Good afternoon invited guests, families, staff, and graduates.
Happy Father’s Day and welcome all to the West Vancouver Secondary School Convocation, 2016.
The ceremony that we are sharing in today is a very special one as it marks a significant milestone in not only the lives of some 325 students but also their parents, guardians, primary care givers, extended family, friends, and teachers.
Being a West Vancouver Secondary School graduate places you in a league unlike any other as you now form the next layer of this school’s legacy; a legacy which has been developed, created, nurtured, and honoured in only a way that a Highlander can over the past 90 years.
As you stand on the brink of transition from the life you have known as high school and prepare for what will occur perhaps faster than you like into what we refer to as life, I encourage you to take the time to reflect on where you have come from, how you have contributed, and why you sit here today.
Author H. Jackson Brown Jr. said “Talent without discipline is like an octopus on roller skates. There's plenty of movement, but you never know if it's going to be forward, backwards, or sideways.”
Having watched you navigate your way through high school I am confident that many of you have experienced this very feeling at different times. You are all talented, and in more ways than you probably know. When you combine your passion with the talent that you both have, and continue to develop, you are each capable of achieving your dreams and goals. Today’s ceremony is a celebration of you reaching one of those goals, with or without your roller skates on.
There is little doubt in my mind that West Vancouver Secondary School students are offered some of the richest and unique opportunities to learn both in the classroom and after the regular school day. You may be of the opinion that we are resource rich in this area. I would like to remind you that without the extraordinary and often unsolicited efforts of your teachers, and other adult leaders in our school, that these resources would be simply that, resources, and little would come of them.
It is you the students who provide the critical ingredient. Without your passion for learning, exploring your options, engaging in activities that you may otherwise shy away from, and generally allowing yourself to experience these opportunities . . . our programs, teams, bands, and clubs would not be the envy that they are today.
As your educators we are proud that our students continue to perform among the best in British Columbia and among the top in our district. This is a credit to our staff, to the support of your parents, and to you the students. As graduates of West Vancouver Secondary School you can expect to be as competitive with any other student in the world and achieve success; you have enjoyed a full and rich experience.
Alexander Graham Bell was observed to say that “when one door closes another door opens, but we so often look so long regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us”. I suspect that this may not necessarily reflect this particular year’s graduation class, as in the short time that I have known you it is abundantly clear to me that many of you like to keep all doors open and for as long as possible.
One of the things that I commonly share about West Vancouver Secondary School is that the students have an incredible amount of pride and respect for themselves, their school, their community, and their world. I expect that you will carry these attributes with you wherever you go.
I trust that you leave here with a series of strong and powerful relationships with both the students in your classes and the adults in the building. Hopefully you have known and felt how we have cared for you and that we have always had your best interests at heart above all else.
I also hope that there has been relevance to your education and that as you move forward on your life journey into new environments and experiences that the skills we have taught you and the values that we have instilled will help guide you.
I know that when the time is right, if you have not already done so, you will join me in thanking your teachers for their commitment to you as well as for their passion and inspiration. The staff at West Vancouver Secondary School exemplifies what I consider to be a true educator.
Whether it was those after school tutorials, trips to Uganda, France or Germany, countless hours on the field or in the band room, coordinating a fashion show, or peaking your interests in robotics, amnesty, multiculturalism, the environment, or at a minimum the untold hours and effort that goes in to the preparation and facilitation of 96 lessons for every course that you took, we are all fortunate to have had the experience, wisdom and opportunity to share the school with this amazing group of people.
This year marks the last for teachers Mrs. Hanci Ping, Mrs. Sandi Leidl, Mrs. Anne Langdon, Mr. Tom Slade, and library assistant Mrs. Anne Wyness as they head off into a well-deserved retirement. On behalf of the staff and students we thank you for sharing your wisdom, leadership, and experience with us in careers that I hope have been fulfilling and rewarding. You will be deeply missed.
To the parents and guardians, thank you for entrusting your children to us in this important period of their development. It is a responsibility that we do not take lightly. Each day we have watched over them as if they were our own to educate them, guide them in their growth, and keep them safe for you so that they may come home every day, only to return the next. We know that you have great hopes for your children and we share those hopes and dreams with you.
To the graduates, you will soon be graduating from a school that takes immense pride in its diversity, actively participates in our community and honours excellence across all areas. When you look back in time and reflect on your experiences here or are part of a future conversation where the question of the school you graduated from comes up, you should feel a deep sense of pride that you were not simply a part of West Vancouver Secondary School but rather you were a critical component that both supported and continued the unsurpassed legacy that this school enjoys.
I would like to leave with you today with the words of Dr. Seuss from the book “Oh, the Places You’ll Go”. If you are not familiar with this book or do not have a copy, I highly recommend it.
Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You're on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the person who'll decide where to go.
You'll look up and down streets. Look 'em over with care.
About some you will say, "I don't choose to go there."
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,
you're too smart to go down any not-so-good street.
And you may not find any
you'll want to go down.
In that case, of course,
you'll head straight out of town.
It's opener there
in the wide open air.
Out there things can happen
and frequently do
to people as brainy
and footsy as you.
And then things start to happen,
don't worry. Don't stew.
Just go right along.
You'll start happening too.
THE PLACES YOU'LL GO!
You'll be on your way up!
You'll be seeing great sights!
You'll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights.
You won't lag behind, because you'll have the speed.
You'll pass the whole gang and you'll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you'll be best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.
Except when you don't.
Because, sometimes, you won't.
I'm sorry to say so
but, sadly, it's true
can happen to you.
You can get all hung up
in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on.
You'll be left in a Lurch.
You'll come down from the Lurch
with an unpleasant bump.
And the chances are, then,
that you'll be in a Slump.
And when you're in a Slump,
you're not in for much fun.
is not easily done.
You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they're darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?
And IF you go in, should you turn left or right...
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it's not, I'm afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.
You can get so confused
that you'll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles cross weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place...
...for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or the waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for the wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.
That's not for you!
Somehow you'll escape
all that waiting and staying
You'll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.
With banner flip-flapping,
once more you'll ride high!
Ready for anything under the sky.
Ready because you're that kind of a guy!
Oh, the places you'll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored. There are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all.
Fame! You'll be as famous as famous can be,
with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.
Except when they don't
Because, sometimes they won't.
I'm afraid that some times
you'll play lonely games too.
Games you can't win
'cause you'll play against you.
Whether you like it or not,
Alone will be something
you'll be quite a lot.
And when you're alone, there's a very good chance
you'll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won't want to go on.
But on you will go
though the weather be foul.
On you will go
though your enemies prowl.
On you will go
though the Hakken-Kraks howl.
Onward up many
a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore
and your sneakers may leak.
On and on you will hike,
And I know you'll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.
You'll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You'll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life's
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.
And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)
KIDS, YOU'LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!
be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea,
You're off the Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So...get on your way!
On behalf of the faculty and staff at West Vancouver Secondary School we congratulate you on your accomplishments and thank you for giving us the opportunity to be a part of your lives. It is truly an honour for me to serve in this community and this school as principal and it has been our pleasure to watch you grow into the outstanding young people that we are here to recognize this afternoon. Congratulations on your upcoming graduation, we truly wish you nothing short of success in the future.
On Thursday March 10, 2016, West Vancouver Secondary School did something that no teacher could remember having done before; we had a whole school assembly! With a school our size we have always had to run multiple assemblies in the past to meet the occupancy loads for our gyms and theatre. We are grateful to the WVFD for their support of our event in this regard.
Suitably entitled "Day of Awesome", staff and students were entertained by, and celebrated for a wide range of talents both known and unknown. Event organizers teachers Jackie Wong, Alex Kozak, David Zimmerman, Gina Castro, and Spencer Capier put together a high energy show that highlighted the amazing talents of both staff and students alike.
Thank you to all staff who contributed to make this historic event a success! Based on the student reaction throughout the show, this will certainly become an annual event in the future. Please enjoy the following videos and pictures that highlighted a small sample of the presentations:
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Our staff band of Messers Cowan, Toth, Capier, Thiel and Daudlin, with two student helpers for the high notes!
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Talented grade 11 Anna Siradze on her cello!
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A very flexible grade 12 Haonan Lu shows us his moves!
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5 courageous staff are selected to be "decorated" - congratulations Mr. Macraild on winning this particular event!
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Mr. Muselius and grade 8 Sacha Moayari show us their tricks - Mr. Kozak makes a daredevil decision at the end!
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Grade 10 Brian Huang shows us that he can reset two randomized Rubic's Cubes in one minute!
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Our staff vows for a better outcome next time!
All in all a wonderful inaugural event, and awesome way to end Term 2! I wish you all a relaxing Spring Break!
The notion of Digital Citizenship is not new (about 12 million results in a quick Google search); it can be generally described as the norms associated with the safe and appropriate use of technology. Parents often ask what schools are doing to "teach" this concept, and I have not always been able to provide a response that is educationally tangible.
Certainly there are elements and learning outcomes in a variety of current curriculums (Health and Career 8/9 for example) that address aspects of "Digital Citizenship," but we do not necessarily "teach" it as a stand-alone concept per se. Moreover, teachers will take advantage of both "teachable moments" in the classroom, as well as instructing students regarding the citation of references in written work, and the importance of submitting authentic work. One reflection on this that I read a while ago included the observation that digital citizenship is truly the same as citizenship, just with a digital focus, and so why would we differentiate?
Regardless, the topic of Digital Citizenship interests me, and I always keep an eye out for resources that are both age appropriate for a high school setting, and written in a way that teenagers will engage. To date, many if not most, of the examples I have seen have been targeted at younger children, as evident in the language and graphics depicted.
I came across a post on the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) website entitled Infographic: Citizenship in the digital age. It caught my attention;specifically, the students depicted in the infographic could reasonably be in grade 8. Additionally, the language level of the 9 Good Citizen points were written both in a way, and at a level, that I felt would appeal to high school students. What stood out immediately for me was the title. It suggested the same idea that I referenced above regarding the distinction between citizenship and digital citizenship.
How might we use this at school? To continue our ongoing conversations on the topic, I intend on sharing it with staff and ordering a few of the poster formats that are available. Perhaps this infographic will also help parents frame their conversations with their own children at home.
Our Superintendent Chris Kennedy recently blogged about "My One Word". For him the word hungry had resonance for the reasons he cited. Personally, I cannot help but think that the January Salted Caramel Truffle Blizzard of the Month at Dairy Queen may have had something to do with it . . .
It is not easy to decide upon a single word that has significance in what we do, or suggests a direction or theme that we wish to pursue; there are so many to choose from in this regard. On Twitter the other day I saw the following tweet and its significance was not lost on me:
I can only assume that this is not late-breaking news but for some reason I had never heard of this fact, or ever even considered it. I wondered if it was because I was neither silent, nor listening at some other point in time.
While the challenge was to come up with a single word, I have chosen silent/listen for myself to link my professional pursuits to my personal ones. In essence, my goal will be to listen to the abundance of expertise and life-experience that surrounds me, whether that be teachers, students, parents, or any other person that I come in contact with. I feel that I do a somewhat reasonable job already in this regard, but there is always room for improvement.
In the meantime, I will wait for February to see what the Blizzard special is as I do not like caramel.
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West Vancouver Secondary School Senior English teacher Peter Macraild introduced poetry during the first school term this year. Many students' perception of poetry often includes moans and groans, as it is sometimes difficult to engage in, make sense of, and can be subjective. Having spoken to several English teachers, they feel it is one of the most important units in the curriculum because it teaches students to be critical, reflectctive, introspective, and develop analysis and rational argument skills.
Mr. Macraild gave his English 12 students the option of developing hard copy portfolios or a digital variation. While most students still opted for the hard copy, a significant number of students chose a digital platform to showcase and share their thinking, poetry, and analysis.
Increasingly in school, we are seeing students choose a digital option for their assignments and classwork; the reasons probably being as varied as each student is unique. Regardless, there are advantages to creating, collaborating, and sharing work and ideas online that cannot be understated. It is slowly becoming our new normal.
Mr. Macraild and a sample of his students are proud to share their work with you here. Students used several free online blog and website developer platforms including Weebly, Wix, Tumblr, and WordPress.
Please click on each image to go that student's blog or web page.
Grade 12 student Miles Dignum told me that he found the web-based option more interesting, and he enjoyed the process of creation and development of his poetry website. He also felt he could create a more professional looking product than if he had chosen to make a poster. If a digital option was offered in more of his classes, he would most likely take advantage of it.
Grade 12 student Matthias Eyford let me know that he tries to take advantage of the tools that are available to him. He knows that increasingly the future will require him to be proficient in them, and he wants to be prepared. Matthias has several sites that he maintains both personal and for school. His cover picture below is one that he took, and it reflects a little bit about his passion for hiking. He told me that online tools allow him more freedom to be innovative, and that they can empower anyone.
Grade 12 student Mark McGovern expressed that he prefers to use his laptop to do his schoolwork where possible. He has created a few websites in the past both as a requirement for school and out of personal interest. He credits grade 7 Ridgeview Elementary teacher Mrs. Cari Wilson for showing him how to make and maintain a blog site.
Grade 12 student Christina Daudlin shared that she chose a digital option because of the creative aspect, and it was a more effective option for her at the time. Christina said that she had the confidence to do so as grade 7 teacher at Ridgeview Elementary Mrs. Cari Wilson had completed a similar project with her when she was a student there. Christina found that she was more careful with her work by ensuring that her ideas and grammar were the best she could do as she knew it had the potential for being shared with a wider audience.
Grade 12 International student Sean Kim likes to use a blog site to share his ideas and work. Primarily he connects with his peers in Korea, but has also met several other students from around the world, online, who have similar ideas. He likes the ability to use an online platform to use both English and Korean at the same time. He finds that it is easier and more valuable to use a digital tool to share his learning.
Grade 12 International student Jetty Jia chose a web site to share her poetry because she wanted to reach a wider audience. She blended English with Mandarin in order for her friends in China to be able to navigate parts of her site and give her feedback. She also prefers a digital option, as she feels that she is "bad at art" and has "poor handwriting"! For this project, she had found some digital pictures that she really wanted to include that added relevance to her assignments and web page.
Thank you to both Mr. Macraild and his students for sharing their personal work in such a public way. It is never easy put one's self out there, and I applaud your confidence, integrity, and dilligence.
The purpose of this post is certainly not suggest that we should substitute everything we do with a digital option, as there is a time and place for everything. Rather, that increasingly students want to take advantage of tools that were not available to us during our own schooling. This is the world that they were born into, and will be expected to improve as they get older.
In February 2015, West Vancouver Secondary School grade 12 ArtWest45 student Jacqueline Karakas was asked to design an art project using any medium to reflect a theme that she was passionate about. While Jacqueline generally considers illustration to be her strong suit, she chose to explore water colour, which was less familiar to her. Being of Armenian heritage and descent, Jacqueline was drawn to fact that 2015 marked the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
This topic had further relevance to her, as in 2012 she had visited Armenia for the first time with her family. While there, she spent a day at a local orphanage, and the experience left a lasting impression upon her. Jacqueline decided then that if she ever had an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the children at the orphanage, she would take advantage of it.
Jacqueline's commemorative print
Jacqueline decided to design her painting from the perspective of victory, survival, and resilience as a tribute to those families impacted by the genocide, as well as the orphaned children. Upon completion of her painting, she had it reproduced on high quality glossy paper and had 100 copies made. She numbered and signed the prints, and sold 62 of them with all proceeds earmarked for supporting people and families in Armenia.
From the sale of the 62 prints Jacqueline raised $3000! In August 2015 she returned to Armenia and distributed the money between 4 local charities: the orphanage that she originally visited called Our Lady of Armenia, The Puykutuin Centre for young adults with special needs, the children's Blood Cancer ward at the hospital in Yerevan, and the Marie Izmirlian Orphanage for young children with special needs.
Jacqueline in front of the orphanage she visited
When I talked to Jacqueline,she told me that she would encourage other youth to look around, both locally and globally, and identify an issue that meant something to them. She further encouraged them to become inspired and actively come up with a plan to make a positive difference.
Jacqueline is grateful to all of the people who purchased her prints and helped her raise both money and social awareness to support underprivileged children in Armenia. Her goal is to sell all 100 prints. If you would like to purchase a print or contact her for more information you may do so at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to read more about this story click Honouring the Spirit of my orphaned Ancestors with social responsibility.docx.
Approximately one year ago, then grade 10 West Vancouver Secondary School student Natasha Jones, noticed a poster on the wall in her Film class. The poster was from the Royal Canadian Legion inviting students from across Canada to submit various original art and literary work fostering the tradition of Remembrance amongst Canadians. This annual Literary and Poster Contest enables the involvement of "Canadian school children in helping us (sic) to promote not only the National Remembrance Day Service, but also the act of honouring our military heritage." Reference
Natasha decided to design and submit a poster, as she has always enjoyed drawing. After brainstorming some ideas for the poster and considering the elements that she wanted to include, she began to create the original poster, which is approximately 50cm by 70cm in size. In all, she invested 12-15 hours of pencil crayon and design work. Natasha told me that she worked using the image of the letter to make the poster more personal, and to remind others that these were people who had lost their lives in combat.
As she began to colour and shade in the field of poppies, Natasha had the idea to blend the colours to form the image of the Canadian flag. She felt that the flag had a patriotic quality that made the poster more interesting and symbolic of the role Canada has played over the years.
After submitting her poster, Natasha did not hear back until April 2015 where she learned that her submission had been chosen for one of the top Provincial honours in the constest. Shortly thereafter, she was informed that it was to be recognized Nationally for winning the Legion's 2014-2015 Senior Colour Poster award!
Natasha Jones' winning colour poster submission - original artwork
Natasha's poster has been displayed at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa since July 1st, and will continue to be there until May 1st of this year. After that, it will be displayed in the foyer of the House of Commons during the annual Remembrance Day period in November. To view all of the winners from the 2015 Posters and Literary Contests please click HERE.
Natasha also received a distinguished plaque
Linda Findlay, Secretary of the RCL Branch #114 in Lynn Valley, informed me in an email that:
"Natasha earned several bursaries from
this endeavour, which have all been presented to her. As well, The Legion
sponsors a trip to Ottawa for the Senior Winners in the four contests (two
poster, essay and poetry) to attend the National Remembrance Day Service where
they place a wreath on behalf of the youth of Canada. They also have an
opportunity to meet and visit with the Governor General.
Natasha will be
in Ottawa from November 9-12, 2015. This is quite an accomplishment, and we are very proud of Natasha.
We hope that you are able to share this news with your staff and student body,
giving Natasha the recognition she deserves"
Congratulations Natasha on your accomplishment! The fact that you took the initiative and time to create such a significant piece is a tremendous reflection upon you as a person, and we are very proud of you! When I asked Natasha how this accomplichment made her feel, she told me "proud" and "flattered." We hope that you have an amazing time in Ottawa next week.
On behalf of the entire staff at WVSS I extend a warm Welcome Back! to all of our new and returning students, and their families! September is an exciting month as we not only reconnect, but are afforded the opportunity to set new goals and embark on the next leg of our educational journey.
I recently came across an article entilted "The 40 Best Quotes About Education" and have selected a few that I hope will inspire you to not only achieve, but also exceed, your goals and aspirations for the 2015-16 school year.
"Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood."
- Fred Rogers
"All the world is my school and all humanity is my teacher."
- George Whitman
"The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision."
- Helen Keller
"It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default."
- J.K. Rowling
"LIfe is not about how many time you fall down. It's about how many times you get back up."
- Jaime Escalante
"We do not learn from experience ... we learn from reflecting on experience."
- John Dewey
"I have not failed, I have just found 10, 000 ways that won't work."
- Thomas A. Edison
"Technology is nothing. What's important is that you have faith in people, that they're basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they'll do wonderful things with them."
- Steve Jobs
I hope that each and every one one of you has a fantastic year!