Category Archives: Principal’s Message

Safety First This Year … And Every Year!

img_0633Every year I enjoy listening to the evening news on the first day of school (“Principal Caught Speeding in a School Zone” is my personal and, unfortunately, annual favourite). I think that as staff members, parents and students, we obsess over having all the proper “stuff” and forget about the more important back-to-school item…routine!

As parents, we hit up Costco for things to pack in lunchboxes and our kids agonize over which red pen at Staples has the best underlining feature but we don’t think about the more important things. How many of us didn’t have the “Where will we meet after school?” conversation until we were driving for the 5th time around the school on Wednesday (unsuccessfully trying not to look like we are not texting our kids). Have you waited at the afternoon bus stop to find that your child didn’t get on the bus and were prepared to request an “amber alert” before your high school student FINALLY called you back to say “Sorry I forgot to tell you I was trying out for basketball!”. This admission is usually followed by “When are you coming to get me?” and replied with “When you have graduated!”.

Now that we are back in the swing of things, please make sure you are being mindful of your surroundings. High school students who are out on lunch break need to go to an intersection and look both ways before crossing the road. For staff, parents and students driving around the schools (and in the parking lots), please ensure that you are paying extra-close attention behind the wheel. If the past 30 years are any indication, we will be paid visits from both police and parking control officers as early as today. We flood the sidewalks and parking lots with staff members to keep foot and vehicular traffic moving but we cannot get you out of a ticket for stopping, parking or U-turning in the wrong place. Our city works on the complaint system so as long as we are all doing our part to move around the schools safely, we should see fewer visits from enforcement patrols. I think that all of those signs are there for a good reason but you can post a message below if there is any signage you want me to try to get changed (as I have had some success in doing this in the past).

Enjoy the weekend and get rested up for the first five-day week of the 2016-2017 school year!

Chris Starkey
Administrative Principal
Mentor College/TEAM School

Keeping You Informed Through The Winter Months

We managed to make it through another one of those promised “Snowmageddon” events this week. I think the fact that I grew up in a snow belt area (Goderich) has jaded my outlook on these storms and it seems as though more wind is created talking about them than actually blows during the storm! I was in Ottawa with two of our volleyball teams this past week just a couple of days after 50 centimetres of snow had fallen and with the exception of a couple of side streets that were down to a single lane with the snowbanks, it was business as usual (at least until it rained all night and the city streets looked more like Venice!).

To be fair to meterologists, most of them became less sure of their predictions as the storm approached and passed along their uncertainty. “Better safe than sorry” would be a good description of this. Just so you know, the school takes these same precautions. We always have a plan (and a Plan B and a Plan C) in place whenever inclement weather may disrupt our school day with regards to extra-curricular activity cancellations, school bus cancellations or school closures. After we decide, you are the next to know as the plan is always shared via our Twitter and Facebook feeds as well as through this, our email update!

Chris Starkey
Administrative Principal
Mentor College / TEAM School

Snowball Fights Then & Now

I was watching the news this past week and saw an item about the Canadian national snowball fighting team’s preparation for the upcoming world championships in Japan. I loved the interview with the co-captains but then I stopped and wondered how these 20-somethings managed to get good at an activity that has been banned from schoolyards for at least two decades.

Winter recess time is vastly different for kids in 2016 than it was for me 40 years ago. At my school, snow meant that the morning recess would be spent building snowforts so that at lunch recess we could have a decent snowball fight. Sometimes it would be grade-vs-grade, sometimes boys-vs-girls and sometimes just one group against another but it was always voluntary and if any student happened to wander into that area, it was understood by everyone (including the teachers) that it was their fault and not the snowball thrower if they got hit. It was like walking in puddles all recess and then complaining that your socks were wet all afternoon. I do not remember a teacher ever saying “stop throwing snowballs, someone is going to get hurt” but I do remember that when someone got hurt, everybody stopped and understood that the fight was over for that recess unless the patient quickly said they were OK. This was often pre-empted by the thrower’s offer of a “free shot” for the victim. Yes, even in snowball wars there was empathy!

In fact, snowball fights were nowhere close to the most dangerous winter recess activity. Every new snowfall meant that the snow pile from the parking lot would get higher and higher and the view for the king of “King of the Castle” got better and better. With each thaw, the snow would get icier and more jagged and it was a miracle that there weren’t more broken bones and facial gashes.

I know that society today will never return back to these activities “good old days” and that if I proposed a “snowball fighting zone” on the Mentor/TEAM playground, I would need permission forms executed by lawyers to make it work (and my colleagues would volunteer me for yard duty every recess, every day!). Society can also send mixed messages, however. When I Googled “snowball fight at recess”, the first result was this – a child’s game in which participants throw a snowball at a group of bullies (one of the bullies is wearing the answer to a math problem and he is the “target”)! Huh? Get the correct answer by partaking in a banned activity that is directed at someone involved in another socially-unacceptable activity? I would love to meet the creator of that game…on the top of a huge pile of parking lot snow!

Chris Starkey
Administrative Principal
Mentor College / TEAM School

A Great Year Can Be Even Better!

Findlay L.With a new school year underway, I know that many students have set goals to make honour roll, to earn a spot on a sports team, or to receive an academic award or athletic award this year. These are worthy goals, and if you are determined to put in the grit and the stick-to-it-ness required to achieve these goals, know that your teachers and coaches are here to help you.

But the new school year resolution I want you to achieve has nothing to do with making honour roll. It has nothing to do with earning high marks. It has nothing to do with being selected most valuable player on a sports team. It has nothing to do with receiving an academic or an athletic award at the end of this school year.

The new school year resolution I want you to achieve this year will outlast any award or medal you will ever receive. It will remain with you for a lifetime. And unlike an award or medal, you will be able to carry this achievement with you wherever you go. Everyone will be able to see it.

This year, make your new school resolution to be better person.

Let’s start with a few examples.

Perhaps we sometimes get caught up in gossip or spread unkind stories about others – about our classmates or about our teachers – through word-of-mouth or through social media. Perhaps we are quick to judge others, critical of the way they act – for what they do or for what they don’t do. Through our unkind words, by our laughing at them, or even by ignoring them, we put them down. And let’s not kid ourselves into believing they don’t notice, because they do and it hurts.

Here’s another example: perhaps we give up easily, get frustrated when things don’t go our way, or when we don’t succeed the first or even the tenth time we try to do something. Perhaps we have a difficult time accepting and learning from our disappointments. We may have outgrown the temper tantrums we had when we were toddlers, but we still can’t handle not getting what we want, when we want it.

Have you ever noticed that those who can’t handle not getting what they want usually blame others? It is either a classmate’s fault, or the teacher’s fault, or the coach’s fault.

I want you to be honest with yourself. I want you to talk to your parents and get advice from your teachers, and I want you to write down in your agenda your own new school year resolution that if achieved, will make you a better person.

Achieving your new school year resolution won’t be easy. Setting a goal is one thing, but achieving it will require self-control, in some cases courage, and what I call, stick-to-it-ness. It will require patience, humility, a lot of humour, forgiveness, and good old fashion grit.

Flash forward to June 17, the last day of this school year and imagine how proud you will be with yourself for accomplishing your goal to be a better person. Imagine over hearing a classmate, a teacher, a parent in the hall speaking about you and having observed your actions throughout the year, describing you not as someone who won an award, but as someone who always makes others feel good about themselves – who has grit – who never gives up. Someone who is the kind of person we’d all like to be.

Now go out and be that person.

Lori Findlay
Intermediate Division

Ms. Weinkauf, Mastery, and Mental Math

Weinkauf C.I began working when I was 16 years old. In-between then and my first teaching job, I worked at a fast food restaurant, a clothes store, a movie theatre, a snack shop, and a home decorating shop. When I remember these jobs, I think of two commonalities. First, they all went out of business when I left their employ (just saying, Mr. Macdonald!). Second, I had to take a math test to demonstrate that I had the necessary skills to work on the cash. And I will tell you, I still take secret joy at calculating my change before the cash register does.

In my own education, a calculator wasn’t put into my hands until my upper year mathematics when I had to calculate cosine and derivatives. I was never very good at proofs, but I knew my facts. I couldn’t always explain why, but I could calculate it. It wasn’t until I began teaching that I started to understand why. Why fractions must have a common denominator when you add or subtract. Why the answer is larger than the dividend when you divide by a number that is less than one, and why it is smaller when you divide by a number greater than one.

We hear a lot today about new math vs. old math, and has the pendulum swung too far. To me, it is really a question about math literacy. In our Intermediate Division, knowing the multiplication table up to factors of twelve and being able to mentally subtract sixty seven from one hundred are as important as knowing how to read and write. We want our students to be able to explain the why of math, and explore truths, but without the basic facts under their belts, their knowledge will never be complete. How can we expect them to “explore” the value of fractions when they don’t recognize that the numerator and denominator of 6/21 have a common factor of three!

That is why we don’t allow our students the use of calculators until the upper years, and that is why we have school wide mental math drills. We strongly believe that we need to create opportunity to practice, and yes, drill math facts, so that when they have mastered the how, they can understand the why.

Kris Weinkauf
Intermediate Division