Since arriving in August, I have done a lot of learning. I’ve been reading everything I can get my hands on, and I have attended countless meetings. But perhaps my most important learning is the one that is hardest to define.
I didn’t set out with this plan to do this, but one day, I had been in a lot of meetings, and I decided that I just needed to get outside. It was a gorgeous day and students were all over the fields, gym, and waterfront. It was that afternoon that I first realized that the best way to really come to understand Lakefield College School is to just wander. And so far, this has been my greatest joy.
I want to share five highlights of lessons learned from wandering:
- I have been visiting residences in the evenings for snack times. This has become a bit of “a thing” – the Rashleigh boys dressed up in their jackets and ties; the Ryder boys, who told me they forgot I was coming so I should just expect a normal evening in the common room, were listening to classical music and reading. Last week, the boys may have been outdone by the girls of Ondaatje. When I arrived there, I found them meditating and praying with dim lights and calming music. I have included a photo below. When you zoom in on the shrine they were “praying” to, you can see their incredible sense of humour. What I love about Lakefield is that our students are playful and they laugh. A lot.
- Last Friday night, I wandered down to the bonfire that was organized by the grade 12s. I fell into step with three girls and asked where they were from: Ghana, Japan, and Sudbury. Lakefield is a global community, with 363 students from 36 countries and no more than 10% from any one country. And I believe this experience is critical for developing global citizens.
- When I met with the houses, I asked them about their first impressions about the school this year, what they would like to see improved, and what advice they had for me, as a new Head. I will give you a specific example, but know that this was pretty typical of the kind of responses I got. One boy said this, “I arrived with one family, the one I was born into; but I will leave Lakefield with another… these guys” and all the boys went AHHHHH and pumped their hearts….What is amazing about Lakefield is the way our students speak so openly, so passionately, about things like love and connection.
- At the Grade 12 Opening Chapel, they sang, Land of Hope and Glory. When they started to sing the song, I thought this is nice…But then they sang louder, and by the final verse and chorus, they just belted it out. Lakefield’s chapel remains the soul of the school, where students carry on certain traditions and start their days as a community.
- As I sat after school at the waterfront, in one of our new Muskoka chairs, slightly entertained by Garret Hart having to rescue a couple of windsurfers in his boat, Mike Arsenault joined me, and we had this long conversation. That man has been teaching here for 36 years, and he is someone who captures, for me, the spirit of this school. He wrote to me the next day, about our time together:
“For me, one of the things that is so true about this place is that no one hides. We get to see our students, each other, and ourselves as who we are. For me that is magic, and what makes this place so special and compelling. It fosters grace and compassion. We get to see the good, the bad, the ugly and everything in between. I often feel the wash of emotions rising to the surface in unexpected circumstances and am surprised at their timing and strength. In those moments when we are most vulnerable, we also get to witness something sacred about ourselves and each other.”
So, whether I wander around different buildings or other parts of our property, I believe the places – and people – create certain feelings, and my suspicion is that these feelings have not changed over time. For what I am discovering as I wander, is that this is a place about more than classrooms, more than academics; more than sports, arts and community service… Lakefield is a place where we are free to be ourselves, where we laugh, where we find out what makes us most passionate, and where we connect with each other.
So here’s to wandering….