Tag Archives: education

CHAPEL TALK: THANKS-GIVING

Written by Head of Upper School, Michele Bett

With our Thanksgiving break rapidly approaching, I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect upon why we should give thanks. In this “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,” in the words of English poet John Keats, ripened fruits and swollen gourds signal that the wondrous bounty of mother nature’s harvest has arrived. And yes, we have much for which to give thanks.

We give thanks that at Ridley:

our teachers have high expectations of their students;

our students come to school ready to be stretched and challenged;

our teachers support and scaffold curiosity in their classrooms daily;

our students are inherently curious and motivated learners;

our teachers arrange their learning opportunities, carving out space for imagination, wonder and reflection; and

our students flourish when they find passion and relevance in their studies.

Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk writes on the power of gratefulness. He encourages us to see each new day as a gift where the only appropriate response is gratitude. He urges us to open our hearts to all our blessings.

It is quite radical to see each new day as a gift. If you were caught thanking the sun for rising each morning, people might wonder about your sanity. Normal people don’t go around being grateful all the time. But why not?

I believe that it behooves us to show respect for – and be grateful to – nature, other people, and the past.

We have all stood transfixed and filled with awe in the presence of nature’s marvels – Niagara Falls is an obvious and near-by example. At moments like that, it is not hard to feel a sense of gratitude and to think to ourselves, “what a wonderful world!” The feeling is probably like that of a child playing in the garden. The difference is that, unlike us, the child does not need a raging cascade to get her attention. Here is how John Keats’ older contemporary William Wordsworth put it:

There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.

The poet goes on to say that this time is gone: “The things which I have seen I now can see no more.” And yet, despite our obliviousness and routine and normalcy, nature does not stop being the miracle that it is. As a later 19th century English poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins put it: “And for all this, nature is never spent; / There lives the dearest freshness deep down things.” Even in this time of climate change and global warming, an appreciation for the blessings of life on this earth is still the right way to respond. In fact, I wonder if things might be different on our planet if more people felt more grateful to nature.

At Ridley, we frequently emphasize the importance of thanking each other as often as we can. By doing so, we are recognizing the worth and significance of other people. It turns out that admitting the reality of what is outside ourselves is a necessary step toward well-being. Furthermore, by thanking others, we are acknowledging the other’s presence as a gift. We are saying to the other: “You have given me something that I did not deserve; you have been to me more than a friend.” What almost inevitably comes next is: “I will do the same for you when I can. I will try to be a gift to you.” It is a virtuous circle that fosters and celebrates loving relationships.

Being thankful for the past might seem somewhat strange, even suspicious; some of us might feel much more inclined to reject the past in our struggle for a better world. But human civilizations and cultures throughout all time have universally honoured those who have lived and died in earlier times. Similarly, our society commemorates heroes and martyrs and wise people who have done or said things that remain meaningful to us today. One of those we remember is Martin Frobisher, who in 1578 arrived in Canada and held a formal ceremony in which he gave thanks for surviving the long voyage from England. (Some 43 years later, the Pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts and did something similar.) This nation began by opening its heart in gratitude to the blessings of life.

And that’s why I am so grateful to be part of a community that has opened its heart to all its blessings. Every student in our community is a blessing, and regardless of their academic trajectory, they are cared for and valued. They are loved.

As in so many of my chapel talks and conversations with parents and students it is the character strength of love that I find myself returning to so often. Love, it seems, underpins nearly everything we do at Ridley.

In the gospels, God tells who we are, and we know that it can be the hardest thing in the world for us to receive love, especially the love of God. Whether you are a Christian, Moslem, Jew, Buddhist, non-believer, let’s be united in the idea that love is the strongest thing in the world, and to receive it demands that we begin by loving ourselves.

Unlike the bees in Keats’ ode to “Autumn,” we know that these warm October days will cease, but giving thanks at Ridley is not limited to the season of thanksgiving. At Ridley, we practice gratitude daily, all year round. May I wish all our families at Ridley a Thanksgiving break filled with joy, appreciation and, of course, much love.

The Gross National Happiness of Bhutan: A Case Study

Nestled in the Eastern Himalayas on the ancient Silk Road between Tibet, India and Southeast Asia, Bhutan is a small country with a distinct national identity. Intrepidly focused on the well-being of its citizens, instead of measuring gross domestic product to gage national progress, they measure gross national happiness.

Gross National Happiness (GNH) is a philosophy that steers the government of Bhutan and was first coined by the fourth King of Bhutan, King Jigme Singye Wangchuk, in 1972—a concept that implies that “sustainable development should take a holistic approach towards notions of progress and give equal importance to the aspects of well-being.” Since then, the idea of GNH has influenced Bhutan’s economic and social policy, and most recently has become engrained in the school system through positive education.

The leading authority in Positive Psychology, Dr. Martin Seligman, identified Bhutan as the most enabling environment to promote well-being as a whole nation. Because of this distinction, Seligman and his team approached Bhutan’s government to launch a pilot programme: Education for Gross National Happiness, which focuses on integrating positive psychology tactics into the school curriculum. Bhutan’s government was eager to participate and adopt positive education into its larger community.

Seligman and his team began their mission by identifying what the most relevant skills were for determining happiness within the Bhutanese culture and how these could be transformed into life skills.

The following ten life skills were identified:

  1. Mindfulness
  2. Critical thinking
  3. Decision making
  4. Communication
  5. Creative thinking
  6. Empathy
  7. Problem solving
  8. Interpersonal relationships
  9. Resilience
  10. Self-awareness

From this, 18 secondary schools were randomly assigned to receive the new GNH curriculum. Prior to implementing the curriculum, baseline measurements (based on key indicators from the 10 life skills) determining the well-being in every student, teacher and staff member at each of these schools were completed. During the next 15 months, the GNH curriculum was taught with much seriousness, having one period solely dedicated to Life Skills and Positive Education.

After the programme’s completion, follow-up tests were completed that indicated a significant increase in participant well-being—an outcome Seligman and his team had predicted. What wasn’t expected, however, was that there was an increase in standardized test scores, better physical health and decreased absenteeism. As a whole, there was a higher satisfaction with the entire school experience from both students and faculty.

What this points to is that the curriculum established a ‘well-being ecosystem’—a community of people confidently interacting with one another through positive activities and communication. Since these results, Bhutan has rolled out the programme on a national level.

Gross National Happiness values and principles have become deeply embedded into the consciousness of the youth in Bhutan through this holistic approach to student development, led by principals and teachers as key change agents.

For more than five years, Ridley has been a leader in positive education and focused on creating a positive ecosystem for students and employees alike. In 2012, the school developed a unique strategic vision to ‘inspire flourishing lives’, which calls upon Dr. Martin Seligman’s PERMA model and the S.E.A.R.C.H. framework of Dr. Lea Waters’ Visible Wellbeing Programme. Our two full-time social emotional counsellors continually partner with internal change agents to ensure our community is adopting thoughtful strategies.

 

Ridley Exploring Mindfulness as Part of a Positive Education

Ridley strives to be at the forefront of educational development, to ensure our students become successful members of the global community. For this reason, our school was an early adopter amongst independent schools, embracing positive education as a fundamental approach to learning.

Being on the leading edge of positive education means continuing to explore new ideas and research as it becomes available. This semester, the students of Lower School have been part of a pilot programme to evaluate the effectiveness of mindfulness meditation on students. The programme developed by Jacqueline Oscvirk, creator of The Mindful Family, involves students from Kindergarten to Grade 8 practicing mindfulness twice weekly.

Mindfulness meditation focuses the human brain on what is being sensed at each moment, instead of the past or future. It is a way to calm the mind and develop clarity, calmness, empathy, and positivity.

Within educational systems, mindfulness has shown an improvement in students’ attention and focus, emotional regulation, creativity, as well as problem solving skills. Studies have shown youth benefit from learning mindfulness, in terms of improved cognitive outcomes, social-emotional skills, and well-being. These benefits may lead to long-term improvements in life.

“Our intention is to equip all of our Lower School students with the tools to overcome everyday challenges.” – Hanna Kidd, Lower School Counsellor

There is substantial evidence that skills which increase resilience, positive emotion, engagement, and meaning can be taught to school children. In this way, without compromising either, Ridley teaches both the skills of well-being and the skills of achievement.

“It’s another tool for teachers to use,” says Hanna Kidd. The Grade 7 and 8 students will begin their mindfulness training in early April, with the goal of using mindfulness to help reduce stress and anxiety as they prepare for exams.

Ridley is incorporating the latest research in positive education from around the world. Discoveries such as gritthe ability to persevere through challengesby Dr. Angela Duckworth, and flowthe ability to become immersed in a challenging taskby Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, have already been added. Based on this science, Ridley equips students to deal with the daily demands of life and learning by creating an environment that:

• Generates positive emotions
• Practices mindfulness
• Builds on strengths not deficits
• Models grit and resilience
• Nurtures positive relationships
• Encourages goal setting and accomplishments
• Fuels our vitality

Ridley students are empowered to embrace their individuality, develop who they are, strive for who they will be, and define the lives they will lead. They develop the intellectual, physical, emotional, and social skills needed to succeed. They are inspired to acquire the knowledge, explore the truths, and nurture the values that will allow them to lead flourishing lives.

THE NATIONAL POST: REPORT ON PRIVATE SCHOOLS, June 4th, 2016

Ridley College earns a rare scholastic distinction

Iris Winston

RidleySchoolHouse

Ridley College, already one of the best-known independent boarding schools in Canada, now has a prestigious new designation.

Early this year, Ridley became an International Baccalaureate (IB) continuum school. It is the only boarding school in the country to have achieved this distinction and one of just 15 schools across Canada to offer the world-class international programme. Only two other independent boarding schools in North America offer IB continuum programming.

Founded in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1968, the International Baccalaureate Organization is a non-profit educational foundation that offers “highly respected programmes of international education that develop the intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills needed to live, learn and work in a rapidly globalizing world. Schools must be authorized, by the IB organization, to offer any of the programmes. Schools usually develop the IB continuum over time, adding programmes as the school grows.”

“Ridley has been on a six-year journey with IB,” says Ridley’s headmaster Ed Kidd, who returned to Canada to take the position with Ridley four years ago after 14 years at the Shanghai American School, where he was also involved with and taught the IB programmes.

Developed for students from three to 19 years of age, the IB framework comprises three segments: the Primary Years Programme (PYP), the Middle Years Programme (MYP), and the Diploma Programme (DP). Holistic in style, they all encourage individual learning styles, open communication and compassion, as well as cognitive development and international thinking.

Ridley has run the PYP and DP programmes for the last five years. It was certified for the MYP programme earlier this year, completing the rare designation as an IB continuum school.

The PYP, designed for students aged three to 12, focuses on encouraging inquiring minds, inside and outside the classroom. Using an inter-disciplinary approach, the PYP focuses on teaching students to see the connections between subject areas.

The MYP, designed for students aged 11 to 16, focuses on intellectual challenge and encouraging students to become creative, critical and reflective thinkers. It aims to foster skills for communication, intercultural understanding and global engagement, crucial for success in the 21st century.

The Diploma Programme is for students ages 16 to 19 and focuses on intellectual breadth and depth. Through all three programmes, students are challenged to excel in intellectual curiosity and development, personal growth, empathy and high ethical standards, while working through a broad curriculum. As described in the background material, the aim is to develop “internationally minded people with a broad range of human capacities and responsibilities that go beyond intellectual development and academic success.” This leads to greater success at the post-secondary level and eventually in the students’ professional lives.

“IB is meant to teach students how to think from a very young age,” says Kidd. “Rather than a curriculum — although we are still using the Ontario K to 12 curriculum and offer an optional Ontario Secondary School Diploma — it is an approach to learning, a pedagogical philosophy that incorporates the best of 21st-century education.”

He describes IB as “student-centred, inquiry-based, inter-disciplinary and international,” noting “it brings the world and global-mindedness and global competency into the curriculum.”

Kidd points out that every aspect of the IB approach, which is “founded on taking action and service to others,” is in line with the philosophy and internationalism of Ridley College.

“We have Canadians from all over the country and a long history of bringing students from around the world to the school. Currently, 44 different countries are represented. The IB philosophy also fits in with our commitment to service.” The Ridley College motto is Terar dum prosim  (May I be consumed in service.)

Most of all, he says, “it’s good teaching. The IB framework makes learning a rich and rigorous experience. We’ve adopted a world-class approach to teaching and learning that allows us to prepare students from around the world for living in an increasingly global society.”

All this augurs well for the future success of IB students. Their training places them at the forefront in their post-secondary studies, as well as putting them ahead in the selection process at top universities around the world.

Established in 1889 as a boys’ school, and co-educational since 1973, Ridley is one of the oldest and most prestigious independent schools in Canada. From the beginning, Ridley, which is located on an attractive 90-acre campus in the Niagara region, has combined high academic standards, a wide range of extra-curricular activities, a service commitment and internationalism.

This story was produced by Postmedia Content Works on behalf of Ridley College for commercial purposes. Postmedia’s editorial departments had no involvement in the creation of this content.

Test Taking Tips from the Learning Centre

December break is fast approaching, which means Ridleians are preparing for their end of term tests and projects. Test taking has a tendency to induce anxiety for many students, but fortunately there are a number of resources offered to our students to help alleviate this stress.

Ridley’s Learning Centre is a space on campus dedicated to helping students get the most out of their learning experience. It provides a quiet space for students to study and acquire a range of subject-specific and organizational tutoring from our dedicated Learning Strategists.

Below you will find a series of quick tips for note-taking, studying and test-taking, provided by the Learning Centre.

Quick tips for note-taking

Record. Jot down the most useful information during your lecture. It is best to try and decipher what information is more important when writing down the information. Quality over quantity.

Summarize. Upon completion of each page of notes, summarize the key points made at the bottom of the page.

Review. Spend at least ten minutes, every week, reviewing all of your notes. This will allow you to slowly retain the information without overloading your memory.

Tips adapted from How to Study in College 7/e by Walter Pauk, 2001 Houghton Mifflin Company

Quick tips for studying and test anxiety

Set a study timeline. Avoid last minute studying by making a realistic studying plan that dedicates chunks of time to specific topics over a longer period of time.

Feed your brain. When studying for a test, avoid caffeine and sugar and increase your intake of fruits and vegetables. A healthy diet improves brain function and promotes clarity.

Rest and relaxation. Your brain needs time to recover after studying. Wind down before going to bed by turning off all devices and relaxing before bed. Ensure you get eight hours of sleep after studying; especially on test day.

Create a study guide. Using your lecture notes, class materials and references, make a study guide that compiles useful information that will be needed for your test.

Consider the nature of the course. For technical course, practice problems. For non-technical courses, study the major topics found on the course outline.

Quick tips for test writing success 

Choose an effective space. If you are easily distracted, choose a spot in the front or against a wall to limit distractions.

Write quick “memory notes”. As soon as you may begin writing your test, write down any quick, important facts that may help you later on. These can be dates, names, formulas or acronyms.

Use the first 5 minutes to preview the exam. Previewing the exam will allow you to gauge the types of questions being asked. If there is an essay question, previewing the question being asked will allow your brain to being formulating ideas as you write the first part of the test.

Allocate your time. Longer questions will require more time. Ensure you have enough time to answer all of the questions. If you find yourself stuck on one, move on to the next questions; you can always come back to the ones you’ve missed.

What to do if you’re stuck. If you are stuck on a question, leave it. When you return to it, if you are still unsure, make an educated guess.

 

Good luck to all students writing their final term tests!

For more information on Ridley’s Learning Center, please click here or contact Learning Specialist/Founder, Mrs. Elizabeth Clarke; elizabeth_clarke@ridleycollege.com or (905) 684-1889 ext. 2611.