Lower Canada College
Innovation in the classroom can seem an obvious ideal to strive towards. But what does it actually mean? Lower Canada College (LCC), an independent school in Montreal, does more than just talk about the idea. This truly unique education facility has created numerous initiatives and fostered successful programs which definitively prove LCC is an innovator in the education field. This issue, The Canadian Business Journal spoke with Headmaster Christopher Shannon about the philosophies driving this unique set of programs.
Founded in 1909, LCC has a long, rich history as a leading bilingual school in the province of Québec, but this has not hindered its evolution. In addition to the traditional strength of the school in core skills and academics, LCC has broadened its education reach. “We have placed a much stronger focus on 21st century learning skills and also on leadership development and international education,” says Shannon. This is achieved through a number of factors including innovative teaching methods, extraordinary student exchange programs, and advanced technology additions to the curriculum.
Investing in people: the LCC secret
Behind all of these opportunities is the school’s first area of focus: finding excellent professional staff. “We’re putting a very strong focus on the attraction, training and retention of excellent people, and that means both teachers and support staff,” says Shannon. “Schools are as good as the minds that inspire and make meaning for students. You can have great facilities but if you don’t have great minds behind them to build meaningful connections with kids, then our achievements are limited.”
It is for this reason that LCC spends a significant amount of money on its unique professional growth strategy for its teachers, investing in their continual development. “We are now in year 3 of this strategy and it is producing some fantastic results,” says Shannon with pride. That has really been a driver behind curriculum innovation.”
Academically, LCC is always striving to improve and enhance the learning experience, and this year completed initial steps to soon offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma, something not offered in any other high school in Quebec, and only through a handful of CEGEPS.
It is other learning enhancements of LCC that truly make it a stand-alone school in its calibre of learning. With a continually growing focus on global citizenship and internationalism, LCC is a proud member of Round Square, a global association of more than 80 schools on five continents which share unique and ambitious goals through collaboration and a focus on six ideals: internationalism, democracy, environment, adventure, leadership, and service. Through this organization LCC promotes and encourages a number of international exchange programs.
“We have the capacity to exchange with the Round Square schools, so we constantly have a number of our students abroad on exchange from anywhere from one month to 10 weeks,” says Shannon. “We also have International students in our school from across the globe; places such as India, Britain, France, Australia. We actively promote exchanges at LCC as a valuable active learning opportunity.”
With its motto “Non Nobis Solum—Not for Ourselves Alone”, another important component of education is service. Lower Canada College stresses the importance of having students serve others and their communities as part of school curriculum. This begins right at the kindergarten level and continues all the way up to the final year of school. Many students participate in activities attempting to earn their Bronze, Silver or Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award, another internationally-recognized leadership program challenging young students to achieve a number of personal goals.
Student exchanges are a valuable part of education and LCC partners with schools around the globe. “For example, we have created a partnership with a school in Lima, Peru. We established a unique service program with Markham College,” Shannon explains, commenting how this led to the incredible opportunity for students to visit and witness firsthand the challenges of the developing world. There are also opportunities for students to attend international development conferences in places as removed as Thailand or South Africa—something a number of students do every fall.
“Canada in the post-WWII era exercises a very interesting role in the international community,” comments Shannon. “We have an extraordinary school community and we have very privileged students, but I do not believe as educators we have done enough to open up children’s eyes beyond the privileged world they live in.” He attributes Round Square as being a big part of the school being able to participate in these kinds of activities.
“Round Square has afforded us opportunities for students to be exposed to Third World countries, do service work and have their personal orientation challenged and affected in ways that brings service beyond their local communities. Many schools talk about globalization and how they need to address it, but I am proud we are addressing it in a very concrete way,” states Shannon.
It is innovations such as this, amongst others, that make LCC truly stand out as a school. Shannon is quick to point out that this is not simply rhetoric, and can give multiple concrete, tangible initiatives as proof of how LCC does this. For example, LCC has created a unique liberal arts initiative combining English, French and history into one university preparatory cross-curricular learning experience. This is a perfect example of another initiative that doesn’t lean on “simply teaching kids in a traditional box,” as Shannon puts it.
LCC has also organized its structure to best accommodate learning at all ages. “Research shows that middle school children do better when they have kids older students and younger children, around them,” Shannon explains. “That is, they have role models to look up to or they act as role models themselves.”
Middle school teaching is based on strengthening executive functioning, which includes organizational skills, a strong focus on literacy, numeracy, and technology skills, and meta-cognition. “In the educational field, that means learning how we learn,” Shannon explains. “It means making students aware of the brain functions and learning about accommodating their preferred learning style. We focus on teaching students how they can take full advantage of that when collaborating in teams.”
LCC is at the forefront of technology as well, giving all students from Grade 7 and on a MacBook computer for learning. “21st century learning skills are our focus and our reality,” says Shannon, stressing that LCC will continue to shape learning with changing times and emerging technology.
These are just some of the many examples of how LCC stands out amongst a crowd of schools in the country. Through innovative and dynamic programs and initiatives, LCC is creating a graduating class of ambitious minds that is better prepared for the modern globalized world and truly engaged in their learning experiences. What more could a parent want?