cmu15 0129 A51R9087Last week, Quebec Education Minister Yves Bolduc was forced to comment on a comprehensive report from the University of Laval that was very critical of a decade of significant educational reform here in Quebec. Quebec is not alone in attempting changes in educational approaches; these have been implemented across most of the western world in recent years. All nations have attempted to shift away from old-world priorities: memorization, drill & kill (interest), and a “one-size fits all” mentality. Today we stress more relevant 21st century skills—the nurturing of creativity, collaboration, problem solving, IT integration and resilience—so students can better navigate a rapidly changing world.

Unfortunately, after 10 years the evidence on Quebec student performance has not been impressive. In fact, in mathematics and mother-tongue French, scores have slipped, while Quebec continues to wrestle with one of the highest high school dropout rates in North America—still entrenched at a rather shocking 25%—and even higher in some regions.

Although there are clearly some serious issues in Quebec, we need not see ourselves in the same light at LCC. Here we enrich and aim higher than base standards, and that approach has actually served us very well over the past decade. Our academic results are very solid, and I continue to be impressed by both faculty innovation and student achievement.

So let me present my LCC Top Ten Joyde List.  What’s Joyde?  Well, it’s my own word. Joyde is the intersection of “joy” and “pride”. Despite the negative media portrayal of student performance, I believe there is still plenty of room for joy in learning—and pride still matters a great deal at LCC. I wander our halls a lot and see activities and initiatives from K-12  that reflect genuine Joyde.

As a testimony to the much-loved Top Ten List that is so popular in our culture, in no particular order, here are 10 examples that  is alive and well at LCC:

1.   Kindergarten

This programme is a serious “cuteathon”. Our class sizes are very small—and by November the flexible and malleable minds of our youngest students allow them to already understand and express themselves in French in a surprisingly competent way.


2.  Faculty Growth

For many years behind the scenes our teachers have worked hard at developing and enhancing specific aspects of their teaching.  This takes time, effort, thoughtful reflection and collaboration. Most recently this has been further enhanced by the introduction of the IB Diploma and IB training seminars, as well as all-faculty PLC mornings for teacher collaboration. Many impressive achievements have emerged from focused teacher reflection and collaboration.


3.  EF  – Executive Functioning & Positive Mindset

Several years ago as a result of some Faculty Growth initiatives, a group of Middle School teachers worked to develop a program in EF skill development that we could reinforce throughout Middle School and beyond. It begins with an understanding of “metacognition” —how to learn best—and development of a positive mindset so students can be resilient and overcome obstacles in learning. Now, twice a year an EF Report Card goes home to Middle School students/parents. This is very helpful in making learning more meaningful.


4.  Committed & Service-oriented Staff

Non-teaching staff are key to student success at LCC.  We try hard to hire for attitude in addition to skills.  From our front reception to our nurses, part-time coaches, to maintenance and security staff, these are positive and committed people who make a positive difference in students’ lives every day. Whether clearing the snow, welcoming students when late, helping to coordinate pizza lunches, mopping up bloody noses, and repairing our facilities, these roles are critical for success in our learning community.


5.  STEM Engagement & IT Integration

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math.  It’s an area where North Americans fear we are falling behind compared to challengers in Asia and parts of Europe. LCC Teachers respond with cool science labs, robotics, real-world math initiatives, Grade 9 CSI day, IB science & math. Our teachers are energetic and creative. From the Junior School Science Exploratorium to the Senior Schools classes, labs, and workrooms, our talented science, math & IT teachers do not tolerate anything less than excellence in STEM.


6.  Internationalism & Global Perspectives

As a Round Square & IB school, we are firmly committed to opening students’ eyes to the world and helping them embrace “the other”, people culturally different from themselves. Whether it’s specific courses, international exchanges, international students, service projects, Duke of Edinburgh leadership activities, or the connectivity of our digitally-connected classrooms, LCC students have more meaningful opportunities to learn about the world than any school in this city.


7.  Co-Curricular integration:  Athletics, Arts, Leadership, Service (Non Nobis Solum)

Athletics, plays, bands, leadership and service opportunities are too numerous to mention. But these activities bind students together, help them gain skills, grow and emerge as young adults. These are often the most engaging and memorable experiences of our students’ high school years.


8.   Bilinguisme

Ici au Québec c’est esséntial de parler francais. Le Français n’est pas seulement une deuxième langue, mais c’est aussi la connaissance d’une culture. Ça peut assister nos étudiants d’etre plus ouvert à la connaissance de plusieurs cultures.


9.  LEAD  –  Learning Enrichment And Development

Our unique LEAD Team and LEAD programmes are designed to help all students be empowered as learners, and develop the skills and confidence to allow their true potential to emerge. We have learned more about learning and the brain in the past decade than in all prior history. Today we are applying the research and LEAD teachers are proactively changing lives.


10.   Volunteerism  (Parents, Alumni, Community)

Much of what we do well at LCC is well supported by parent and alumni volunteers who help with special events, staff our Board and Board committees. They also offer generous philanthropic support that has helped to build our outstanding campus and finance bursaries and scholarships that provide for so many unique opportunities.


So I am genuinely sorry Mr. Bolduc has problems on his hands with the broad state of education in Quebec.  But here at LCC we take nothing for granted and “joyde”—both joy and pride combined —are alive and well.  All things considered, we should be very proud. —Chris Shannon, Headmaster



The Timelessness of Hope, Pride & Possibility

John_F._Kennedy,_White_House_photo_portrait,_looking_upLast week’s 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas, Texas marked a day that remains shrouded in dark mystery in modern American and world history. I spoke to our high school students about the Kennedy legacy at this week’s assembly because few had any sense of its context.

There are a lot of reasons that Kennedy and his assassination have left an indelible imprint on both American and Canadian psyches. At 43, he was the youngest president ever to be elected into office in 1960.  He brought a youthful vigour to the presidency. He was also the first Catholic president; a big issue at the time because of fears that during his presidency he would be heavily influenced by the Vatican. This related especially to issues like access to birth control and the legal status of divorce.

Kennedy is also remembered for being the first “telegenic” president.  An effective presenter on TV, he was perfectly suited to the short sound bites we have all become so accustomed to. Kennedy helped usher in the modern media age where it is no longer just content of the message that matters, but also how it’s presented. Today national leaders in the USA and Canada focus intensely on nationally- televised electoral debates that make or break their campaigns to win voters trust.

While in office, Kennedy actually was not successful on all fronts.  However, his historical legacy has certainly been forged as one that addressed big issues.  Many experts would describe his legacy as having had a focus on getting the country moving again and building optimism, hope and possibility in America and throughout the free world. In his famous inauguration speech in 1961 he made an important plea for Americans to commit to community service, stating, “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”  This lead to the creation of the American Peace Corps and a new idealism that young Americans could lead through service in the poorest countries of the developing world.

Kennedy was also a close friend to African Americans and an advocate of proposed civil rights laws that would see greater equity in America, especially in the deep south which at the time was still very segregated.

The early 60s were also dominated by the Cold War nuclear standoff between the superpowers. During the tense 13-days of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, Kennedy came under enormous pressure.  He was surrounded by hawkish military advisors who insisted he respond forcefully to the presence of missiles in Cuba. During those intense days in October, Kennedy managed to avoid a nuclear conflict and was able to convince the Russians to remove their weapons from Cuba. Historians still consider his Cold War diplomacy a significant achievement.

Kennedy also initiated major spending on the space race with the Russians which eventually led to the Americans being the first to successfully put a man on the moon and  literally reach for the stars.

When Kennedy was assassinated in November1963 his work was cut short.  Many Americans wondered what he could have achieved, and the shooting represented a violent collision of hope and possibility with the reality of violence and sheer evil that also exists in the world.

The official version of the assassination concluded one gunman acted alone. However, multiple conspiracy theories still abound about whether larger forces were behind the killing. These include allegations against the mafia, the Russians, archconservatives fighting against Kennedy’s proposed new equality, and civil rights laws. We will probably never know; Kennedy’s death will likely remain shrouded in mystery.

But at the 50th anniversary ceremony last Friday in Dallas, presidential historian David McCulloch reminded the audience that Kennedy was a confident optimist who was eloquent with his words. Kennedy knew that words matter and those that come from the mouth of the president have a special capacity to inspire and change lives.  Quoting from Kennedy’s famous “New Frontier” speech presented when he won the presidential nomination in 1960, McCulloch stressed that Kennedy focused on challenges not promises and appealed to the American people to focus on their pride in a world of possibilities.

Hope, pride and possibility: If those are the core of the Kennedy legacy, then we should all aspire to see that modern civic life embodies all three, whether in the USA or here in Canada. In essence, Kennedy’s message is timeless, because it is hope, pride and possibility that will carry each of our students forward as young leaders. I see them in action at school and beyond. I am proud to say that I have confidence in them as doers and in their capacity to help build a better tomorrow in Canada and globally.
—Chris Shannon, Headmaster





Blog_Courage_17Jan2012“What makes a king out of a slave? Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage! What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder? Courage! What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage! What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the “ape” in apricot? What have they got that I ain’t got?—Courage”

These are the words of the Cowardly Lion from the famous film & play, The Wizard of Oz.

Another memorable quote from the Cowardly Lion goes like this:

“All right, I’ll go in there for Dorothy. Wicked Witch or no Wicked Witch, guards or no guards, I’ll tear them apart. I may not come out alive, but I’m going in there. There’s only one thing I want you fellows to do.”

“What’s that?” ask both the Tin Man and the Scarecrow.

“Talk me out of it!,” begged the Cowardly Lion.

The Wizard of Oz was produced in 1939, but the film’s core messages remain timeless. In the end, all the major characters got what they wanted:  Dorothy returned safely home. The Scarecrow got a brain, the Tinman received a heart – and the Lion was given the gift of courage.

Like the TInman with his heart and the Scarecrow with his brain, the Lion discovered that he already possessed courage. He simply needed to focus on it more and develop it, just like each of our students.

Courage is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “the ability to do something that frightens – a form of bravery.” It’s a fantastic quality, something we all need and something we all possess in varying degrees. In fact, each of us needs to draw on courage sometime every day. But too often we can confuse courage with being tough or being able to fight, as if it’s solely a military attribute. But it’s actually much more important in the context of maturity of character and our capacity to overcome personal fears and obstacles that hold us back in life.

For students, courage includes so much: speaking up in class, reaching out and making friends, trying a new activity or developing a new skill. My personal favourite is developing the capacity to stand up for what you believe in, even when it might mean standing out from the crowd. This is tough for anyone, but particularly difficult for teenagers; they need the time and opportunity to practice.

Are you courageous? Do you surprise yourself or others with your ability to reach out? Is your sense of courage aligned with a well-developed sense of moral fibre and other solid character traits?  Think about it. How might you learn and mature by taking a few more personal risks and employing a little more courage?  Realistically, it begins with baby steps. Every step is just a decision. Slowly but surely, you can help yourself move forward, develop yourself and feel a sense of genuine pride.

In our student assembly this week, I saw courage in action. Grade 11 student Claire Greenbaum ’13 spoke to all Middle and Senior School students. She addressed the tragic loss of her mom to cancer and the positive energy she and her whole family have been able to create through establishing a new foundation that raises money for cancer research. I commend her on openly and courageously addressing this important but difficult personal topic in a way that was very motivating to all. Great job, Claire!  —Chris Shannon, Headmaster

Le Middle School Pride participe à La Corvée du Mont-Royal

Avec le temps, on réalise que notre terre n’est pas propre. On réalise que des personnes ne s’en soucient pas. Mais le moment où cela te frappe, c’est quand tu ramasses la poubelle. Tu vois qu’il avait un temps où tout était beau et propre, mais le temps est passé et maintenant les personnes passent des heures par jour à ramasser les déchets.

Le Mont-Royal est une belle place qui est parfaite pour toutes les personnes qui veulent faire une pause. Le weekend du 6 mai, c’était la Corvée du Mont-Royal, sous le soleil, neuf élèves de LCC sont allés ramasser les déchets. Après une marche d’environ “3000 kilomètres”, nous sommes arrivés à l’endroit pour faire le travail!

Il avait du plastique, du papier et on a presque tout ramassé. Je sais que les personnes qui marchent là-bas ne verront pas, mais pendant ma prochaine visite, je pourrais dire que le chemin est beaucoup plus propre! – Emily Peotto ’15

Teen Mantra: I am Enough

Fried_Blog_03Feb2011Scott Fried is a professional motivational speaker who had a positive impact this week on all of our students from grades 6-12.  He also met in the evening with a large group of engaged parents.  His primary focus was coping with the challenge of life for pre-teens and adolescents and the importance of mutual acceptance.

Scott stressed that words do hurt and can have a lasting and negative impact.  While urging students to be respectful and accepting of peers, he reminded his audiences that all children feel pain on the long and often lonely road to adulthood. As children grow and change, we adults need to acknowledge the pain that teens sometimes feel because inevitably life does hurt; indeed, life itself can be a bully.  Scott urged us to openly acknowledge the feelings of our students and children and not neglect hurt feelings or try to wash them away.

What seemed to resonate most with our students was the phrase “I am enough.” Scott wants us to meet, accept and cherish young people in the moment for who they are.  We should not bury them in a sea of seemingly endless expectations. This only reinforces the implicit message that they are never good enough. Teens also have secrets during this critical period of “becoming” on their journey to adulthood.  Mistakes will be made along the way, which is normal.  As teachers and parents, our role as key adults in their lives is to help children develop a healthy posture of self-acceptance before they can move on confidently toward a path of self-improvement.

I had an opportunity to speak with Scott at the end of a very long day.  He strongly complimented our school and the initiatives we are taking.  I noted that our success is rooted in a faculty of dedicated educators who generally see our students as “more than enough.”  We have many trusted adults here. They proactively bear witness to the hurdles and challenges of so many young people.  When we team and partner with our parents in a positive way; that’s what truly makes a difference! – Chris Shannon, Headmaster