Head Lines: June 2018

Standing in Gratitude

As the year comes to a close, I stand in gratitude for many things. It turns out, that being grateful requires a couple of steps. I thought I’d share these with you.

Step 1: Acknowledgement of goodness in one’s life. In a state of gratitude, we are open and we say yes to life. We not only recognize that life is good, but that it also has richness, texture, and detail.

Step 2: Gratitude is recognizing that some of the sources of goodness lie outside the self. The object of gratitude is outwardly directed to those who are responsible for it.

This two-step process helps us recognize everything and everyone that makes us who we are in our best moments. Which leads me to reflect on my deep gratitude for our entire York House community and for the resilience and optimism our community has displayed this past year.

Our incredible Yorkies have once again risen to the occasion by putting forth their best efforts on a daily basis. They have worked hard both in and outside of class, on the court, on stage and in the community. They have also found time to have fun. Whether it was at the Physics trip to Playland or on Grad Prank day, the Yorkie spirit was in full force. Our grads really outdid themselves with some pretty clever pranks on grad prank day. When the “For Sale: $1” sign was put up in front of the school, our first purchase offer came via email from Dianne Little, the Head of School from Little Flower Academy across the street. Needless to say, she jumped at the very affordable opportunity to expand her school campus…but I readily declined the offer. Thanks, Grads! I am grateful for your outstanding accomplishments this year and for your great sense of humour and feisty Yorkie spirit. Speaking of Yorkie spirit, our Grade 1 Yorkies became instant superstars when they presented Ms. Ninan’s version of “York House Girl” at both Junior and Senior School assemblies and at our parent volunteer recognition event in June. Our Grade 1 moms even came up with their very own clever version of the song, “York House Mom” and performed it for us at the end of the year. The Grade 1 students squealed with excitement to see and hear their moms perform.

Without a doubt, I stand in gratitude for our outstanding faculty and staff who on a consistent basis demonstrate their professionalism, care and dedication to the development and success of our Yorkies. Beyond the work they do in the classroom, our teachers open minds and touch their students’ lives. I want to thank them for their tireless devotion and I know they will be grateful for a well-deserved summer holiday.

To our alumnae, I am grateful for the inspiration you provide to all future generations of Yorkies. We are in awe of the difference you are making in the lives of so many as was displayed in our 85 years special edition of the York Rose. Our York House alumnae form such a strong network of Yorkies whose close bonds last a lifetime. This was particularly evident and heartwarming at Sherry Taylor’s celebration of life held at the school on May 5th. I look forward to getting to know our alumnae even more in the years to come.

I am also very appreciative for our caring parent community whose generosity knows no bounds. As I reflected on the expression of gratitude, a movie created by a very talented grade 10 student, Tiffany, came to mind. As I watched Tiffany’s movie, I wondered why I was so touched. Upon reflecting, I realized that this movie reminds us that we are part of something bigger than we can imagine. This beautiful montage of over 8000 still images, opened my heart to the fact that nature and the universe reminds us that, much like our York House community, we are one. Another reason I loved this video is that I know that a truly devoted father spent several days camping in the Yukon with his daughter so she could capture many of these images. This video reminded me of the gratitude I have for our dedicated parent community who on a daily basis not only give so much to their children, but also to our York House community.

Finally, I want to express my sincere gratitude for your support in my transition into the official position of Head of School. I am thrilled to be part of such a vibrant and caring community and I look forward to an exciting new year come September. Until then, I wish you all a wonderful summer break with your family and friends. Please ensure that you stay hydrated so this too does not happen to you! Wherever your vacation takes you, may it be filled with love and laughter. Bring on the sunshine, the beach, and the BBQ’s!

Gratefully yours,






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Head Lines: March 2018

Julie Rousseau on Cultivating Creativity

In my 26 years as an educator, I have seen many educational trends come and go.  Like in many sectors, there will often be the “flavour of the day”. From shifts in school choice to personalized learning to online learning, the educational landscape is constantly evolving. This, for the most part, is a good thing. But one constant in education that I have noticed taking on increasing importance is the need for us to cultivate creativity with our students.

Of course, the focus on foundational literacies and academics continue to be of significant importance but cultivating creativity in all aspects of the curriculum is key to the success of our Yorkies as they prepare for future careers.

In this popular Ted Talk, Sir Ken Robinson makes the powerful point that students leaving our classrooms and universities will be entering a workforce that none of us can visualize. Learning a narrow or specific skill set no longer has the value in today’s world that it once did. With increasing use of technology and globalization, the tasks and jobs that once were held in the hands and minds of humans are increasingly being taken over by automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence. As such, it is important for us to recognize that creativity is what will distinguish humans from automation and augmented intelligence and why creativity is a skill and disposition that will be highly valuable in the future workforce. This trend toward valuing creativity goes beyond the “innovation” buzzword that we often see. In fact, a 2010 survey of over 1500 executives found that creativity is valued as one of the most important skills of the modern world. This article, by Anthony Wood, further solidifies that creativity is the engine of progress in our modern society.

So what does this mean for the learning environment we wish to create for our Yorkies? It means that we need to see our students’ creative capacities for the richness that they are. At York House, our teachers continually seek to empower our girls to engage in cognitive, social and/or physical learning experiences that allow them to develop their creativity. On a daily basis, our girls are encouraged to:

  • Generate ideas: We encourage our girls to keep generating ideas through graphic organizers, mind maps, and a plethora of reflective activities.
  • Continually Review: We encourage girls to draft and redraft an idea, concept, solution, or product from varying perspectives such as audience and cultural viewpoints.
  • Dialogue: Our Yorkies participate in structured conversations where dialogue with reflection can lead to new ideas. This year we have introduced the Harkness approach to dialogue in our English classes at the Senior School.
  • Make mistakes through trial and error. Finding issues or problems is a great opportunity to see a new approach or design something better.
  • Give things time. Providing an opportunity for ideas to percolate for some time is a great way to return to creative work with a fresh perspective. Great work takes time…ask an artist!
  • Keep a work portfolio. Many of our teachers have students keep a journal or workbook where they can sketch out their thoughts and see the progression of their ideas and concepts. This is a great way to make student thinking visible.
  • Research! Yes, research is a way to become more creative. Researching allows students to deepen their knowledge and to find out about new ideas and/or recycle old ideas into new ones.
  • Critiquing work. At all grades levels, we encourage our girls to reflect not only on their work but to provide feedback and suggestions to their peers. This is a great way for students to express their thinking and to also think about their thinking which is what is called, “meta-cognition”.
  • Problem find and problem solve. Whether it occurs in the science lab, math class or sewing class, students are encouraged to find problems and in relation to these, discuss, ideate, prototype and design solutions to these problems.
  • Communicate. Communicating thoughts and ideas in various ways is a great way to express one’s creativity, uniqueness and identity.

Being creative means continually refining these skills and ensuring that we seek to educate the whole child. I am thrilled to invite you to view this video about our Junior School STEAM program which seeks to do just that. Our student response to this type of learning has been overwhelmingly positive and we look forward to expanding these types of experiential learning opportunities at all grade levels. This will require creativity on our part as well as we support the development of this type of learning environment for our students and teachers both in and outside of the classroom.

As we head off for spring break, I hope that you and your daughters will have time to recharge and re-energize. Whether it is on the court, in the classroom, or on a canvas, I am sure we will have many more opportunities to witness our Yorkies’ outstanding creative works during their final term at school.



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