Healthy and Sustainable: Success at Southridge
Drew Stephens

Education has changed significantly over the past decade, and learner-centred, forward thinking Kindergarten to Grade 12 schools are not what they once were. As Southridge looks to the future and we strive to prepare our students for learning and life after their educational journey with us, articulating what it means to be successful focuses and amplifies our collective efforts as educators and it supports and guides our students as learners.

Our mission statement acts as an excellent resource for defining success. Its list of qualities and attributes give shape to the aspirations we have for our students. Ultimately, we believe that success is about making a difference in the world through the power of knowledge and goodness working in tandem. Immersed in a balanced and holistic approach to learning and growth in academics, the arts, athletics and service learning, our students have every opportunity to experience success and reach their full potential.

Knowledge is most often constructed in unique, individual and indirect ways. Encouraging and fostering growth and development in a variety of safe, caring and immersive learning environments means that our students are called upon to experience new challenges and exercise fresh perspectives as they develop as life long learners who are creative and have the ability to think independently. We believe that success in academics is brought about by developing critical thinking and communication skills, and that it is not about being named to an honour roll, receiving a scholarship or attaining a certain level of achievement.

Similarly, in athletics, being recognized as a top level athlete or being identified as a standout leader on a team is not how we define winning at Southridge; rather, having an appreciation of, and a desire for life-long physical activity and fitness, and being able to work effectively as part of a team are how we mark success here. For us, outdoing others at drama festivals, film competitions, music events and gallery showings is not as important as being able to appreciate the arts and their contribution to a richer life; and, rather than positioning service as a charitable deed, we are inspired by our students’ understanding that the sacrifice and rewards of community service are the true indicators of success in our school.

Success is defined and driven by one’s character, too. From a performance orientation, having a positive attitude combined with the resiliency, determination, grit, commitment and work ethic needed to seek your passion is inherently linked with traditional notions of success. On the other hand, subtleties in one’s moral character inclined toward acting for the greater good of society and not for one’s self alone are associated with values (truth, tolerance, compassion and respect) and personal integrity. At our school, both elements of character – performance and moral – are uplifted and seen as equally important, and when they are combined with a fulsome and balanced foundation of well-informed knowledge they become potent partners in defining what we mean by success at Southridge.

Indeed, Southridge could retain a focus on academics, the arts, athletics and service learning, while also espousing the same balance of knowledge and goodness, but a different set of descriptors for success would completely disrupt the texture and tone of our school’s culture. For example, the graduate profile portion of our mission statement could read something like this:

Each student is encouraged and challenged to become someone who

  • Is consistently identified as an honour role student
  • Receives formal recognitions such as awards, prizes and scholarships
  • Is admitted to highly selective universities
  • Has a positive attitude
  • Seeks their passion
  • Believes in the values of truth, tolerance, compassion and respect
  • Understands the need to support service initiatives by contributing to charities
  • Has an appreciation for, and desire to be, a top athlete
  • Regularly wins arts-based contests and competitions
  • Can work with others as the leader on teams and clubs

In summary, someone who makes a difference in the world

Arguably, embracing a different set of absolutely rational success markers (all currently available at Southridge, to be sure) would change the look and feel of our school in quite significant ways. By comparison, the more modest way we define success in our current mission statement is naturally congruent with making a difference; it is responsive to a broad spectrum of student interests and abilities; it is attainable, flexible and inspirational; and, perhaps most importantly, it contributes to the creation of a community where every spirit soars.

A community where every spirit soars, is how success truly permeates our community. Not surprisingly, such a weighty statement of intent (our vision) comes with a wide-ranging scope of expectations, which calls for clarity of meaning. In a community where every spirit soars, success involves experiencing, on occasion, the wonderful sense of fulfillment that opens your heart and elevates your spirit. It does not mean getting what you want when you want it, whether or not what you want can be justified as being deserved, fair or equal. Getting what you want when you want it is called entitlement, not success.

We have wonderful vision and mission statements at Southridge that position success for our students in healthy and sustainable ways. We are rooted in a well-rounded, holistic approach to education, and we recognize the powerful relationship between knowledge and goodness. Without doubt, academics will always be important at Southridge and our school is committed to ensuring that our programs remain its central focus – constantly shaping and reshaping what we do based on research, intention and what is best for learners. Additionally, though, we must relentlessly remind our children that success in life is inextricably linked to equally important dimensions of growth and development that bring a deeper and more substantive appreciation for what it means to be human, and what it means to fully appreciate the beauty of their own individuality and the diversity of our society and the world.

From the Spring 2018 Spirit Magazine