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.
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.
Mentor College / TEAM School
A month or so ago, I blogged about a family many years ago who came for a Primary Campus assessment, accidentally ended up at the Main Campus, and were so impressed with the high school students who got them across the field that they were sold on the school before they even got to their appointment. Mrs. Talarico (Primary Campus vice-principal) just had a similar experience.
There was an assessment morning at the Primary Campus and between the assessment and the afternoon parent interview, a Mom took her child to Burrito Boyz for lunch. With the influx of Mentor students, lunch at Burrito Boyz is like an ice cream shop in the middle of a heat wave but instead of going to another restaurant, the prospective family stayed and actually did a bit of market research by asking the high school students what they thought about their school.
Mom said the students were poised, well-mannered, spoke highly of the school, AND were very nice to her daughter. Based on their experience at the Primary Campus, the decision had been made that Mentor was the best fit for their family but the interaction with students 10-14 years older than her child was a positive experience that really cemented that decision.
We remind our students and staff members frequently that they are representing the school even when they are not inside the building. How lucky we are that they do so in such a wonderful manner!
Mentor College/TEAM School
The one thing that has been a constant from when I was a student, a teacher, and an administrator is my involvement in athletics. As a student, I played hockey and t-ball in Woodstock, soccer in Windsor, and every sport available in Goderich. When I was hired as a supply teacher at Mentor/TEAM, I wasn’t expecting to have much contact with sports but fate placed me in a PE class on the first day of school in September 1990 and I ended up coaching 10 different sports. Even when I moved to administration and traded my t-shirt and shorts for a blazer and tie, I continued to coach and I still play volleyball and softball throughout the year.
While I have nothing but fond memories in sports, the one thing I would tell my 13-year-old self (if I would have listened to an old guy like me!) would be to get involved in the arts. In high school, I never set foot in a music room, an art studio, or on the stage. I got so focused on everything to do with sports that it was only later in life that I found out how much I enjoyed performing. In my opinion, one of the big selling points of our school is that our students have a wide variety of choice when it comes to activities. Starting with the “Memories to Music” concert this past week and continuing next week with the “Festival of the Arts” (and even on through to the year-end musicals), I see students with a wide range of interests taking part in arts-related activities. Yes, some students get involved exclusively with arts but I see way more students on our stages who are just as actively involved in athletic and academic competitions. To be sure, these students are learning time management skills as they juggle their school activities, homework/studying, and (as I sometimes forget) their life outside of TEAM/Mentor.
Public education is becoming increasingly focused on specialized and regional learning as the Catholic and public school try to out-do each other with arts schools, IBT (International Business and Technology) programs, and SHSM (specialized high skills majors) streams but our students get the benefit of having a broad base of knowledge and activities. This really hit home with me during the Intermediate Division morning announcements this week when principal Ms. Findlay boasted about the fact that one-quarter of the Peel Region Science Fair team going to the Canadian finals this year will come from Mentor! The same thing happens with our HS students (like Sagar Kothari, who last week represented Ontario at the world championships for the business competition DECA) and younger students when they take part in the choral division of the Peel Music Festival. When we go head-to-head with students in regional programs designed for success in a specialized area (like Science and Technology), our students not only compete, they excel.
Mentor College/TEAM School