Head of School Message – December 2021
‘…so a bridge seemed a useful metaphor that would resonate with people.’ (Sting)
Sting is right, I reflected, reading an interview with the 17-time Grammy Award-winning musician about The Bridge, his fifteenth studio album conceived and recorded during lockdown. Everyone seems to be looking for a bridge at the moment – be it to the future, to somewhere safer, or to connect with others.
What an apt image as we wrap up 2021 – in the grip of our ongoing fight with COVID, its invisible air bridge aiding the virus to leap from person to person – and get set to cross over into 2022. Yet even as we contend with Omicron’s looming shadow, this darker and colder time of the year has been brightened and warmed by the positive energy and curiosity of WIC students in and out of the classroom.
It’s all about connections
It has been great to have students engaged in trips to museums, community service, sports tournaments, school spirit weeks, and ski outings to St. Sauveur. It sure has helped to inject some more conventional school days in this third pandemic-challenged school year. I am so thankful that teachers, staff, coaches and prefects have persisted to make activities run safely and smoothly, providing students with the best experiences possible. We even managed three in-person parent events this term, as well as a joint on-campus WIC Board, Foundation and leadership team meeting. More to follow in the new year about the strategic educational plan being finalised!
It has been uplifting to see people connecting, helping to create and to find joy together. Whilst the impact of COVID-19 has underscored the importance of psychological resilience – the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events – such vibrant activity and growth should help to warm us throughout the winter months.
Impactful learning comes down to the quality of relationships: amongst teachers and students, and between the learner and the learning itself. Our incredibly demanding modern world means we must keep looking for meaningful ways to connect with learning – to bridge the known to the unknown, passion with purpose, self to others.
Good grades and general knowledge of course matter – but these alone will not equip our young voyageurs to meet the challenges of life. Being educated today means:
developing and using knowledge and skills to grow and to find happiness; and
becoming equipped and ready to make a positive contribution to the community.
Such learning outcomes sit at the heart of the WIC vision and mission, helping to shape classroom experiences and WIC programming. As the adage goes, ‘who you are is more important than what you know…’.
During term 1, I have loved how WIC teachers and students seized opportunities to connect classroom learning with the wider curriculum of life through, for example, their:
inquiries into and debate on the topic of natural/bio and genetically modified agriculture in Junior school geography;
data mining, manipulation and visualization on the topic of climate change in Junior school mathematics;
research and role play as part of a Model UN simulation focussed on a global wicked problem in Senior school Ethics, Religion and Culture;
involvement in a pan-Canadian student leadership conference, as well as a 15-session, multi-school human rights project, of some activist senior students to inspire and upskill them to make a social impact in their communities; and
engagement with Ephroim (Johnny) Jablon, holocaust survivors memoirs program speaker, who came to campus and recounted his story, complementing senior students’ English class study of the 1960 memoir, Night.
Such contexts for learning create rich opportunities for students to experience high levels of interest, challenge, and skill – to pursue big questions and design meaningful projects that enhance discovery and creativity. It is incumbent upon us to share with students the kinds of role models who embody WIC’s values – Johnny Jablon is a powerful example of one such person who continues to make a difference to others.
Making learning stick
Recent research shows that curious questions and interesting answers enhance learning and memory in children and teens. Adolescents are more likely to remember information when it was more interesting than their initial state of curiosity. Teens are smarter when tackling topics whose questions and answers fill them with wonder. What an opportunity to connect learning to citizenship – i.e. design meaningful problems that young people do not know the answer to… but have the capability to find out.
Today’s changed and changing world makes this even more important. In the pursuit of personal excellence, we ought to reexamine how learning contexts and experiences impact student “well-being and [their] ability to build community above all else” (Hoerr, 2021) by asking such questions as:
What kind of citizens will our students become?
Will they be successful, and will they be happy?
Will they be people we would welcome as neighbours or family members?
Guided by the WIC mission – ‘…each student thrives and is empowered to discover and pursue their own path forward’ – we can attend to academics as well as the needs and supports that our young people need to adapt to today’s new realities. Through practising a both/and mindset, we can make learning stick and prepare our young voyageurs for a constantly-changing future.
What a way to bridge 2021 – mindful of the lessons learnt – and to set ourselves up for success in 2022, moving forward.
On behalf of the WIC teachers, staff, and leadership, I would like to thank all of our families for their ongoing support this year: we continue to evolve, pivot and, most importantly, come together as a community.
Onward with hope, gratitude and fortitude
Dr. Eric Jabal
Head of School
Hoerr, T. R. (2021, November 15). Embracing SEL for success. ASCD. https://www.ascd.org/blogs/embracing-sel-for-success