Assembly Address: Finding Your Voice

Girl_MegaphoneI’m Lauren and I’m in grade 7. Many of you might think that it takes a lot of courage to be up here talking in front of the whole high school. I have to admit, it is slightly nerve-racking, but I feel I have the courage to talk up here because I am at LCC, a school that makes sure each student has a voice.

Looking back, I can honestly say that it took me a while to find my voice. Throughout Junior School, we were given the chance to develop our abilities to speak in front of our peers. As the oldest last year in Junior School, I was confident and comfortable public speaking after having many opportunities to practice.

This all changed when I initially joined Middle School at the beginning of the year. New people, a new routine and new teachers. I was very shy and didn’t speak up. This all changed when I started attending weekly student council meetings in November. Being part of student council is a way for each grade to express concerns or make suggestions through four grade representatives.

At my first meeting, I was very nervous knowing that I, along with my three peers, were the youngest. I wasn’t sure when or what I should say. As the meeting started, I instantly saw that the students in higher grades weren’t reluctant to talk and voice their concerns, but as one of the youngest, I didn’t feel the same comfort. I worried that my views wouldn’t be taken as seriously by the older students, as they were already known at student council.

As the meeting went along, I started to realize that they were voicing a concern that I agreed with, and I found my voice to speak and agree with the others. I found I was able to speak on behalf of my grade, and that I was not embarrassed to share my opinion. As more and more meetings went by, I enjoyed our conversations a lot and found it easier and easier to express issues pertaining to grade 7.

I have now learned that my voice is just as important and valued as the other students’ voices. We, as students, are fortunate to be at a school where amazing faculty make sure that we are given the opportunity to share our voice. It just takes a little time and effort but it’s there.

A reminder to everyone that student council representatives from each grade meet weekly to discuss student concerns. If you have a concern or issue you would like addressed, please contact your grade representatives, and they will be happy to represent you.
– Lauren Dorsey ’22

Head’s Blog: Better Sleep Hygiene in 2018

Alarm_ClockAs we slide into February, this is the time of year when most people who made New Year’s resolutions, realize that they cannot meet their stated goal. According to Huffington Post, less than 10% of resolutions are kept. The classic example is the crew referred to as the so-called “January Joiners” at fitness and health clubs who have completely disappeared by February. Sadly, most fall short simply because bad habits are very hard to break. It’s human nature; setting a new direction in life is very tough, especially when personal likes and preferences are already well established.

However, despite the challenge of changing a bad habit, I have openly asked all high school students to consider a new commitment for the balance of the school year. If achieved, this one change is probably the single most significant initiative our students can take to improve their lives – and one that I think they can all achieve, if only incrementally. So what am I asking them to do? Get more sleep!

I know that some students are really good about their sleep routines and I certainly commend those who have established good patterns. However, a recent study by researchers at San Diego State University in California tells us that almost a majority of students don’t get enough sleep. This study of 370,000 US teens was published in November. It confirmed a continuing and alarming trend where large numbers of teens in the US continue to trade sleep for increased screen time. And I don’t think that there would be major differences on this topic with young Canadians. The survey showed that more than 40% of all teens get less than seven hours of sleep a night, up from about only 20% in 2009. But medical specialists reiterate that all teens actually need nine hours of sleep a night for the well-being of their bodies, brain development, the deep embedding of learning at school, as well as their emotional well-being.

Over time, a continued lack of sleep is clearly linked to depression, short-temperedness, anxiety, and a host of other negative psychological challenges and physical effects that can notably diminish the teen body. Despite broad conceptual knowledge about the impact of sleep deprivation, current evidence shows that this negative trend continues to move in the wrong direction.

So I recently asked our high school students to be honest with themselves. If they’re not regularly getting nine hours of sleep a night, they actually need more. I urged them to stop wishing for more sleep, but to actually take steps to make it happen. As with most other bad habits, if they want to truly adopt change, real life dictates that they will have to start with baby steps, as vague promises are unachievable.

The studies have shown that too much digital screen time is not only stealing potential sleep time, but too much texting, social media or video-watching right before bed can also make it difficult to fall asleep. The blue light emitted is too stimulating and makes it hard for the body and brain to wind down quickly. Yes, something called “night-mode” exists on most phones and tablets. But the experts say it’s not enough. Brain and sleep experts suggest that adolescents should limit screen time and stop all screen exposure at least half an hour – and ideally one hour – before bed.

To avoid all temptation, cellphones should be in another room, and I urge our students to return to an old-fashioned alarm clock rather than full dependence on their smartphones.

A book is also a good way to wind down while feeding the brain before bed. It’s surely a good habit to continue or pick up.

So as we move forward into 2018, I urge our students to forget false commitments to become fitness fanatics, or implement an unlikely broad overhaul of their diets. Instead, they should take some simple achievable steps toward better sleep “hygiene.” The impact could be significant. In only a matter of days they will feel better and notice improvements in all aspects of their lives. – Christopher Shannon, Headmaster





Head’s Blog: A Social Tsunami

Gender_equality_symbol_(clipart)The evidence is everywhere: a social tsunami is having a major impact all across North America and things will surely never be the same anywhere.

I am talking about the extraordinary impact on the North American workplace since the so-called Harvey Weinstein scandal. Clearly, as an influential Hollywood film producer, Weinstein took advantage of his powerful position to make inappropriate sexual advances toward young actresses trying to get a break in the film industry. Everyone seemed to reluctantly accept this as the way Hollywood worked. However, dozens of courageous women came forward and shone a bright light on Weinstein’s unacceptable behaviour. The evidence mounted to the point that the board of his own film company fired him and, quite appropriately, his reputation has been permanently stained.

Along with Harvey Weinstein’s fall from grace, many other powerful men have been impacted: several senior corporate figures, Matt Lauer, host of the Today Show, Charlie Rose and Bill O’Reilly, once respected TV hosts and interviewers, and several senior American and Canadian public figures and politicians have all been held accountable. Even the American president has been accused of inappropriate behaviour toward women. And whether he likes it or not, no one is above reproach. Men in positions of power are falling from their perches of influence all across North America.

In Canada, women from all walks of life and all sectors of our economy are also coming forward to say no to inappropriate sexual comments, overt sexual harassment and even sexual assault.

The #MeToo movement is truly a tsunami that includes the voices of women who are actresses, politicians, lawyers, waitresses, police officers, teachers and many other professionals. Essentially, women are grabbing the opportunity to come together and be heard all across the continent. According to many writers and social commentators, this seems to be a “watershed moment.”

This was reinforced in December when Time magazine named its person of the year for 2017. Rather than a single person, Time singled out what it calls “the silence-breakers” – women who had the courage to launch a broad social movement. In that article, the Time staff writes:

This reckoning appears to have sprung up overnight, but has actually been simmering for years, decades, centuries. Women have had it with bosses and co-workers who not only cross boundaries, but don’t even seem to know they exist. They’ve had it with men who use their power. These silence-breakers have started a revolution of refusal.

So what does this social tsunami mean for our students, especially the teenagers? Well, first they need to be aware of it and come to their own conclusions about its impact on society at large. But in terms of day-to-day life, I believe all this is an important reminder about the need for civility between all people. Despite enormous gains for women in the past fifty years in the workplace, at universities, in professions, it tells us that true and complete equity has still not been forged. For me, it reinforces the significant importance of our coed learning environment that we should never take for granted. This is where our students establish their foundations, values and norms. LCC is quite intentionally a coed school for a coed world with boys and girls working shoulder-to-shoulder, equal in every way. Respect between girls and boys as peers, as equals, is not simply something we talk about. Our students live it; it is fundamental to their daily reality. Establishing an environment of true equity is a critical part of what we do in our learning community.

I am not naïve and do not believe that boys and girls are in agreement all the time any more than different personalities (male or female) are always inclined to agree. However, I believe quite deeply that the two genders supporting, challenging and living together, is the best environment for learning and, during the formative teen years, provides real-world experiences that are meaningful. I assert that true equity and true respect begin with our expectations and daily habits and norms right here and, thankfully, these are reinforced day in and day out by passionate educators. For this reason, there is enormous value in this coed learning environment that our students will carry with them decades beyond life at LCC.

This situation, this social tsunami, has no formal name, but courageous women have given it a voice. Whether it’s #MeToo or #Time’sUp, this movement for greater gender equity and justice is a long overdue phenomenon, one that I’ve openly asked our high school students to discuss in classes, advisories and at our lunch tables. They are the young people who will define and help to build a better LCC and a better Canada. So let’s be proactive and talk about this issue and solidly build on our community’s commitment to a core platform of respect for all.

Think about this and how together we can build an ongoing and meaningful conversation about equity and social justice for girls and boys, women and men, as peers and advocates. What a great New Year’s resolution for 2018! – Christopher Shannon (Pre-U ’76), Headmaster

Volunteering without Borders – Bénévolat sans frontières

Raymond_Opolot_BlogThis past summer, I went to Uganda, a country in Africa that is about a 20-hour flight from Canada. While there, I volunteered at my grandmother’s school –  Namutebi Nkata Nursery and Primary School – as part of my Duke of Edinburgh service hours.

The work I did consisted of compiling an index of newly received library books. These were some of the over 3,000 books collected so far by my two sisters and me since 2013 from friends and well-wishers in Montreal.

While doing this, I came up with the idea of starting a book club. I developed a draft concept and presented it to the principal who loved the idea! The purpose of the club is to expand the students’ vocabulary and to strengthen their reading, writing and presentation skills.

In order to promote the club, I organized the first meeting where I read to 21 of the students at the school. The thing that fascinated me most was their love of reading. The children seemed very excited to receive so many books because of the lack of accessible literature in Uganda. Here in Canada, we are very fortunate to have both school and local libraries, while in Uganda this is not the case. – Raymond Opolot ’19

The Privilege of an Education

Meghan_Fersten_Blog_005Last summer, I travelled to China on a trip organized by Me to We, a non-governmental organization which helps create sustainable change by transforming local and global communities. J’ai voyagé avec sept autres étudiants autour de mon âge venant de Montréal et New York, ainsi que deux animateurs de Me to We. From my past experiences at the Round Square conference in Argentina last year, as well as volunteering in the local community, I was always interested in community service. However, I can honestly tell you that this trip changed my life.

Meghan_Fersten_Blog_001Nous avons passé nos premiers jours à Beijing en visitant des sites bien connus, tels que Tiananmen Square, des temples Buddistes, et nous avons même monté la Grande Muraille de Chine! Nous avons ensuite conduit pendant plus de six heures à une communauté rurale, Gufubao. It was a relief to finally be away from the pollution and smog of Beijing, and beautiful is not a good enough word to describe where we were. Nous étions complètement entourés d’énormes montagnes et des champs de maïs. It was really amazing for us to meet the kind locals, who take great pride in their natural environment, regardless of the extreme poverty that they live in. In addition, they always ensure that their environment is being taken care of, by being cautious of how much water and food they consume, as well as constantly making sure that their agriculture is properly cultivated and protected. Some locals even took us on hikes around the community, where we saw some unbelievable views.

Meghan_Fersten_Blog_003Pendant dix jours, nous avons enseigné l’anglais à des enfants défavorisés, et nous avons travaillé sur la construction d’un enclos pour des cochons, la première source de revenue pour la communauté. L’école était un bâtiment de briques avec trois salles de classe et un petit terrain de jeu dehors, les deux construits par Me to We. Lorsque nous sommes arrivés, nous avons été accueillis par une cinquantaine d’élèves, âgés entre cinq et 12 ans, qui étaient très contents de nous voir. Since it was July, all of these students were in the middle of their summer holiday, so you would think that going to school in 40 degree weather for the entire day was not exactly what they wanted to do, right? Wrong. These kids were more than happy to do so. Puisque les enfants parlaient très peu d’anglais, ils étaient très excités de nous montrer qu’ils pouvaient compter de un à 10, et qu’ils connaissaient les couleurs de l’arc-en-ciel.

Meghan_Fersten_Blog_006Why did I choose to write about teaching English to students in China? Well, we later learned that only 1% of students who have attended the school in Gufubao go on to university. That’s only seven or eight students at LCC progressing to CEGEP or college. Think about that for a second: all of the hard work that we put into our studies every day would only pay off for seven or eight of us in the Junior, Middle and Senior Schools combined!

We’re so lucky to go to LCC, with its amazing education programs and opportunities, inside and outside the classroom. Seeing how much the students in Gufubao appreciated going to school made me reflect on how I see education. Now, I go to school every day wanting to learn more. I’m excited to see where my education will take me, so I can use it to make a difference. Going to school is a privilege, and I think it’s important for everyone to realize that, just like I have. – Meghan Fersten ’18