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

List of 7 news stories.

  • The Power of Self-Reflection

    I love the MYP Personal Project! Some of you may be less familiar with this project—this is the capstone of the IB Middle Years Programme that prepares our Grade 10 students for the project management and academic skills they will need in the IB Diploma Programme and other advanced courses. Students select a personal project that allows them to exhibit the connections between traditional subjects and the real world, demonstrating their skills of being inquirers and reflective thinkers. 

    Yesterday’s Personal Project showcase, my first at SJK, was incredibly inspiring. We had so many wonderful products of student learning including books, journals, videos, art, photography, video games, an unseized four-stroke motor and even some examples of forged metal art. It was amazing and I am so proud of our students.

    The most gratifying part for me is always talking to students about what they learned through the process. They learned about practical things, like time management and goal-setting, but more importantly, they learned so much about themselves, what matters to them and what motivates them. There is nothing more powerful than self-reflection and growth.

    Thanks to our Grade 10 students for sharing their learning with us yesterday. Thanks also to our SJK mentors who helped guide our students through this process. I wanted to include a special word of thanks to our Assistant Director of Upper School, Ms. Gallagher, who led the process from start to finish.

    Have a wonderful weekend,

    Ms. Cheryl Boughton
    Head of School
  • Harnessing the Power of Feedback

    We all know that feedback is a powerful tool for growth. Our schools are experts in giving feedback to students to ensure that they learn and reach their full potential. Educators will tell you, there would be no learning without feedback. 

    Similarly, schools, and in fact all organizations, improve when they learn how to engage their community to solicit valuable feedback. Just like our students, our organizations thrive when we can receive feedback and use it as a powerful tool to drive organizational growth. This is part of being a learning organization, a term coined by Peter Senge in his 1990 book, The Fifth Discipline.

    As Senge explains, "Learning organizations are where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually exploring how to learn together."

    We have seen excellent examples of harnessing feedback and creating positive change in the first few weeks of the new academic year. Our parents gave us feedback that they would like to be able to communicate effectively with each other. This led to the creation of our new Parent Directory. Our Grade 6 students have thought deeply about the environment and have some initiatives that they are hoping to introduce to the school. Today, our professional development day focused on giving opportunities for teachers and staff members to provide input on the things they care deeply about.

    Thank you for all the feedback we have received. There is a phenomenal community surrounding our school and I feel so grateful that people are so invested in SJK that they are willing to offer their thoughts and suggestions. That’s how we will continue to make this amazing school even better for our students and their families.

    As I begin my first Thanksgiving as Head of SJK, I feel happy to have joined such an outstanding school. Thank you to everyone who has contributed to such an exceptional start to the school year, especially our talented and dedicated faculty and staff.

    Have a wonderful weekend and Happy Thanksgiving!

    Ms. Cheryl Boughton

    Head of School
  • Having an Attitude of Gratitude

    Every day, when I drive onto the campus and walk through the doors of our school, I feel tremendously grateful to have the opportunity to be the leader of this wonderful institution. When our students arrive and the halls of the school reverberate with the sounds of children and teachers, my heart sings. The people who make up the SJK community are very special and I feel grateful to have been so warmly welcomed by everyone.

    An attitude of gratitude is a very powerful mindset. Researchers in the positive psychology movement have determined that expressing appreciation is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Furthermore, expressing appreciation and gratitude not only makes you feel better, but it also has a tremendously positive impact on the people you are thanking. As Sam Walton, founder of Walmart and Sam’s Club once said, “Nothing else can quite substitute for a few well-chosen, well-timed, sincere words of praise.”

    Today in Chapel our theme was gratitude. So it made sense for us to recognize the many excellent community leaders who organized last Friday’s Eaglemania. We had some help from Senior Kindergarten who decorated plant pots with our house colours and two Lower School students, Andre and Amelia, spoke on behalf of the student body to express our sincere thanks. 

    Eaglemania is the epitome of SJK. It is an afternoon of teamwork, house spirit, community, and most of all a great deal of fun. On behalf of all of us, thank you to our Parents’ Association, the Eaglemania Planning Committee (Mrs. Nalisha Sookdeo, Mrs. Jennifer Shingler and Mrs. Joanna Heimbecker), Student Council Advisor, Mrs. Julie George, our House Captains, our entire Upper School Student Council, our Student Council Support Group, Friends of Nepal and all our Grades 11 and 12 team leaders. Eaglemania 2019 was a tremendous success and we are very grateful to you all for your leadership.

    As our House Captains rallied their respective house members in harmonious cheer for the penultimate Eaglemania event, the Cheer Competition, I couldn't help but feel grateful to be a part of this impressive community. Congratulations to Simcoe House on winning Eaglemania 2019!
    Ms. Cheryl Boughton
    Head of School
  • Community Connections

    I am writing this as dawn breaks. In a few short hours, Eaglemania 2019 will be upon us. I for one cannot wait. I know I am not alone in this feeling. I have a school full of excited students and teachers ready for the fun and camaraderie that is Eaglemania.

    I am grateful to our Parents’ Association Eaglemania planning committee and Upper School Student Council leaders who have worked so hard to make this special event happen. I have been hearing from our student leaders for the last few weeks about this school-wide event. As I left school late yesterday, our parent leaders were hard at work setting the scene for the carnival theme. Clearly, this is a significant undertaking that relies on the leadership of our SJK community. Thanks in advance to all involved.

    I’ve enjoyed getting to know our Parents’ Association members in the few short weeks I have been at SJK. They have given me a lot of helpful feedback about the school community. One item that we have discussed is the desire for parents to be able to contact each other easily. After listening to their feedback, we have decided to introduce a Parent Directory.

    This directory will serve as an avenue to facilitate communication in our parent community. Examples of the intended use of this directory would include invitations to birthday parties, play dates and parent-to-parent communications. Information published in the directory will include parent name, parent email address, and child’s or children’s name(s) and grade(s).

    If you would like to participate in the directory, please log in to your onSJK account and submit the Parent Directory form. The directory will be accessible through the onSJK platform and will include the information of all parents who have opted into the directory.

    Communities grow stronger when they can communicate effectively. I am confident that a Parent Directory will enhance the SJK experience and help us to continue to enhance our strong and supportive community.  

    Good luck to all houses as they compete for the Eaglemania championship today. I look forward to seeing the outcome.

    Ms. Cheryl Boughton
    Head of School
  • Empathy: Echoes of Others in Ourselves

    All week long I have been thinking about the theme for this week’s Chapel: Empathy. As my first Whole School Chapel, I was keen to make a good impression by ensuring that my message hit the right note with my new school community. What should I say?

    I did not have to look far to find inspiration. Ask almost anyone what they love about SJK and more often than not, they will say “community”. When you dig a little deeper into what people mean when they say “community”, they mean being surrounded by empathetic people who genuinely care about them.

    I saw so many examples of empathy around the School this week. From our Kindergarten students helping a friend who had tripped in the playground, to our Upper School Student Council’s Hug and High Five Day, to our boarders in the residence celebrating a friend’s birthday, to our Senior Girls’ Field Hockey team mentoring younger players, it is clear to me that empathy is embedded in our School.

    So why does this really matter? One would expect that schools are empathetic communities, so why would this be the theme of our first Chapel? Why put a focus on it?

    We choose to focus on it because empathy is more than just a “nice to have” soft skill, it’s a key leadership competency. At its core, leadership is ultimately about others. It means inspiring them to take actions beyond their capabilities, leading them in a direction that is compelling and inspiring. Empathy is the foundation of those actions.

    My last example, our Senior Girls’ Field Hockey team, gave me the strongest illustration of empathy as a leadership trait. Our team had just finished a tough match. The opposing team came to the field with something to prove. Last year at a provincial championship game, they were defeated by our SJK Eagles. They were back and determined to win.

    In the aftermath of the game, the girls sat on the ground, exhausted, hot and visibly disheartened. Coach Dietrich did an excellent job providing feedback. She chose the right words and said them at the right time. I saw their immediate effect on the players. In that moment, they found strength in her words. Then, as if on cue, one of the senior players tapped into her empathy, turned to the youngest players and gave them positive feedback. She knew how they were feeling at that exact moment. As if by magic, I saw those tired athletes start to change. Then another senior player spoke up, again with words of praise for the youngest players. Smiles returned to the girls’ faces. Although they were still disappointed by the result, they were no longer disheartened. That is the power of empathy and the essence of great leadership. I was so moved to see this play out before my eyes.

    The best part of developing empathy as a leadership trait is that we all have that ability within us. Admittedly, some of us find it easier than others, but I genuinely believe that we all have the ability to be empathetic. As author Mohsin Hamid once said, “Empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself.” I encourage everyone, as we move into the weekend, to take the opportunity to practice our empathy skills. Look for the echoes and see their power. Who knows what you might achieve?

    Ms. Cheryl Boughton
    Head of School
  • Hitting the Ground Learning

    We’ve all heard the phrase to “hit the ground running”. New leaders are often under intense pressure to “do something—and fast”. The moment of job entry always seems rich with the possibility of productive change. Many of us, with the image of the hero front and centre in our minds, are all too ready to rush in and try to make everything better overnight.

    The problem with this approach is that we all too quickly realize that there are no silver bullets. I am sure we have all seen new beginnings go awry because newly appointed leaders fail to address the confusion that is generated by the conflicting demands they face as they start their new job. They stumble all too soon and all the hopes and dreams of the community turn to disappointment.

    The research tells us that a better approach is to have a plan to “hit the ground learning” instead of running. We need to commit ourselves to building relationships and taking charge of the learning process. By collecting the necessary knowledge as we build trust with our new colleagues, we can make sure that we lay the foundation for transformational change.

    That is why I have committed myself to an entry plan which focuses on learning. At the moment, I am concentrating on having as many one on one and small group conversations as possible to learn all I can about SJK. Whenever I meet with people, I have asked the same four questions:
    1. What do you want me to know?
    2. What do you love about SJK and hope never changes?
    3. What positive change would you like to see at SJK?
    4. What is your advice for me?
    The conversations have been fascinating and I have appreciated everyone’s willingness to engage with me in this dialogue. My favourite from the last week was my conversation with our Student Council. Our conversation was rich with insights and ideas and I learned a lot about SJK from them.

    My plan once I have finished gathering information is to then engage in a process of “sense-making”. In order to do this, I will analyze what I have heard from the community to determine where we should go from here.

    If you would like to help me “hit the ground learning”, feel free to book an appointment to speak with me. I would love your help in ensuring that I am prepared to lead our School and create long-term, positive and sustainable improvement.
    Ms. Cheryl Boughton
    Head of School
  • Starting with Why

    Welcome back and welcome to our new students and families! Our Opening Day was a wonderful day for me and I hope it was the same for all SJK students and their families. It was great to have our students and teachers back in action. SJK is a beautiful and peaceful place in the summer, but I missed the energy our students bring to our school. I am so glad everyone is back and that the work of the school can begin again for another year. I am sure it is going to be a great year for us all.

    I have been spending the summer learning about our School. I am so grateful to everyone who has taken the time to speak to me and to share your thoughts. I will continue to follow this process as the school year begins. My initial priorities are:

    1. Build relationships
    2. Listen and learn
    3. Evaluate and analyze
    4. Formulate a short-term plan
    One of the big questions I have been asking on my listening and learning tour is ‘why’? It is a powerful question because it forces us to unpack our essential purpose. It is the drive behind all that we do. When we know our why, and tap into its power, amazing things happen.

    As a faculty and staff, we explored our individual ‘whys’ as part of our professional development activities last week. I was so impressed by the SJK team and how they embraced this idea. The week ended with each of us creating a small painting with our ‘why’ words in SJK blue and gold. We have created a mosaic which you can see at the start of the Upper School corridor.

    I am also delighted that when I shared this thought in our Opening Ceremonies, our students really embraced this idea. Grades 7-10 did a photo challenge and many of them featured the mosaic in their photos. As their new Head of School, this touched me deeply.

    What this piece of collective art represents to me as the leader of this wonderful school is that each of us has something deeply personal that drives us to do what we do. Whether you are a student, a teacher, a member of staff, a parent or a leader, each of us possesses something powerful inside us that inspires us to do great things. When we bring these individual elements together, we create a strong school community that together will reach new heights. I can’t wait to see where we go from here!

    Congratulations on a great first week of school and thank you for making me feel so welcome.

    Ms. Cheryl Boughton
    Head of School

    P.S. Some parents asked me more about how we determined our ‘whys’ as a faculty and staff. You might want to check out the following two videos here and here for some inspiration and use Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle.