OEC Highlights For 7/8: Canoeing, Fall Colours, Amazing Race

The seasons at the OEC (Outdoor Education Centre) are flying by, as usual. The Grade 8s of Mentor and TEAM started off the year early in September and continued each week through October. Every group participated in the highly-anticipated canoeing programme on Ryde Lake – enjoying gorgeous fall colours, wildlife viewing, and a trip through the Tree Museum. The Grade 8 session were focused on leadership – while being challenged at high ropes, low ropes, and the stream study. Each group also created a leadership video group project – which was viewed by everyone at the end of each week.

Following the Grade 8s were the Grade 7s – whose programme typically starts with some enjoyable fall weather, but can become unpredictable with snow, sleet, hail and rain. The students were well prepared for whatever Mother Nature had in store for them while we challenged them to a full day’s worth of the OEC Amazing Race and helped them to step outside of their comfort zone at times as they attempted to conquer Team-All-Aboard-High-Ropes Challenge. We cannot forget about the Animal Survival Game – where students are part of an experiment to see if they can accurately portray an animal in the woods searching for food, water and shelter, all the while trying not to be preyed upon or infected by disease.

Immediately following the break, the Grade 6s will be on their way up to the OEC to strap on the snowshoes, navigate the forest via GPS, and glide down the cross-country ski trails. Well, at least until their skis cross each other and they do a face plant into the ample snow that we are expecting … and hoping for. So, Grade 6s, pack your wool socks, and warm layers, and get ready for a Muskoka winter adventure that you will never forget! Grade 5s, in the spring when the ground thaws and the sap begins to run, we look forward to seeing you here!

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Brian Scheill & Heidi Smith
Outdoor Education Teachers
Mentor College/TEAM School

Are We Like The Leafs?

After leaving a VERY busy Open House for prospective parents and students on Saturday, I was listening to a sports talk radio show. They were talking about the Toronto Maple Leafs (as they often do) and the discussion revolved around the reasons why the hockey team was struggling as of late. The host pointed out a quote from coach Mike Babcock earlier in the season where he warned that skill alone will not win you many hockey games but if you make hard work your priority, THEN the skill will have a better chance of being displayed.

If this is his coaching philosophy, I think Coach Babcock would be a good person to have for our speaker series. When I look at the student body at Mentor and TEAM, I know that we are very fortunate to have “skill” because if we didn’t think a student could handle our academic expectations, we would not offer them a spot in our school. Most new students already have a significant academic skill level when they come to us but they do not always have the work ethic that we expect. One family I spoke with at the Open House assumed that coming to Mentor would automatically boost their child’s average by 10%. I had to warn them that their son would probably need to work harder than he was now just to maintain his current average.

I think this “skill before hard work” trap can affect returning students as well. It is easy to say to yourself “I got on the honour roll last year” and assume it will happen again but if you don’t continue to put in the hard work, your reputation alone will not get you the results. Our high school DECA team (business competition) is a good example of this. They could go into competitions with just their smarts and do OK but they work hard at preparing for their competitions months in advance and are rewarded with way more ribbons and medals than they could get simply on their intellectual skills.

This applies to our school as a whole, too. We know that we cannot simply open up our doors every September and assume that last year’s families will all be back and that a bunch of new families will join us based simply on our past successes. We strive to provide a top-notch educational experience for our students and this means that we need to put in the work to do so. If our current families are satisfied, they will not only continue to send their children to us year-after-year but they will also be our most effective “brand ambassadors” as they talk about Mentor and TEAM with their colleagues and circle of friends. That’s what makes days like last Saturday fun; almost every family present listed a number of current students or alumni who recommended us to them. We certainly had a better Saturday than the Leafs did!

Chris Starkey
Administrative Principal
Mentor College/TEAM School

A Graduate of I.O.U.

It is human nature to want to better ourselves. As a school, this is our main purpose…to give students academic tools and a nurturing environment that makes them better students and prepares them for the next step in their educational and life journeys.

Unfortunately, society has replaced this old-fashioned thinking with one of entitlement. Putting in the time and doing the work has been supplanted with shortcuts (usually accompanied by a monetary exchange). This story from the CBC is an excellent example.

Erwin Sniedzins, a Toronto entrepreneur and would-be politician, spent $8,100 to get a Master of Education degree in Technical Education from King’s Lake University. Sniedzins also noted that he did not want to spend $30,000 on a real degree that required him to actually do any work to earn the degree. He was shocked to find out that the “no studying, no exams, and no academic work” policy of the school was too good to be true and he had been scammed.
Sniedzins repeatedly told CBC Toronto that he never suspected a degree based on life experience that required no academic work, studying or exams could be fake as it was in line with his approach to education. “I thought that was great. They should actually have universities that do that,” he said.

Now if it were me, I would rather consider the $8,100 as unrecoverable rather than have everyone in the GTA know what an idiot I was to fall for the scam. Even worse would be to let my family, friends, and colleagues know that I was willing to buy accreditation rather than earn it!

This is not a phenomenon with adults or with post-secondary education as we see this kind of thinking even at the high school level. There are schools who offer course credits with the same promises that Mr. Sniedzins cherished; in exchange for low effort and a fee, you can get a high mark in a course that you need for university acceptance. The long-term problem comes when the student gets to post-secondary education and her/his artificial marks do not help them understand the concepts being taught. Our students, who have put in the time and effort, quickly see the difference between where they rank academically (regardless of their entrance average).

Whether it is a kindergarten student who reads their first picture book or the Grade 12 student who finally “gets” how to find an indefinite integral, it is our mandate to give students the skills to work independently and to feel that they have “earned” these skills. After all, would you rather give your child the marks to get into post-secondary studies or the skills needed to be successful and finish their degree?

Chris Starkey
Administrative Principal
Mentor College/TEAM School

A “New” School Year

This has been a surreal couple of weeks for me.

Since 1999, my family has been going through the TEAM and Mentor back-to-school routines. We tried on all the uniform pieces and (usually) made a trip to InSchoolwear with a comment about how kids grow like weeds. We went shopping at Staples for school supplies and ensured that last year’s backpack was still cool enough to use for another year.

This year, however, is the first year in the past 18 that we haven’t been consumed with the consumable nature of back-to-school items. My youngest daughter is comfortably nestled into her university residence room and poor Mr. and Mrs. Starkey are looking at the prospect of never needing to iron a shirt at 8:00am, find the tie that we were SURE was in the glove-box of the van, or make a second run to the school in the morning for a forgotten piece of homework.

Those things may seem like positives but we are really missing the excitement of seeing our kids find out who the homeroom teacher is, get to know the new students in their class, sign up for clubs and teams, and just taking in all of the excitement of another school year at Mentor and TEAM. Whether you are new to the school or are returning, I hope you and your family are excited for the new school year and that everyone had a wonderful start to the 2017-2018 academic year.

Wishing You A Safe & Happy Summer

The last week of the school year is an exciting yet emotional time for students, parents, and the staff at school. We have an opportunity to enjoy end of year activities and celebrations, to complete the year’s academic requirements in high school exams, and to celebrate the individual accomplishments of our students at various assemblies of recognition and graduation. We do however also feel a little sentimental at recognizing that it is the end of the term 3 and the academic year is now drawing to a close.

To all of our families we extend our thanks for the opportunity of working with your students and communicating with your family. We have had a very successful school year, and we are already planning and looking forward to the 2017-2018 school year at TEAM School and Mentor College. We wish you a safe and happy summer.

If your schedule allows, we hope you have the opportunity to attend some of the year end activities this week.

Best wishes for a wonderful summer!

Chuck Macdonald
Director – Mentor College/TEAM School