Mrs. Kingstone’s Opening of School Assembly

September 4, 2019

Good morning! It is an absolute joy to look out at all of you. In the hallway this morning, Mrs. Riordan exclaimed—“They are finally here!” and Mr. Kneisz replied: “Our purpose has arrived.”

So, no pressure students. We are ready to have you back. We hope you are ready for us!

Many of you know about my love of canoes—how each summer the certain, cedar-stripped sturdiness of our family canoe carries us along the lake in the quiet of the morning or cuts through the choppy waters of the late afternoon. We are, of course, heading over to the store to buy licorice—red. Like the canoe. It’s an adventure.

We know the route—we’ve travelled it before—but we never know what we will find, along the rocky shores, by the lily pads tangling our paddles, or at the ends of the docks we glide past, just missing the otter sunning himself on a rock, the loon’s call following us—or leading us—to our destination. It’s an adventure.

Pierre Burton, historian, writer, Canadian, once wrote:

“We are a nation of canoeists, and have been since the earliest days, paddling our way up the St. Lawrence, across the lakes, over the portages of the shield, west along the North Saskatchewan through the Yellowhead gap and thence southwest by the Columbia and Fraser rivers to the sea.”

To British Columbia. To Vancouver Island. Pierre Burton knew something about canoes and about Canada.

From the beginning we were paddlers, propelling ourselves forward across the country. From the beginning we were explorers. Explorers first. Settlers second. And then, we were Canadians.

 And our explorations were designed by the canoe.

Every year, at Aspengrove, we begin in much the same way. It’s as if we are all climbing together into this great canoe, to begin the exploration of our year, collectively and individually, all the same, we begin our year here, together. Paddles in hand, packs made heavy with tools and snacks, sun on our faces. We greet each other and slowly, with intention and purpose, we gather at the edge of the lake to begin. It’s an adventure.

And we know enough about canoes, to know that things can get tippy. We know we need to pay attention. And we know that any exploration requires give and take, challenge and celebration, curiosity and forgiveness. We know we need to be courageous for ourselves and for each other.

 And what are WE here to explore? Where do we hope our canoe will take us?

 First of all, I hope our adventures of exploration this year take us to places, lands, we’ve never been to before. Places that challenge us and inspire us to wonder, to learn, to share, to act, to change, to transform. I hope we learn new ways of thinking, new ways of being, new ways of understanding—whether that be:

– Why is the sky blue?

– Why are short stories are always a bit longer than you hope them to be?

– Why is kindness always the best way?

– Why it is that those little black marks on the pages that Ms Mont gives us, turn into such a beautiful sound when we play them together?

 I hope that we all travel somewhere unfamiliar and explore what we find there.

I also hope we visit places we’ve already travelled to and through, but that we see these in new ways, ways that open our eyes and hearts and minds to explore what is familiar from the perspective of a new adventure. I hope each of us will discover something that guides us, that encourages us, something that makes us better at being learners and teachers, better at taking care of ourselves and others and our environment, better at recognizing what we all need to do to make our world—our world of Aspengrove, of Nanaimo and beyond—better.

The English word explore derives in part from the French “explorer” which is “to investigate why”—it seems to me this is a very fitting invitation for a community built on curiosity and courage.

 We are all explorers here at Aspengrove. Why is our motivation. Together we explore all the possibilities of an Aspengrove adventure. Individually we explore our passions, our challenges, our strengths and our gifts.

 So, now that we are all back in the canoe for another Aspengrove year—let’s start paddling. We’ve got a lot to explore.

 Have a wonderful first day, a fabulous first week, and an awesome year! Welcome back.