Head Lines: Winter 2020

Dear York House Families,

Like many others, it is at this time that I find myself reflecting on the highlights of the year that was and looking forward to new beginnings in the year ahead. As a second language educator, I have always been fascinated with the evolving nature of language. Language isn’t set in stone. It changes all the time and in turn, it changes us. 

If we pressed the rewind button on 2020, such words as, “COVID”, “unprecedented” and “challenges” certainly would be key words we heard repeatedly. Interestingly, linguistic creativity tends to manifest itself in times of crisis and this global pandemic is no different. Prior to March of 2019, few of us had heard such terms as “self-isolating”, “new normal” or “covidiot” in our daily lives. And as our interactions moved online for work, for learning or for connecting with others, such metaphors as “zoombombing” and “quaranteams” (online teams created during lockdown) became mainstream language. Surely, the most ubiquitous phrase expressed in various languages throughout the world in the virtual sphere must have been, “You’re on mute!”. How many times have you said it in the past 10 months?

Indeed words are powerful and the lexical innovation we have seen in the past few months points to the fact that in times of crisis, we all seek to find meaning. Language and in particular, words, have a way of reshaping not only our ways of thinking and communicating but also enable us to reshape our ways of engaging with the world and with each other.

Which brings me to the word, “joy”. At first glance, this simple three letter word seems self- explanatory. Surely we have all experienced joy and surely we all seek more of it especially now, as we head into the holidays after what has been an “unprecedented and challenging” year. No doubt, many of us need a little more joy in our lives right about now. Which leads me to contemplate the difference between joy and happiness. 

Interestingly, there are various perspectives on the matter. One perspective is that happiness depends on external factors to exist. In short, happiness happens to us. For example, even though we may seek it, desire it, pursue it, etc., feeling happiness is not a choice we make. Joy, on the other hand, is a choice purposefully made. Joy is an attitude of the heart and spirit, present inside of us as an untapped reservoir of potential. In essence, it is possible to feel joy in difficult times. Joy can share its space with other emotions – sadness or anger. Happiness can’t.

Happiness is not typically present in darkness and difficulty. However, joy never leaves it. Joy might be considered as the foundation of our spirit; and if purposefully chosen despite significant difficulties, joy can bring peace and contentment to our lives. 

For this to happen, joy requires a connection. Often the connection is with other people, but it can also be with pets, with nature, with creativity, through activity or just simply through connection with oneself. It is in those times, that joy is present. In the moment. 

As we head into the holidays, it is my sincere hope that, despite COVID related health and safety restrictions on travel or our ability to reunite with family and friends, that we purposefully choose to experience joy. With joy there is hope. With joy, hardship and adversity offers growth and opportunity. As I reflect on the challenges faced in the past year, I choose to feel joy and gratitude for the immense leadership growth this global pandemic has provided me.

Finally, as a school, we have chosen to share with you, our expressions of joy in our very first virtual Celebration of Community. Despite the fact that we are not together physically to share in this moment, may these joyful performances lift your spirits as you head into the holidays. I wish to thank all of our dedicated faculty and staff for their incredible hard work, perseverance, and resilience. They certainly have earned a well deserved break.

I hope that your holiday provides you with an opportunity to spend quality time together as a family. May your holidays be filled with warmth, health, and joy. 



Head Lines: Fall 2020

As I write my first Head Lines of the year, I can’t help but notice, outside my window, the vibrant fall foliage tinged with red, gold, and orange hues announcing the start of autumn. It’s hard to believe that September is already behind us. 

Our students have now settled into their classes and have expressed to me how happy they are to be back at school. Between classes at recess and lunch, it is heartwarming to hear and see our students interacting, laughing as they circulate in the hallways to their classes. As I write this, I hear our youngest Yorkies interacting and playing together on Lindsay Field. Some of my best interactions with students happen during these unscripted moments when Senior School students share with me the highlight of their day or take a moment to share some interesting news with me.

I also cherish the daily spontaneous moments that occur during supervision at recess and lunch. Recently, a very creative group of Junior School students convinced me to be a “judge” for a very impromptu fashion show on the Lindsay field outside at lunchtime. I am always so impressed with our students’ creativity. They had designated the runway with cones and the fashion show was hosted by a very confident master of ceremonies who narrated the different looks created by our very eco-friendly designers. It was such good fun. 

As in-class instruction has resumed it certainly is so rewarding to see and feel the energy and pure joy the girls experience as they socialize and interact with one another. Resuming school after a long period of COVID-related self-isolation has certainly highlighted the importance of socialization on the emotional well-being of our girls. 

Despite the return to in-class instruction, we still have a closed campus which means that many events that we have come to cherish are being reimagined in a virtual environment. The need to minimize the risk of exposures calls on us to rethink events and consider new ways to engage our community. Already we have held very successful events such as our Curriculum Information Night and school assemblies. 

We have received very positive feedback from our community on events that were reimagined in a virtual format such as our Alumnae Day (October 3rd) and our recent New Parents’ Dinner (October 6th). As the year progresses, I am confident that we will find new formulas for some of our traditional events. In some cases, events might look very different, but like Dr. Henry says, “This is for now; not forever”. As the year unfolds, the health and safety of our community will remain a top priority. 

On another note, I am truly excited to share the completion of our new STEAM Lab at the Senior School. Due to our closed campus, we are unable to formally introduce our new Senior School STEAM Lab to the entire community. We had imagined a grand opening event with our community members coming to visit this exciting new learning space located at the front of the Senior School. Undaunted by our current circumstances due to COVID, we still wish to share this video of our exciting new STEAM lab with you.

Recently, Manpreet Deol, a graduate of 2015, and our school’s first Rhodes Scholar visited the STEAM lab before she headed off to Oxford University. We are incredibly proud of Manpreet and I encourage you to hear what she had to say about this new learning space for our school. I also want to thank all our generous donors who contributed to the creation of this innovative new learning space for our school. 

As well, I had the tremendous privilege to interview Dr. Roberta Bondar on the topic of STEAM and exploration. It was such an honour to engage in a conversation with Canada’s first female astronaut and neurologist in space. As a scientist, passionate environmentalist, accomplished photographer and author, Dr. Bondar shares her perspectives about the importance of STEAM education for women. We look forward to sharing this interview with our students in assembly. If you have 20 minutes to spare, I strongly encourage you to view this interview to hear Dr. Bondar’s inspiring message. 

As we head into our Thanksgiving weekend, let us take a moment to reflect on what we are thankful for. I certainly am thankful for our dedicated employees and energetic Yorkies who make coming to work such a pleasure each and every day. Finally, I offer my heartfelt gratitude to you for your continued support and for our important partnership with you during these unprecedented times. I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving.


Julie Rousseau
Head of School