In November, when the sky is grey and the weather is getting colder, supervising our Middle School breaks might seem less than appealing. Instead, being outside during a lunch break energizes me and leaves me feeling uplifted and optimistic about the future. Standing in the middle of our sports field, I can see Middle School students playing soccer, walking together in small groups, laughing about a joke their peers shared with them or chatting about the upcoming weekend. Looking around, I see a group of young people interacting with each other with such positivity and a spirit of collegiality that there is no way I can do anything but smile when I reflect on what the future holds for these youth.
For every student, there is a progression that occurs as they take steps towards their goals. It isn’t always smooth sailing, and students often experience challenges along the way. At times the future looks uncertain, and the best way for students to prepare themselves for the unknown is to develop the skills and mindset that allows for flexibility and adaptation. For the students of Aberdeen Hall Middle School, the trick is approaching the sometimes bumpy path towards the future with optimism.
In our Advisory class recently, students were reflecting on the values which Aberdeen Hall espouses. A small group of grade six students were talking rather enthusiastically about how optimism plays a part in their success in learning and growing. One student in particular became very excited and burst out with the exclamation that, “Optimism is what you feel when you know that even when you fail, you can still be heading towards your goal.” For this student, and the others in the group, there was a recognition that small incremental improvements could help one to reach greater heights, and that mindset made set-backs and challenges seem surmountable.
I recently had two students stop into my office to ask me some questions about an assignment they were working through. When I reminded them that as a humanities teacher, my professional expertise lay in areas outside of the math problems they were struggling with, they were confident that we could work through it together. After all, in their words, all that was required was for us to “just think through the problem, Mr. Bienvenu.” The confidence with which those words were uttered reinforced for me the importance of the time we spend with each of our students to develop a forward-thinking mindset. As a Middle School team, our educators are deliberate in setting aside time to assist our students in developing the skills they need to self advocate, to collaborate, to communicate, to create and to think critically about an ever-changing world. Here in front of me were two students putting those skills into action.
As I watched these students work to build their understanding of product rules and exponents, I saw two young people who were prepared to take the next steps towards their future. Yes, I was there as a teacher, ready to coach and support them, but they were turning to each other. Here were two of our students, working collaboratively, independent of support, and outside of the classroom, confident that they would be successful, despite the fact that they were engaged in something challenging. How can you not be optimistic about their future?
By Paul Bienvenu
Middle School Principal
What our Middle School students have to say about optimism, failure and perseverance.
At Aberdeen Hall, we are prepared for the future. Teachers tell us what to expect and help us develop positive work habits. They give us all the information we need to succeed, and they teach us life lessons. Now that I am in High School, I look at difficult assignments as a challenge to conquer, and instead of giving up in the face of adversity, I know I can reach out for support. I believe that I can have success, and I know that I have the strategies I need to push through when things get tough. My time in the Middle School helped prepare me by teaching me the skills I need to be an independent learner.”
Ciro Bertolutti - Grade 9 student and MS alumnus
When I was building a mousetrap car, our team ran into problems and we had to restart the entire project. I was a bit disappointed, of course, but failure is one of the best ways to grow. You get to learn something every time you fail. Now, when I am working on my bottle rocket project I am not afraid of making mistakes, because I know that in the end I can always make changes if necessary and those changes may even be for the better. It is all about moving forward.”
Zoe Tse - Grade 6
My Grade 7 science fair project on carbon sequestration was based on the UN sustainable development goals. It is important to me that at Aberdeen Hall we talk about sustainability and how we can make a difference. Just a few weeks ago I met with a city counsellor to talk about ways we can reduce or eliminate foam packaging in our city. I see many challenges in the world around me and when I run into a problem in my world, I look at how I can use my opportunities to make a difference. While there are challenges that make change difficult, I know that I am motivated and prepared to reach towards my goals. Being a part of the student council this year helped me to connect with other like-minded people and to see that we can work together to make a difference. This experience is definitely one that will help me in the future.“ Isabella - Grade 8
At Aberdeen Hall, we seek to admit well-rounded students who choose to be at our school. We are looking for students who demonstrate leadership through academic performance, involvement in co-curricular activities and civic engagement. We care about our students and seek those who value education and are prepared to enrich our incredible school community.