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From the Desk of Ms. Cheryl Boughton, Head of School

List of 9 news stories.

  • Better Days Lie Ahead

    Dear SJK Community,

    We did it! We finished the year strong, albeit in a different fashion than how we imagined it would be back in September. Today’s two Closing Ceremonies were a testament to the hard work and dedication of our teachers and our students. We hope you enjoyed our virtual ceremonies as much as we enjoyed making them and we hope you feel very proud of your children and their classmates. Thanks to everyone who contributed to these ceremonies, especially Mrs. de Boer-Jones and Mr. Karkut.

    I was particularly struck by the confidence and poise of our student speakers in our Upper School Closing Ceremony. Each one of them spoke movingly about their grade’s highlights, special memories that were made and what they learned this year. Although each speech was different, they had common threads—appreciation of their teachers, recognizing the strengths of their classmates, the importance of friendship and laughter and a deeper sense of what really matters in life. In fact, more than one student said, it was one of their best years yet.

    I think this speaks to the resiliency of this generation. We all know that this has been a very challenging year for everyone. But even in a very trying time, our students found positive moments and drew strength from them. They recognized that it is those around us who give us support and encouragement in tough times. They see themselves as still having exciting choices to make and the deep conviction that better things lie ahead for all of us.

    So as we close this chapter in our school’s history, and start to plan the next one, I believe that we should all take a lead from our students. Better days do lie ahead. We appreciate everyone around us who has supported us, especially when things are difficult. We have much to look forward to as we prepare for our 50th anniversary in 2022. We know this pandemic will end and as a school, we will emerge stronger and better than ever.

    We hope you enjoy the change of pace that the summer will bring. We will certainly be busy planning for a September like no other. We will be in touch over the summer as our plans for September take shape. Until then, we wish you and your family all the best.

    Sincerely,

    Ms. Cheryl Boughton
    Head of School

  • Skating to Where the Puck is Going To Be

    Dear SJK Community,

    The phrase, “Skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been” has long been attributed to the Great One, Wayne Gretzky. This concept of anticipating the future has been popular with business leaders as a metaphor to motivate their teams to think ahead and seize the opportunities that are not yet apparent to their competitors.

    Yesterday, our school reopening team contemplated that well-known phrase as it relates to our campus opening in the fall. Our expert challenged us to consider how we might predict the future—where will the puck be in two and a half months.

    One thing we know for certain is that this pandemic has been hard to predict. When I think back to early March, we thought schools would be closed for just two weeks after March Break. Fast forward to today and there is no way we could have predicted we would be finishing our year virtually.

    Although this has been a time of uncertainty, we have the advantage of being able to look to other provinces and countries to see what they are doing to reopen their schools and consider how we might learn from their experiences. We also know we have very competent and dedicated teachers and that we can work with them to develop safe protocols. We also have the advantage of a spacious campus and are thinking about how to use that to our advantage. We also know that we will receive guidance from the province at the end of this month and will integrate those guidelines into our plans. 

    I hope you will join us for our webinar on Monday evening at 7:00 p.m. where we will start to look ahead to the future and share with our community how we are “skating to where the puck is going to be”. I expect that this webinar will be the first of a few over the summer. You can register using this link. We are planning to share information for about 20 minutes and will dedicate an additional 10 minutes for questions. Any questions that we are not able to answer will be answered in future webinars.

    I hope you have a wonderful weekend and I look forward to sharing our plans with you on Monday.

    Ms. Cheryl Boughton
    Head of School



    P.S. Congratulations to Coach Dietrich, all our wonderful coaches and players on a successful Athletics Awards last night. It was a terrific celebration of all that our athletes have achieved this year. If you missed it, you can watch the recording here.
  • Class of 2020

    Dear SJK Community,

    You may feel that each day blends into another these days. But for our Class of 2020, today was meant to be a special day for them. Today, they were to become graduates. They were to be welcomed into our Alumni community. They were to be celebrated. Circumstances beyond anyone's control have made these plans a little more difficult.

    In the early days of the pandemic, when we realized that we could not hold our Commencement Ceremony today, we asked our Class of 2020 what they preferred to do. We were prepared to offer any type of celebration they wanted. They chose to wait until it was safe to gather together in person to celebrate their convocation. We will honour their wishes.

    Even though we have chosen to postpone their celebration, we wanted to mark this day in some small way. Today, their advisors are driving around the region dropping off a gift package and a lawn sign congratulating them on their achievements. We are also mailing packages to those who are now at home overseas. Inside the gift package are some mementos from the School, their alumni ties and a few notes of congratulations.

    I hope you will join with me in celebrating these remarkable students. I know that this challenging situation has been difficult for all of us. But for me, there is a special place in my heart for these students. They have shown strength and resilience in this trying time. Despite their outward appearance, I am sure that every one of them and their parents wishes that today could be different. I share their feelings.

    I hope that the love and admiration of our entire community will reach our graduates today. Know that we are all so proud of you and excited to see what your future holds.

    Please join me in saying congratulations to the Class of 2020!


    Ms. Cheryl Boughton
    Head of School

  • Looking Ahead to the Future

    Dear SJK Community,

    Thank you for everything you have done to support your children and their teachers over the past eight weeks of remote learning. Your continuous support and feedback during this challenging time has been extremely valuable. We are grateful for your insights and perspectives which, alongside those of our faculty and students, have helped to inform our decisions as the situation progressed.

    You will have heard the Minister of Education and the Premier announce this week that schools will not resume this year. While this is a disappointment to us all, we are grateful to have clarity for the near future. We will continue with our remote learning program until June 11 and we will hold our Closing Ceremonies for our Lower and Upper Schools on June 12. We are postponing our Commencement Ceremony for our Grade 12 students at their request. We will recognize them in our Upper School Closing Ceremonies, but will still have a full graduation when we are permitted to do so. In addition, we will be recognizing our students’ completion of the PYP and MYP in virtual grade-specific celebrations. Information regarding these end-of-year events will be shared with you next week. We understand how important these milestones are to our students.

    While we have some clarity about the next few weeks, we are still waiting on guidelines from the province with regards to reopening school in September. While SJK is an independent school, you may be surprised to learn that we are bound by the provincial and local guidelines. We are also looking forward to receiving the guidelines for operating summer day camps, which are expected to be available soon. We will be unable to offer an in-person summer camp experience in June. If possible, we may be able to offer a program in late July or August on a limited basis. We will let you know when we have clarity about our ability to offer a program.

    Although we are waiting for news, we are definitely planning for our return to campus. As an agile and nimble organization, we are exploring how we can further adapt to meet the challenges and opportunities of this situation. We are looking carefully at our campus and enhancing our environment to ensure our facilities support the ongoing health and safety of our students and staff. We are also determining how to take what we have learned about remote learning and create an even more robust and dynamic academic program next year. We are thinking deeply about opportunities for our community to connect. This has been one of the most challenging aspects of the pandemic and we want to make sure our students have opportunities to re-engage with their friends and teachers.

    I was speaking to a former parent this afternoon who reminded me how important it is to be positive and look ahead to the future. I am very proud of the way our school has responded to this crisis. I look forward to working with my team to plan for our return to campus and to creating an even better, stronger school.

    Ms. Cheryl Boughton
    Head of School

  • The Power of Collective Action

    Dear SJK Community,

    Have you ever read the book Oh The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss? It’s a popular gift for graduates and you may have heard it referenced in many commencement speeches. People tend to refer to this particular passage when speaking to graduates:

    You have brains in your head.
    You have feet in your shoes.
    You can steer yourself
    any direction you choose.


    I think people are drawn to the story because of the way Dr. Seuss addresses life’s ups and downs with his trademark humorous verse and illustrations, while encouraging readers to find the success that lies within. It seems a very appropriate message for graduates about to embark on their own life’s journey.

    When I reflect on our current situation I realize how Dr. Seuss’ message about life being an individual path of self-determination doesn’t work quite so well at the moment. This situation has taught us that unlike the protagonist in the Dr. Seuss story, we are not all rugged self-determining individuals, but instead we are part of a highly interconnected community. Our individual actions have consequences for the larger group and so as members of this community we must act collectively.

    We have seen amazing examples of the power of collective action during the pandemic—the construction industry donating N95 masks to hospitals and people supporting their local restaurants with Take-Out Wednesdays to name but two. There have been so many instances of people coming together to support our frontline workers it has been truly inspiring. Even within our SJK community it has been amazing to see the impact of the community coming together to support our teachers and students.

    As a school, we may ‘have brains in our head’, but we cannot steer ourselves in any direction we choose unlike the character of the book. I think this comes as a surprise to some people who think our school has more autonomy in this situation than it does. In fact, we actually receive very little information about the provincial government’s plans for the future. We expect an announcement next week that will give us some clarity about the plan to return to school.

    I hope your family has an enjoyable long weekend. I look forward to the day when we can steer ourselves in any direction we choose. For now, stay safe and be well.

    Ms. Cheryl Boughton
    Head of School

  • Looking Ahead to the Future

    Dear SJK Community,

    As we complete our sixth week of remote learning, our thoughts as a leadership team have been turning towards the future. As Ontario slowly begins to open up for business, we know that the day will come when we will be able to return to campus. While I suspect that we all long for a “return to normal”, it is likely that when schools reopen they will look different from the schools we left.

    But looking different isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The reality of physical distancing has become an ongoing challenge and we imagine some components of this safety precaution will remain in effect for a while. However, when you look beyond that, we can see some positives emerging too. 

    The most successful schools in the world have a strong school culture. Our culture at SJK is very unique, special and very strong. Ours is a culture of collaboration, connection, compassion, empathy and respect for individuals. It empowers teachers and students to do their best each and every day. Our culture became even stronger as we moved to a remote learning format, and will be essential as we chart the course for the future. 

    We also know that we have excellent teachers at SJK and they will approach the return to the classroom in the same way they have embraced our remote learning program. Care and empathy are the hallmarks of their teaching practice. Once they are back in the classroom we are sure that they will take the best of what they have learned while we have been at a distance and apply that to our new situation. Our pedagogy and practice will be stronger than ever.

    SJK belongs to a network of the best independent schools in Canada and there is no doubt that our network has been strengthened by this experience. During this period of uncertainty, connecting and collaborating with each other has allowed us to share best practice and learn from others to ensure that we continue to stay ahead of the curve. As we look toward the day we return to campus, our strong connection to our national network will ensure that we are well positioned to offer our students the best and safest experience when they are back in the classroom.

    So while we wait for the day our campus will reopen, we are confident that our strong school culture, excellent teachers and our national independent school network will position us well for the future. We will emerge from this period in history stronger and better than ever.

    Thank you for the way you have continued to support our students, our teachers and our school. It was Teacher Appreciation Week and I know many of you sent supportive messages to our teachers. Thank you for this. Our national association, the Canadian Accredited Independent Schools wanted to pass on a message of thanks to our families. I echo their words. We are fortunate to have such wonderful families supporting our school.

    Best wishes,

    Ms. Cheryl Boughton
    Head of School

  • What If?

    Dear SJK Community,

    The pandemic has challenged us to think differently about almost every aspect of our lives. At SJK, this has meant reimagining our approach to teaching and learning resulting in our very successful remote learning program. One tradition we were keen to reimagine was our end-of-year Chapel service in honour of our graduating class.

    Today we live streamed this Chapel service, broadcasting it to our community. We have received many positive comments about it, so we thought we would share a link to the service here in case you didn’t have a chance to watch it earlier today. 

    I also received many requests to share my message in written form so it could be shared with others. I believe that although we don’t have much control about this situation we currently find ourselves in, we can control how we react. I endeavour to keep a positive mindset as much as possible and to look for silver linings within the dark clouds of the pandemic. This was the inspiration for my message to our Class of 2020 and all our SJK students.

    As we began today’s service, I mentioned that the world has changed a lot since we were last together as a school community. 

    For our Grade 12 students in particular, and for all of our students generally, you’ve missed out on many of the end-of-year rituals and traditions that we look forward to. You have missed your friends, your classmates and your teachers. And of course, you’ve missed your final weeks of traditional classroom education. People might be worried that you have fallen behind because you have missed out on these things.

    But what I have been thinking about is what if, instead of falling behind, you are ahead because of this?

    Let me share my thoughts with you:

    What if your generation has more empathy, enjoys family connection, has stronger relationships with your grandparents, your parents and your siblings?

    What if you are more creative and able to entertain yourself? What if you learn that you love to read? What if you learn new ways to express yourselves in writing? What if you discover creative talents you never knew you had?

    What if you enjoy the simple things like your own backyard, sitting near a window in the quiet? What if you notice the sounds of the birds and the dates the different flowers emerge and the calming renewal of a gentle rain shower?

    What if your generation are the ones who learn to cook, to organize your space, do your laundry and keep a well-run home? What if you learn to plan ahead? What if you learn that you already have enough and only buy what you truly need?

    What if you learn the value of eating together as a family and finding the good to share in the small delights of the everyday?

    What if you are the generation who places great value on our teachers and educational professionals, our librarians, public servants and the previously invisible essential support workers like truck drivers, grocers, cashiers, custodians, and logistics. What if you truly appreciate our health care workers and all that they do to keep us safe and healthy? What if your generation is truly grateful for the millions of people who are taking care of us right now while we are at home?

    What if among you, and I am thinking of our Class of 2020 in particular, great leaders emerge who had the benefit of a slower pace and a simpler life to truly learn what really matters in this world? 

    What if you learn to lead with kindness and empathy and bring others along with you?

    What if you become a force for good?

    What if you are able to change the world for the better?

    What if you are a part of a defining moment in our history?

    And what if all of this happened because, instead of being behind you are in fact AHEAD of us all? 

    What if all of this is possible? That is what I believe to be true and is my sincere hope for your generation.


    Thank you to everyone who helped us put this service together, especially Mrs. Andrea de Boer-Jones and Mr. Brian Karkut. Thank you to the members of our SJK community who reached out with words of praise for our Chapel service this morning. Your positivity and kindness mean so much to us.

    This too shall pass, but in the meantime: Be kind. Stay well.

    Ms. Cheryl Boughton
    Head of School


    EDIT: I was inspired to write this after reading a social media post. What I read encouraged me to share it widely, which I did. While the post did not have a source, I should have attributed it to an unknown author. I have recently learned that it was written by Jaime Ragsdale, Founder/Owner, AltogetherMostly.com. Her site has a lot of helpful information about parenting, wonderful recipes and other kind thoughts to get us through this difficult time. Thank you, Jaime for your powerful words which resonated with so many people that the post became viral.
     
  • Our Learning in Action

    Dear SJK Community,

    I hope your short week was a good one and trust that you and your family will enjoy some downtime over the weekend. This has been a very busy week for us at SJK in the way short weeks often are. We finalized our Remote Learning Assessment and Evaluation guide which was sent to everyone this morning. Our teachers will use these guidelines as they adapt student assessment opportunities for the remainder of the academic year.

    We have also been focused on implementing changes as a result of the parent survey we conducted in early April. At the same time we have also been crafting a new survey for parents as we continue to iterate on our remote learning program, which is available for completion here. We hope you have time to complete the survey over the weekend to let us know your thoughts now that we have completed three weeks of remote learning. Your feedback is very important to us.

    I remain so impressed by our teachers and students as they have embraced the challenges and opportunities of remote learning. I know that I am not the only one who feels this way. Many former faculty and staff, former parents and alumni have shared with me how much they have enjoyed seeing the activities of our students and faculty through our social media. If you haven’t had the chance to see some of these examples, I encourage you to follow us I encourage you to follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter or check out the section of our website called Our Learning in Action. This page changes every week and has lots of great stories about our teachers and students.

    Thank you for your ongoing support of your children and their teachers. This is a challenging situation, but we are getting through this through the talents and  strengths of our SJK community.

    Sincerely,


    Ms. Cheryl Boughton
    Head of School
  • This is SJK


    Dear SJK Community,

    As we look forward to the Easter weekend, it has been a good week to reflect on the journey we have been on together over the last few weeks. For a bit of perspective, this morning I looked back in my calendar to March 9, only one month ago. That day was our annual Science and Math Fair, I had a meeting with a marketing company we are going to work with on next year’s campaign and I enjoyed a great conversation with retired educator, coach and SJK icon, Guy Zink. It was a wonderful day and I recall feeling very excited about the future. Four days later, we were making the decision to close the school campus and launch a remote learning program. So much changed so quickly. I’m sure you have your own version of this story.

    Four weeks later, I am very proud of what our team has achieved. We conducted our first parent survey last week and spent this week analyzing the data and making enhancements to our program. You can read further information on the results of our survey in this article, but the results are overwhelmingly positive. My overarching feeling after reading all the comments and suggestions was one of appreciation. Our SJK parents understand and appreciate the magnitude of what we have accomplished and, like me, feel very grateful to our teachers for all the effort and hard work they have put into this program.

    Looking a bit further down the road, we still have some work to do. We are finalizing our Remote Learning Assessment and Evaluation document today with a plan to share it with teachers and then families next week. Everyone has a lot of questions about how this will work and we will have answers shortly. The Ministry of Education has been most helpful in providing guidelines to us that we will incorporate into our own document. We have also revised our video conferencing practices and you can read more about these changes here. As always, we will follow best practice and put the needs of our students first.

    Speaking of putting students at the heart of our decisions, we have heard from many of our new families whose children are joining us in September. They have been very impressed by our remote learning program featured on our website. Some have expressed disappointment that their children’s current private, independent and public schools are not offering a program like ours. In fact, some have simply shut their doors and these children will be left without instruction for the foreseeable future. These parents are concerned that their children will be left behind and we are considering how we might support them. Like their parents, we want them to start on the right foot in September.

    Thankfully, our own families do not have the same concerns. This is because our entire team of students, teachers, staff and administrators have risen to the occasion. What I have come to learn over my first eight months at our school is that this is SJK—a community of both dreamers and doers, people who see a problem as an opportunity, who dig deep, work hard and can always be counted upon to go the extra mile for our students. It is at times like this that the bright SJK star shines even brighter.

    I hope you and your family have a quiet and restful long weekend,



    Ms. Cheryl Boughton
    Head of School

St. John's-Kilmarnock School

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