Ten Reasons why CAIS Schools are Leading the Future of Education

Last week, we held our annual meeting with all CAIS Heads and Chairs, and our theme was Place, Pedagogy and Purpose.  Rather than try to tell you why I came away from that meeting full of inspiration about our schools, let me show you the theme in action in the CAIS schools I visited this month.

CAIS Schools are inspirational learning places

  1. img_6913Rundle College in Calgary has a new facility including a spectacular dining hall for their junior students.  When I say that the future of facilities is glass – you can see the impact of glass in this room with the ability to bring the outdoors in.  Very inspirational for those children to sit in round tables and enjoy their lunch.


img_69642.  The theme of dining halls and glass continues to Crofton House.  When I was there, I caught the choir rehearsing. Listening to those girls singing made my day! Crofton has also invested in their food services, so the choice of healthy interesting meals is also noteworthy.



3.  One more place that uses glass to create a beautiful space is found at Mulgrave.  When I visited earlier this month, I was blown away by their new facility and how they use space to display student artwork. Our accreditation team arrived early and walked in to the sound of children singing – again, cannot tell you how amazing it is that our schools celebrate the arts!


CAIS Schools are passionate about pedagogy

img_69794.  At Mulgrave, their new facility includes creative learning spaces, including private study rooms.  In a world that is so busy and highly collaborative, I was inspired to see some students search for this kind of space to enjoy quiet study.




img_69765.  We know that the best learning happens when children have teachers who inspire them, share their passions, challenge them and listen to them, and provide regular valuable feedback on learning. I always ask to meet those teachers whom students tell me are their favourites.  Sometimes those teachers are pretty quirky!  Check out the door to one of the classrooms I saw this month – who wouldn’t be inspired by this character!





img_71756.  Learning happens everywhere.  Meadowridge has invested in their outdoor spaces that are just as creative as their indoor spaces. The accreditation team this week just had to wander into the bushes to learn about this piece of artwork.






CAIS Schools live their purpose deeply and with authenticity

7.  img_7095First and foremost, our CAIS schools put the needs of children first. Students are known at our schools, and teachers work hard to understand them as individuals.  CAIS schools are passionate about students.  CAIS teachers know that their influence extends beyond the academic curriculum.  At our Heads and Chairs Conference, we heard from Dr. Mark Miliron who reminded us of our greater purpose in education.





8.  img_6899Our CAIS schools are passionate about the arts and about learning.  Take a look at this Wonder Wall at Rundle and the description of how the teachers inspired their students to Be Curious.



9.  img_6953Our CAIS schools have made a firm commitment to being Canadian.  What does that mean?  It means they celebrate diversity, history and culture.  It means that they offer Financial Assistance to ensure great students can attend, regardless of socio-economic status.  Last week, I attended an Old Boys Summit at Upper Canada College, where they have raised over $50 million to ensure a more diverse student body.





10. img_7161All CAIS schools partner with parents, and our CAIS boarding schools go the extra mile to connect with parents of students who live where they learn.

Last week, my son’s advisor sent me this photo of Jacob playing soccer.  He is a boarding student at Lakefield, and I miss him a lot!  So I feel so good when one of his teachers contacts me to show me what he is doing.  I know this is cheating – to show off my own son! – but I really see that all CAIS schools take this kind of personalized communication seriously.



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.