Inside King's-Edgehill School

Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter – Week 36

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Jun 10, 2022 4:40:57 PM

Dear KES Family:

It was late in the evening when I wandered into our TV room. Belinda was watching a show and for a few minutes I watched alongside her. I don’t watch the show or know the names of the characters, but I was impressed by the writing. One of the lines struck a chord with me:

“If something makes you sad when it ends it must have been pretty wonderful when it was happening.”

That pretty much sums up how I am feeling right now. The end of the year is upon us, the big tent has arrived for graduation, and it is time to say goodbye. For the first time in three years, we are caught in the conflicting emotions that come with a proper Closing Day. If I am sad now it is because it was wonderful when it was happening. This year had its challenges, of course, most of them brought on by COVID-19, but we accomplished much this year…memories flip through my interior vision like a slideshow.

During prefect training before school started, I asked the assembled grads what their hopes and fears were for this year. They were intertwined: hopes for a prom or for Cadet Ball and fears that COVID-19 restrictions would prevent them from happening…hopes for a proper rugby or soccer or hockey season and fears that they would be cancelled. Now that we are at the end of the year, these hopes have come true. We stabbed the haggis at the Mess Dinner. We had Winter Carnival, complete with tug-of-wars and snowshoe races. We had dramatic productions and parades and dances and travel and championships. We had three examination periods (in person no less!).

And so, I am happy and sad at the same time. Happy we had the kind of year we hoped for, and sad that it is over.

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, and restorative summer,

P.S. The ravens on campus are doing just fine :)

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Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter – Week 35

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Jun 3, 2022 4:42:36 PM

Dear KES Family:

I love the magical transformation into adulthood that our students make. One moment they are regular teenagers and then a situation presents itself and poof!, they are all grown up.

Such a moment happened yesterday at the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebration on campus. It revealed itself when Megan Mattie ‘22, in her full Highland kit, an Honour Guard of her fellow grads behind her, addressed His Honour, the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, with confidence and poise. Claymore in hand, her kilt swaying gently in the breeze in front of Convocation Hall, her eyes sparkling, Megan invited His Honour to inspect the Honour Guard. She did so naturally and with genuine warmth, as if it was something she has done all her life.

Standing beside me was Her Honour, Mrs. Patsy LeBlanc. Whether it was because of Mitchell Larkin’s ‘22 impeccable O Canada on the oboe, or Sean Hurley’s ‘23 brilliant bagpiping, Megan Mattie’s command presence, or the impressive quality of the grads in the Honour Guard, Her Honour was simply beaming. I could sense her excitement because I was feeling the same way. It was her first time on campus, and it was as if, while walking on the beach, she had stumbled across a chest full of treasure: something unexpected but of immense value. We were both experiencing that glorious joy one feels when the community ideals of dignity and respect are in action. When these ideals are embodied in youth they cannot help but warm the heart.

I suspect I will feel the same way next Friday night when I see the Class of 2022 all dressed up in their prom formal wear. The gowns and suits are always breathtaking, and everyone looks healthy and happy and stunning…and all grown up!

I can hardly wait.

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Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter – Week 34

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on May 27, 2022 4:48:23 PM

Dear KES Family:

The most common and cheapest types of artificial turf are manufactured from long sheets of UV resistant plastic that are cut into grass-like ribbons and then woven into a mat. This explains why turf burns and cuts are so commonplace with most artificial surfaces. The grass is ‘sharp’ like paper.

The latest technology avoids this problem by manufacturing individual strands of grass that have a diamond or hex-like shape, significantly reducing abrasions and eliminating cuts. In the early spring of 2018, I travelled to Florida to look at artificial turf fields using this technology. There being no examples in Canada, I wanted to see schools that had a variety of new and weathered fields. 

You may remember that in February of 2018 there was a young gunman who shot and killed 17 teachers and students, and injured another 17 more, at the Stoneman Douglas High School. Touring Florida high schools in March showed me how all Floridians were feeling the emotional wounds of that tragedy. Police cruisers were stationed at every school entrance. Officers carrying assault rifles greeted me. My photograph was taken as was my Canadian ID. I passed through a metal detector as I entered the grounds.

When there are examples of violence in schools, as there was this week in Uvalde, Texas, everyone’s sense of security is rocked. The world tilts on its axis, and the ground shifts. Like all schools in Canada and the USA, we have our external and internal emergency public address systems. We have our emergency lockdown drills. The local police have school maps and blueprints and response plans. Like fire drills and fire alarms, these preparations are a part of every student and teacher’s school experience.

I had a Zoom call with a teacher in Washington this morning. A much-needed long weekend lies ahead for them. It has been a long and tearful week. His school is 1,700 miles away from Uvalde, but they are on high alert, and their school counselors are holding support sessions for students and staff.

In absolute contrast, we have enjoyed the most sensational week. Unmasked and happy and safe, we have reveled in a joyous Cultural Fair and a celebratory Athletics Awards ceremony. We have laughed at Mr. Faucher and Mr. Verryn-Stuart’s dad jokes and marveled at the breadth of artistic talent in song and dance at our School.

We are so lucky at KES. I hope we never take this for granted.

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Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter – Week 33

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on May 20, 2022 4:49:45 PM

Dear KES Family:

I have an image in my mind from last Friday night of the sun setting over the shoulders of our assembled cadets, a gentle breeze flowing through their ranks, and a chorus of spring peeper frogs echoing up from Turtle Pond. As the Annual Cadet Review came to its conclusion, I was filled with a glorious sense of peace and pride. The first ceremony of its kind since 2019 was performed superbly. The students honoured this campus tradition in fine form.

Those feelings, that internal warm glow, lasted all week. In fact, as the week progressed they were buoyed time and time again. Seeing the Grade 9 students pitch their tents and camp on campus overnight was a sight to behold. Who knew that Nutella was so good on campfire baked Bannock? (Now there is a cross-cultural recipe!) Having an all-school assembly always lifts my heart, and this Wednesday’s gathering was filled with awards and recognition, great stories, and fabulous videos made by the candidates for next year’s Head Boy and Head Girl.

Sports continue un-interrupted and both rugby teams won the regional banner, the girls defeating Avon View and the boys winning against Horton. Adding to the joy was this year’s Spring Fling music festival.  In its own way it was a parade of talent, one that had us all clapping in time or cheering in appreciation. The adult world has more than its fair share of challenges and disappointments that occupy all our minds, but I must say that I am thrilled for the students. They are having the year they deserve. It is the most wonderful feeling when at the end of the day my heart is happy for them.

But wait: There is more! Starting next week, masks are optional in schools in Nova Scotia. Hooray!  We will be able to see each other’s faces. We will continue to test students and staff weekly, but there will be no masking requirement on buses or at School. As much as all the blossoms and blooms and fresh green leaves signal the rejuvenation of life after the barrenness of winter, removing masks signals the end of an era and a new beginning.

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Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter – Week 32

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on May 13, 2022 4:52:14 PM

Dear KES Family:

Fortunately, I am not a victim of friggatriskaedekaphobia or paraskavedekatriaphobia, both of which refer to an irrational fear of Friday the 13th. Today is indeed Friday the 13th and it promises to be a glorious celebration of life at KES. Not since 2019 have we been able to have our Church Parade and Annual Cadet Review. As I write this, the sun is shining and the campus is lusciously green and fresh. In other words – a perfect day for all of us to be outside.

Every day like today feels like a COVID-19 recovery milestone. It is almost with disbelief that we confirm our return to normal. I keep waiting for someone to pull the rug from under us, to change protocols and public health mandates, but none are coming. In less than a month, we will have a proper Closing Day and Graduation under the big marquee tent. In the next month we will have a spring fling concert, a cultural fair, an athletic awards ceremony, a Grade 9 banquet and Duke of Edinburgh adventurous journey, a full slate of regional and provincial sporting competitions, our final examinations, and a prom!

I must confess that I feel a bit like a Toronto Maple Leaf fan right now. Although there is no exact term for a fear of disappointment, atychiphobia probably best describes my niggling fear of uncertainty, of failure. Fortunately, as each day passes, the tension eases between my hopes that everything will go as planned, and my fears that things won’t. For Maple Leaf fans facing game seven against Tampa Bay, they will be put out of their misery one way or another by midnight tomorrow.  

One of the casualties of COVID-19 has been stability. There is comfort in knowing life is relatively predictable and normal. For the last two years we have all struggled with uncertainty: of not knowing if we could see friends and family, attend weddings and funerals, meet in person or by Zoom. As we gather indoors at Christ Church and outdoors on the Tanna Turf, today is hugely significant for the School. For us it is a return to normal, and a return to normal together.

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Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter – Week 31

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on May 6, 2022 4:37:26 PM

Dear KES Family:

A week of sunshine and warm temperatures awaits us. I can hardly wait to see the buds and blossoms and fresh greenery on campus once again. Not since 2019 have our students been able to enjoy a full spring term and all it has to offer. This includes our Cadet Ball being held tonight!

Canadian hockey legend Guy LaFleur’s funeral was this week. Stories about his life, on and off the ice, are being shared. It is clear that he touched many lives and represents a glorious time not just for Canadians in hockey, but les Canadiens as well. Growing up in Montreal in the 1970s as I did, he was a childhood hero.

KES has its hockey stories about Guy LaFleur. Two in particular. The first is rather funny and takes us back a few years to when Guy was looking for a school for his son. He called our School to enquire about the application process. Because our Director of Admissions, Chris Strickey, was travelling at the time, Guy’s phone call was directed to our Assistant Headmaster at the time, Darcy Walsh. Darcy was (and is) a hockey guy. He not only played at a high level but is a true fan of the sport. The call went well with a promise that the Director of Admissions would call Mr. LaFleur. Now, Darcy is (and was) a trickster. His pranks are legendary on campus. Chris Strickey, on the other hand, is a true hockey fan and one of the finest hockey coaches anywhere. He is serious about the game. He saw Darcy’s note and Guy LaFleur’s phone number but assumed that Darcy was, once again, pulling his leg. Alas, Guy LaFleur never received a return phone call from the School.

The second story about Guy LaFleur and KES is more recent. In 2016, Guy LaFleur came to Windsor for the Long Pond Heritage Classic. Before the big hockey banquet held on campus, Belinda and I hosted a VIP reception at our house, Alexandra Hall. That year we had a full house. Among others, hockey legends Ric Nattress and Rich Sutter were in attendance. Local business owners and politicians and hockey fans filled our home. Sharpies and memorabilia to be autographed were everywhere. I don’t know if it was a bit overwhelming or just too crowded for him, but I found Guy LaFleur in our kitchen. He was sitting on the floor petting our two little dogs. They loved him. For about half an hour Guy and I chatted about dogs and about life. He had a little dog who, when he was home, was his constant companion and slept with him every night. He was enjoying being with my dogs, away from the hubbub.

Later that night, after the banquet, I returned home and walked around my living room. There were some stray glasses and cocktail napkins to clean up. On the mantel were a half dozen photos of Guy LaFleur in his younger days. They were there for autographing. For a brief moment I had a pang of regret: I should have got him to sign one! And then I thought no…I have a memory of him which is much more precious.

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Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter – Week 30

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Apr 29, 2022 4:41:16 PM

Dear KES Family:

This week there have been multiple times when our School has shown its heart. Whether it was embracing players from Lockview High School and Charles P. Allen High School following the rugby games on Sunday, cheering enthusiastically for every performer and award winner at the Arts Gala, jumping into the youth-in-action day with imaginative alternatives to the school backpack (from pizza boxes to baby strollers!), it was wonderful to see such positive energy on display. 

Wednesday was a fairly miserable day for weather, but the entire School was assembled on the Tanna Turf in preparation for the upcoming Annual Cadet Review. As I walked around each platoon, I was pleasantly surprised by how upbeat everyone was. As our Regimental Sergeant Major, Maya Faucher ‘22 called out the commands, every Highlander in the 254 followed her lead. It was magical to see.  What is also remarkable is that while the beat of the march may be made by the deep notes of Anthonie Schep’s ‘22 bass drum, the colour party and the whole corps follow the rhythm of Giacomo Pogliani’s ‘27 marching snare drum.

I love the fact that the entire corps, the entire School, marches to the drum of a boy in Grade 7. It is a compliment to each student and a strong example that leadership at KES comes in many forms and is not the sole responsibility of the senior students. It demonstrates that there are times when knowing how to follow is a form of leadership. I mentioned this quietly to a couple of older students and their response was delightfully unexpected: “We all love Giacomo.”

I like to think that at KES there are opportunities for everyone to shine and feel loved. Whether it is dancing on stage or managing backstage, playing a role in a play (like Clue: On Stage) or playing a game like rugby, I hope that everyone has moments when they feel the School’s heart.

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Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter – Week 29

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Apr 22, 2022 11:45:18 AM

Dear KES Family:

Not far from shore, Paige Fraser ‘22, Lukas Schmidt ’22 and I were throwing a rugby ball and chatting while enjoying a glorious post-rugby-tournament day on the Gulf Coast of Florida. The water was warm, the sky a gorgeous blue, the ocean breeze gentle. It was heavenly. A perfect moment.

At which point Paige said, “Mr. Seagram, you should write about this in the newsletter!”

I had to laugh. Perhaps for different reasons, but I had been thinking the same thing. While there is all sorts of behavioural science behind the benefits of throwing a ball (eye-hand coordination, fitness and muscle development, learning how to share and follow rules and engage in collaborative play, etc.). I have always cherished games of catch for reasons people don’t talk about. To me, it is a form of communication between people. It is a tactile language. It requires physical dexterity of course, but it requires emotional dexterity too. It requires you to think of the other person’s needs and abilities.

A game of catch with my daughter or son is often an opportunity to talk. About anything. No matter the object (football, frisbee, hacky-sac…) being thrown, having a focus on something external breaks the ice on internal things.

Playing catch is also an invitation. It is a silent way of saying “I want to be with you.” Thus, whether it is a big group throwing a ball around, or two people playing catch, it is emotionally cozy. It feels safe and warm.

This is one reason why I was so impressed by Carolina Herrera ‘22 during Sunday’s day at the beach. There was a moment when it seemed that all 25 students were out in the water throwing a ball around. Laughter and excitement, happy sounds wafted ashore on the breeze. At one point, Carolina noticed a teenage girl sitting alone with her parents and invited her to join in. As they walked out to where the others were, a group formed around them, and they all started throwing a football around and chatting. Carolina’s invitation was a generous gesture of inclusion.

Thoughtful moments like these make me feel good about our School and our students. And for sure, being included in a game of catch with Paige and Lukas makes me feel good too.

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Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter – Week 28

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Apr 15, 2022 4:50:00 PM

Dear KES Family:

It is a glorious privilege to be able to travel during a pandemic. Doing so with school teams is an absolute joy. That twice in the last month I have been able to travel with both boys and girls together has revealed just how wonderful, and important, it is to be together. Healthy relationships, spontaneous fun, common goals, mutual support…and laughter (!), have defined these trips.

I also love having Dylan along. The world can be intimidating, and all too often seems full of posers. Dylan keeps us humble. Highland cattle are approachable and social. Despite being immensely strong and hardy, with their shaggy coats and shock of hair tumbling down their foreheads (called a dossan) one really cannot take them too seriously. Highland cows make people smile. So do our students.

The uniting cheer of “3-2-1 Highlanders!” is magical to hear. Gone are the separate cheers of boys and girls at the School. Dylan brings us together. He gives us identity.

I am in Florida now for a rugby sevens tournament. The games start tomorrow but already the boys and girls are having a wonderful time. We have had training sessions on the tournament grounds, participated in a USA identification combine, and broken down professional rugby games on video. It is already fun.

Dylan came on expedition to the Grand Canyon and Death Valley this March and is here in Tampa as well. Once again, he is having the time of his life. During these bubbles of time, somehow the realities of the pandemic don’t exist, making them just that much healthier for all.

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Headmaster's Weekly Newsletter – Week 27

Posted by Joe Seagram, Headmaster on Apr 8, 2022 1:42:58 PM

HubSpot Video

Dear KES Family:

It seems to me that for some time now we have all been carrying an emotional load. From time to time a situation arises in which we are reminded how much the events of the world affect our hearts. This week a former student from Ukraine wrote to me about the possibility of her brother(s) attending KES. Initially, she wrote to me about her experience at KES, saying:

“…really grateful for the care and the memories. I would like my brother to find harmony in KES after all the traumas from the war events. I feel like it would be the best for him. If you reward him with a scholarship he will not have the awful refugee feeling of being exiled from his motherland.” 

Her youngest brother is going into Grade 6. The brother she is referring to (Grade 9) I have met by Zoom. The two boys are very close. She introduced me to her youngest brother by sending a video of him. She had made the film two years ago in Ukraine. She would have been 15 at the time. My eyes teared up long before I got to the end. The remainder of what I am writing today will make more sense once you have viewed the video and watched through to the credits. It is not long.

This short film honours the memory of those who have suffered. It does so beautifully and powerfully. It also begs deep questions about life and human nature. All nations have their moments of anguish. We all share in the horrors of the past and been wounded by our own histories. And yet, atrocities and violence fill the news every day.

Is this young generation not worthy of more from us today?

Surely KES and the KES family can do its part to help those in need, to keep teaching, and inspire students from Canada and around the world with the value of human kindness and the preciousness of life itself. 

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