Message from the Vice Principal of Student Life and Wellbeing
It is hard to believe that I have only been at Havergal since mid-August. During this time, I have been warmly welcomed by students, staff, parents and alumni alike; the community is alive with pride and keen to share its traditions and have me experience what it truly means to be a Gator. And so what have I noticed in the hallways, the classrooms, the gyms and the fields? What have I observed in Prayers, at Celebration Saturday and in the day-to-day interactions we benefit from in a small, tightly-knit community? It has been clear to me, from early on, that this place thrives on connections, prioritizes belonging and wants so deeply to find the best ways to both practise and instill the lifelong habits of wellbeing in its students and staff. It’s no surprise at all to me that this month’s Inside Havergal has these very themes. In this month’s issue, you will find countless examples of the good work this community continues to do to support all who walk through these doors (and for those who have walked these halls before us).
I have spent the last decade of my career focusing on wellbeing in schools—what it means, how it feels and how to live it fully—and here is what I know to be true and primary: to be truly well, we must feel connected. We must feel like we belong. We need to know we matter to others and are seen for who we are authentically. And so, what a beautiful community for me to continue to build on this deeply ingrained capacity and strength for relational learning. At a time when the health and wellbeing of children and adolescents can feel threatened, we commit at Havergal to bolstering the toolkit of our adults in their support of the growth of our students. Building self-awareness, flexibility and agency in them (all pillars of wellbeing) require intentionality and modelling from the adults who surround them. And we have the most capable group of staff to do this with.
In this issue, you’ll hear from our Wellbeing Prefect, Emerson Southam, who, along with our Social Work team and the Wellbeing Council is in the throws of developing this year’s Upper School Thrive Week (our fabulous Junior School staff is busy supporting this same event with our younger students). A testament to our work in wellbeing is this student-driven initiative, aimed at a strength-based lens to taking care of ourselves and normalizing the human experience of feeling all emotions.
Please drop by, say hello, send me a note and share what wellbeing means to you in this community. I’ll look forward to this journey with you.
Message from the Board of Governors
Jill Fraser, Chair of the Board
What a wonderful start to the new school year! The halls are once again filled with student laughter and chatter and there is so much excitement among students and faculty to be back on campus. So far this year we have had many exciting Upper and Junior School events such as Celebration Saturday, the Terry Fox Run, Awards Day and Gator Games, and we are looking forward to many more events to come!
I would like to extend a huge thank you to Debbie Simpson, our Past Chair, who introduced me as your incoming Board Chair in last month’s Inside Havergal. I took over the role of Board Chair on September 28 and I am ready and eager to continue the very important initiatives the Board has been working on under Debbie’s strong and dedicated leadership, including supporting the launch of the school’s new strategic plan. The Board at Havergal is a governance body and our primary role is one of strategic oversight. We work in that capacity with the Principal and the Senior Leadership Team to set strategic goals and priorities, which guide the school’s growth and development. The Board oversees the financial health of the school and works to protect its long-term sustainability. As the new Chair, I am looking forward to working with the Board and the Senior Leadership Team as we continue to collaborate to ensure the continuing success of Havergal.
I wish everyone an enjoyable and healthy fall and encourage you all, new and old, to be active members of our vibrant community. There are many ways for you to participate in school life, including the Havergal College Parents Association, The Havergal College Old Girls Association, the Foundation, the Board of Governors or its committees. We appreciate the time that you devote to our community.
The Importance of Wellbeing
Emerson S., Wellbeing Prefect
My family has a long history of mental illness: we lost my uncle to his battle with depression and my grandmother has battled mental illness for the better part of her adult life. Open dialogue about mental health has been a staple at our dinner table for as long as I can remember, which is why wellbeing is so important to me.
But a healthy mind is only one component of the wellbeing equation. My approach, which is entirely consistent with the approach at HC, is to touch upon the wellbeing of the whole person. A Havergal education is about the growth of mind, body and spirit. There are so many negative influences in the world today on young women, such as social media, telling us who and what we are supposed to be and, equally, who and what we cannot be. My goal this year is to create events and an atmosphere where we are comfortable with who we are and who we want to be, an environment where we can speak openly about issues that matter to us. I truly believe that the ivy walls provide a safe, loving space in which we can do that.
As a way to raise awareness about mental health and wellbeing, Havergal is hosting Thrive Week from November 20 to 24. During Thrive Week, we will hear from students and guest speakers who will walk us through their journeys with mental wellbeing. We will also have some special therapy dog visitors! But Thrive Week is only one week of the academic year. On World Mental Health Day on October 10, the Grade 12 Prefects handed out a list of the multiple resources available to students who may need someone to talk to (coupled with candy, of course) on behalf of the Wellbeing Council. We are excited about the affirmation exercises in each Upper School TA during the year, which started at the beginning of October. I am also teaming with other Prefects and Grade 12 leaders to organize events for the Junior School, Middle School and Upper School that touch on the wellbeing of the whole person.
Most importantly, as Wellbeing Prefect, I want to help create an atmosphere where the halls are filled with joy, laughter and smiles.
Supporting Emotional Wellbeing and Growth at the Junior School
Kate White, Head of Junior School
In the ever-evolving landscape of education, the focus has progressively shifted from solely academic achievements to nurturing the holistic development of our students. Recognizing the crucial role of social-emotional skills in shaping future success, the Havergal Junior School has recently begun implementing two research-based programs, RULER and Second Step, to support the emotional wellbeing and growth of both our teachers and students.
Research has underscored the significant impact of social-emotional skill development on academic performance and long-term success. By fostering self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making, these programs equip students with the tools necessary to navigate complex social interactions, manage stress and exhibit resilience in the face of challenges.
The Junior School faculty and staff are embarking on a learning journey this year with RULER. This is a systemic approach to social and emotional learning developed at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, which aims to infuse the principles of emotional intelligence into JK to Grade 12 schools, informing how leaders lead, teachers teach, students learn and families support students.
Part of what differentiates RULER from other school-based initiatives is that it focuses first on developing adults in the school, both personally and professionally, so they can be role models and knowledgeable implementers of the skill-based instruction for students. After the teachers have been trained, the goal is to start infusing the approach in classes next year, as well as providing education for families.
In addition, this year Junior School faculty will continue to implement the Second Step program to support the wellbeing of our students. Second Step is a research-based program that provides explicit instruction and practice of key social-emotional skills considered necessary for students to effectively navigate social situations and build positive relationships with their peers. Lessons will support our students to develop skills in the following areas:
- Impulse Control
- Problem Solving
- Emotional Regulation
- Social Awareness
- Relationship Skills
- Responsible Decision Making
- Positive Self-Talk
The Second Step program will be taught by Child and Youth Worker, Holly Fournier, in collaboration with classroom teachers.
Supporting our younger students through their social-emotional development is an important part of the Havergal experience. Our goal is to develop the self-care skills within our students so they can continue to support their wellbeing needs into the Upper School and beyond.
Parents as Partners Speaker Series: Dr. Lisa Damour
Tuesday, November 28, at 7 pm
As part of our Parents as Partners Speaker Series, Havergal is proud to welcome Dr. Lisa Damour as our first speaker.
Dr. Damour is the author of three New York Times best sellers: Untangled, Under Pressure and The Emotional Lives of Teenagers. She co-hosts the Ask Lisa podcast, works in collaboration with UNICEF and is recognized as a thought leader by the American Psychological Association. Dr. Damour is also a regular contributor to The New York Times and CBS News.
During the day, she will be working with our students from Grade 7 to 12 and will run professional development with our faculty in the afternoon.
Havergal faculty and staff who are members of our Girls and Learning team have enjoyed reading her books over the years and are currently reading her new book The Emotional Lives of Teenagers.
Her visit, including our evening with our parents, will be focused on understanding adolescent emotional development and strategies that foster connection, self awareness and self regulation.
We are grateful to the Southam family for their contributions to Thrive Week and to the Class of 2023 for their donations to our Wellbeing Program, which allow us to have speakers and programs like this.
The HCPA’s Ivy Market
Tuesday, November 21
Kick off your holiday shopping in style at the HCPA’s Ivy Market, featuring a carefully-curated group of local vendors offering unique gift items! During the day from 10 am to 4:30 pm, parents and students can shop, make a stop at the Bake Sale and visit the HCPA Marketplace.
In the evening from 6:30 to 9:30 pm, parents (current and past) and Old Girls/Alums can sip and shop the Ivy Market at the cocktail party! Tickets for the cocktail party are $50 per person and include appetizers and two drinks. The vendor market and HCPA marketplace will be featured during the evening. Either way, it’s a great opportunity to connect with the HC community and celebrate the season.
New this year—we’re excited to feature a draw for a stunning holiday Havergal gingerbread house! This 2’ x 3’ model is created in the holiday likeness of the Upper School and would make a unique (and edible!) decoration or centrepiece. Tickets are $10 each (deadline to purchase tickets is 3 pm on November 21) and the draw will take place on Tuesday, November 21 at 4 pm.
We look forward to seeing you!
In addition to being able to browse the HCPA Marketplace at Ivy Market, you can also conveniently shop online between now and November 21—place your online orders today. Choose from a selection of specially curated holiday gift items from local retailers, including Circle at Home wreaths, hoodies for parents and custom wooden HC blazer and tunic ornaments (with the option to have them personalized for free); there’s something for everyone at many different price points. It really is holiday giving made simple!
HCPA Coffee Mornings
For Parents by Parents!
The HCPA was happy to host parents from JK to Grade 3 last week for coffee and conversation. We’re looking forward to seeing parents from other grades in the beautiful Old Girls BioWall/Student Commons space at the Upper School from 8 to 9:30 am on these dates:
We are grateful that the BioWall is available for us to use for these events.
We hope you can join us!
Financial Support Applications for 2024-25
Deadline to Apply: Friday, December 1
Students entering Grades 7 to 12 in September 2024 may apply for Financial Support in the form of a Tuition Bursary.
Separate from any application for admission or re-enrolment, applications are submitted via a third-party company, Apple Financial Services.
New and returning student families must complete their application by Friday, December 1 each year to be considered for the following school year. Late applications may not be accepted as funds are limited.
Renewal of a Financial Support is not automatic. Families must reapply and qualify annually.
Rethinking What It Means to Study
Jennifer Goldberg, Director of Academic Operations
Many students believe the key to stronger academic performance is investing more time in their school work. Certainly, time is important. However, overemphasizing “time spent” obscures the reality that the quality of the time is at least as important as the quantity. In his latest book, Outsmart Your Brain: Why Learning Is Hard and How You Can Make It Easy, esteemed cognitive psychologist Dr. Daniel Willingham makes a powerful analogy between learning and physical exercise. He notes the exercise that challenges our body is the one most likely to strengthen it; so, even though exercising this way is likely to feel very difficult, it is the most effective choice. By contrast, Willingham explains, when it comes to learning, our brains are wired to trick us, telling us that what feels easy—what we can do without much effort—is the most effective way to engage.
Here’s a specific school example: one of the most popular student study techniques is rereading (and perhaps highlighting) one’s notes and course texts. However, experiments have repeatedly shown that this approach achieves very little in terms of memory and learning. In other words, rereading is popular not because it yields results but because it feels easy. Many hours spent studying for a test in this way are, often, many hours wasted.
Far more effective, Willingham explains, is retrieval practice: processes that require us to pull something out of our memory. Students can engage with retrieval practice by, for example, putting their course materials away and using a blank page to create their own study guide. In contrast to rereading, this technique pushes the brain to engage actively with the content, making meaning and building connections. What we must remember is that retrieval practice will feel much harder than rereading; as Willingham says, “Judge the effectiveness of a method by the results, not by how it feels to do it.”
For students who’ve concluded that the only road to academic achievement is paved with sleepless nights, focusing on “time spent” may not be very helpful. Instead, ask: “How did you use the time you spent on this?” This shift helps us resist the fallacy that academic success can come only at the cost of wellbeing, and emphasizes instead the concrete habits and behaviours that we know support students in growing into empowered and independent learners.
For further exploration, I recommend these books:
- Outsmart Your Brain by Daniel Willingham
- Under Pressure and The Emotional Lives of Teenagers by Lisa Damour
Note that Havergal is thrilled to welcome Lisa Damour to campus on November 28. During her time here, Dr. Damour will be presenting learning sessions for students, faculty and parents.
Why Belonging Matters
Nicole Cozier, Executive Director of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging
Belonging is a fundamental need we all share, and it plays a vital role in shaping our identities, relationships and our overall wellbeing.
Belonging, at its essence, is the feeling of being accepted, valued and connected to a particular group or community. It’s that warm and comforting sensation that arises when we find ourselves in a place where people just GET US!
But it can go wrong.
It goes wrong when we get caught up in belonging’s evil twin: fitting in. Fitting in is actually the opposite of belonging. To paraphrase researcher and author Brené Brown: “Fitting in requires us to change who we are to be accepted, while belonging requires us to BE who we are.” True belonging is not a conditional tie to acceptance, but an authentic embrace of our true identities.
At Havergal, we are committed to fostering a sense of belonging and connection for each and every student that is part of our community. We know there is no one-size-fits-all approach. That’s why there are so many different options for our students to choose from to find themselves and a trusted community of friends and adults who will support them in who they are.
Our nine Affinity Group and Alliance spaces are just one example of how students can find community and space for their own voices to shine. Affinity Groups are spaces that allow community members who share a common identity or an aspect of their identity—usually one that is marginalized or non-dominant—to gather and talk in a safe space about issues and experiences related to that identity. Alliances are spaces where people who share a common commitment to those who hold marginalized identities and the issues that impact them can gather to learn, engage in dialogue and mobilize action toward addressing these issues in their school communities.
Finding a community where we find connection in our similarities is only one aspect of belonging though. Belonging is also about recognizing the strength in our differences. So ensuring that students have the support to step outside of their comfort zones to connect with peers and other people with different identities, interests and perspectives is critical. Whether this is in Prayers through featured dates of significance celebrated by diverse communities, EDIB-focused sessions in Advisory and Form groups, or just through the many clubs and activities that Havergal College has to offer, there are numerous opportunities for our students to find peers to connect with and learn about experiences different than their own. It is in embracing and exploring our differences that we foster the deepest sense of connection that transcends superficial boundaries and allows us to continue to grow into our best selves, on our own path. This is the beauty of belonging, connection and community-building.
All of us want to feel like we belong in the places and spaces that are important to us. And, it is important we remember that our level of belonging will never be greater than our level of self-acceptance. Believing that we are enough is what gives us the courage to be authentic. While there is no question that this is a lifelong pursuit, our goal is to ensure that our Havergal students have the foundation and develop the tools that they can carry with them wherever their journeys take them.
Meet Our Faculty & Staff
The Reverend Jillian Ruch
The Reverend Jillian Ruch joins Havergal this year as our School Chaplain. With more than 20 years of experience in the area of youth ministry and social work, Rev. Ruch supports student wellbeing at the school in many ways.
Prior to being ordained in 2022, Rev. Ruch was a front line social worker and supervisor for the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, mainly in the Scarborough area. With this background in social work, she has excellent listening skills and the ability to connect with others in meaningful ways. One of her goals at Havergal is to learn from students, staff, faculty and families about their perspectives as a community, while providing comfort and a steady presence for those in need of pastoral care.
Rev. Ruch brings a sense of curiosity with her about where people are in their spiritual journeys and uses inquiry and compassion to hold space for discussions in and outside of the Prayers space. This includes most recently meeting with groups, such as the Truth and Reconciliation Committee and the Prayers Council, to explore the tensions that exist between the Indigenous Peoples and the wider church and how that intersects with the reconciliation work that they are leading in our community. She is committed to working with and through this tension, knowing that through these difficult conversations our community learns, grows and leans into the Calls to Action wherever possible.
With a growth mindset that’s grounded in experience from years of working with youth from various cultures and backgrounds, Rev. Ruch embodies Havergal’s Anglican values through her Christian identity, prayers and blessings as she hopes to learn more about and elevate the voices and cultures of others at Havergal. Her goal is to support Havergal’s community by modelling what it means to be inclusive, open-minded and inquisitive. She encourages anyone interested in reaching out to send her an email at [email protected].