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Whole Girl, Whole World—a speaker series that presents thought-provoking topics to the Crofton House community of parents, students, faculty and alumnae—returned in October with special guest Carl Honoré. Carl is an award-winning writer, broadcaster and TED speaker. He is the author of several books, including In Praise of Slow, that explore what he calls, “the Slow philosophy”—the idea of doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast as possible. “We have forgotten how to switch off. Unplug. To give ourselves over to another person or to a moment,” he said, “We have forgotten how to slow down.” 

“Whole Girl, Whole World is an annual occasion for the community to connect and engage in conversations about the actions and attitudes we will adopt collectively to ensure each girl will become a courageous, creative citizen who will navigate life beyond Crofton with confidence and perspective,” said Katherine Grant, Parent and Parent Auxiliary Coordinator, Speaker Series. “The pandemic may have forced us to all slow down, yet the silver lining may be we will all thrive at our newly adjusted pace and be grateful for the opportunity to do so.”

In a world obsessed with speed, Carl had his own wake up call during his kids’ bedtime story, when he found himself rushing through Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. “I realized I had lost my way when I started skipping dwarves,” he said. Many people have had similar wake up calls, in part thanks to the pandemic. We go through life equating “going slow” with being boring, unproductive, or lazy. However, it’s not about going slow for slow’s sake. “Faster is often better,” said Carl. “But not always. The slow movement is about doing things at the right speed. It’s about doing things as well as possible. For our evening with Carl, we focused on childhood and what lessons ‘slow’ has to teach us as we raise our kids. He also spoke with students directly in sessions throughout the week. 

Let boredom happen

“Parenting has become a cross between a competitive sport, and product development, but it’s backfiring,” said Carl. Kids need pressure, structure, and a little bit of being in a rush. But they also need to balance that on the slow side. That’s where playing freely, getting bored, and running reasonable risks can make all the difference. In moments of un-structure and uncertainty, they learn to think, invent, and use their imaginations. They learn how to get along with their peers and become whole. 

P.D.F. versus extracurriculars

“You can’t have fun faster,” said Carl. Play and fun unfurl at their own tempo and he advocates for a good balance of what he calls “PDF”: Play time, Down time, and Family time. Time is our greatest resource and balancing it against what we want and need is our life’s work. To optimize our kids’ PDF, we need to consider limiting extracurriculars. “Kids today have schedules that would give any CEO heartburn,” said Carl. Tennis and tutoring are important, but PDF is what fires up the soft skills that turn kids into good students and future leaders. Even postsecondary institutions are getting behind the slow movement, encouraging students to go deep rather than broad when it comes to how they spend their time outside of the classroom. “It’s important to prioritize, streamline, and focus on where you give your time,” said Carl. 

Paradox: slow is fast 

The slow way is the faster way, because slow is smooth, and smooth is fast. The more we take on at once, the less productive we are. "People can't multitask very well, and when people say they can, they're deluding themselves," said neuroscientist Earl Miller, MIT Professor of Neuroscience. And, he said, "The brain is very good at deluding itself." What’s actually happening is the brain is moving between two tasks. It's cognitively wasteful, and as a result, multitaskers make more mistakes and take twice as long as mono-taskers. 

Cutting through rushing, anxiety, and the myth of multitasking teaches us to be present, calm, and thoughtful. Leaders who slow down to listen are the most successful. And the only way to listen to someone is to slow down to their tempo. “You can’t speed it up — you can’t listen faster,” said Carl. 

Three pillars of the slow revolution: 

Go together: Raising children is a voyage of discovery for parents and kids. Get alongside your child, take their hand, discover who they are together. 
Less is more: Choose less pressure, less screen time, and less busyness. And you’ll have a more whole-hearted child who knows themselves, and revels in their imagination. 
Balance: Take the time to figure out who you are as a parent, who you want your family to be, and who your child is. From there, design the right mix between fast and slow. 

Now what? 

We are not “human doings”, we are “human beings.” If you want your children to slow down, you’ve got to show them the way. You’ll be modelling ‘slow,’ and you’ll also be present, and able to help and observe along the way. You’re not alone. Lots of parents are making slow changes, and they’re not going back. There is an African proverb that reads, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ That’s why Carl recommends students seek out students, or even an alumna who has recently been in her shoes. She can share her perspective that a lot of our worries are phantom worries. She could validate that when we do too much, we spread ourselves too thin—so thinly that even the things we could have done really well, are not fully realized. 

It’s a growing movement and it works. And if you’re doing it? Say so, loudly, so other people know and take courage. None of us became parents so we could rush through it. Taking your time can (and will) improve your health, your work, and make you a better parent or student. 


Tips to cut screen time

  • Make specific outings screen free—like on the way to extracurriculars
  • Create dedicated screen-free time for an hour after getting home
  • Choose a room that’s designated “screen free” in your home
  • Gather for a regular family meal  
  • Encourage “Switch Off Clubs” — groups who agree together that they will stay off their devices until an agreed-on time (after family time and homework)
  • Role model the behaviour that you want to develop in your children

Crofton House brought the Innovation Challenge back for its fourth year in 2021, welcoming students from behind its own walls as well as challengers from Sentinel Secondary and St. Patrick’s Secondary School. Once again, Volition helped facilitate the event, which was done in a hybrid format in line with the latest public health guidelines. 

The energy was high as students were able to mix, meet, and present from Manrell Hall. Meanwhile, our panel of three judges and 20 mentors could join from wherever they were in the world using Zoom and a new live streaming engagement tool for the event, Buzzit. 

There were 11 teams presenting their ideas on this year’s theme: Re-engage — community building and reconnecting as a society after a pandemic. From community gardens, to social support for seniors, and small-business innovations, students once again awed and inspired. “As usual I’m blown away,” said Paul Brassard, founding partner at Volition and our emcee. “Never in a million years would I imagine most of these things.” 

The runner up this year was “A Walk to Remember” by a team from Sentinel School. They envisioned a walking event to bring our community together in memory of children who died in the residential school system. It involved plans to include indigenous businesses and artists by providing a platform for them to share their wisdom. 

This year’s winner was “Teenwork” from Crofton House School — an app that helps connect students with employers in their community. “Safe and sustainable job opportunities give students the chance to expand their horizons, polish their skill sets, and gain the experience of life in the workforce,” said Julie, Grade 11 in their pitch. “Many of my peers would say they were trying to find a job, but businesses just weren’t hiring, or weren’t hiring high school students — it was a notion that we’d been hearing over the past year.” 

Team Teenwork (made up of skilled and motivated Grade 11 students Cindy, Athena, Julie, Ahmber, and Natasha) feels that face-to-face contact can help students show soft skills needed in the roles they’re applying for and ultimately, land a job against others using online applications only. Their location-enabled app brings employers and young job seekers together, helping students find and filter local part-time job opportunities. The app includes a screening process for applicants making it an easy tool for employers to trust while lowering barriers for students seeking jobs. “I was thinking of LinkedIn,” said Athena, Grade 11. “Once you go through all the filters of suitability for yourself as a highschool student, you don’t have a lot of choices left.” Teenwork targets young people caught in the trap of needing experience to get a job, but needing a job to get experience. 

As part of the grand prize, Teenwork will get the chance to take their idea to the next level, as well as direct donations to the charity of their choice. “We have a mentor session with alumna Michelle Kwok ’16, so I think that will be a great opportunity to expand our idea and explore around it,” said Cindy, Grade 11. “We’re open to exploring more ideas!” “Since she [Michelle Kowk] is coming from Crofton, I feel like she’ll understand where we’re coming from. Mentors are a big piece — being able to hear from people like that is very beneficial,” added Nathasha, Grade 11. 

The Innovation Challenge featured a midday performance by the Open Dance club. Two members of Teenwork, Cindy and Julie, were also involved in the choreography and performance. “Open Dance is a place where all dancers, regardless of skill, can be creative, make dances, and learn dances,” said Julie. “Innovation Challenge is a great opportunity for students to put both their entrepreneurial side of things together with the technological side of the event,” said Ahmber. “It’s a great event to collaborate, communicate, and also a public speaking aspect that’s really important and beneficial for students.” From ideating around positive social impact, pitching on stage, and performing for the entire community, Courage, Creativity and Citizenship were the undercurrent of a very successful event. 

We want to thank all of the parents, teachers, and volunteers who so generously gave their time, expertise and support to our participants from start to finish on this memorable fourth edition. For a full list of presenters, mentors, judges, and moderators, head to crofton.app. We hope you enjoyed this year’s Innovation Challenge, and join us in looking forward to next year! 

 

For the 2021-2022 school year, Crofton House School is prioritizing Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) as an important part of our approach to educating the whole girl. It’s also part of the province’s guidelines—we’re proud that BC is one of the first places in the world to call for SEL integration in the K-12 curriculum. We are excited to give special attention to working with our staff and students to weave these skills throughout CHS programming going forward, especially as the effects of the pandemic on our mental health are revealed. This approach complements what we’re already doing through EDI training, trauma-informed practice, and Ivy Compass learning. 

What is SEL? 

The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) defines SEL as “... the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.”

Practically speaking, it is a set of skills that help students develop positive relationships, apply their compassion, and stay open to learning throughout their lives. SEL helps normalize emotions, and teaches tools and strategies to share how we’re feeling, and how to self-regulate.“Self-management is the ability to navigate and shift in a healthy way one’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors in order to make decisions and reach goals that benefit oneself and others,” said Jo Kimmel, Coordinator of Student Well-Being & Social and Emotional Learning. “By identifying and using stress management and self-regulation strategies, students are better prepared to become lifelong learners. Furthermore, by learning strategies to increase resilience, students will be able to overcome obstacles and reframe failure as a learning opportunity.”

SEL includes learning how to communicate effectively, resolve conflicts, be respectful, and feel empathy. “We need to show students real-life situations so they can apply these skills on the playground, or in communicating when they need support in the classroom,” said Chantal Eady, Coordinator of Student Well-Being & Social and Emotional Learning. “It’s really giving them the power to advocate for themselves and be comfortable in their own skin.” 

“We used to focus on intervention; but SEL shows us we can help students avoid problems in the first place,” said Dr. Kim Schonert-Reichl, an Applied Developmental Psychologist and a Professor at the University of British Columbia (UBC), who spoke to CHS staff earlier this month. “It’s like comparing a life vest to a life preserver. These are tools that can help students build resilience.” 
 

Why do we need it? 

In a landmark study—CASEL’s 2011 meta-analysis of 213 studies involving school-based, universal SEL programs including over 270,000 students in K-12—it was shown that SEL helps students gain: 

11 percentile-point increase on standardized tests scores
Social-emotional skills including kind behaviours
Improved attitudes about self, others, and school 
Positive classroom behaviour 

SEL is core to student wellbeing, but we can see it is also a key contributor to academic achievement. When students feel safe and secure, they are more open to learning and creativity. Studies also show that these skills can rival IQ in predicting educational attainment, labour market success, health, and criminality. 

“Imagine people were able to vocalize what they were feeling and then ask for what they need,” said Ms. Eady. “To be able to identify what's happening for them and to know that we don't have to be happy and feel good all the time—we're supposed to feel uncomfortable sometimes. I wish I’d had this message when I was younger, but I’m passionate about sharing it now.” 


Crofton House and SEL 

To emphasize our commitment to SEL, Crofton House School has brought on two coordinators of student wellbeing & social and emotional learning: Chantal Eady in the Junior School, and Jo Kimmel in the Senior School. Together, they’ll lead the CHS community in applying SEL. In this first year, they aim to help teachers get to a place where they can explain with confidence and certainty what SEL looks like, and what it feels like for our students. 

Ms. Eady (left) and Ms. Kimmel (right) are leading the coordinators of SEL at Crofton House School

“We’re going to start with the adults because we need them to model what we’re looking for. But we’re really determined that this doesn’t feel like an ‘add-on,’ or one more thing for teachers to put on their plate,” said Jo Kimmel, Coordinator of Student Well-Being & Social and Emotional Learning. “It is the plate.”

Ms. Eady and Ms, Kimmel hope that over the next three to five years, SEL is fully integrated in the learning and physical contexts at Crofton House School. "We wouldn't expect students to learn how to do calculations in math without being taught the fundamental skills. The same applies to SEL,” said Ms. Kimmel. “We have been given an amazing opportunity to upskill students by teaching them how to be effective communicators, talk about their emotions and build healthy relationships."

“I dream that one day, girls get into a disagreement in the school yard, and they're able to work through it with respect. They're able to share what they're feeling by saying, ‘it really frustrated me when you said that,’” said Ms. Eady. “If they're able to resolve conflicts without disrespect and without outside support, we are succeeding.”
 

Starting in Senior Kindergarten, students at Crofton House School are learning about drama, as part of an integrated curriculum that helps them deepen their learning through play. “Drama is a natural part of childhood,” said Karen Taylor, Teacher, Design & Drama. “So we have been showing them that we can use some of the elements of drama—exploration, character development, movement, tableau work, story telling, oral speaking skills—all helping them connect to content in a different way.” 

Ms. Taylor works with teachers in the Junior School to plan ways lessons can be enriched using these dramatic elements. As an example, in one Grade 5 class, influential women were a topic of research in social studies and language arts. Ms. Taylor assigned students a “hot seat” activity; students were asked a series of questions about their influential woman persona and had to answer in character. Most questions were assigned in advance, but they knew there would be one “ad lib” question at the end, where there was no right or wrong answer. For example, if they researched a dancer, Ms. Taylor might ask, ‘how do you feel when you’re dancing?’. If their character was a shark researcher, she may ask ‘Why did you choose this ferocious creature?’. Using inferring and drama skills, students answered deeply and beautifully. “I was so proud of them,” said Ms. Taylor. 

In another example, students studied immigration and Pier 21 using old photographs and thinking about what the physicality in the images could tell them about a person’s story. They empathized, inferred, and then created a poetry piece that they performed together. “It’s play, and they’re excited about it but at the same time, they’ve just been researchers of history, written a piece of poetry, spoken in front of their peers, and they have done it in a thoughtful way that honours the people in the photos,” said Ms. Taylor. “Through that play and that fun, they’ve done the things a research piece might do and with enriched connectivity.”

Throughout the Junior and Middle School years, the program grows with the students. Grade 1 students begin by performing a single line of poetry, and Grade 7s are now working on a monologue about a difficult decision, using prose (requiring character backstory, memorization and presentation) or poetry. Grade 7 students also got to put their skills to work in their production of Backstage Drama, written by Ms. Taylor and Jasmine Hare, Teacher, Ivy Compass Program. 

Students use these skills in everything from presenting scenes in French class, to novel studies, and even lessons on food chains or weather patterns. They are learning how art and social justice can come together to create a conversation. “There are important lessons: public speaking for example,” said Ms. Taylor. “Can you use phrasing? Can you project with volume? These are technical skills, and that’s what we’re embedding through this program.” Drama integration also includes kinesthetic learning. For example, while exploring the water cycle, dancing or moving as falling rain, or hardening snow and ice, and swirling fog allows them to play and understand these tricky concepts in a new way. 

Drama integration has been part of the CHS approach since 2018. This year, Ms. Taylor is seeing ever-more clearly how the program has been augmenting our values. Our three Cs of course—Courage, Creativity, and Citizenship—and also critical thinking, open mindedness, and empathy. “The beautiful thing about drama is that it’s a little different. It’s fun, it’s play, and you can keep that play even in Grade 7,” said Ms. Taylor. “Beautiful work happens when their guard is down and the stakes are low. They’re playing, but they’re strengthening their grasp of the material by diving into the curriculum and expressing that deeper understanding in unique ways.” 
 

Grade 6 and 7 classes have spent time over the course of two weeks learning from this year’s Writer in Residence, Georgia Heard. Ms. Heard is a poet and educator, with several books published and more on the way. We are very pleased to have welcomed her back to Crofton House School—she was a memorable guest in the late 90s as one of our very first Writers in Residence. The program has run annually for 25 years, and is offered to all Junior School students. This year, we were happy to welcome Ms. Heard for two weeks to work with our Grade 6 and 7 students—though COVID-19 safety guidelines limited the scope of the program in 2020-2021, it was another tradition we found a way to keep up. 

“One of the things that she’s done that is really powerful this year is to help middle school girls through feelings of self-consciousness by teaching them to think introspectively,” said Jill McClaren, Teacher, Grade 6. “That’s important at this age, to ask what’s important about you? What do you remember? What’s significant to you? It’s amazing how they have embraced that and it dovetails into our social-emotional learning really nicely.” 

In Grade 6, students created heart maps containing words and images of things they hold dear to their heart. Ms. Heard invited them to draw or write memories, people, experiences, small things, places, small moments, feelings, and important items inside their hearts. 

In Grades 6 and 7, Middle School students used a “Six-Room Poem” template to break down a specific memory into imagery, light and shadows, sounds, wonder, emotions, and a repetitive element. “It’s really helpful to have someone like Ms. Heard,” said Emily, Grade 7. “Our regular teachers can teach us how to write, but her teaching on poetry has been really helpful.” 

She helped students realize that their words don’t have to be perfect right off the pencil and instilled in them the importance and enjoyment that comes with revising. She teaches how to write using rich, figurative language and has inspired them to become wordsmiths in and out of the classroom. “I think a lot of us are talking about beaches and things that are calming because they’re good to write poems about,” said Ella, Grade 7. “They have a lot of poem aspects like sounds, or emotions so it’s really easy to use figurative language when you’re describing them.” 

Ms. Heard was an enthusiastic guest, offering students plenty of feedback, private and group conferences, and encouragement. “Our job as writers is to polish things that people might see as ordinary,” said Ms. Heard. “It’s our job as writers to make them extraordinary.”
 

TAP IN! a podcast that explores topics that are important to Teachers And Parents - making it easy for you to be part of big conversations. Hosted by Susan Hutchison, director, Junior School, and assistant director Wendy Macken.