Where do Middle School Students Learn Best?

At our upcoming Heads and Chairs Meeting in Ottawa, our theme is Place, Pedagogy and Purpose, and we will have an Architects Panel. This question will be part of our conversation.

But for now, I have reason to believe they learn best outdoors. Last week, over 100 Middle School Students from CAIS schools across the country gathered at Camp Onondaga. This year, our program focused on significant youth issues:

  • Bullying
  • Gender and Sexuality
  • Social Media and Identity
  • Student Mental Health
  • Aboriginal Education

We were intentional about mixing the groups by province, and we gave them plenty of time to engage in conversations in the great outdoors. The photos tell the best story, but here’s some of the feedback as well:

– Students had many opportunities to meaningfully connect with their peers. Almost instantly, students developed friendships with students across Canada. Between their cabin groups, passport groups, and the time spent doing the camp activities, students were constantly having fun with new faces.

– The presenters told me that they were impressed with how engaged the students were during the sessions and the number of insightful questions. It shows that our students are not only capable, but passionate about solving big issues.

– My quietest student said she felt that the staff and students made it really easy for her to step out of her shell and talk to people from different schools.

– My students found the camp extremely valuable for improving their leadership skills. All of the girls were happy to learn that there are many different types of leaders (something they did not realize)

– My students noted that the workshops were fantastic and loved how the social media workshop did not focus on the dangers of having a profile but how they could use their social media accounts to promote leadership.

– The Gender Identity workshop was very valuable. My students were inspired by the speaker and think Gender Identity is an extremely important topic for kids their age. One of the initiatives they would like to start at our school is a Gender Identity workshop for their peers.

Huge thanks to Philip Lloyd, our CAIS Program Committee, our workshop presenters, the Onondaga staff, and the CAIS faculty advisors. Most of all, thanks to our CAIS students for their passion, energy, and ideas. May you go on to change the world.

Welcome to the New CAIS Heads – 2015

We all talk about the need for great leaders to run our great schools, and there’s so much excitement around finding the next leader.

Take a look at the bios, photos, and letters of welcome below, and you will realize that CAIS continues to be in good hands:

This is an extraordinary list of leaders. A few thoughts –

  • Four are experienced Heads (Two of whom returned to schools from retirement!)
  • Three are from outside of Canada
  • Three held senior leadership positions in CAIS schools and were mentored there (Thanks to Rory Paul, Michael Fellin, and Martha Perry)
  • Two have participated in our CAIS Leadership Institute (and will speak at our Summer LI at St. Andrew’s!)
  • One is a former Director of Admissions

Congratulations to all of our CAIS schools for recruiting this caliber of talent.

Looking forward to meeting in person in Halifax at our Heads and Chairs Conference.

And most importantly – all the best for an amazing year.

Learning and Leadership

As I stood at the bottom of the stairs early on Friday morning, I sent each of the five kids back upstairs for one reason or another. We billeted three boys here for the CAIS U13 Soccer Tournament, and they were polite, bright, and fun boys. But five kids required my full attention to get to Ridley by 8:00am with all their gear. So I developed a system by the second morning. Before they got to the front hall, I did the first check – shin pads, toque, socks, snack, teeth, etc – and if they missed something, they went back up. My favorite exchange was this:

AM: “Shin pads?”

Boy: “Yup. Both today.”

AM: “Teeth brushed”

Boy: “Mmmmm…. I did that yesterday”

It was a sincere comment but I couldn’t help but to laugh. And as he turned his head to go up to the bathroom, he laughed too.

There was a lot of laughter in our house. Around 8:30 pm the first night, the kids had too much energy to settle any time soon, so I suggested we all take our dog for a walk.

Boy: “A walk? At this hour? In the dark? What if we get mugged?”

Now part of me wondered if this comment was a slight on St Catharines or even our neighborhood, but I just laughed it off and assured him, “We are not going to get mugged around here.

Our billet shrugged and turned to put on his shoes, but he quickly retorted:

“We would in Winnipeg.”

As billeting parents, Kevin and I loved the extra energy the boys brought to our home, and I have to say, we learned a lot. For starters, it was work to keep these kids fed and in clean clothes. Many times I thought of my Nana who had nine kids. I could barely keep enough milk in the house for five kids!

But the real value, of course, is for the kids. National tournaments provide many excellent sporting moments. They also connect people from coast to coast – when SAC and UCC played the final game, there were boys from 16 CAIS schools across Canada cheering side by side, and I suspect that our billet boys will stay connected with my son. But the tournaments, including the opportunity to billet, are also about leadership development.

I saw that these boys had a lot to manage – playing three games per day in the rain and cold, meeting over 300 new people from across Canada, joining a family for three nights, and all while being far from the comforts of home. In an age when most parents hover over their kids, our CAIS boys are given the opportunity to learn independence.

Yesterday morning, here in Montreal at an assembly at The Study, I witnessed the leadership development that continues after the actual event. The girls’ soccer team presented a slide show about their time at the CAIS Soccer Tournament in Halifax. The girls clearly had a fun time – the mud and rain didn’t stop them – and they made great friendships with girls from across Canada. But they also demonstrated leadership – the girls were gracious enough to thank their coach for spending a weekend away with them and they articulated some of what they learned from their experience. One girl quoted Michael Jordon on the need to pick yourself up after losing and get back in the game. Even as a visitor to the school and not knowing the girls, I was proud to watch them reflect on resiliency with poise.

Last week, the CAIS Board approved a Billeting Policy to ensure these national opportunities will continue according to best risk management practices. This makes me proud. Clearly the vision of CAIS, to be the “voice of excellence in learning and leadership, shaping the future of education” applies not only to our staff but to our 45,000 students.

Summer LI

There are some exciting changes to this summer’s Leadership Institute!

Last year, Kim Gordon chaired a PD Task Force and reviewed all of the PD offerings in Canada.  The Board approved their report, which included a new vision for national PD.  A number of recommendations are currently being implemented, and our new LI program specifically attends to the following four suggestions:

1.  That the Leadership Institute include more than one strand to ensure more homogeneous audience groupings, more in depth discussion, cohorts, and school follow-up.

2.  That a leadership curriculum scope and sequence be designed that includes goals, outcomes and program ideas for each strand.

3.  That the LI include action research or some element of “doing something”  to create opportunities for practical leadership development

4.  That the LI include leadership development for new heads (1-5 years) as part of their ongoing skill development.

In addition to revising our Diploma in Independent School Leadership, we have expanded our vision of the LI.  This summer at Shawnigan Lake School, we are introducing two new streams available to CAIS members only:

– NEW – Current CAIS Heads – Money and Managing Change

– NEW – Current CAIS Administrators – The Next Step

Please review the following LI program document carefully and share it with your colleagues.  We hope to see you this summer.

Click here to register.