Inside King's-Edgehill School

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter -- Week 36

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Jun 9, 2019 9:32:12 PM

Dear KES Family:

When the media calls for an interview I get nervous. When it is the Globe and Mail calling with regards to a special report on Private Schools, a big part of me wants to hide. The reporter/writer, Saira Peesker, is interested in environmental education and the climate crisis. She wanted to speak with staff and students. Our KES Green Team is led by Mr. Ryan Alguire, and he coordinated Saira’s interviews with Mr. Bouwman, Grade 11 student Katie Goddard, and himself.


As Saira was in Ontario, our interviews were all on the phone. Although I found it very disconcerting hearing her tap away on her keyboard as we spoke (I thought all reporters recorded interviews digitally nowadays?), she was very engaging and personable and knowledgeable.


There is no doubt that with regards to the environment, we do a lot to educate, create awareness and modify behaviour, but as a school we have a huge carbon footprint. Gone are the days when the only school building with heat in the winter time was the Dining Hall. Now we have hundreds of thousands of square feet to heat, 30 acres of grass to mow, and students travelling all over the world just to get here and then again to participate in our different programmes. We all want fresh fruit and vegetables when they are out of season and avocados for our guacamole. The sixty-mile meal is theoretically possible throughout the school year, but if we were rigid with our implementation, I suspect that food complaints would sky rocket and the local restaurants would be delivering far more pizza and Chinese food than they already do.


It is very hard to avoid single-use plastics and so much has a carbon footprint: travelling to Science Fair Nationals, or a Robotics tournament, or a Track and Field meet. A single Google search uses enough power to light a lamp for 17 seconds.


Needless to say, I went into the interview feeling “guilty as charged”.


To my surprise the interview went well. To start with, we were the only one of ten schools that Saira had contacted who agreed to be interviewed. Secondly, we were the only private school she had found who participated in the Climate Strike on May 24th. She also was very complimentary (reporters pay compliments now?) about the initiatives we have ongoing at our School, the capital investments we have made to reduce our footprint and purchase blue boxes and the like, and the prizes we have won for environmental videos and posters, etc.


I am used to reporters who are adversarial. Too often I have felt like a prisoner suffering through an inquisition being prepared for sentencing. Perhaps though, when it comes to Mother Nature, we all need to be on the same team. Every positive action, no matter how small, helps.

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

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter -- Week 35

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Jun 2, 2019 4:45:39 PM

Dear KES Family:

As I listened to the Junior School Public Speaking contest finalists, I was surprised to hear one of our very youngest students, Gabby Shaw (Grade 7), speak about the history and origins of reggae music and the intent behind its lyrics. She spoke eloquently about Bob Marley, a musical legend who passed away in the spring of my graduating year from high school. All these years later his message of “One heart, one love, let’s get together and feel all right” is still powerful and resonant with the younger generation.

I wish it resonated more with the older generation. It bothers me to no end that hate crimes are on the rise across North America and around the globe. The opposite should be true. We should be learning from the mistakes of previous generations and moving towards a greater understanding, appreciation, and respect for our differences.

Yesterday we had two young male students visit our School. As is my custom, I met formally with each one at the end of the day in my office. Both boys had thoroughly enjoyed their visit. The first thing that each one remarked upon was how friendly and welcoming everyone was. Their reception here both surprised and pleased them. This is a familiar response and it warms my heart. Although I dislike the outside perception that being a private school we must be snooty and self-righteous, I love that time and time again visitors remark upon the warmth of our student body.

In his address to the graduating class last week, alumnus Jim Mullan (Class of 1999) talked about the strength of the friendships created at KES and how important it is to own the decisions (good ones and bad ones) that we make in life. At one point he mentioned how much he dislikes the phrase “when you get out into the real world”, because life is very real at King’s-Edgehill. Unfortunately, we all know what he meant. In many ways we have a school community that shares “one heart, one love”. As I hear the huge cheers for our athletes like David McCurdy (a new Grade 12 student who won the Senior School Good Sport Award at the Athletic Banquet), and as I hear the applause for graduate Lindsay Hogan (first time performing at a Coffee House!) and Joelle Gordon (Grade 10) and all our performers on stage, I realize that this is a school that is genuinely caring and supportive.

I was almost finished this newsletter when I was scheduled to meet with another boy who had spent the day visiting the School. Partially to prove a point to myself, my first question to him was whether he was surprised by anything he saw today. His immediate reply?

“I was surprised to see how kind the students and teachers are.”

We are not perfect. We definitely have our teachable moments. But let me leave you with this image: when the Senior Boys Rugby Team lost its final game on Tuesday, extinguishing any hopes of competing at the provincial championships, I took one final look at the other team’s field as we left. Our side of the pitch was pristine. The bench was upright and the grass was clean and neat around it. The other team’s bench was lying on its side surrounded by dozens of water and Gatorade bottles and tape balls and garbage.

I love it when our graduates receive fabulous offers and scholarships for university, but I am most proud of our little moments of goodness, and of kindness and respect shown to others.
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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter

Headmasters Weekly Newsletter -- Week 34

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on May 27, 2019 2:57:50 PM

Dear KES Family:


One of the least celebrated skills learned at KES is the art of the quick change. Depending on the schedule, students will likely change four times (often more) each day to prepare for their different activities. Time is frequently of the essence as one cannot dawdle between tutorial and practice or, as was in evidence last night with the rugby girls returning from Truro and then immediately jumping on stage for the Spring Fling. The same will be true tonight when our Track and Field team will return from Regional Championships at Acadia (soggy and cold today, unfortunately) and then transform in time for the Cadet Ball (and for graduates, the formal Alumni Banquet beforehand). Some of our athletes and ballroom dancers are writing their IB French exam today, too.

When Jeff Smith asked our Spring Fling Emcee Joanna Bond to tell a story from her seven years at KES, Joanna replied with a brilliant smile and an exclamation, “I don’t know which story to choose…so much has happened. It is almost half my life.” Indeed, for her and so many others who performed at the Spring Fling, their years here have been multi-dimensional, packed with challenge and adventure. After all, it was just last week when they were all in highland dress leading the RCACC 254 Cadet Corps in its Annual Review.

There were countless brilliant moments last night: Nicola du Toit opening the Spring Fling with her piping; Elizabeth Walsh and Joanna Bond performing an emotional tribute to the tragedy of 911; Melanie Bent, Sarah Hardy and Rhyan Rusaw belting out “Set Fire to the Rain”; Brian Li performing an original piano composition; and Ella Brown dancing and swaying as she ripped through a brilliant trumpet arrangement. There was a special moment following the show when Ohemaa Ofori (Grade 11) remarked on her brother Papa’s (Grade 7) drumming with the Senior Concert Band, “Mr. Seagram, I had no idea that Papa played the drums or that he played them so well. He was really good!” Papa was right beside me and basked in the exuberant praise from his older sister.

At one point in the evening, our Athletic Director, Kim Walsh, leaned over to me and said, “That was spectacular! I love that they are in School uniform, too.” He was right. It is interesting to note that the music transcended what people were wearing; whether it was Kathleen Balcome and Katie Goddard singing sultry jazz notes, or Ben Lohr looking ‘oh so cool’ and comfortable playing the bass guitar (or tuba!), the dress for the evening was our uniform. No need to change into something ‘artsy’, and one less clothing change to make. :) 

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

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 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 Weekly Newsletter -- Week 21

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Feb 11, 2019 10:57:17 AM

Dear KES Family:


A week does not go by when I don’t miss teaching in the classroom. Few things in life are better. Jeff Smith often says that he has the best gig going, and there is no doubt that teaching music at KES has brought him and his students decades of joy. I suspect that you would also see the exact same zest in Mrs. Shields’ Math class or in Mr. DeCoste’s Physics lessons. Teaching is, and should be, thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding. Happiness is not subject specific.

However, being an English teacher, I enjoyed a unique relationship with my students and with the literature we studied. Sometimes I miss the books as much as the students themselves. What could be better than spending a day with Prince Hamlet or Jane Eyre or Ozymandias?

Years ago (I actually think it was 28!) I taught a Canadian novel entitled Crabbe. Written by William Bell, it is the story of an angry teenager who eventually figures things out after he runs away into the wilderness. Far from civilization he meets a woman Mary who possesses a rough kind of wisdom. Crabbe is a whiner and has excuses for everything. She says to him, “You know what I think Crabbe? I think a person reaches maturity when he strikes the last name off the blame list.”

There are nuggets of wisdom in books and this is a good one. Growing up we have our rites of passage, rituals and ceremonies, but there is something about getting rid of one’s blame list that has always struck a chord for me as the best measure of adulthood. Being responsible and accountable for one’s life is not a function of chronological age or physical maturity. Unfortunately, we see examples all the time in the news of “adults” casting blame and accepting none. Literature is also rich with examples of maturity coming too late, often with tragic consequences. Hamlet is thirty before he stops his whining and starts acting with any real maturity. Juliet is not yet fourteen when she seems to suddenly grow up and take responsibility for her life and the predicament she is in.

Blaming others always seems rather hollow. Like cotton candy, excuses are never satisfying – either to the one making the excuse or the one hearing it. Mary also says to Crabbe, “Waiting around for someone to change your life is a loser’s game.” It is bluntly expressed but perfectly clear. Crabbe needed to hear this. From time to time I think we all do.

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

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