Inside King's-Edgehill School

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter -- Week 13

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Dec 4, 2020 5:08:11 PM

Dear KES Family:

I interviewed a girl from Beijing this week for a September 2021 entry. Her name is Cecelia and she is in Grade 9. Her English is excellent and as we were chatting on Skype about her interests, she described how she loves to play piano and sing. When I asked if she sings Chinese or English songs, she replied that she performs both, and that her favourite artist is Taylor Swift. I happen to be a fan of Swift as well (love her new Folklore album which was written and produced during the lockdown this year), and so for a while we talked about Taylor Swift’s career and artistry. It was at this point that Cecelia asked if I wanted to hear her sing.
 
To my surprise and delight, Cecelia picked up a ukulele and sang a gorgeous version of Taylor Swift’s “Love Story”. The ukulele is a gentle instrument and puts a premium on vocals. Even through Skype I could hear and feel her emotion.  The lyrics are tremendously evocative…”Romeo, save me, I’ve been feeling so alone” and resonate all the more powerfully because in some way we have all been feeling alone these days.  We are all searching for connection and what is social distancing if not an echo of being told “to stay away from Juliet.”?
 
Last year the pandemic hit China hard. The national lock down occurred during the biggest festival of the year, Chinese New Year, a time when families and friends gather. Over a billion people were told to stay away from each other. As Christmas approaches, much of the world is facing the same challenge. Nova Scotia has remained one of the safest places on the planet during the pandemic, but in other parts of Canada this is not the case. My mother, 87, lives alone in Toronto. She says that she has many friends but for the first time she is talking openly about being lonely. 
 
There is a universality to love, to family and friendship, to teenage yearning and adult loneliness, that transcends distance and language and culture.  Cecilia chose “Love Story” because it resonates within her. Despite our differences in age and gender and nationality, it struck a chord within me too.
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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter -- Week 12

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Nov 27, 2020 7:27:54 PM

Dear KES Family:

I was in a Zoom call yesterday with Heads of School for boarding schools across Canada.  It was well organized and several times we were given questions and put into “break-out” rooms to answer them. Our overall theme was surviving and thriving in the pandemic. The first break-out question was, “What do we know?”.
 
The first person to answer the question went on a rant about how we know nothing, that unpredictability and uncertainty is a way of life, and that we cannot plan a thing because everything is subject to change. There was a chorus of support as other Zoomers in the break-out room had their say. I was the outlier.  While I appreciate people’s frustration, I disagree with their conclusions.
 
When we look at what we have learned in the last year, it is clear that we know a lot, and not only is it possible to plan for the future, but it is essential that we do.  We learned last year that no matter how superb your online delivery of the curriculum, at best it is a temporary solution.  Nothing is better than in person instruction.  We learned that more than anything else, our children missed their friends, and that no FaceTime or virtual platform takes the place of being in the same physical space.  We have learned that our students are resilient, that they care about their education, and that they want and need to be active in everything from sports to board games. Above all, they want to be together.  We have learned that teenage behaviour has changed.  I cannot tell you how many times one of our KES students has said: “We value what we have here so much that no one is thinking of jeopardizing it by doing things like drinking and smoking.”
 
We have learned that we don’t have to say no to everything. If we think critically and creatively, we can have a successful Terry Fox, come 4 th in the world (!) in robotics, can be the top debaters in Atlantic Canada, and run a Halloween Dance and Christmas Advent Service. There is a way; we just have to find it.
 
I have learned that there is no end to the kindness of Atlantic Canadians. The number of families and staff who offered their homes for students from the HRM this week (and for the Christmas Holidays) is truly heart warming. The boys and girls in the dorms have been equally warm in welcoming their friends into their ro oms this week. The excitement of having day students come into boarding has been huge! There is a happy slumber party feel to the campus right now. We are also learning that it is not only easy but kind of fun to bring students who are at home this week into the classroom. 
 
We are all learning about ourselves, and we are all gaining a greater understanding of what we need to be physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially healthy. One cannot underestimate the value of a hug and human contact.
 
In the big picture, 2020 has provided more opportunities for our children to learn in real time about the role of government and the media in society, of the complexity and inter-connectedness of the local and  global economy, of the acceleration of climate change, and the necessity to treat all people of all colours and faiths and persuasions with dignity and respect, and how de-stabilizing (and sometimes violent) it is when we don’t.
Our plans at King’s-Edgehill School will always be to fulfil our Mission and cover the curriculum with the very highest of academic integrity and expectations. However, more than ever before, our plans must include innovative ways to offer our students a childhood that is socially and emotionally and mentally healthy.
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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 6, 2020 7:57:12 PM

Dear KES Family:

Sir Francis Bacon may have coined the phrase Scientia potential est (knowledge is power), but this week I have been subscribing to the philosophy of ‘ignorance is bliss’, just to preserve my sanity.  What is happening on campus is far more fun, and far less stressful (!) than what is happening out in the world.  
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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter -- Week 8

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Oct 30, 2020 5:26:36 PM

Dear KES Family:

When someone opens their heart and shares their story it is a gift. This week in Senior Assembly, faculty members Kevin Lakes and Nathalie Hardy put together a powerful presentation about the importance of Remembrance Day.  They spoke eloquently and were joined by students Sarah Hardy and Justin Day (both Class of 2022) who told us why, as children in military families, Remembrance Day is meaningful for them. By the time Sarah had finished speaking my mask was damp with tears.
 
I have always been grateful for the respectful manner in which our student body receives personal and emotional messages. There is a communal tenderness for the speaker. However, if I was proud of the Senior School’s attentive support of their classmates and teachers, I was overwhelmed when our Head of Mathematics, Mary Ann Dufour, went up to the stage.
 
Recently retired from the Armed Forces, Mary Ann’s husband Ken was deployed many times overseas. For the first time, Mary Ann performed an original song which describes the love and heartache she felt at home when Ken was in harm’s way.  Sung with a rare power and authenticity, Mary Ann’s song plucked our heart strings as beautifully as her guitar strings. The students were rapt. Tears and hugs followed as her last chords signalled the end of Assembly.
 
On a lighter note…and speaking of gifts…my Headmaster’s Council is populated by a wonderful and diverse group of students. Capably led by grads Kaylee Hickey and Francois Richard, our dinner meeting this week was at Fry Daddy’s Grill in Windsor. Following our meal and meeting, our server asked if anyone wanted dessert.  We all declined but Isaiah Johnson (Grade 10) asked if she could make a Smores Milkshake for his mother (she was waiting at the School to drive him home). I have never had a Smores Milkshake, but we learned that it is indeed made with toasted marshmallows, chocolate, and Graham Crackers.  I don’t know how many teenage boys would be so thoughtful, but we were all touched!
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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 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

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