What Do We Specialize In?

Mentor HS principal Mr. Whyte told me that while he was watching our Grade 9/10 boys’ rugby team handily defeat a local public school on Tuesday, he noticed a large banner on the side of the school advertising that it offers a “Specialist High Skills Major” in Sports. This “specialization” is not unique to high schools as it seems now that every elementary school now needs to have a signature programme, whether it is French Immersion, International Business and Technology or the Arts. I understand the lure of making your school stand out and that schools are worried about losing customers to the “other Board” or private schools but I don’t know why a 13-year-old would be interested in specializing in International Business!

When Mr. Whyte and I were noting the following morning that the Grade 11/12 boys also won their rugby game easily, I said to him that we must be a “sports school”, too! This morning, it was announced that Mentor’s Grade 5/6 choir was selected by the Peel Festival adjudicators to advance to the provincial showcase so I suppose we are a “music school” as well! Mentor’s Grade 7/8 students regularly earn an invitation to the provincial and national Science Fair competitions and our senior science students earn top marks in various biology, physics and chemistry contests so we will need a “science school” banner as well. HS business students excel in the provincial DECA competition, Model UN participants always come home with multiple awards and the mock trial programme has a ever-growing pile of trophies so we would have quite a collection of banners on the outside walls!

Let me get back to Mr. Whyte, though. I was following him in the hallways as he was touring a prospective family yesterday and he stopped to show them in the course calendar how we structure our academic programme. He told them that most schools encourage students to specialize starting in Grade 9 and how it ends up being problematic in Grade 11 and 12. Mentor (and TSS) makes the academic programme general enough in Grade 9 and 10 so that the student can make the decision to specialize (arts, science, math, etc.) in Grade 11, Grade 12 or even to be able to wait until post-secondary entrance. I cannot imagine how frustrating it would be for a student to be in Grade 12 and find out that they do not have the pre-requisite courses for the next chapter of their educational career!

Come to think of it, perhaps we only need one banner: “Mentor College and TEAM School: We Specialize In Everything”.

Chris Starkey
Administrative Principal
Mentor College/TEAM School

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