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

A Time For Endings And Beginnings

June is a time of both endings and beginnings.

I was at my oldest daughter’s convocation in Halifax on the weekend; having your first child graduate from university makes you very sentimental. Even though she has been on her own for the better part of four years, I finally saw that she was an adult. She showed us the place where she got her entry-level job and talked about the pros and cons of the non-student apartment she is getting in September. Despite all of this mature conversation, however, I still saw my little girl from Mentor. The same four-year-old who hid under one of Miss Kane’s tables in JK (and wouldn’t even come out when Mrs. Philbrook was called in for the extraction!) still likes her alone time. The Grade 4 student who beamed for two months straight while she was playing “Wendy” in the Primary Campus production of “Peter Pan” had that same smile as she strode across the Dalhousie stage to receive her diploma. The Grade 7 student whose poems were kept by her teacher as samples for future classes to read was the editor/publisher of the arts journal this past year and the HS student who was asked to compose some songs for the spring play still takes out her guitar and uploads originals and covers to her YouTube channel (not to be “discovered”…just because her friends and family love to hear her). In her Grade 12 yearbook (photo above), she wrote

It’s odd to think that next year will be the first year of my life that I cannot call myself a Mentor student. I’ve been through a lot in these buildings and I know in some way it will always be a part of my story. Thank you to all my teachers and friends; even when I’m not walking down these halls every day, these years will always be with me. I love you all! DFTBA

She has gone through a number of endings already and is starting another one of her beginnings.

Just as she is still going through endings and beginnings, so too do our students still here at the school. The ending part is pretty obvious as young students go on their last field trip, elementary students have their final rotary class, and high school students have their last day of classes. These next two weeks are particularly meaningful to the “graduates” (Mentor Grade 4s and the Grade 8 and 12 students of Mentor/TEAM/TSS) as they spend their last few days as the senior students of the division. The year is capped off with a diploma and/or report card. In that report card, it says that a year of academic accomplishment has been completed and that the student is ready for the beginning of the next year of their academic life. For most students, it is simply moving up one grade but for others (like the Grade 12s heading to post-secondary education) it means a new school entirely. No matter what the situation, each student has a great set of academic tools and a wonderful year of memories to equip them for whatever the future holds.

Chris Starkey
Administrative Principal
Mentor College / TEAM School