Final message from Don Kawasoe, Head of the Prep and Upper Schools
Typically, Heads Up announces upcoming events for our parents. However, because this is my last opportunity to write to you, I’m taking the opportunity to share my gratitude and a few final thoughts.
First, I wish to thank you for your generous and kind words. It’s been an honour to have taught and to have served in a leadership role at a school as special as UCC. Over the years, I’ve worked with exceptionally talented boys, supportive parents, teachers and staff who care deeply about boys and boys’ education. In what other job could one share in the achievements of so many on a daily basis? To be clear, it’s not just the “best” boys; every boy is making his best effort at his own point in development. This is how I define success.
The venerable clock tower has borne witness to much change since I was hired by Prep Headmaster Richard Howard in 1980 to teach science and math at the Prep. I also owe my thanks to Prep leaders Hamish Simpson, Stephen Johnson and Principals Dick Sadleir, Eric Barton, Doug Blakey and Jim Power who believed in me and gave me the opportunities to learn and grow.
You know that everything we do for boys is a team effort and, in my reflections that follow, what we’ve accomplished is due to the collective efforts of our dedicated teachers and staff.
These are the most significant changes in programs that I’ve seen over the past 35 years.
Focus On The Learning Process
We’re now more intentional about framing the learning process for students. UCC teachers have always been knowledgeable about their subject matter. Now, through research and professional development, teachers know better how boys learn and, by using technology and a variety of different strategies, they can meet the needs of a broader range of learners. They also know that there are many different ways to assess student progress. Now supported by technology, they can more fully and accurately report this to parents.
Direct student involvement in their own learning builds the skills boys require to be effective lifelong learners. They now have the skills, vocabulary, reflective experience and, most importantly, greater confidence to talk about their strengths, areas for growth and next steps. Boys know that mistakes are part of the learning process and they are developing their resilience to manage their challenges.
Meeting The Needs Of Students On A More Individual Basis
There are many ways in which teachers better understand how different boys learn. We have access to a wealth of information and use different assessment tools to accurately determine a range of language and math competencies throughout the boys’ time at UCC. With the expertise of the Wernham and West Centre for Learning faculty, we can identify specific ways all teachers can support all boys. It’s one of the mandates of the Centre for Learning and its work has been transformational.
Building structure into our teaching based on a boy’s developmental stage provides clear expectations. Support is both proactive and reactive through many resources such as the Centre for Learning, the Health Centre, school counselors, Deans of Students and the athletic therapists. At UCC it’s a team-oriented approach.
Positive relationships build purpose and help motivate boys. Graduates credit teachers who’ve had a significant impact on them and, in each case, they identify a strong relationship with those teachers. The majority of graduates also claim that their UCC friends remain close throughout their lives. There’s something special about growing together and working through something that’s challenging. The majority of our Form 4 and 5 boys identify the 32 km Norval bike trip or the Form 5 PYP Exhibition as their favourite experience in Primary. Without doubt, these are also the most challenging undertakings they’ve faced.
The PPO and PO have taken on enormous roles in supporting our boys. From the valuable but unglamorous “lost and found” role, to events like Association Day and the magnificent galas, our parent volunteers dedicate tireless hours to enhance our programs and contribute valuable funds for key improvements. More recently, the Blues Booster Club and Arts Booster Club have supported athletics and arts in both schools with the same unselfish enthusiasm. Thanks to all who have given so much.
Threads of Program Excellence
The adoption of the IB program at the Diploma and Primary level has been transformational and, soon, consideration of the Middle Years Programme will begin. This is a rigorous program that demands students develop critical learning skills and a positive attitude towards the broader world around them. The IB is recognized as the best accreditation to schools around the world. Key elements of the UCC program include building character through all school experiences and a breadth of academic and co-curricular offerings in which our students rank amongst the best nationally and internationally.
The development of program at Norval, the Prep and the Upper School have moved in parallel as teachers have worked together to link programs. No other boys’ school in North America offers such as breadth of value-added experience as well as the IB.
With access to more information and a growing ability to process it, we’ve also made significant changes in how we assess candidates in our admission process. Our inquiries and applications continue to grow so we’re able to select those candidates who are most likely to thrive and make a significant contribution to our school.
Sharing curriculum through Haiku and our tracking systems to support boys on extended absence are other examples of how we can care for individual students.
In closing, I’m proud to know we’re grounded in values and our work is rooted in research. We continuously strive to learn and work hard to collaborate. Improvement will be ongoing but we’re well-positioned to prepare our boys for tomorrow.