Inside King's-Edgehill School

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter, Week 5

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Oct 4, 2019 6:47:17 PM

Dear KES Family:

An interesting thing happens when we turn our brilliant LED stadium lights on at night: the light removes the darkness on campus. Sounds obvious of course, but in removing the darkness we remove fear. We also create community and opportunities for joy that did not exist before.

With the turf field brightly lit, the evening snack after prep is better attended. Girls and boys from the satellite houses around the field (Buckle, Vincent, and Vair McLellan) are more likely to make their way to the Dining Hall to join their friends. Although we have street and path lights, the reality is that without the turf’s stadium lights, the walk is darker, the shadows deeper, the trek more intimidating.

Last night after prep, 22 students joined me and Mr. Foley to play touch rugby under the lights. It was glorious fun. Playing with us were not only boys and girls, boarders and day students, but a parade of nationalities: Canada, Ireland, South Africa, China, Japan, Finland, and Mexico. Feeling a bit like rugby stars under the lights, we played until call-up for “lights out”. While we were playing, a single female student ran around the track circling us again and again for the better part of an hour. I marvelled at her, but it was my wife Belinda who remarked how, without the lights and perhaps without us playing on the field as well, it is unlikely this girl would have felt safe running alone in the dark.

The American poet, Robert Frost, once described the nighttime forest as being “lovely, dark, and deep”. However, this is a rare observation. Being scared of the dark is much more common. Scores of writers from Edgar Allan Poe to Shakespeare to Anne Frank (as a teenage girl she wrote how a ‘candle can defy and define the darkness’) have described the night or darkness as anything but lovely.

Our LED stadium lights are the first of their kind in Atlantic Canada. They are absolutely incredible, shining a shadow-less light that is direct and does not bounce or wash across the Town of Windsor and the residential areas adjacent to the School. They use so little electricity that they operate for under $5 an hour. Despite being higher than our tallest tree on campus, they have withstood everything Mother Nature and Hurricane Dorian have thrown at them in the last year.

My appreciation for these lights is growing daily. Their benefits are beyond what first meets the eye.
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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter

HeadmasterWeekly Newsletter -Week 4

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Sep 27, 2019 8:55:07 PM

Dear KES Family:

Growing up in downtown Montreal and Toronto in the 1960s and 70s (makes me feel so old!), my friends and I spent all our free time outside. Parent free, we rode bikes, climbed trees, played shinny hockey in winter and pick-up baseball and football in the summer. My friends and I knew where the raccoons lived, and which ponds had turtles or frogs or goldfish. We would play catch with the local police officer on foot patrol, and he knew all our names and where we lived. When I split my forehead on a teeter-totter, he was the one who looked after me. It was a different time, but I loved those days when you could simply go out and play, returning home once it became dark.

Life is different for children now. That freedom I enjoyed is long gone. Or is it? Being just outside of a small town, surrounded by farms and forest, and blessed with wonderful facilities, I see our students happily discovering the joys of “going outside to play”. I thought it was a lost art, but I see so much evidence of unstructured fun and the obvious conclusion is that unstructured play is natural and supervised structured play is not play at all. It is unnatural.

If you could see the fun created outside during break, or lunchtime, or that wonderful hour after supper and before prep, you would understand what I mean. Skateboards and bicycles come out, swing sets squeak their timeless tune, balls are kicked or thrown, children run and roll (it always amazes me how our younger students will lie down and roll around on the turf field!) and laugh and squeal. We provide frisbees and spike ball sets, soccer balls and footballs, etc, but we don’t structure the play, and we don’t force anyone to leave their room. We provide the time and space and equipment and simply ask that it be respected.

Although it is “indoors” the same could be said of the gym, or of Mr. Smith’s music room or our new recording studio, where many a free hour is also spent in creative musical play. (I believe that playing a musical instrument is very athletic and healthy – for all sorts of reasons, of course.)

It has been said that this young generation has been sheltered, forced to grow up too fast, and incapable of unstructured play. What I have marvelled at this week are the many positive and impressive signs of youthful wellness. I am seeing healthy play and healthy relationships. I am also seeing true empathy and respect towards others (something definitely missing from my childhood where every joke was at the expense of someone different from me and my friends).

In the photos below, I hope you can catch a glimpse of the joy of childhood I see every day.
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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter - Week 1

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Sep 7, 2019 2:42:35 PM

Dear KES Family:

“Dorian” is on its way, and we are well prepared to weather the storm to come on Saturday, but the week has been absolutely glorious. The long days of summer have stretched into September, and it seems that our students have been outside every spare minute. Indeed, on a cloudless Wednesday night at 9:30pm, there was a whole group of students lying in the middle of our artificial turf field staring up at the stars and revelling in the mild temperatures and the sparkling elements of the Milky Way overhead.

Yesterday afternoon our sports programme was in full swing. Soccer, tennis, cross-country…everyone was outside getting exercise. Our hockey teams were introduced to “Front Hill” and the joys of Shauna Forsyth’s(our strength and conditioning coach) killer workout! I was thrilled to see the boys and girls working so hard together before they start skating on the ice next Monday. When their exercise programme finished, I went up to see what our soccer and cross-country teams were up to. I was confused when later on I saw our Head Girl, Ava Benedict, working out with the cross-country team. She was participating fully in the team’s sprint drills and making friends with all the new athletes around her. Now Ava has been on the hockey team for years, and so I asked her if she had joined cross-country. “No”, she said with a laugh. “I am as excited as ever for hockey, but we were finished our session and I thought I would do some more training with Mr. Hadley and his cross-country team.”

In a world where people will walk by a set of stairs to take the elevator to their gym class, or will drive in circles to find the closest parking spot to their yoga studio, it is refreshing to see such an enthusiastic and humble example of health. In Chapel on Thursday, Reverend Curry introduced the students to the concept of metanoia. It is a powerful Greek term which literally means “after / mind” and is often interpreted as a changing of one’s mind or repentance. In a King’s-Edgehill School context, I have to think that it literally means a transformative changing of one’s mind: that children who may instinctively think of their desires first may start to take an interest in the world and the needs of others, or that students who have spent their lives avoiding chores and work (like emptying the dishwasher maybe?) will happily do what needs to be done, or that teenagers whose first words may typically have been negative or pessimistic may find themselves more optimistic about life and complimentary of others. Making the choice to attend King’s-Edgehill is a powerful statement. Learning is far more than memorization. Whether in Chapel or in class, in the dorm or on one’s team or club, learning entails personal reflection and growth. Real learning means more than passing tests or achieving good SAT or IELTS scores, it means changing one’s opinion and set of assumptions about life and oneself. It can literally mean changing one’s mind.
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Topics: Joe's Journal -- Weekly Headmaster's Newsletter

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

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