Heads Up

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Message from Principal Sam McKinney

boys-wordcloudAs a Canadian expat in Australia I always tried to explain what it meant to be Canadian. And, as any pre-millennial can recall, a handy cultural touchstone is the “I Am Canadian” ad that debuted in 2000 and generated a good deal of national pride. Plaid-shirted Joe knew a few things about our country. (“I  believe in peace keeping, not policing, diversity, not assimilation.’”)

That ad was helpful on my journeys, and it was a creative trigger for me as I prepared to talk to the boys at assembly last week. I spoke to them briefly about my time overseas and the great pride I felt when speaking about Canada, as a Canadian. I also mentioned how positively our country is viewed by the majority of people I met while abroad. I then asked them to focus a similar lens on our school, think about this question and discuss in their advising groups: What would we like others to know about Upper Canada College?

I’ve been gathering the responses, the themes of which I’ll share briefly. Our students spoke to strengths such as lasting brotherhood, teachers who offered support and opportunities for independence in equal measure, the respectful, caring and accepting culture of the school, co-curricular opportunities for every taste and a rigorous academic program they were proud of. Anecdotally, they also shared concerns about the public perception of UCC as a haven for “rich kids,” while discussing ways their intentional behaviour off-campus could either disrupt assumptions or reinforce bias; and therein lies the power of character education, to shift those judgements.

My hope is this collection of feedback will spark an ongoing conversation about the values we aspire to as a College. As I’ve written to you, we’re in the consultative stage of envisioning our next strategic plan and the voices of all members of our community are essential. (To this end, we hosted an Old Boy Summit on Oct. 22 and we’ve scheduled feedback sessions for parents, staff and students next week, in collaboration with our consulting firm Berlineaton.)

In the months to come, I will be sharing much more news as our planning process continues. For now, I’m delighted with the quality and authenticity of the conversations with our students, as we shape our future vision together.

I wish you all a relaxing and enjoyable long weekend.

Sam McKinney