The past year has certainly brought its share of challenges—but it’s also started important conversations about managing stress, cultivating resilience and finding hope. For TigerPost contributor, Vanessa Ferrante ’21, practicing gratitude has been a key part of her stress-busting strategy during the pandemic. Read on to learn how simply being thankful can help you.
There have been a lot of things to stress about during this pandemic. The risk of becoming sick, having to quarantine, learning virtually, not going out with friends, and more. This has amplified our anxiety and sense of helplessness making us lose sleep, hope and serenity. Being in a constant state of stress is not good for our minds, bodies, and those around us. One ‘stress-buster’ that I find especially helpful is expressing gratitude.
Being in a constant state of stress is not good for our minds, bodies, and those around us.
Gratitude is a state of mind where you focus on the present and your blessings in life. When we both express and receive gratitude, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, the two most crucial neurotransmitters responsible for our emotions. You try to forget the negatives and focus instead on the silver linings that make you happy. Gratitude is easy in good times, however, when times are tough, it is not always that simple. It is important to know that there are always things to be grateful for in your life. By allowing yourself to turn to gratitude, you can find hope amidst despair.
Gratitude can always be learned and, if practiced properly, you will reap the benefits that come with it. Perhaps during COVID you are feeling sadness, grief, anxiety, stress, fear, and even anger. Having emotional balance helps us to attain stabilization between our mind and body. When this happens, remember that you are feeling these emotions for a reason. Acknowledge them and allow yourself to experience them while also knowing when it’s time to feel happy.
During these unprecedented times, it is obvious that we should be grateful to essential workers, such as food suppliers, healthcare workers, delivery people, and first responders. They have all taken on risks for the benefit of everyone else. How can we repay them? We do this by showing gratitude and paying kindness forward. Although it is extremely important to be grateful for essential workers, we should express appreciation for all those who make our life easier and happier.
One might ask, “how do I do that?” There are many ways in which one can practice gratitude. Perhaps you can put your gratitude on paper: write down the names of three people or things in your life for which you are grateful and why. Or maybe you can tell someone you appreciate them. I know I appreciate the teachers and staff at Ridley who are working overtime to find creative ways to teach us virtually and keep us safe. How about challenging yourself to stop complaining for 21 days? Break the habit of concentrating on the bad in your life. Showing gratitude feels good and encourages kindness in those who receive gratitude, and in anyone who witnesses a kind act.
It is important to know that there are always things to be grateful for in your life.
When you live your life this way, it is contagious—just like the COVID virus. Except, you want this virus in your life! When you do something kind, those around you will pick up on it and want to pay it forward. One action has the potential to spark a chain reaction. There are lots of ways you can practice gratitude as the world deals with times of uncertainly. What has become crystal clear is that only through our efforts, together, can we create a better future for us all.
How can students make a difference? TigerPost contributor Meriel Wehner ’21 shares how youth around the world are bringing about change—and how you can get started in your own backyard.
As teenagers and students, it can sometimes feel as though there is nothing we can do to make a difference in an often-unfair world. At Ridley, we are lucky to have access to an incredible education; to have food, water, and shelter; and to be respected and treated as equals. However, in many parts of the world this is not the case; millions of people desperately need help to access and enjoy their most basic human rights. And, even if we want to help, we don’t always know how. We feel that because we are just teenagers, we don’t have the power to do anything impactful. We feel that because we are, geographically, so far from those who are suffering most, there is no way that our actions could lead to a favourable result. However, this is not true—there are several ways that students our age can help those less fortunate.
1. Volunteer locally
Oftentimes, when we think of those who are denied their rights, we imagine they live far away, however, this is simply not true. Though Canadians enjoy basic human rights more than many in less-developed countries, there are still plenty of Canadians, both at the local and national level, who need our help. A 2018 study found that there are roughly 625 homeless people living in St Catharines.
By volunteering at local homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and food banks, or hosting fundraisers and collection drives, teenagers can help protect these people, and to promote their right to access food and shelter. Often, volunteering locally is free; there is no need for an expensive plane ticket, and it allows us to help fix the problems closer to our own lives. Of course, volunteering overseas is a great thing to do, but it is often more effective in the long run to focus on the people who are geographically close to you, as the aid you deliver will be more sustained and concentrated.
2. Sign petitions
Petitions are a great way to get involved with any number of cases, and these take almost no time or energy. Websites like change.org are home to thousands of petitions tackling basically any topic of interest. Signing a petition takes less than a minute and can be a really easy way to make a difference because every signature counts! To make your petition signature as effective as possible, send them to family and friends to make sure those signatures add up.
3. Participate in Amnesty Letter Writing Campaigns
For those who haven’t heard of it, Amnesty International is the world’s leading organization which promotes human rights. Amnesty helps in myriad ways, but one of their most well-known endeavours is the Amnesty letter-writing campaign. Amnesty posts case files on various global human rights abuses, along with a letter template and information on who to address your letter. In these letters, you can put into words all the passion you feel for a certain topic and send them off to someone who can actually make a difference. Anyone can write an Amnesty letter and they can be massively impactful. In the past, Amnesty letter-writing campaigns have directly led to freeing unfairly jailed political prisoners, saving innocent people from the death penalty, and bringing about the arrests of human rights abusers. These letters may be slightly more involved than simply signing a petition, but they are an easy and free way to facilitate real change.
Although donations aren’t always feasible or sustainable for the long-term, if one has the means, making a donation is one of the best ways to help those in need. Even small donations of $1 or $2 can make a huge impact once they add up. Donations can be made to support essentially any cause and can even save a life. However, it is important to do research on the charities you choose to donate to, to be certain that your money is going directly to the cause and not being siphoned by the organization.
5. Raise awareness on social media
One great way to really make a difference is to spread awareness. People often aren’t aware of what’s going on in the world around them, but if they knew, they would do what they could to help. By spreading information in a productive manner, we can educate and encourage others to act. As teenagers, one of the most effective ways we can spread information is through social media. Everyone has it; everyone uses it—and Instagram stories, in particular, are an excellent way to share current world issues.
Instagram stories are an excellent way to share current world issues, however, it is essential to fact-check all information found on apps before reposting.
By posting to these teen-saturated apps, we are easily able to educate a generation. However, there is a definitive downside to social media activism, as basically anything can be put into a story template and reposted. It is essential to fact-check all information found on apps (like Instagram) before reposting, as spreading false information can be extremely dangerous—particularly when critical issues are involved.
6. Read the news
One of the easiest ways to make a difference is to be aware of going on, and the best way to do this is to read or watch the news. Of course, this alone does not make any difference, but the more people are aware of world issues, the more we can work to make a difference. By staying up to date on current affairs and talking about them with your friends and family, we can increase global recognition of human rights crises which may be isolated to a certain geographical area and begin to build enough attention to force change.
The more people are aware of world issues, the more we can work to make a difference.
It has been proven that raising awareness is only effective in making change when everyone knows—so make sure to always talk about and share what you read. Participating in meaningful, educational conversations about current affairs is an excellent way to expand understanding beyond what is written in the news, and can allow one to reflect on how to bring about change.
7. Attend a rally
One of the most involved ways to promote human rights is to attend rallies. Rallies can be held to protest any human rights abuse, from the Black Lives Matter movement to the gender wage gap. Rallies are particularly impactful as they bring together people who are passionate about change.
When faced with such large groups of people, it’s difficult for a government to completely ignore the issue. Rallies put focused attention on a specific issue, which in turn encourages the government to discuss it. Then, the issue will hopefully be addressed and rectified in a positive, fair and respectful manner. In cities like Toronto, rallies are often held for any number of issues—this is a great place to get started with peaceful protesting.
Sam has always loved a good challenge—the secret is to keep one step ahead. The retired triathlete shares her experiences at Ridley, what’s keeping her running these days, and the conversation she wishes more young athletes would have.
These days, Sam McGlone is taking life in stride, albeit at a quick pace. The Olympic triathlete may have retired from competition, but as an emergency physician with two little ones at home, Sam has more than enough to keep her running—and, in case you were wondering, she’s still as active as ever.
The San Diego-based doctor just started working at Sharp Memorial hospital, following residency at the University of California. Her husband, Brent, is an emergency physician as well, and the two have a five-year-old son, Cole, and a daughter, Alex, who’s three. “It’s a little hectic,” she says cheerfully, but she’s clearly enjoying every minute. “The kids are high-energy, funny, active—they’re everything you’d imagine.” They come by it honestly. Their parents met through triathlon; Brent was an elite athlete and swim coach, who, like Sam, transitioned to medicine later on.
“It wears on you,” she admits. “Everyone’s got this fatigue because it’s been going on so long—but as a health care worker I’ve seen the numbers rise. People are coming in sicker and you know a lot of it is preventable.”
As we speak, it doesn’t take long for the elephant in the room to be addressed: Sam is working as a doctor in the midst of a global pandemic, and she is at turns empathetic and frustrated. “It wears on you,” she admits. “Everyone’s got this fatigue because it’s been going on so long—but as a health care worker I’ve seen the numbers rise. People are coming in sicker and you know a lot of it is preventable.” She pauses. “But I’m also sensitive to the fact that people are over this and just want to see their families. They’re not ready to make those sacrifices indefinitely.”
The upshot of California living, however, is that their family can be outdoors year-round, whether that means being active, taking a break, or socializing safely outside. The seasonal perks of San Diego are, admittedly, quite different from St. Catharines, where Sam and her sister, Karen ’95 grew up, right near Ridley, where they attended Upper School. “My parents always felt education was a priority, so when it came to high school, we started looking at different options,” she remembers. “Ridley immediately stood out because of the breadth of opportunity there. To have that in your own backyard and be able to go as a day student was amazing. We loved our time there.”
From dabbling in music and theatre, to exploring new sports and writing for the school newspaper, Sam enjoyed the diversity she found on campus. She rode horses, was a harrier, joined the swim team, was on the First Girls hockey team for a time, and was the 1993 Midget Girls Cross Country Run winner, earning a Tiger Tie for her athletic achievements. “When your kids are young, you think about putting them into one sport or another, but I’d encourage them to try a variety,” she offers, thinking of her own sport-loving little ones. “In your late teens and twenties, you’ll need to focus in order to get to a high level. But there’s a lot of time before that needs to happen, and you’re asking for burnout if you specialize too early.”
“My parents always felt education was a high priority and when we started looking at options for high school, Ridley stood out because of the sheer breadth of opportunity there. To have that right in our own back yard was amazing.”
It was Ridley’s cross-country coach, Maggie Swan who first encouraged the 14-year-old to look into triathlon. “She said it was a great way to stay in shape during summers for the track and cross-country seasons,” Sam recalls. “So, I borrowed a wet suit and a bike and did the Grimsby Triathlon. I don’t think I did terribly well that first one, but it was challenging and a lot of fun. I decided, ‘I want to get better at this.’”
In the summers that followed, Sam participated in races across Ontario, but it was her training with a team in Australia that really helped up her game. “Australia has strong teams and training programmes,” she explains, having gone for a gap year after high school,“and I took a big jump up in my level. When I came back to Canada, I made the Junior National Team, and that launched me to international competitions.”
From there, she was, quite literally, off and running. Having always intended to go to medical school, Sam moved to Quebec to study kinesiology at McGill University and trained with a club while she completed her degree. When she was presented with the opportunity to make Team Canada, Sam decided to postpone med school to see where her talents could take her. She knew there was only so long she’d be able to compete in a tough endurance sport like hers, and the opportunity was too good to pass up.
“In your late teens and twenties, you’ll need to focus in order to get to a high level. But there’s a lot of time before that needs to happen, and you’re asking for burnout if you specialize too early.”
After graduating from McGill in 2002, she moved to the Canadian Training Centre in Victoria, B.C. It was a smart gamble which led to a successful 10-year career as a professional triathlete. Sam raced in the International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Cup Series, won the Canadian National Triathlon championship in 2004 and 2005, and represented Canada at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
“It was the highlight of my life,” she remembers of her time in Athens, that first call to her mom back home drowned out by the cheers in the stadium. “In terms of the race itself, it was like any other: the format’s the same, the officials, the competitors—and in some ways, that was reassuring. But everything surrounding the Games was so much bigger than anything I’d ever seen. Triathlon is one of the smaller sports, so we don’t get a lot of mainstream publicity. We’re not used to the crowds. Walking into the stadium for the opening ceremonies where there were 80,000 people and media and cameras flashing was just on a different scale.”
Shortly thereafter, Sam transitioned to competing in Ironman races and won gold at the 2006 World Championships—she’s the only Canadian to ever win. “Canadians have a long line of pretty incredible triathletes,” she says proudly. “Because of the size and climate of our country, we produce some impressive results. There have been some amazing women who have come before and after me.” Sam would go on to finish second at the 2007 Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii and took home the Ironman title in Arizona in 2009.
“Canadians have a long line of pretty incredible triathletes. Because of the size and climate of our country, we produce some impressive results. There have been some amazing women who have come before and after me.”
And, along the way, she wrote, contributing a monthly column to Triathlete magazine where she tackled questions on training, racing and lifestyle. For Sam, it was a great way to communicate with the pre-Twitter triathlon population, in a time before social media was what it is today. Days were tough but satisfying for the young athlete, on a perpetual loop of eat-train-sleep-recover. A solid race performance was her reward.
“At the time, you’re not striving for balance,” she recalls, though that’s admittedly changed over the years. “You need to have that singular focus. You might train 30 to 40 hours a week, but then there’s another 20 that’s dedicated to recovery so you can do your next session—stretching and sleeping and nutrition and massage and physical therapy and lifting weights. It’s the difference between those who do triathlon recreationally and those in the professional ranks; all those peripheral things that give you that extra edge.”
Despite the challenging work, spending her twenties racing and in training camps was an opportunity to travel and make friends with athletes from around the world. “I was 22 when I started full time, 24 when I competed at the Olympics,” she explains. “And you may miss out on some social aspects of day-to-day life, but I never regretted it. I went to Australia and Thailand and Japan and all over Europe—and you can’t do this forever. You have to retire at some point.”
“It’s hard to think there will be an end to a sports career, but of course, there will be an end. Most of us retire in our thirties, which is still young. So, we have these athletes who have dedicated their lives to this one thing, becoming respected experts in their field. Suddenly they’re starting from scratch somewhere else.”
The topic of retirement warrants more serious attention, Sam posits, and is part of ongoing conversations around mental health. For many athletes, the focus is on performance, their identity bound up in their sport, their confidence contingent upon their success. When the time comes to transition out, many feel aimless.
“It’s hard to think there will be an end to a sports career,” she says simply. “But of course, there will be an end. Most of us retire in our thirties, which is still young. So, we have these athletes who have dedicated their lives to this one thing, becoming respected experts in their field. Suddenly they’re starting from scratch somewhere else. It’s very emotional.”
“Some people need more closure and time to transition, but I chose a quick turnaround so there wasn’t a lot of time to soul search and lament the loss. There was this immediate new identity that was just as exciting and full of potential.”
Sam completed her final race, the 2012 Antwerp 70.3, just ten days before becoming a first-year med student at the University of Arizona. “I deliberately chose something all-encompassing to throw myself into,” she shares. She’d always known she’d go to med school and the time it would take to complete that, in large measure, dictated when she left competition. “Some people need more closure and time to transition, but I chose a quick turnaround so there wasn’t a lot of time to soul search and lament the loss. There was this immediate new identity that was just as exciting and full of potential.”
“I think emergency medicine tracks a lot of athletes, triathletes, especially. We’re the jack of all trades: we’re never going to be the best in swimming, or biking, or running—but we’re good at doing all three. In emergency medicine, we’re not the best in any one specialty, but we know enough about everyone’s specialty to identify and treat emergencies. In some ways, it’s very comparable to the triathlon mindset.”
In many ways, med school was as time consuming and competitive as triathlon ever was, and with a well-laid out path ahead of her, she was able to improve and track her gains in a similar fashion. The same grit, mental focus, and determination Sam used for competition, was now channeled into a new vocation.
“I think emergency medicine tracks a lot of athletes,” she muses. “Triathletes, especially. We’re the jack of all trades: we’re never going to be the best in swimming, or biking, or running—but we’re good at doing all three. In emergency medicine, we’re not the best in any one specialty, but we know enough about everyone’s specialty to identify and treat emergencies. In some ways, it’s very comparable to the triathlon mindset.”
As for the physical adjustment, the decreased physical activity was a bit of a shock. She eased herself out of the heavy, training-focused weeks and into a more sustainable lifestyle, enjoying the opportunity to explore new sports and return to others. These days, Sam goes on ski trips in the winter, paddle boards and mountain bikes and runs along the beach. Regardless of the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life, Sam and Brent make certain the other has that time to unwind and decompress.
What’s clear from this Ridleian and Athlete of Distinction is her dedication to life-long personal development. Sam has always set the course, tracked a pace set by her own watch, and persevered on the uphill. These days, the path is more about balance, as she raises a young family and tends to those within her care—but that drive, that gold-standard mindset, hasn’t changed one bit.
This article was printed in the latest issue of Tiger magazine. Learn about our alumni, get community updates and find out where Ridley is heading next! Read more from the Spring 2021 issue.
As Ridley moves towards a new uniform design, Archives Intern and Queen’s University Concurrent Education student, Ella Foss ’16 takes a look back on the traditions, functionality, and design trends that have inspired more than a century of our school’s dress.
Since the establishment of Ridley, it has been clear that uniformity was an intentional way to create a sense of community, to place all students on an even playing field, and to foster a strong sense of belonging. The first headmaster, J.O. Miller was determined that, “Ridley College from opening day would be meticulous about the students’ school dress.” In staying true to Miller’s vision, a dress code has remained a constant, while changing with the times as Ridley itself has matured. To understand how the school has arrived at the uniform’s next update, we must first revisit the trends from decades past.
1889 to 1910s
During the early years, when the packing list for boarders included “knickerbockers” and “pocket handkerchiefs,” a Ridley College cap with an embellished orange Ridley crest was issued to students for weekday wearing. At this time, the remaining garments of the dress code did not include the emblem but promoted a professional style—the boys sported suits on school days, consisting of trousers, button-up shirt, tie, and blazer). Given the church services, Sundays in the late 1800s were even more formal; the boys wore black suit jackets and black waistcoats (suit vest).
Images of the First Cricket Elevens decorate our ACTAs, with Ridleians sporting white blazers which would eventually inspire the Prefect blazers of more recent times. This nod to Ridley’s British roots dates back as early as 1900 and remained through to the last year of cricket in 2001. As early as 1919, the Second Cricket Team can be seen wearing the black blazers with orange piping, which would soon become part of the Lower School uniform.
Ridley’s British independent school roots were also evident in the boys’ post-war attire. “Eton collars were the bane of the Junior’s existence…[they] found so many excuses to avoid wearing the collar that it amounted to passive rebellion.” Due to the perceived discomfort of the garment, older students were permitted to instead don Marlborough sack coats.
1950s to 1970s
Twenty years later, “blues and greys” became the number one dress, to be worn on Sundays and for Chapel.
As indicated in the ACTA of the era, “This term has seen the School emerging in new blue flannel blazers with an embroidered Ridley crest on the pocket.” At the same time, the Arts Tie was introduced, with thin, widely spaced orange and white stripes on a black background, still worn today by our thespians, musicians and artists alike.
It must be said that Ridley’s long-standing Cadet Programme has had significant influence over aspects of school dress. Our traditional military uniforms have progressed from army green to navy, khakis and maple leaf red.
At this time, the regular uniform of the Lower School students included the black blazer adorned with orange piping, a white, grey, or light blue dress shirt, the Lower School tie (orange, black, and sliver) and either grey or black pants. Blues and greys were worn only on Sundays, with strictly grey, black, or navy blue socks. Unbelievably, at the time, every clothing item had to be labelled with the students’ name, down to the individual sock!
Perhaps the most casual shift during this time was the introduction of “summer dress,” which became an alternative option for the Lower School students during the warmer months. A golf shirt and grey or navy Bermuda Shorts worn with navy blue or grey knee socks made the heat and outdoor play more enjoyable.
In 1971, a new disciplinary code was put into place, based upon several firm beliefs: “that the individual student must be given increasing responsibility for his decisions and his actions; that the order and efficiency of the School should be maintained with a minimum of oppressive interference upon a boy’s freedom; and that good discipline does not depend necessarily upon absolute conformity, nor does it mean that a student’s cherished individualism need be sacrificed.”
The students of Merritt House North can still be found marking Frau Day each year to nod to Josselyn’s self-described “eye-sore” look.
While older students continued to wear a plain jacket or one with small checks, some of the students found their individually in loud, colourful ties. It’s no surprise then that ‘Frau Day’ has its roots in this decade, when Merritt House North student, Mark Josselyn ’76 “set about to make his own ‘fashion statement.’” Back then, he would be found wearing contrasting patterns, stripes and plaid, from his tie to shirt, to his jacket, pants and even socks. The term ‘Frau’ (Josselyn’s nickname) was used to “describe anyone messy, disheveled or dirty…” The students of Merritt House North can still be found marking Frau Day each year to nod to Josselyn’s self-described “eye-sore” look.
In the fall of 1973, Ridley welcomed female students for the first time. The dress code, previously written for all male students, was amended to state “or equivalent” for females. There really were no clear standards outlined for the young women: what was seen as within the rules varied between faculty members. For the first Ridley women and staff alike, it was difficult to determine what fell within the rules. It was a time unprecedented in Canadian independent schools, and Headmaster Richard Bradley’s progressive decision to go co-ed meant Ridley had to chart new territory—including with its uniform.
Students have always worked to show their individuality through the uniform and in this liberal era some students elected to wear three-piece suits, while others pushed the limits of “trousers” by wearing corduroy pants. Summer dress was only an option for the boys.
It was a time unprecedented in Canadian independent schools, and Headmaster Richard Bradley’s progressive decision to go co-ed meant Ridley had to chart new territory—including with its uniform.
By the 1980s, the majority of Ridleians abandoned the busy and bright ties and began sporting popularized thin monochrome versions. The College’s first cohort of girls could wear pants or a skirt/dress which went below the knee with socks or nylons, and often displayed their individuality by way of their jewelry and hairstyle. It did, however, take some time for a formal female uniform to be formalized.
At the end of the decade, the Lower School updated its uniform. The black and white kilt, white button-up Oxford shirt or turtleneck, and black sweater or vest are cited as staples for the younger Ridleians.
“Change is needed everywhere one goes, and luckily at Ridley, most things simply got better [with change].”
– clipped article found in the 1988 ACTA
1990s to 2000s
During the 1990s the Upper School female students continued to push the limits of the dress code; wearing babydoll dresses, Mary Janes, and small hoop earrings (studs alone being permitted previously). Headmaster Doug Campbell, among others, sought to improve the standards of the students’ daily dress and resurfaced the discussions surrounding the dress code. The fruits of those ongoing debates came to fruition in 2000 when the Upper School gained its first official classroom uniform.
By the 21st century, the daily classroom dress included grey or blue trousers, the blue plaid kilt, a white button up shirt, tie, and a blue or grey pull-over sweater or vest. Blues and greys remained the number one dress. With dwindling competitors in Ontario, 2001 marked the final year of cricket at Ridley, and the white sport coats with orange piping were reassigned as Prefect blazers—this distinctive addition complementing the existing Prefect Tie and an homage to Ridley’s history.
The last year of the white Prefect blazers was 2016: a new system of recognition was adopted the following year: white piping along the lapel of the of the Prefect.
The last year of the white Prefect blazers was 2016: a new system of recognition was adopted the following year: piping along the lapel of the of the Prefect (white) and House Captain’s blazers (respective house colour).
Along with the changing times, Ridley has experienced many positive transformations, cementing its position as one of the top independent schools in Canada—the introduction of co-education, technology, younger grades, the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme, and positive education have been among the most notable. It’s no wonder then that our student attire has remained a strong marker of our connectedness.
As we can garner from the evolution of Ridley’s dress code and uniform, every once in a while a refresh is necessary. In the coming years, our alma mater is planning for another redesign that nods to our storied past but serves the current era. A Uniform Committee, made up of students, faculty and staff, has been working to restyle the look and functionality of the uniform. In speaking with key members of this group, the update is said to be inspired by Ridley’s traditions and history—and we can’t wait to see future generations of students continue to proudly sport our insignia and that telltale vibrant pop of orange.
By Ella Foss ’16
Special thanks is owed to interviewees:
Ken Hutton, Trish Loat, Geoffrey Park ’80, Zack Jones, Gary Atack, Michele-Elise Burnett ’86, Wendy Darby ’99, Janet Lewis, Lance Postma, and Hanna Kidd.
This article was printed in the latest issue of Tiger magazine. Learn about our alumni, get community updates and find out where Ridley is heading next! Read more from the Spring 2021 issue.
Excerpts taken from “To Be Consumed in Service in a World on Fire: Working for Positive Change in the 21st Century,” The Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean’s speech from her visit to Ridley in January 2020 for the MGI Gordon Speaker Series.
“All over the world, that’s how change usually comes about—through young people … Without them, there is little hope to find long-lasting solutions to the challenges we face.”
Terar Dum Prosim. It’s our school’s motto, proudly displayed around campus, taken to heart and deed by Ridleians for more than a century. But what does it mean, in today’s world, to be consumed in service? It was the question posed to young audience members by Michaëlle Jean—Canada’s 27th Governor General and Commander-in-Chief—on her visit to Ridley this past January for the MGI Gordon Speaker Series.
And as she stood at the podium, illuminated by the light of the Mandeville Theatre, Madame Jean spoke of what’s increasingly at stake: from civil discourse, to the plight of the disenfranchised, to the health of our planet. She implored students to consider how best to channel their passions, and showed them, through the power of storytelling, how their “most precious asset”—the stories of our collective past—can be used to move forward, together:
“Beyond words and the local idiom, there is something even more powerful we can call the ‘shared language of our universal and shared humanity.’ Expressing the ideas and thoughts that speak to our common experience helps us to re-imagine and re-shape the world as a space where we can share solidarity, cooperation, fundamental rights and freedom, dignity, global justice, inclusive and responsible development, environmental sustainability, and creativity—embracing our cultural diversity and the richness of our perspectives as part of the human journey.
We are all bound together by a shared history that has shaped our past, and therefore shapes our present. But we need to come to terms with an inescapable fact: colonial violence, destruction, war, many crimes and mistakes are also part of our shared history. The same way we are also entwined by shared experiences that have lifted and connected us, exacting but successful struggles have shaped and built our communities.
“Holding on to diversity and difference, in the midst of intense pressures toward conformity and uniformity, is an act of brave resistance and creative vitality.”
Let us remember that millions of people from every corner of the earth left darkness and despair behind, to land here with nothing but their nightmares and their dreams, their struggle for survival and their hope for a new life.
We can’t see very far into the future, but a long view of the past is possible; memory is our guide. In the big boat of history, that is why we row forward looking back. Facing our past helps us steer clear of old wanderings and errancies, while a glance above the shoulders allows us to stay the course.
That is my invitation to you today: to row together as hard as we can in the present moment, facing the past to maintain correct direction, moving resolutely forward, toward a better future.“
Madame Jean is certainly no stranger to overcoming adversity. After fleeing Haiti with her parents in 1968, she slowly pieced together a life in Quebec, earning the degrees and scholarships which would allow her to study around the world. Fluent in five languages, an award-winning journalist, staunch supporter of the Quebec women’s movement, and UNESCO Special Envoy to her home country of Haiti, her many successes over the years were the result of courage, resiliency and a firm commitment to supporting democracy and human rights. In 2010, the stateswoman and her husband, (filmmaker, essayist and philosopher, Jean-Daniel Lafond) founded the Michaëlle Jean Foundation which, through art and culture, supports civic initiatives alongside some of the most vulnerable and disenfranchised youth in Canada.
“At the core of what I do,” she shared with the room, “what is closest to my heart, is the calling to serve and accompany thousands of young people in their professional development; the emergence of their talents; their desire to create, reinvent, innovate, build, contribute to the common good; to serve and produce freely and to the fullest extent of their abilities.”
“The action of young people changes everything, because it has always been the most luminous source of engagement in the world … Young people constitute human capital in which we must invest the most—but unfortunately invest the least.”
Madame Jean’s stories were both far-reaching and immediate. She told the little-known story of Niagara’s Richard Pierpoint—a former slave and black Loyalist who fought with the British and finally became a property owner in 1822 at age 78. The black communities “Captain Dick” helped establish contributed to the region becoming home to many African American refugees, the final stop on the Underground Railroad for slaves reaching Canada.
She gave voice to the determined young women who struggled to find their place when they first came to Ridley in the 1970s. She spoke of her own experiences dealing with adversity: as a refugee, as a woman, and in the many professional roles in organizations where she was the first of African descent—teacher, journalist, anchor, Secretary General of the International Organization of La Francophonie, and as Canada’s third female Governor General.
“Our shared history is our guide; our shared responsibility is to ensure the past doesn’t repeat itself. To remember our covenant with nature, with each other.”
“I can relate to these stories of hardship when, as a group and as an individual, you find yourself defending your intrinsic dignity and human worth, expressing and simply exercising your rights and equality,” she explained thoughtfully. “These hold lessons for all of us, about what service means, and what it costs.”
She looked back at the daunting swell of history—Europe, Canada, the roots we have planted here in St. Catharines, and to her own journey which led her to the podium that day—and then looked out at the audience before her. And as the poignant stories filled the intimate theatre space, her earlier invitation hung unspoken: And you? What will you do when you are called?
“Now more than ever, we need leaders willing to put themselves on the line to serve society, willing to make sacrifices for the common good, to advance our shared destiny as humans, around a commitment, for instance, to safeguard the global commons—the oceans, the land, the remaining forests and wilderness, the Arctic, the Earth’s atmosphere.
That must now include a commitment to keeping a healthy atmosphere of dialogue, and a sane climate where disagreement is possible, and debate desirable.”
It’s a challenge to which we must all rise, as the world we know shifts shape into something new. Whatever our beliefs or our politics, finding sustainable, positive solutions to today’s concerns require each of us to learn, to listen, to be bold, and to seek guidance from those among us who are experienced, wise and good.
“We must strive to bring most everyone, all generations on board,” Madame Jean continued in earnest. “With smart strategies that seek to unify, rather than needlessly polarize. With spirited, informed and well-designed tactics. With art and creativity. With guts and gusto. Building people power, mass momentum. Holding on tight to what being a citizen truly means. Through peaceful social power. With dignity, dignity for everyone as a core value. And a fierce dedication to be the change we want to see.”
As the night drew to a close, students gathered around her, and Madam Jean took the time to speak with each one in turn, sharing, smiling, and listening to what they had to say. It is this compassion, this genuine interest in people which makes people gravitate to her, and which has made her one of the country’s most inspirational figures.
And you? How will you rise to the challenges we face in today’s world? To be consumed in service to a greater cause? “Nothing will happen without this generation—you, the student generation—being activated,” Madame Jean told them.
“That is where I pin my hopes.”
This article was printed in the latest issue of Tiger magazine. Learn about our alumni, get community updates and find out where Ridley is heading next! Read more from our summer issue.
How parents and educators can promote wellbeing and quell anxieties related to wearing a mask or face covering at school.
By Sue Easton, Director of Wellbeing & Learning
As we prepare to return to campus amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, questions about the impact of wearing non-medical masks or face coverings on student wellbeing have surfaced. While wearing a mask has been proven to lessen exposure and provides us with the ability to reintegrate into society, it can be a challenge for us to accept the changes the virus has imposed on our lives. For children, this can be an even more complicated transition to understand, which is why it is vital to speak to young children about their emotions surrounding the start of school and the changes it may bring—including mask-culture.
As a positive education school, Ridley uses the PERMA-V Model to define “flourishing,” and we have used this framework to address common social-emotional concerns and to share some tips and help prepare families for September.
provide positive reinforcement for appropriate use of masks, when you are out in the community
give children choice in relation to the comfort of thier mask (some children like elastic behind the ears, while others prefer a toggle at the back)
give children choice on the appearance of their masks (for younger students, a ‘superhero’ approach has been used for years in parts of Asia and may be effective)
Communicate clearly, considering tone, expression and body language – all of us at Ridley will, too!
for younger children, use imaginativeplay to demonstrate appropriate use (e.g. with stuffed animals) and familiarize them with how their teachers may look this fall
for older children, make masks together to ensure that appearance and comfort are personalized
Practice wearing a mask while doing a task kids enjoy (such as watching TV or playing on electronics) to help normalize the feeling
“Not everyone is able to wear a face mask and many disabilities are invisible. Assume positive intent and be kind and respectful to those who cannot wear a face mask.”
model appropriate mask use – children use social referencing to decide what they should do, meaning parents and teachers can lead by example.
communicate clearly, considering tone, expression and body language – all of us at Ridley will, too!
normalize the use of masks, giving young children the opportunity to watch and get used to seeing others in masks, as well as wearing them
acknowledge feelings of discomfort, rather than telling children that they shouldn’t have a big issue with wearing a mask or seeing someone in a mask.
help children understand why we are wearing masks, and the importance of doing our best to protect ourselves and others in our community (personalize it if you can, ie: grandparents)
share information with them to further their understanding, like in this Bill Nye video
support children in creating cloth masks for others in the community who do not have access
celebrate consistency and appropriate use of masks as a way to be kind to others
encourage self-advocacy when children do not hear or understand what someone says to them
Give children choice on the appearance of their masks.
remind children that it has been repeatedly proven that we can breathe effectively through masks
teach children how to put on and take off masks so that they are avoiding touching certain parts of the mask or storing it in a santitary location during lunch or outdoor play.
McMaster Children’s hospital coined the phrase “Play, practice, prepare, and be patient” in relation to the introduction of masks to children. We appreciate your support in helping our Ridley students with this adjustment. We know that their physical and emotional wellbeing are your top priorities as parents — and they are for Ridley, too. We are here to support you in your reintegration back to school and want to ensure you feel ‘Positively Prepared.’
Help children understand why we are wearing masks, and the importance of doing our best to protect ourselves and others in our community.
“If there’s anything our school’s history has taught us, it’s that these are the moments when fresh, new ideas are born, moments when we, together, rise to the occasion.”
As the world faces one of the largest global crises on record, one can’t help but reflect on our school’s history. From the Springbank House fire in 1903, to world wars, economic turmoil, and more, Ridley has, quite literally, risen from the ashes through more than 130 years of unexpected plight. Though it may feel as though the COVID-19 pandemic has dented our amour, we know our school will once again prove its resilience and persevere in the face of this significant event.
We’ve flipped through our anthologies to illustrate the major crises and challenges Ridleians have overcome.*
Springbank House Fire (1903)
It was a cold October morning when students were roused from their sleep by shouts of “Fire!” The boys jostled each other to get outside, grabbing a random assortment of belongings in their haste, as the fire-bell rang in their ears. They stood under the street gaslight, answering, one by one, as Headmaster J.O. Miller called the roll—thankfully, all were accounted for. By the time the firemen arrived, it was clear the building would be completely destroyed; spurred on by the wind, the fire had raced along the attic before turning its attention to the main school building. The firemen concentrated their efforts on protecting the adjacent houses, and what belongings could be saved were piled on the street and in the headmaster’s backyard. The Upper School students watched, helpless, as Ridley collapsed before their eyes.
But those who knew Miller, knew that he would not give up on his beloved school. The loss of the Springbank building, though devastating, only spurred on in him a determination to build the school he’d wanted all along. Boys were temporarily rehoused, and within a month of the fire, everything was relatively normal in the academic programme and general activities; there was even a gym of sorts. Miller got to work finding and securing funds to build a brand-new Upper School and chapel on the same land as the Lower School—finally bringing the schools together on the Western Hill in 1905.
“Those who knew Miller, knew that he would not give up on his beloved school. The loss of the Springbank building, though devastating, only spurred on in him a determination to build the school he’d wanted all along.”
The First World War (1914-1918)
When the Great War broke out, Old Ridleians immediately enlisted in military services, and the school was filled with the spirit of patriotism. But what started out as a feeling of adventure—the sound of marching infantry, bands playing martial music in the streets, and students filled with the rightness of the cause—by 1916 became grim, the realities of war all too real.
The Acta Ridleianas of the era published obituaries of Ridley’s dead, their names and photographs raised on panels along Chapel walls. Tributes also went up celebrating those who were decorated for valour and leadership. Students donated pocket money to social appeals, war relief funds, and hospital wards; and the boys held a minstrel show to raise money for the cause.
They were told it was their duty to perform well at school, and the students took it to heart. They found solace in music; the Glee Club was restored, concerts held, and the gymnasium was, on occasion, converted into a motion-picture theatre, where it would be filled with laughter at the slapstick comedy of film stars like Charlie Chaplin. On the ice, the hockey team was filled with a formidable fierceness, finishing the season with 16 victories.
“By the end of the war, the school had won a high place in public regard, and the mood on campus was one of confidence—that of a firmly established institution ready to grow and expand.”
Canada lost 61,000 lives in that war, more than half of Ridley’s 800 graduates were in active service, and of them, 61 died. The Old Boys proposed a chapel in honour of the Ridleians who had lost their lives and raised nearly $50,000 by the spring of 1919. By the end of the war, the school had won a high place in public regard, and the mood on campus was one of confidence—that of a firmly established institution ready to grow and expand. Canada’s attitudes toward school and higher education grew with it; the number of applications for admittance to Ridley rose.
Recession (1922) in the midst of Spanish Flu Pandemic (1918-20) & Encephalitis Lethargica Pandemic (1915-26)
The war years, and those that followed, were plagued by worries for health, as the Encephalitis Lethargica pandemic—a curious brain-attacking disease which left its victims still as statues, in a zombie-like state, or dead—raged worldwide.
During those same years, the Spanish Flu pandemic swept the globe, killing millions. In an effort to prepare for what they worried would soon come to campus, Ridley’s governors approached architectural firm, Sproatt & Rolph to plan an isolation hospital. Construction began behind Dean’s House that September, and the new hospital was dubbed “The Pest House” by its first patients.
By October, as many as 60 boys had fallen ill. The most serious cases were reserved for The Pest House, the dorms converted to hospital bays for the overflow. Football season was disrupted, and a 10-day holiday decreed in late October to help reduce human contact. Though Ridley lost one member of its faculty and one nurse, no student died during the pandemic—a testimony to the skill and care of its medical staff. The Pest House continued to serve as an isolation hospital until the Schmon Hospital opened in 1947. With increased enrollment in the decades that followed, The Pest House was converted into a residence and renamed Governors House.
The Great Depression (1928-1932)
By 1931, as Canada’s industrial and trade situation became more desperate, it was soon evident that Ridley could face a serious crisis. By fall 1932, enrollment had plummeted, and many questioned the wisdom in building the new dormitory (which would become Merritt House). Old Boys attending the annual meeting that December were worried about the cost of the forthcoming build. Though they acted confident, Ridley’s principal and governors knew the only way they could justify the spend was to find new boys to fill its dormitories.
“We can only assume that a number of Ridley families made great sacrifices to keep their sons at the school.”
Old Boys were challenged to get to work as recruiters, and by the next fall, all heaved a sigh of relief when 27 new students started at Ridley. On campus, students became increasingly interested in current events, absorbed by questions of government, capitalism, and the various ‘isms of communism, pacifism, and fascism being debated around the world. Nevertheless, school spirit remained strong and, as early as 1933, enrollment began rising again.
Only one or two boys were withdrawn for economic reasons during the Depression, indicating that Canadians considered education important enough to be one of the last expenses to be eliminated. We can only assume that a number of Ridley families made great sacrifices to keep their sons at the school.
The Second World War(1939-45)
Still raw from the toll of The Great War, by the time the Second World War broke out, the hundreds of Old Ridleians who reported for active service did so with eyes wide open. Gone were the adventurous spirits of 1914; these men knew what it meant to be at war. Graduates of 1940 left the Prize Day presentation table went straight to the fighting forces. Many seniors didn’t even stay to graduate.
For Ridley, the war threatened to be an enormous burden; the school lost staff and students, had difficulty getting supplies, and there were problems of families divided. The mood amongst students was one of defiance, peppered by the occasional fierce display.
“During the span of the war, the administration recognized the great advances being made in industrial technology, and of the worldwide move toward science. Ridley got on board, creating the strongest physics and science staff they could assemble in order to adapt to the impending age.”
Though it was hard to concentrate—for both students and teachers alike—academic rigour was still upheld, and the boys were active in debate, public speaking, music, drama, and athletics. The new Iggulden Gymnasium revolutionized the school, the perfect site for performances and plays, and the state-of-the-art space made way for activities and sports beyond the traditional trio of football, hockey and cricket.
At the end of the war in 1945, a gesture to commemorate the dead, similar to the Memorial Chapel, was desired by all, and the Memorial Hall was planned. During the span of the war, the administration recognized the great advances being made in industrial technology, and of the worldwide move toward science. Ridley got on board, creating the strongest physics and science staff they could assemble in order to adapt to the impending age.
Recession (1950) and the Korean War (1950-53)
People had not yet recovered from the Second World War, when the Korean War broke out, and active service loomed yet again for Ridley’s seniors. The Cadets received new attention, now looked upon to train Canada’s soldiers of the future. A lavish provision of supplies filled the gymnasium’s armory with guns, rifles, drums, bugles, and signal radio equipment; the Cadet Bugle Band was upgraded with new artillery trumpets, cymbals and bell lyres. School time was spent on military training, able-bodied young men prepared to enlist for Korea or any other areas of conflict.
The numbers of Ridleians who were serving were troubling: 14 Old Boys were in the Canadian Army; five in the Royal Canadian Air Force; seven in Korea serving with the U.S. Air Force; 12 in the Royal Canadian Navy; three in the Royal Navy; and eight serving in the U.S. Navy. Though the school’s atmosphere didn’t have the same tension that was present during the major wars before it, there was a deep anxiety about what the future would hold and where communist aggression could go. Student enrollment numbers declined as the recession tightened wallets around the country but recovered in step with the war’s ending in 1953.
A Decade of Transition: The Hong Kong Flu and the 1970s
By the time the devastating Hong Kong Flu finished in 1969, it had killed over one million people worldwide, and helped kick a recession into high gear. Like many boarding schools, Ridley saw a staggering 14 per cent drop in enrollment, brought about not only by financial woes, but by major changes the country was facing at the turn of the decade: the dismantling of the conventional family; drugs; student resistance; egalitarianism; a diversifying society, and the start of the computer revolution.
“The question of the day was on everyone’s mind: how could Ridley preserve its 80-year heritage while adapting to these new realities?“
Parents were complaining, faculty and students expressed dissatisfaction, Ridley’s policies and systems seemingly out of date. The school was caught between its conservative traditions and a society which had increasingly progressive aspirations. The question of the day was on everyone’s mind: how could Ridley preserve its 80-year heritage while adapting to these new realities?
Its answer lay with a new, young headmaster, Richard Alan Bradley, fresh from the U.K., with experience leading schools that had been through similar changes. Buoyed by a willing faculty, a loyal and dedicated group of senior Prefects, and a $5 million financial campaign, over the 1970s, Bradley made changes which would pay off in the decades to come.
Aware it could no longer solely depend on expanding its boarding population, Ridley welcomed day boys to the Upper School in 1972. By the early ‘70s, Ridley went co-ed—arguably the single most radical change in Ridley’s history. Bradley’s argument was not solely based on numbers; he saw it as a logical step in a world where equal opportunities between sexes were becoming a fact of life. The first girls attended the school in 1973; by 1978, 26 female boarders were welcomed to the school, along with 18 day girls. Ridley’s numbers were rising.
Post-Gulf War Economic Slowdown Leads to Recession: The Early 1990s
There was a general restlessness that occurred in the 1990s, brought in part by the economic recession. Parents were dissatisfied, students impatient. Many areas of the school were showing signs of wear, resources limited, and renovations were slower than some would have liked. Financial aid was stretched thin and, as the demand for information technology increased, concerns about what it might mean for the school increased with it. Co-ed programmes had been launched at Lakefield, Trinity and Appleby Colleges, and Ridley’s administration was uncertain what the competition would mean for its future.
“The Planning Committee assessed all aspects of Ridley life, revisited the school’s mission statement and vision, addressed school spirit, and created a blueprint that would move the school into the 21st century.
For students, things were becoming stricter. A dress coded was enforced and rules were tightening in response to a feeling amongst faculty that the honour system was being disregarded. Spirits declined as many students chafed at the new rules; seniors felt they were losing status and privilege, and everywhere on campus people seemed to complain—whether about lagging technology, long construction projects, a disappearing Old Boys system, or something else entirely.
Students needed to feel heard and Ridley needed an ongoing, focused plan—a review cycle which would examine the school’s nooks and crannies, and take into account changing environments, new technologies, competition, and new demands. The Planning Committee ensured a wide range of Ridleians were involved in the process. They assessed all aspects of Ridley life, revisited the school’s mission statement and vision, addressed school spirit and the perceived lack of student enfranchisement in Ridley’s affairs, and created a blueprint that would move the school into the 21st century.
Changes were soon made. Seniors were given more control, more time was spent on arts and activities, Chapel service was moved to a more-convenient Friday slot, academic programmes reviewed, and changes made to student schedules. And, as the calendar pages flipped toward the late 1990s, Ridley recovered its numbers. By 1998, the school population—along with its spirit—had bounced back.
Now, another moment in time, a moment when our world feels a little off kilter, our community just a little bit raw. But if there’s anything our school’s history has taught us, it’s that these are the moments when fresh, new ideas are born, moments when we, together, rise to the occasion. Each time we’ve been shaken, we’ve stood firmer, only inspired by another opportunity to grow.
We all heard the announcement this week from Premier Doug Ford, that Ontario schools would not reopen for the rest of the 2019-20 school year. Though it wasn’t a total surprise, it definitely evoked many emotions in the adults and children of our Ridley community.
Some felt elated at the opportunity to spend more time with family, to continue exploring interests and passions, sleep more and have more choice and flexibility in planning each day.
Some felt neutral. They have developed a daily routine—including school or work, time with family, communicating with friends, exercising, and doing things that interest them—and are comfortable with the continuation of this schedule for the next four weeks.
Some felt distressed at the thought of four more weeks within the same four walls, with few opportunities to see friends or participate in the activities that they love.
Many of us will fluctuate between these different feelings in a day, a week, or throughout the next few weeks. Each of these feelings is normal, and part of being human. In past blog posts, I have shared many research-based strategies and practices to use on a regular basis to support us when our feelings or emotions seem stuck in the negative: focusing on relationships, using our strengths, understanding our feelings to help us navigate them, sleeping well, moving more, and eating healthy.
But what about the moments when our anger, sadness or fear seem to overwhelm us?
Research into somatopsychic (relating to the effects of the body on the mind) actions suggests that movements like the following can be helpful during these moments:
Square breathing: Picture a square in your mind. As you “draw” across the top, take a breath in to the count of four. As you “draw” down the side, hold the breath to the count of four. As you “draw” up, breathe out to the count of four. As you close the square, hold the breath to the count of four. Repeat at least three times, or as long as needed. Discover other breathing exercises for kids.
Yoga Poses:Practice these poses with your child regularly for improved wellbeing, and so that when they are feeling overwhelmed, they know just the right movement to make them feel better.
Exercise: Physical activity has been proven to reduce stress and fatigue, and to improve alertness and well-being. Thirty minutes a day, done together or in smaller time intervals, have been found to be effective. Determine what physical exercise you or your kids enjoy and take action daily. This will support daily well-being, and provide an outlet for overwhelming negative emotions.
Please remember, all emotions are normal. During this challenging time, it is important that we allow children to sit with their feelings, to notice, name and determine how to navigate them. If we see them getting stuck in negativity, however, hopefully at least one of the strategies shared here will help them move forward.
REMINDER: Hanna Kidd and I hope to see you Tuesday, May 26th at 8a.m. or 2p.m. EST—wherever you are in the world—for our Tuesday Tips chat on ZOOM! Next week’s topic will be Savouring Daily Joys.
“If you eat, sleep and move well today, you will have more energy tomorrow. You will treat your friends and family better. You will achieve more at work [or school] and give more to your community.” — Tom Rath, from Eat Move Sleep
This powerful advice is even more important today than when it was written—and more challenging when much of our day is spent inside, sitting and often in front of a screen.
Be sure each member of your household gets up and moves at least once per hour. It’s a great opportunity to get a glass of water (another important aspect of well-being!), check in with others (remember, relationships are important!), and reduce the risk of many long term health concerns. Here are some simple stretches to try during your day.
Speak with your child(ren) about screen time. Its forms are definitely not all created equal. We’re now using screens in so many different ways: to communicate, create, work, and explore. It’s still important to have a balance of screen and unplugged time. Keep in mind, however, given how important relationships are for well-being, screen time spent communicating with others needs to be considered. Talk to your child(ren) to better understand how they’re using their screens, and determine together a reasonable amount of daily screen time.
And please remember, parents, eating, sleeping and moving is not just for children. Look after yourselves, too!
REMINDER: Hanna Kidd and I hope to see you Tuesday, May 12th at 8a.m. or 2p.m. EST—wherever you are in the world—for our Tuesday Tips chat on ZOOM! Next week’s topic will be Cultivating Optimism.
“Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and the awful, it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.” — L.R. Knost
This quote is a reminder to us all that we will get through the “awful” and that life will be “amazing” again. One way we’re encouraging students to get through life’s challenges—in addition to its more “ordinary…mundane…and routine” parts—is to use their strengths. Beginning in Grade 3, each and every Ridley student learns about the VIA Character Strengths. Classes talk about identifying both character and performance strengths, and how to use them, not only to succeed, but to flourish.
Ridley College became a Visible Wellbeing School after spending two years working closely with Dr. Lea Waters. Her research-based book, The Strength Switch, focuses on the need for parents and educators to focus on children’s strengths in order to build resilience, optimism, and achievement. There is no more important time than now to focus on our strengths.
So, what can you do?
Discuss your child’s strengths with them. Reference the VIA Character strengths survey (for more information, check out these videos), and also discuss the strengths you see in them every day. Remind them how important it is that they know and use them.
Reference their strengths every day. One great activity that can be done around the dinner table is “Three Good Things,” which helps children reflect on what went well that day, why it went well and which strengths they or others used.
Choose a daily activity to do together. (Here are 101 from which to choose.) Talk about the strengths you used to complete these activities, and discuss how knowing and using their own strengths will help them during this challenging time.
And please remember, parents, you are using your own strengths to navigate these challenging times! Recognize all that you are doing—and please be kind to yourself.
REMINDER: Hanna Kidd and I hope to see you next Tuesday, April 28th at 8a.m. or 2p.m. EST—wherever you are in the world—for our Tuesday Tips chat on ZOOM! Next week’s topic will be Nurturing Social Relationships.