Nurturing our students to find the individual within

As I arrive shortly before 7 a.m. each morning, I have the unique opportunity to observe the various ways in which our students approach their school day. Some can barely contain themselves, as they bound from their parents’ cars and run for the school’s front doors. Others walk determinedly, shoulder their backpacks and stride forward in all sorts of weather, looking like academic warriors, ready to take on the day.
Groups arriving by transit are inevitably caught up in conversations. Then there are those who look like a few more hours of sleep might have suited them well, demonstrating their not-a-morning-person disposition.
Each of them arrives at TFS as the individuals they are, and gifts us with their one-of-a-kind personalities that combine so many aptitudes, points of view and interests. The discoveries they experience throughout their education, day by day, mirror the discoveries of themselves, as talents emerge, pursuits broaden and deepen, and subjects become passions.

At TFS, we know that education plays a key role in providing the opportunities and experiences that allow our students to fully explore the many facets of life, through classroom learning and activities, positions of student leadership, clubs, as well as co-curricular offerings, such as competitive sports and after-school lessons. For it is the sum all this that leads to a multifaceted and satisfying life.
It’s no surprise then that we start specialist classes in music and art at a very young age. At both La p’tite école and the West Campus, music lessons start in Pre-Kindergarten, while art begins in Grade 1. It’s also no surprise that, as students enter higher grades, their understanding and skills become more sophisticated. At the beginning of this month, we were treated to the extraordinary artistic visions and skills of our IB art students through their annual Vernissage exhibit. Year after year it is astounding and unforgettable. In just a few weeks, our stellar Senior School musicians will head to Ottawa to take part in MusicFest, Canada’s national music competition, where they will perform West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein, First Suite in e-flat for Military Band and Lyric Essay by Donald Coakley.
In the realm of the oral arts and written word, our students study verse and prose, recite poetry and perform in plays: frequently in French and English, often in Spanish and Mandarin, and sometimes in Ancient Greek and Latin. The week before March Break saw le printemps des poètes held at La p’tite école and the Junior School, as a way to deepen appreciation of the poetic art form. Yesterday marked the beginning of the Poetry in Voice competition, bringing high school students from across Canada to recite poetry in French, English and bilingual categories. As one of the 10 schools chosen to pilot this contest in 2009, we continue to shine on stage. On Thursday and Friday of this week, our senior students will perform the Spanish play Mentire. And in early May, members of TFS’ Classics Club will attend the Ontario Classics Conference, where no doubt they will emerge successful once again from the many rigorous and highly competitive categories.
Also on the competitive front, our athletics program continues to be enormously popular with our students, with the Junior and Senior schools competing within the Conference of Independent Schools Athletic Association (CISAA), and the West Campus within the Private School Athletic Association (PSAA). This winter saw considerable dedication and growing talent from the over 435 students who participated on one of 33 teams. At the Senior School, we were semi-finalists five times, and placed second three times. I’d like to particularly note the senior co-ed open A curling team, who won silver, but who were all beginners when they signed up, as well as the co-ed U12 hockey team, who came in second to St. Andrew’s College, after besting Upper Canada College in the semi-final game. Our Junior School athletes were equally enthusiastic, with the swim team coming in second overall, and the Girls U11 volleyball team also placing second. At the West Campus, our U14 girls volleyball team made history by capturing the PSAA championship, and the U12 girls basketball team secured the championship for the second year in a row.
At the Senior School, students naturally begin to consider both study and career aspirations and we provide them with opportunities to connect with real-world learning. Two of our societies, Capitalize for Kids and HOSA: future health professionals, offer direct insight into finance and health careers, respectively. Later this week, three of our Level IV students will travel to Florida to take part in the international DECA competition. Through conferences and competitions, DECA instils a spirit of entrepreneurship though developing professionalism and prepares youth to respond to authentic business cases and market demands. Our students placed in the top eight provincially, with a business case to provide virtual reality kits to new drivers, so that they can safely practise how to navigate through dangerous driving situations, such as when facing an oncoming distracted driver who has crossed over the lane, bad weather, including icy roads and heavy rain, and when a high volume of pedestrians is crossing an intersection.
Finally, but equally important, is our students’ exposure to leadership opportunities. This too starts at an early age. For instance, each Grade 1 student at La p’tite école is a member of a leadership committee. Leadership opportunities can be found in the numerous positions that students can apply to, and activities that, by their nature, advance leadership skills, such as addressing an audience and presenting. At the Senior School, we are in the midst of choosing students for our Citizens’ Assembly, the Collège and Lycée prefects, our WEB (Where Everybody Belongs) leaders, who mentor students new to the Senior School, and our House Heads. In March, selected senior students attended the CAIS National Student Leadership Conference at Shawnigan Lake School on Vancouver Island. Our Model UN (MUN) honed their public speaking and argumentation skills recently while attending the Ontario MUN at Upper Canada College, and our French-language debaters will attend the French National Debating Championships in Montreal at the end of May.

At TFS, we are indeed busy. Through the years, we have earned that reputation. But not so busy that we forget to celebrate our students’ intellectual growth, the risks they took in trying new things, and the commitment they showed to their passions and all-round development. These are essential ingredients in becoming a TFS citizen.

Michael Burke
Deputy Head, Citizenship and Community Engagement