength.
This is why all those things we do at KES are important. This is why we have readings in Chapel and teach service in Cadets. This is why we have high expectations of conduct and herald the core values of our Mission statement of “gentleness, learning, dignity, and respect”. This is why the Honour Roll is based on student Effort and not marks. This is why I believe in the School so much.
We are all hurting this week. I feel for everyone. Our emotional burdens are already heavy and this week’s events have been devastating. What strength I have is yours. I send it to you freely. Wishing I could give everyone the warmest KES hug ever.

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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter, Distance Learning

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter -- Week 28

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Apr 20, 2020 9:02:13 AM

Dear KES Family:

This last week’s mild temperatures and sunshine is transforming the campus. Crocuses (can say croci too for plural) are blooming, buds are appearing, and the morning sunrises are spectacular from up here on campus. The fields seem a little greener each day, and twice this week I have been able to exercise outside in shorts. It has been a fitting post-Easter week…resurrection is in the air in more ways than one.
I am sure you have heard stories of how people in India are seeing the Himalayas for the first time in their lives because of the decrease in air pollution. Or, that the water in Venice’s canals is clear and for the first time dolphins have been spotted swimming through them. Maybe you have seen some funny memes entitled “Nature is healing”? Because people are staying home, nature is coming out of hiding and venturing forth.
I am seeing this on campus too. The deer are out and about. The birds are chirping and fluttering around. The spring peeper frogs are starting their annual chorus in the waterways. Turtles are basking in the sun by Turtle Pond and the goldfish are schooling together in the shallows. The crows barely move when I walk by them now and when they look up at me it is as if I am an intruder on their property! The seasonal rejuvenation of Spring and the quiet campus are definitely combining to make the campus more natural than it has been.
This is definitely a time of new “normal”. This is as true for the campus as it is for you. I am thrilled with the effort all the students and teachers are putting into their lessons online. Simply fantastic! From our youngest Grade 7 students Zooming through their classes to those in IB submitting their major “IA” papers and completing their oral exams, it is clear to me that everyone is doing their best to make the most out of this challenging time. As time passes, it is looking less and less likely that we will be able to return to the School this year, but we have been told today by the Chief Medical Officer of Health’s office today to keep planning to open the School as usual in September. How wonderful that would be! We might be overrun with animals by then (lol!), but that would be rather nice in its own way too.
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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter, Distance Learning

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter -- Week 27

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Apr 9, 2020 8:07:13 PM

My roommate from school grew up on a cattle farm. I loved spending time there. Once, while walking through his barn I saw that his family had a horse and goat together in a stall. They looked very happy together. I was told that horses are social animals and happiest in a herd. Left alone their behaviour changes, and symptoms of their loneliness include everything from eating too much or too little, to aggression and violence. Not being able to afford a herd, my friend’s family purchased a goat to keep their horse company. Although not as good as a herd, a goat is actually great company, and my friend’s horse was quite healthy.

We are social creatures too. For most of us, physical distancing is really difficult. Getting a goat, although kind of amusing to think about (!), isn’t a solution. In some ways the routines and structure of our Distance Learning Programme have been wonderful. Classes have Zoomed together, friends have been meeting online, and teachers have been sharing virtual coffee breaks together each morning. There has been a purpose to each day. This has helped keep us healthy. Instinctively, I think we have all realized that “being in this together” means that we each feel less alone. The stories of people reaching out, sharing funny jokes, helping with homework, singing or socializing together online, are heartwarming. Well done KES!

However, I am mindful that we are all struggling with a significant emotional load. We enter the Easter weekend separate from our families, a time when normally we would gather together. I am reminded that our Chinese students’ families felt the same way when they were unable to gather for their annual New Year’s celebration on January 25th. (That time feels both long ago and just yesterday, doesn’t it?) Many of our Chinese students have not been able to return home and won’t for some time yet. I feel for them too.

At the end of March last year I stood on the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro with 26 KES students and staff. Every single person in our group made it to the highest point. Although each person was tested physically and emotionally and made it to the summit by themselves, it was the strength of the group that kept us all going. We could not have done it without each other’s encouragement and support.

The days and weeks ahead will test us in many ways. I trust that we will be each other’s “goat”, that we will give each other what we need to get through the challenges ahead.

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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter, Distance Learning

Headmaster's Newsletter -- Week 26

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Apr 3, 2020 7:22:47 PM

Dear KES Family:

Many years ago, perhaps when I was ten or so, my father told me: “Health must always be your number one priority, without it you are powerless to help others or yourself.” Forty-six years later I see the truth of his words on a global scale. Every nation, every community, and every family is putting the health of its citizens and loved ones first. My heart goes out to all of you as we manage the challenges, big and small, that face us all at this time.

Three thoughts to share with you:

I have always loved the School Prayer. In it we pray that teachers will have “wisdom, zeal, and patience” and students who will be inspired by the spirit of “truth, honour, and duty”. These words have always struck me deeply. We need these elements in our lives. However, the prayer also finishes with a request that we be granted “a cheerful and forbearing spirit”. As I said these words out loud this morning in our Zoomed Chapel service (8:00am each weekday morning - click here), they struck me as more relevant than ever. We all need to be cheerful and forbearing these days. Not just for our own health, but for those around us as well.
We are all learning a ton these days! Much of it has to do with mastering technology, but we are also learning about ourselves and the people around us. Physical and social distancing is hard work. There are few distractions from our own needs and the needs of those in our homes. We face them, we confront them, constantly. My own home is a unit of four people and, as the days and weeks pass, I am more and more appreciative of them. Each is doing wonderful things for the four of us, but also for others each day. My wife, Belinda, is simply incredible. A psychologist with a speciality in PTSD and a clientele largely of veterans and first responders, she has quickly mastered the art of Telehealth and video conferencing, providing support and guidance to those in need from the early morning right into the evening. How she has energy for us at the end of the day is amazing.

It seems to me that there are three types of dogs: those who love people, those who love other dogs, and those who only love their own people, growling and barking at everyone not in their little pack. At home we have two small dogs who love people. As I returned to campus from walking Nara and Zuri on the trails behind the School yesterday, I saw Clara Cisneros walking our way. My dogs instantly ran to her and greeted her warmly. Their tail waggles and body squiggles were met with smiles and petting and good cheer. I kept my distance, well beyond two metres. Having spent most of her life in Mexico, Clara typically greets everyone with hugs and kisses on the cheek. It is lovely, but times have changed, and I felt awkward with my little wave of “hello”. My hope is that as we do our duty and keep away from others, our distancing does not disintegrate into suspicion and distrust. This is one of those times when doing the right thing feels very wrong. Be it on a small scale at home, or on a grander scale with other nations, my prayers are that we can keep loving each other and not end up growling and barking at anyone not in our pack.
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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter -- Week 24

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Mar 8, 2020 6:55:38 PM

Dear KES Family:

Every now and then I simply have to get out the virtual pom-poms and cheerlead. All week I have had that inner buoyant feeling one gets after being part of something extra-special. The Junior School musical production of FROZEN JR left me, surprisingly, quite emotional. The performance was just over an hour and took us all on a sine wave of emotions and awe. The crowning glory for me took place after the show when the two princesses ( Lucy Goddard and Hannah Stilwell) descended the stage and met with all the little children who wanted to meet them and get a photograph with “the princesses”. It was as magical an hour as the show itself. Hannah and Lucy were simply dazzling, making sure every toddler received a huge hug, sparkling smile, and time enough to bask in the warm glow princesses are famous for. The lines were long but everyone felt special. Loved it!
It is hard to believe that the March Break is but a week away and most spring sports start on Monday. The School is an odd mixture of excitement and anticipation today (Friday) as all our skiers and snowboarders, all our wrestlers, both hockey teams, and our Senior Boys’ Basketball team are competing. Given that the entire Junior School is having their Annual Snow Sport Day (in gorgeous sunshine!), it does not seem like there are many of us left.
We are so lucky to be who and where we are. Our real concerns here at KES are few. One of our brilliant teachers, Phillip Hadley, reminded us all at our mid-morning staff meeting that many of our students are concerned for their families back home. Some of our Chinese students have parents who live in areas with significant restrictions and because of the Covid-19 virus have not been at work for as much as two months. These are students who will not be travelling home or seeing their families over the break as planned.
As we set our sights on a regional or provincial banner, or enjoy a day on the slopes with friends, or revel in the applause after a riveting performance on stage, it is important that we appreciate just how fortunate we are.
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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 28, 2020 6:42:25 PM

Dear KES Family:

A year ago while in Phoenix, Arizona, I was driving our Girls’ Prep Basketball Team in our big van when I had to stop for a lengthy red light near our hotel. In front of us a tall man crossed the street. He was dancing. Earbuds firmly in place, this fellow was definitely in a happy place as he moved and grooved across the street and down the sidewalk. There are few pedestrians in Phoenix and our dancing friend had the wide sidewalk all to himself. He was really good and we all had a wistful chuckle at how wonderful it must be to be so immersed in the movement inspired by music that it did not matter who or how many were watching. Free of inhibitions, he was happily enjoying the freedom of dance and expressive movement.

I was envious of this fellow. It is a rare moment any of us have when we are our unfettered and true selves.

This week I have witnessed several of these rare moments. They have come when our students have demonstrated comfort and trust in those around them. They represent a huge compliment to all present. An example would be Victoria Dubois (2021) who was as wonderfully emotive playing her flute as she was dancing on stage or singing during the Coffee House. The same could be said of Alissa Pape (2023) whose interpretive dancing was simply magical. There was a moment during the Coffee House when the feeling in the Music Room was uniquely warm and intimate. We could all feel it. Most of all perhaps was Ella Brown (2020)who has been here since Grade 6. Surrounded by the glow of camaraderie and creative expression, Ella danced and sang her heart out with her good friends all evening.

You will see in the photos below some pictures of the Junior and Senior Girls’ basketball teams. Alas, while I was taking the photos, I noticed that their shot percentage dropped. Knowing that one’s Headmaster is taking an action photo might be distracting when one is shooting for the basket! Sometimes we play best when no one is watching.
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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter, About King's-Edgehill School

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