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Long summer days often provide opportunities for students to embrace experiences they may have dreamt about. This particular summer dream turned into a year-long experience for Trafalgar alumna, Karen May-Kim, Class of 1999 when she joined a tall-ship program called Class Afloat for her Grade 11 year.
The program creates a chance to experience learning through living, as high school students sail the world aboard a majestic tall ship, while pursuing academic goals, exploring new cultures and fostering friendships.
Now a teacher, Karen recently shared her story when she returned to Trafalgar as a member of the Faculty for a short while.
Here is her account:
“When I was in Grade 11, I sailed around the world on a tall ship. It was a 188 foot barquentine called the Concordia. This ship later sank 500 miles off the coast of Brazil in February 2010. At the time I sailed, there were 29 students in the first semester from Grades 11- CEGEP, and 35 students in the second semester.
In the first semester we travelled from San Diego, California; Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; The Galapagos; Easter Island; Pitcairn Island; Tahiti; Western Samoa; New Caledonia; Brisbane, Australia; Darwin, Australia to Bali, Indonesia. The route in the second semester proved quite as adventurous, when we travelled from Malaysia; the Maldives; Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; Odessa, Ukraine; Mykonos; Naxos and Crete in Greece; Malta; Cagliari in Italy; Malaga in Spain; Gibraltar; Lisbon, Portugal; St. Malo, France; Ostend, Belgium; Oslo, Norway; and Copenhagen, Denmark.
Though it may seem like an extended vacation, we had classes while at sea and were involved in land programs, exploring while we were in port. There were also periods of brief homestays in a few stops, where I learned so much.
I really grew up during the program and my increased knowledge of the wider world changed me. I was immersed in so many cultures that it really opened my eyes at a young age to the way others lived. For example, we had to cover up in Saudi Arabia and abide by the laws of that country, which was especially educational for me. One of my favourite experiences was a homestay on Pitcairn Island. It is a very, very small island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with a population of only about 55 when we were there. We lived with a family, and quickly learned that you don't need much to be extremely happy.
One of my favourite memories is being on watch in the middle of the ocean in the middle of the night. There were stars everywhere, and the only sound was the ship going through the water. It was very peaceful.
It was difficult to communicate with home back in 1996/97 as we didn't have email and Skype etc., so we relied on snail mail and phone calls when in port. I was quite homesick at the start but that changed early on. The friendships and experiences that I gained will last a lifetime. We are currently all in discussion about a 20-year reunion next fall or summer!”
We are almost at the halfway point of summer holidays and the new school term is looming. While there is still plenty of summer time left, here are a few tips as we prepare for the new school year from Tim Southwell, VP Academics.
The first step is to look at the broad, overall plan for the upcoming school year. Does it involve improving marks or a new level of sports involvement? Perhaps there is a need to develop a new interest for personal growth or for future applications, in the case of the older student. Keeping in mind that extra-curricular involvement often requires early registration.
Gap analysis time: find out how your child has to get from “here to there”. Does the child need to contact a teacher resource, tutor, or community member to get to their ultimate goal? This leads to the next step: become knowledgeable. Know your resources and determine the people and the material needed in order to start strong in the fall. Begin collecting the information the student needs to reach their goal, and definitely seek out the advice of experienced friends and relatives.
Then, get organized. The contacts will need to be in place. A schedule will need to be drafted. This might mean defining a homework plan or securing the time to set up practices, rehearsals, car-pooling or time for a tutor. Remember, each year is an entirely new game and what worked for the child previously may very well not work this coming year.
Once the new plan is in place and you’ve had a chance to recoup, it will be a good idea to monitor how it is progressing and to tweak any issues. And finally, the key to the successful year: balance.
There isn’t a need to schedule every moment for a child. Please ensure there is “down time” away from technology. Most kids are not taking time to disengage the mind periodically and to let it rest. This allows them the space to solve problems, and consider what their next step needs to be.
Whether young or old, our minds need time to process our thoughts, while not under pressure. While we tend to reach for the phone, laptop or other electronic device we should consider playing music, reading, or any other calm activity to catch a breath. It will do both the student and the parents good.
While healthy downtime is vital during these summer months, we should try to avoid the build-up of “brain sludge”. Summer reading is a great way to do this. Interest in reading varies vastly in children, and technology can help. The convenience of e-books cannot be denied, especially if travelling. There are audio books and interactive books for students less enthused about reading. Each method reaches the imagination and is a gateway for developing reading skills once a favourite series or author is found.
For adults interested, books about how students' brains work are extremely enlightening. In addition, parent books about dealing with social anxieties and issues would also be very beneficial. "Freeing Your Child From Anxiety" (Tamar E. Chansky) and "Helping Your Anxious Child" (Ronald Rapee et al.) are great options. These books also examine social skills, which is often intertwined with feelings of anxiety. As one author states, anxiety is the number one mental health issue facing parents today.
In addition, managing a child's social media use is critical. "Parenting in a Social Media World" (Charlene Giannetti) and "The Parent's Guide to Texting, Facebook and Social Media" (Shawn Edgington) are just two of the many good resource books available.
The classics such as "Who Has Seen the Wind" (W.O. Mitchell), "To Kill a Mockingbird" (Harper Lee), and the entire "Anne of Green Gables" series, are always great choices.
For young adult reading, I take my cue from the titles that come up in conversations with students or even interviews with new students. John Green is popular for "The Fault in Our Stars", as is Kiera Cass for "Happily Ever After". "The Maze Runner" by James Dashner still comes up now and again, as does "SIsterhood of the Travelling Pants" (Ann Brashares) and series such as "The Hunger Games" (Suzanne Collins).
In the summer, there is often more time spent with your children, and I would really encourage books that touch upon "tougher" topics. These, of course, are at the discretion of the parent and how well they think the child would do with this type of reading material. Discussion points such as family arrangements, social and culture differences, personal struggles, feelings of being different or isolated, relationships and inclusiveness are rich for family talks or personal growth. Good writing may carry some controversial topics; one can't shy away from them when dealing with inquisitive, young minds, but one can better plan when to discuss them.
By Tim Southwell, Vice-Principal, Academics at Trafalgar Castle School