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

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

Taking On The World

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.

Chris Starkey
Administrative Principal
Mentor College/TEAM School

Talking AP With Mr. Whyte

This week, we sit down with Mentor’s High School principal Mr. Whyte to talk about the AP (Advanced Placement) programme:

Can you tell us a little about the AP programme?

The AP courses and the exams in May give our students the opportunity to earn a standardized university credit for the high level at which they complete their courses at Mentor College. All universities in North America are looking at this score as an official recognition of knowledge and skills in a certain subject. Given the reputation of The College Board (the institution running this programme) these scores are regarded as true indications of student performance and potential. While each university has its own rule for accepting the score and granting the equivalent credit for it, it definitely looks good on an application!

How is AP implemented at Mentor College?

Since we are not a semester school, the implementation is much easier. The recommendation of The College Board is that these courses are taught over the entire course of the school year … which comes as no surprise since there is need for much quality effort to be put forth in order to write a successful exam. Our students will be enrolled in a regular course, for which they are granted the regular Ontario credit, meanwhile they attend an additional AP support class required to cover all the additional units (not included in the Ontario Curriculum). The marks attained in the regular class will be the ones on the transcript and the ones submitted to universities by our school. During the support class students will be evaluated to monitor their progress, but those marks are not reported officially.

How does the scoring system work?

In May (usually at the end of the first week) all AP students from participating schools will write an exam on the same day, at the same time. Rules are very strict and the exams are immediately mailed to the College Board where readers will mark them in a standardized manner. The score is a number out of 5 with 1 and 2 considered as a fail, and 3, 4 or 5 are passes. With a score of 4 or 5 a student is almost guaranteed a university credit. Students have a choice of sending their scores to universities or not. At the start of their exam they will indicate which universities they would like their scores to be reported to. If they are hesitant and prefer to do the exam first and decide later, they can do that, too. Once the results come in, students can ask the College Board to report their score at a later date.

What if an AP University credit is not granted?

Even if the university decides not to grant the credit, the students who went through this course will have a clear advantage anyway. The AP course content coincides so much with first year university syllabus that the whole university course will seem as a simple review of what students have already done. Their marks will be exceptional and their chances to be admitted into graduate programs increase very much.

How do Mentor students tend to do on the AP test?

Last year the Mentor College average was 4.5, a great score for any school. 25 students of the 38 in AP classes at Mentor College scored perfect scores of 5!

Who is eligible to attend an AP course at Mentor College?

It is a course open to students by invitation only. Teachers of Grade 11 students will recommend a number of potential candidates. The list is subject to approval by the principal. Due to the nature of this program, there are some fees involved. There will be a deadline in terms of payments and registration, after which the AP sections will be formed for the following school year and the classes are indicated in the schedule sent out in July.

What AP courses does Mentor offer?

We try to cover as broad a spectrum as possible. Currently, we offer French, Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, Physics 1, Physics 2, Physics C, Chemistry, Biology, Calculus AB, Calculus BC, Statistics, English Literature and Composition, and United States History.

Can you offer any words of wisdom to potential candidates?

Any student who is invited should be proud and give it careful consideration. In the long run, such a program can open valuable opportunities. The dedication of all teachers involved goes beyond all expectations, and all invited students should be aware of such a great opportunity.

When It Comes To New Technology, It’s About Engaging The Students

The use of technology in education has been a popular topic in educational circles and the media for the last few years. It is often a discussion based on extremes where one either believes that our students should abandon paper and traditional learning methods and tools completely in favour of a fully digital and connected educational experience or schools should shun technology completely for the safety and well-being of children who already spend far too much time using devices. As is often the case with extreme and conflicting points of view, the right path lies squarely in the middle.

I readily admit that as someone who experienced high school in the 1980s, I feel lucky to have actually witnessed and participated in the evolution of both television and computers from relative rarities to technologies people cannot live without. In high school my classmates would rush home after school so they could watch these wonderful new music videos for hours, arriving at school the next day to show off a new dance move, hair style, or single white glove! I spent my afternoons after school tinkering with the latest used computer I had managed to buy with my allowance and paper route money. I got the sense that while my parents did not fully understand my fascination with a useless (to them) computer, they were relieved that I was not ruining my life glued to the television watching music videos that were destroying society as they knew it.

Television and music videos did not destroy society and result in a lost generation. What did happen is parents (and educators) became aware and engaged in what the children were watching. Parents set limits and had conversations about what their children saw. Educators realized that because newer forms of media engaged children, that some of this same media could be leveraged for educational purposes. The world continued to spin and life progressed. The “good old days” were only good in the old days.  Society progresses and changes and going backwards is neither possible nor desirable. Human beings make mistakes. Better to learn from mistakes when students are young and have supportive, responsible teachers around to guide them rather than trying to learn from mistakes as an adult where the consequences can be far-reaching and difficult to mitigate.

Technology in school is not a passing fad. Technology is just one of many tools that teachers here at Mentor College and TEAM School use every day to guide our students to success. The ability for our students and teachers to use digital tools will continue to increase in importance with every passing year. Some argue that technology in our classrooms creates student distraction. The solution back in the good old days when students passed notes as a form of distraction was not to ban paper, so why would we even consider banning technology?

Technology does not replace teaching, rather it augments it. We have an exceptional group of educators in our schools who invest their time and efforts into helping your children become the exceptional young adults they all have the potential to be. We believe that the thoughtful, meaningful, and appropriate use of technology in our classrooms will ensure your child reaches his or her full potential.

Mark Sheward
Technology Resource
Mentor College/TEAM School