Category Archives: In The Community

First Impressions?

Whenever I try to explain to people what our students are like, I sometimes have trouble. I have spent my entire career as a teacher/administrator here so I really have no way to compare the typical Mentor/TEAM student to those in other schools. I do know that I am spoiled in this way but I sometimes need a reminder from someone outside our walls.

On Friday, we received a message from a personal email address with the subject entitled “Mentor College visit to Shaw Festival”. As you can imagine, the initial tendency is to take you to the worst-case scenario (kind of like when your teenager phones you late at night and starts the conversation with “Dad, the important thing is that I am not injured!”). As I read this email, however, a small smile turned into a huge grin:

My husband and I were seated in the middle of a group of Mentor College students at the Shaw Festival yesterday. [Aisle 2, Row D Seat 7]. I was placed beside a young student (we did not exchange names), however we had snippets of delightful conversation. She was friendly, interested and engaged. It was a pleasant surprise for this 77 year old Grandmother! 

My husband and I also observed that all your Mentor students were well behaved. It was interesting to watch their interactions with each other. They were thoroughly enjoying being together and even those who were sitting at the far side of the theatre came to visit their classmates during intermission.

I must admit that when we saw the school buses outside and realized that it was a student performance, we had visions of previous experiences (at Stratford), of less-than-well-behaved students. There was absolutely no hint of that from your students. My young friend parted with “It was nice to chat with you.” 

Please thank that young lady and all your students for making, not only the play, but our entire day refreshingly enjoyable. Best regards to all your staff and students, 

Dr. Richard and Laurine _____________ 

So if someone asks me what our students are like, I now have a fresh anecdote to share with them. More importantly, I would point out to them that the one special mystery student that the writer mentioned could have been one of ANY of the high school students on the trip.

Chris Starkey
Administrative Principal
Mentor College/TEAM School

In the “Zone”

School zones and particularly their drop-off and pick-up zones were in the news recently due to an accident in Toronto that took the life of a five-year-old girl. Police, school, and safety officials all agreed that school zones are getting busier every year.

As the housing surrounding the Mentor and TEAM campuses changes, I am seeing more students walking to school but we are still far from the typical “neighbourhood school”. About one-third of our students use our school buses (with a much-smaller fraction taking public transit) so I estimate that about 60% of our students get to and from school via the family vehicle. The school feels that the morning drop-off and afternoon pickup works very well considering the volume of traffic (and we are in a position to say this because there are administrators and teachers overseeing these areas during the busiest times).

But just like the high school student with a 96% overall average, you can say that “there is always room for improvement” so here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Use only the “drop-and-drive” lane for drop-offs and pick-ups. If you use the “drive-through” area, your child will need to cross the drop-and-drive lane where drivers may be coasting forward watching their child enter the school (not expecting foot traffic in front of them)
  • Have students ready for drop-off. The drop-and-drive lane is named for how it is supposed to work. When vehicles stay in this lane too long, the driver who pulled up behind feels the need to back up in order to extract themselves from the lane and thereby endangering students who are crossing the lane.
  • Double parking/stopping. This is usually found on Queen Street by the Mentor campuses either for a quick drop-off or pickup or in the afternoon while waiting for the buses at the Primary Campus to clear. With parking allowed on both sides of the street, there are only two lanes available and vehicles parked/stopped in one lane when the street is at its busiest makes for an uncomfortable traffic situation. 
  • U-turns. There is a reason why there are specific signs forbidding U-turns around our schools. If you are tempted to do one of these illegal/dangerous moves, please just do another lap of the school; there are too many vehicles and pedestrians who are not expecting such a manoeuvre.
  • Be a good “mentor”. We love when our Grade 11 students start driving (accompanied by Mom or Dad in the passenger seat!) with their G1 licence. We owe it to them to exhibit proper driving habits and, because we are on the streets near the schools or in the parking lots, we should be even more diligent.
  • Be patient. In my over 25 years of watching traffic around the schools, most of the issues could have been resolved if drivers just waited a few more seconds for the traffic around them to clear. So if this happens, have another sip of coffee and say to yourself “Mr. Starkey would be proud of me for being so patient!”

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

Poise and Burrito Boyz

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!

Chris Starkey
Administrative Principal
Mentor College/TEAM School

Wrong Site? Feels Right!

I think it was 2003 when a family joined our school. Within a few days, the mom of the family and Mrs. Starkey found themselves with a similar daily routine and it was discovered that their family had two girls in the same grades as we did (JK and Grade 3). Friendships developed with all of the members of the two families and one evening during a social gathering, I asked my favourite question: “So why did you decide to come to our school?”

As it turned out, they liked Mrs. Philbrook and Mr. Macdonald (who was the vice-principal at Primary at the time) and they got a good feeling from the teachers they met at the Open House. They had already decided that they wanted a private school education and they had heard about the school’s excellent reputation from friends in the community.

The clincher for them? When they came for their pre-assessment interview, they mistakenly arrived at the Main Campus. They walked into the front lobby and (expecting to see little children) were surprised to see Grade 12 students at the tables there. Without being asked, one of the students asked “Can I help you?” and after realizing that they were in the wrong building, the student offered to walk them over to the Primary Campus. The conversation during that walk across the field had the parents saying later “If that student is typical of Mentor teenagers, this is the place we want our girls to be, too!”

Since 1981, our best “advertising” for the school has always been our students, families and staff. At our Open House on Saturday morning, we once again learned that 90% of the families at our Open House and Entrance Assessment already have a connection to the school through a colleague, neighbour, friend, or family member. Thank you for your continued support of Mentor College and TEAM School.

Chris Starkey
Administrative Principal
Mentor College/TEAM School