November Reflection from Brother Domenic

November Reflection from Brother Domenic

Dear Parents, Students and Colleagues: 

It occurred to me recently that it has been ten years since I last reviewed report cards as principal of the College. Believe it or not I used to enjoy this responsibility as it gave me the opportunity to see how students were doing from an academic perspective at least. In those days, there were three formal reporting sessions and nothing was sent out electronically. It did take the better part of an entire week-end to get through them all but nothing that some quiet and several bottles of my favourite beverage couldn’t handle.

One of the most essential aspects of a Lasallian school is the relationship between student and teacher. This means teachers need to get to know their students and students have to demonstrate a willingness to be open to learning and direction. As an administrator, reviewing report cards provided a good way for me to see how students were handling the academic programme. The grades and comments provided a glimpse into how students were developing as young men and women. The reports provided me with some talking points when I spoke with students more informally. They were often surprised I would remember aspects of their report cards.

As a school community, I think we should be grateful that our students make strong efforts every day to be different in many ways. As we know, students here are held accountable for their actions. We know this will benefit them later in life when they must face the exigencies of the world of work and the demands of family life. One of the most significant reasons that the school returned to independent status in 1994 was to address a significantly declining academic programme and to deliver a meaningful and authentic expression of Catholic teaching.

Regrettably, we continue to see more decline in academic standards in Ontario schools of all kinds. Expectations, once accepted as the norm, are now the exception. This is a complex issue but one that should prompt us to ensure that our own young people are getting the same level of education as in other countries and are performing at comparable levels on the international stage. This should concern us insofar as our young people will invariably suffer the consequences if they cannot compete with young people around the world. Sixty years ago the Ontario school system was regarded as one of the best in the English-speaking world. Sadly, this is no longer true. It is likewise true, that many schools are now scrambling to implement common sense matters to get a handle on the situation. Everything from cell phone use to swearing and other more serious challenges to maintain a decent learning environment are all of a sudden of concern, at least to some educators. The general deterioration in standards seems to have happened so quickly but it really hasn’t. This gradual erosion in our education system has been going on for years. Our young people are paying a heavy price for the rise and institutionalization of mediocrity in a climate more volatile than ever before in Canada.

Innovative and created solutions need to be combined with the methods that have stood the test of time. De La Salle was the first school to offer commercial courses to young men over 150 years ago ( The Ministry of Education tried to prevent the Brothers from teaching typing.) and it was in the 1970’s that the school was the first Catholic secondary school to introduce courses in computer science. One of the goals for the school in the near future is to renovate the Centre building to equip the school with new science laboratories to enhance a solid science programme. Interestingly a good number of former students are now in the fields of medicine and research. They have offered the feedback that they were well-served by the programme offered here over the last twenty years. When the school re-privatized in 1994, the administration and teachers worked very hard at building solid programming along the style of the University of Toronto Schools and some of our schools in other parts of the world. In fact, in our strategic review of 2005, parents compared our programme favourably to that of UTS. I believe we have done well in keeping high standards and at the same time not sacrificing athletics, clubs, a cadet programme, and a very strong presence in debating and public-speaking competitions here and abroad. My point is that in today’s world we need to always search for ways and means to improve on the quality of our academic programmes. I think we need to do more and better. 

A word about the liturgical life at the school. Here too, we are very fortunate to have daily Mass - Monday to Friday for a different class. We should never underestimate the beneficial effects that the Sacrament of the Eucharist can have on our students and staff. Although I understand that for many of our young people going to Mass may not always be a frequent occurrence, I am edified that they do try to their best to be open to the experience. We can never really know the lasting and powerful effects of this practice. I can say that at school-wide Masses, our students are as respectful and devout as any group of adults I observe from time to time at local parishes. Perhaps, we need to be doing more to help the young understand the purpose of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but here as well, students do show some inclination to know how this healing sacrament can help them with the challenges of being a young person today. We recognize as well that our religion programme is very thorough and our students are well-prepared to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, as one example. The community service experiences of our students impress on them the obligation to continue such services to others in their adult life. I do believe we can, and should, be doing more in this area also. As well, I know several former students who are leaders in the pro-life movement.

Our students are fundamentally the same as others. They do make mistakes and require correction and encouragement. Our failures, as I stressed with students at the beginning of this school year, can serve as sources for growth and maturation. The difference though may be, if I can suggest, that our students are expected to develop a self-reliance, self-discipline and self-confidence that allow them to develop the courage to be competent and compassionate. Firmness and tenderness are needed in teaching. I can still hear my mother, a woman of lively faith, strong character (She once told off a bishop.) and intense tenderness, calling me a salami when I had it coming, even into adult life. I always understood in my heart though that every minute of her life she had an unconditional love for me. I miss being called a salami, especially when I deserve and need it. 

Finally, as we approach Remembrance Day, I cannot help but think of the former students who served in both World Wars and paid the ultimate price by sacrificing their young and precious lives for the sake of our freedom, shamelessly taken for granted by too many today. We can learn much from these great generations, for many of us our parents and grandparents, who endured much more than we can imagine, but who overcame much more by their determination, faith and generous spirits. I hope and pray that our young people can learn to be as good. Let us remember them and recall that good things come to all who truly love God. 

“Read how free men throughout this land kept faith in the hour of trial, and in the day of battle, remembering the traditions they have been taught, counting life nothing without liberty.” Memorial Chamber of the Peace Tower

 

Brother Domenic, fsc
President 

 

 

  • Brother Domenic