Head’s Blog: Experiential Learning in Cuba

Headmaster Chris Shannon is on a two-month sabbatical. Currently, he is learning Spanish in Cuba.

Chris_Shannon_Cuba_Spanish_ClassI’m now halfway through a three-week course in Spanish in Havana, trying to awaken long-dormant Spanish vocabulary and grammar first learned years ago in high school. Sitting in a class has been both challenging and refreshing. It gives me great respect for what all of our LCC students do daily and it is a reminder that deep learning of new material is a lot of effort — it’s hard!

The Barclay Language School is only two years old. Like a lot of new ventures in Havana, it appeals to extranjeros (foreigners) and our coveted hard currency. Despite notable shortages of goods and lots of visible decay in the city, the entrepreneurial spirit is emerging with this young generation of Cubans. Classmates come from all over the world — some for a week, some for a month. To survive, the language school partners with a salsa dance school. So there’s a lot of interesting energy in our narrow one-floor building. Classes are in the morning and afternoons are for exploring the city and practising Spanish with locals. More on my discoveries to come. Hasta luego! – Christopher Shannon (Pre-U ’76), Headmaster

Head’s Blog: Why do Core Values Matter?

2019_2020_Lion_Mag_Global_EngagementFor 110 years we have operated as a school focused on the teaching of and adherence to values. They’re important in defining high standards, in promoting our students’ character development, and the creation of responsible citizens who are essentially good people. At the end of last year, we adopted six core values that we feel we should really stress here at LCC in all that we do. They’re foundations for our entire learning community. Not just students – faculty, staff, parents, alumni also.

I believe this is a very positive development, as these values help us to be clear about what matters here. It’s especially important to teach and defend important values that may actually be less evident or visible in society at large, where sometimes social standards, decorum or politesse seem to be in decline. Too often we see evidence of this through incidents of road-rage, people yelling at a referee at a sports match, someone not holding a door or helping an elderly person, or poor online comportment. Those are trends we don’t need to follow and will never tolerate at LCC.

So, here’s how we’re defining LCC’s Core Values:

Respect: In our actions and words, we demonstrate respect for ourselves, for others and the world in which we live. We are committed to responsible citizenship and are accountable for our behaviours.

Resilience: We are courageous in our conduct and demonstrate flexibility when faced with challenge and the unexpected. We grow from our experiences, are focused, and emerge stronger than before.

Integrity: We act in a way that is honourable, principled, moral and fair. We stand up for what we believe is right and are dedicated to the highest ethical standards.

Global Engagement: We own our individual and shared roles in shaping a better world. As a diverse and inclusive community that transcends borders, we promote appreciation of different perspectives, collaboration, and instill empathy, social responsibility and cultural understanding.

Kindness: We open our minds and our hearts to others with compassion & understanding. In the spirit of Non Nobis Solum, we are community-oriented and care about the people around us.

Well-Being: We foster a culture of wellness that supports the physical, mental, social and emotional aspects of personal and collective growth.

Reflect upon these LCC core values and discuss them. No one expects anyone to be a saint, but we all should do our best to live them and exemplify them. Why? Because living our core values matters! – Christopher Shannon (Pre-U ’76), Headmaster

Head’s Blog: Vulnerability

2018_2019_JS_House_Activity_Tug_of_War_10As we begin a new school year, I think that most students are excited about an array of opportunities, but a lot are also naturally feeling somewhat vulnerable. A major contradiction of our times is the unintended message of the nuts-and-bolts priorities of the “I generation”. I hear a lot about “I this” and “I that”. Let’s face it, across North America there’s an obsession with the individual and with individual public displays of personal competence and strength. Although there’s nothing wrong with strength, courage and developing into a solid individual, none of our students are able to do it alone, I assure you.

I recently asked high school students to consider how to gently shed some of their fear of appearing vulnerable. In all honesty, we are all vulnerable and need input and help from others most of the time. That’s a fundamental reality of the human condition and learning and working productively.

Students need to stop worrying about developing an impenetrable self-image, both in person or online. To do this they need to consider less focus on “I” or “me” and shift the focus more to “we”. Collaboration with others is a reality of life and a set of key skills to develop. It actually requires practice so that young people can become valued contributors who actually listen better and be genuinely trusted by others.

Despite the powerful cultural messages about having the courage to stand alone and stand apart from the crowd, I’m asking our students to come together more in groups. I have asked them to consider how you will develop their ability to work more effectively with others. Fortunately, they are gaining a lot of practice in the classroom.

All the modern workplace gurus and writers remind us that the ability to work with others is now the key attribute of today’s employees and professional teams, whether you are at a school or a start-up, or a professional, such as a doctor or a teacher. I assure you, our teachers all work in teams – more so than ever before. This is evident in our many dynamic Professional Learning Community (PLC) teams! In working together, they are impressive role models to our students every day.

So, I urge our students to let their relationships flourish and I guarantee them that in due course, they will feel good – more positive and well supported. We all do when we’re part of something bigger than ourselves. – Christopher Shannon (Pre-U ’76), Headmaster

Head’s Blog: Environmental Engagement

Child_Wading_FloodOur student Green Team volunteers and a handful of other students are LCC’s “eco-warriors” who are active in considering new ways to educate, support, and advocate for our environment. Despite their efforts and a strong commitment from school administration, I am still concerned about awareness and ownership of environmental issues across our broader school community.

I write this as thousands of people in our city are out of their homes due to catastrophic flooding. Two years ago, major floods were called “once-in-a-century floods”. Unfortunately, they happened again. It can be very tough for young people to process the many elements of climate change. Many people, young and old, think they can have little real impact. I believe that none of us should sit on the sidelines; we should all consider how we can play a part in protecting our environment.

LCC has taken a lot of steps in recent years, but we cannot rest on our laurels and should do more. These are some environmental initiatives undertaken at the school:

Between 2005 and 2010, we started a student Green Team, introduced recycling in a systematic way and addressed a number of costly campus infrastructure issues, replacing inefficient furnaces, ventilation systems and energy-wasting lighting. We also constructed Montreal’s most energy efficient arena in 2008, using an efficient ice-making system called ECO CHILL. That building is LEED Silver Certified (highly sustainable standards). In 2009, we made the environment one of the seven key pillars of our school’s Strategic Plan.

After 2010, our Board of Governors adopted and published a Sustainability Commitment, and we have continued to improve our facilities with sustainability and energy efficiency in mind. This was reflected in the renovation of our science wing in summer of 2010 and construction of the LEED Gold Certified Assaly Arts Centre in 2013. It has many sustainable attributes, including geothermal heating. During those years, an active staff Sustainability Committee and an LCC Parent Environmental Committee also worked on promoting sustainability practices in day-to-day school life.

We have replaced washroom taps with automatic units and installed low-flow urinals. We purchase only sustainably-sourced paper, introduced composting in our food service operations and LCC was twice named one of Canada’s Top 100 Green Employers. All along the way, teachers at all levels have considered ways to focus on the teaching and learning about the environment in our curriculum.

Beyond our committed eco-warriors, I still think we can do better by giving environmental education and sustainability a higher profile. In all fairness, many students and adults are not sure what they can do to help, either at school or at home.

Despite Canada’s small population and vast open spaces, we do not have an admirable track record on a host of environmental benchmarks. We are signatories to the 2015 Paris Accord on reducing harmful emissions, yet each Canadian produces 22 tonnes of greenhouse gas per year. That is the highest among all G20 countries and nearly three times the G20 average of eight tonnes per person.

I am pleased that the world has been effectively nudged by the work of many young environmental activists. Notably, 16-year-old Swedish Nobel nominee Greta Thunberg has presented a powerful call-to-action to youth globally. Her message and her passion for this cause are impressive. She reminds all adults that in many ways we have failed this young generation, and now it is time to pull together and act on behalf of Mother Earth.

In an effort to raise the bar on environmental issues, LCC recently joined a new Environmental Steering Committee of a few CAIS schools. We are working together to set higher standards and benchmarks and hopefully impact all of our nearly 100 CAIS schools across the county.

I invite all students to sit up, listen and take notice. How do we share ideas for improvement within our school and with other CAIS schools? I asked them to channel their thoughts through our advisory groups, Green Team or Student Council. Most importantly, let’s consider how we translate our ideas into action. This is a whole-school initiative that could have long-term impact.

To paraphrase American writer H. Jackson Brown from his NYT bestseller Life’s Little Instruction Book, 20 years from now our students will be more disappointed by the things that they didn’t do than by the ones they did. – Christopher Shannon (Pre-U ’76), Headmaster

Head’s Blog: Air Conditioning & Energy Consumption

Although this has been a very challenging winter with radical temperature shifts, last summer was the hottest on record in Montreal. Montreal is a city of extremes, shifting from as low as -40°C to +40°C, a major differential and one of the most significant temperature shifts in the world. No wonder our roads are so bumpy with a long cycle of freezing, thawing, and freezing again.

If you harken back to last summer, the extreme heat we had was also experienced across most of North America and Europe, with the hottest spot being in Portugal in July, with temperatures above 45°C. Weather experts expect more of the same next summer.

With extreme heat as an apparent new normal, people need to realize how much energy is expended on air conditioning (AC) in our homes, at work, and in public gathering spaces, such as malls and theatres. But it’s important to also realize that AC is actually heating up our whole planet and scientists predict it could add half a degree to global temperatures by 2050.

As incomes continue to rise in Asia and Latin America, more and more people can now afford AC, which historically has been a luxury in many corners of the world. At current rates, it’s projected that the number of AC units will increase by 250% in the next 30 years. That would mean that all the AC units across the planet would then consume as much energy as all of China does today.

In terms of environmental impact, this would mean 82% more greenhouse gases than we produce now, and half a degree could be added to average global temperatures. Note that heat from AC units in cities can add as much as one degree at night.

According to the Global Economic Forum, 21% of global electricity demand is now being attributed to AC alone. So it’s an area we can and should target for reductions.

One simple way to address this could be to raise so-called comfort zones of AC in homes, restaurants and malls by a few degrees from mid- to high-teens (mid-60s in Fahrenheit) to above 20°c (or mid-70s F), so that the electrically-powered units don’t have to work as hard. I’m sure there are a lot of other innovative ways to cut back on AC energy consumption.

Last November, a new competition was backed by the government of India, with Richard Branson as the spokesperson. The Global Cooling Prize is a prize for innovation in addressing energy costs related to residential cooling technology design. It offers lots of incentives: $3 million in prize money over the next two years. So clearly, it’s a bigger issue than most of us have probably realized until now.

I recently urged our capable senior science students to put on their thinking caps and propose a solution to this mounting global problem. Why not submit an LCC student proposal? The Global Cooling Prize organizers are just waiting to dole out $3 million in prize money! – Christopher Shannon (Pre-U ’76), Headmaster