Greetings from HDCH

With protests in the US and Canada in response to recent events that have highlighted racial inequality, our responsibility as a Christian school is to make sure that we are listening, learning, and growing as we guide our students to discern God’s heart in this. Our Principal, Duncan Todd, spoke about this in the school devotions on Monday morning, and today posted this message “On racism in the US, Canada, and HDCH” to our students in School Talk. If you haven’t already, please take a moment to read it and discuss it with your children.

June

It is always a bit surprising to flip the calendar to June and see the finish line so close. This spring has been a time of stretching ourselves, and the results have been both blessing and burden. It is our hope that we wrap up this school year with a sigh of relief and a prayer of thanksgiving on our lips.

To that end, here are some important considerations for you and your family. Read further for details about the end of this year (Attendance, Academic Progress, Year-End — including locker clean out), as well as next year (“Looking ahead to September”).

Attendance
If your child will be missing class for work or other reasons, it is important to let the office know. With five classes remaining in each course, many students will be working on final tasks and summatives. It is in the student’s best interest to follow up with the classroom teacher so as to stay on top of final due dates and deadlines. This also allows teachers to support students to achieve their best results. To alert the office, feel free to enter a planned absence for your child on Edsby or contact Kris Slootweg via info@hdch.org or leave a voicemail at 905-648-6655. Expect a follow-up from Kris if your child is absent without notice.

Academic Progress
Our desire is for all students to experience success even throughout the roller-coaster of remote learning. Our teachers have continued to provide high quality learning objectives to motivate students while committing to ongoing support. In light of new information received on June 1 from the Ontario Ministry of Education, we are making decisions about the way reporting will take place for this semester. An updated reporting procedure will be available on Friday.

As always, if you are concerned about your child’s progress, please feel free to contact the classroom teacher or Student Services for more information.

End-of-Year Details

Final Assembly
Wednesday, June 17, 10 am.We will be closing our year together via a live-streamed assembly. We would love for you to join with your whole family to celebrate another year of God’s faithfulness to HDCH. More information about how to tune in to this event will be shared closer to the date.

Graduate Drive-Up Processional
Save the date! Friday, June 26.  To celebrate our graduates, HD will be hosting a Drive-thru Graduation to present diplomas and awards and to cheer on a generally awesome group of young people. We have worked with local authorities to ensure we do this in a way that protects everyone’s health and honours Health and Municipal requirements. Details to follow in a separate email to families of graduates.

Locker clean-out
June 17, 18, 19 and 22, there will be an opportunity for students or their parents to retrieve personal belongings from the school, clean out lockers, and return school property such as textbooks, library books, team uniforms, technology, and musical instruments. Safety and distancing protocols will be in effect and supervised by staff. Sign up for your time slot HERE. The event code is yggjk.

Looking Ahead to September

We have started planning for various scenarios of how September might look, pending an announcement toward the end of June from the Ministry of Education. Our hope is for a full return to campus, although we also need to be prepared for a return with restrictions that limit the number of students in the building at any one time. This could mean a hybrid schedule, potentially with alternating days for students. In addition, we have to consider the possibility of restrictive measures that impact bussing, athletics and other extra-curriculars. Furthermore, in whatever format we are back on campus, we will need to make accommodations for staff and students who have vulnerable or immuno-compromised family members.

We also need to be prepared for the possibility of further full campus closures (hopefully brief) during the year if a second or third wave of Covid occurs.

We intend to be as fully back on campus as our public authorities allow, whilst prioritising the safety of our students, staff, and community. This means that we will observe all necessary protocols for social distancing, protective wear, health monitoring, sanitising surfaces, and any other contagion-prevention measures. We are confident that, with time to prepare over the summer, our teachers and support staff will provide the best possible Christian learning experience and care for our students in whatever scenario we face, whether fully on campus or with restrictions.

Thank you for your continued support for HDCH. We are a community of people who love our school and know that its strength lies in our shared faith and love for one another. We continue to place our trust in the God who goes ahead of us and to follow with faith and hope. See you at our closing assembly.

The Leadership Team

Looking Forward

We are grateful for God’s faithfulness at this unusual time in our local and global history. We are grateful for the assurance that we belong to God:

Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. ~ Psalm 100:3

Yesterday, our Provincial Government announced that school campuses would remain closed for the rest of the school year. They also made reference to some of the possible restrictions facing schools when we reopen in September.

What does this mean for us?

Ending this school year
Yesterday’s announcement confirms for us that we will not be returning to campus this semester. This is not a surprise. As you have heard from us previously, we intend to continue our current model of remote learning for the remaining four weeks of school, with the last days of class connections on Zoom being Monday 15th and Tuesday 16th June. See the summary >>

Whole-School Assembly
We are planning a live-stream whole-school “assembly” on Wednesday the 17th to officially end the school year, to celebrate our students’ resilience, grace, humour, and many accomplishments. Arrangements to return textbooks and clear out lockers are also currently being scheduled for that week.

Our graduating class has lost out on so many milestones and so much excitement as their final semester of high school winds down. This is not to magnify the loss and disappointment for them or to encourage self-pity, but to acknowledge that, as a class, they have missed out on much that marks this time of their lives as special. We will seek to honour them in every way we can, which includes plans for a traditional graduation celebration on Thanksgiving weekend.

September: On campus, remote, or hybrid?
We remain hopeful that we will be able to be on a fully operational campus, learning in-person from our first day in September. This period of remote learning has confirmed for us how important relationships are in learning. Learning is not merely a transactional activity or a transfer of knowledge and skills. Learning is a profoundly relational experience that is enriched by interacting with one another, with our teachers and guides, with the subject matter, and with God’s Spirit. This is our ideal for learning as a community both on campus and at home.

Remaining Flexible
With current uncertainty about what will be required in September, we will be prepared for any possibility, whether remote learning, on-campus learning, or a hybrid between these two. We will remain flexible and adapt the balance between at-home and on-campus learning as necessary in order to protect the health of our wider community.

During recent months, we have been developing tools and methods to give us greater locational flexibility in delivering purposeful Christian learning. However, our goal is to be together on campus as soon and as much as we are permitted from the very start of the new school year. We will put in place whatever safety precautions are needed to allow us to do this.

HDCH belongs to God
HDCH belongs to God, and so do we, collectively and individually. We have been called by God, at this time, to serve our students and one another together. He will give us, through one another and through the power of His Spirit, the means to fulfil this call. We will cry and laugh, struggle and celebrate, make mistakes and do amazing things, and God will weave it all together into a beautiful work of art as He advances His plans and purposes, His Kingdom in us, among us, and through us. That is certain.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures for ever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations. ~ Psalm 100:4-5

Duncan Todd, Principal
Hamilton District Christian High

Grace and Gratitude

James Apers, our Director of Student Services, shares how a six-stage model of crisis response can help us understand our experiences of the past several weeks, and can remind us that we are all works in progress, loved by our Heavenly Father.

It’s hard to believe that we are already in week six of emergency remote learning. What started out as a “maybe,” became a “for now,” and has pretty much become an “it is” for schools and workplaces across Ontario. I hesitate to say we have entered into a new normal, because this probably still doesn’t feel at all normal, nor do most of us hope that this is how things will be from now on. In this midst of this, many of us have been feeling more tired, less motivated, and, frankly, a little less resilient. A lot of people I have spoken to have noted how close to the surface their emotions are, and how they feel “just done.” More recently, some folks I’ve spoken to have expressed a renewed sense of capacity and energy.

These feelings are totally understandable. For lots of us, this reality of COVID has meant a prolonged and heightened state of alarm as fears about employment, about the scarcity of resources, and about the predictability and stability of the future have increasingly occupied our thoughts. So many of us have expressed a sense of helplessness in the face of things that seem so far out of our control. The shift to “at-home” work has meant a loss of some of our established support networks, and social distancing has meant the loss of so many of those things we love to do (those things we often characterize as “protective factors” and “self care”). It’s been hard.

The ups and downs connected to crises are also completely understandable. For folks who study crisis response, these are patterns that have been observed and well documented. The American Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration suggests that disaster responses generally follow a six step process (these responses are largely based on “natural” disasters, but the model seems to hold) . Like any “stage model,” this six step process is a generalization; admittedly, individual responses will vary widely. We may not experience all the steps, or we may individually experience stages in different sequences. However, the overall model may still give us some helpful understanding and may help to normalize how we are feeling. This six-phase model is fairly linear, though it does allow for some setbacks and recalibrations.

Phase 1, the pre-disaster phase, is characterized by fear and uncertainty. I think many of us may have felt this in the weeks leading up to our time of closures and social distancing. We didn’t know what was going to happen; things felt unpredictable and uncertain.

Phase 2, the impact phase, is often marked by intense emotional reactions (including shock, disbelief or panic) and by a focus on self/family protection. Anyone who went shopping for toilet paper around March 10th would have seen this first hand.

Stages 3 and 4, the heroic and “honeymoon” phases, are the times when we generally see huge “buy in” and hard work. There is a remarkable willingness to help and an almost adrenaline-fueled sense of “get it done” that transitions into a “we’re in this together” feeling. As a school, we certainly saw this during March Break and in the weeks following.

Stage 5, the disillusionment phase, is the period marked by a recognition of limits, by grief for what is lost, and by a general sense of discouragement. As the COVID crisis dragged on, and the new routines took hold, I think that many of us experienced this reality (side note – for a really interesting reflection on grief, faith and COVID please check out https://curtthompsonmd.com/inflammation-of-the-heart/ ). This phase is hard work, especially when the end point feels distant and cloudy.

Stage 6, finally, is the reconstruction phase, often characterized by an overall feeling of relief, recovery, and renewal. Some of us may be here, and some may be looking forward eagerly to this phase.

The danger of the phase model is that we fall into an “it’ll get better” trap which may feel dismissive of both the hardships and the celebrations of the present and which could distract us from the work that needs to be done in every phase. Yet, despite its limitations, this way of contextualizing how I am feeling gives me hope. It helps me to understand why I may have been more snappy, more weepy, more preoccupied, less energized, less forgiving. It reminds me that we do move through different times and responses, and that, despite ups and downs, progress and set-backs, we do share in a progressive venture that looks toward a future that is different from the present and that is ultimately under the sovereignty of a Creator who knows all about phases. It helps me to have grace towards myself (that my feelings are normal) and maybe even more grace towards others (because they, too, are in the ups and downs).

Grace and gratitude is ultimately where this lands: a recognition that I am a “work in progress” and that God works with me despite my ups and downs; a recognition that emergency remote learning is an unfolding and evolving process that we are all figuring out, even as we work hard to make it better than good; a recognition that my students, my family members, my colleagues, my church community, and my friends are all working at their capacity wherever they feel they are in any given moment. I’m grateful for the grace others have shown me; I’m grateful for colleagues who are incredibly encouraging; I’m grateful for a community that believes in what we are doing, even when it’s not perfect; I’m grateful for students who struggle and who shine; and I’m grateful, most of all, for a loving and sustaining Father who knows mountains and who knows valleys, and who knows us.

Discover More

If you’d’ like to learn more about the stages, you can read the article below.

Click to access CERC_Psychology_of_a_Crisis.pdf

https://www.samhsa.gov/dtac/recovering-disasters/phases-disaster

James, R, and Gilliland, B., (2012). Crisis intervention strategies (7th edition). Cengage Learning.

Gilliand and James, two researchers who literally “wrote the book” on crisis intervention, characterize individual crisis as the “experiencing of an event or situation as an intolerable difficulty that exceeds the person’s current resources and coping mechanisms” (8). They describe a systemic crisis as “when a traumatic event occurs such that people, institutions, communities and ecologies are overwhelmed and response systems are unable to effectively control and contain the event” (9). They note that for both individual and systemic crises, the “disequilibrium” caused by the event can have profound affective, behavioural, cognitive and institutional and cultural impacts.

However, these authors note that while this disequilibrium is complicated and difficult, it is not necessarily exclusively negative. They suggest that, while crisis is complex and experienced differently by each person and while there are no “quick fixes”, it does, like any disruption, reflect both challenges and opportunities. James and Gilliland argue that crisis by definition contains the “seeds of growth and change.” In this, they recognize that individual protective factors, personal and community resilience, and individual and institutional perception play a role; however, they do argue that “choosing to do something at least contains that seeds of growth and allows a person to set goals and formulate a plan to begin to overcome the dilemma” (9).

James, R, and Gilliland, B., (2012). Crisis intervention strategies (7th edition). Cengage Learning.

James Apers, Director of Student Services
Hamilton District Christian High

Co-labouring with the Spirit

Dear HDCH Community,
We are now a month into campus closure and there are no signs of this letting up any time soon. Our core goal continues to be to deliver the best learning and care that we can for our students in this current context.

Parent and Student Surveys
Thank you to both parents and students who have responded to our surveys and given us some insight into how you are experiencing this on the home front. We read of joys and frustrations, successes and sorrows, but through it all, a general desire to make the best of this. Thank you, students and parents, for the way in which you are working with us, showing grit and grace through some of the struggles.

Issues with technology and bandwidth are common themes, as is the difficulty receiving support online rather than in person. Some students are still overwhelmed by the work, others underwhelmed, and still others seem to have found a good balance. Many are missing acutely the in-person interpersonal connections with friends and teachers. This should not surprise us, since positive relationships and care are a core value and experience at HDCH. Students, be assured that your teachers and staff miss you sorely.

We are currently reflecting on the responses to see how we can best adapt our practices to the diverse individual needs. We also hope to share something of what we have learned from these surveys in “The Voice” Q&A session after the May Membership Meeting.

End of Semester
At our evening Zoom meeting with Grade 12 students and parents last week, some asked if we were likely to be back at school at all this semester, and also, if we were not, whether the semester might end early. We are still unable to answer the first question definitively, but there is a fair chance that campus closures will continue for the remainder of the semester. We would of course love to have the opportunity to meet together again on our beautiful campus before the close of the school year, but we are preparing for both possibilities. We will let you know as soon as we know. For the second question, whether or not we return to campus or finish out the semester remotely, we still plan to continue teaching and learning until the originally designated end of semester: Wednesday 17th June.

Honouring and Celebrating Learning
Whether or not we return to campus this semester, summatives and exam period will inevitably look very different: departments are currently working out how best to draw the learning of the semester together in a way that honours and celebrates the learning that has happened, and recognises the unique challenges of this period.

In the meantime, please keep communicating with teachers and learning support workers, with student services, and with administration. We are here to serve our students and their families, and to continue co-labouring with the Spirit in cultivating character through learning for lives of service to God.

We pray for you all, and are again enormously appreciative of your prayers and your support. Thank you!

Duncan Todd, Principal
Hamilton District Christian High

Community Support & Learning @Home

Dear HDCH Community,

From the Staff and Leadership Team at HDCH, I want to assure you that you are daily in our prayers. We are aware of the struggles many of you are facing. We are grateful for the support and the grace you have shown us. We are grateful that this endeavour in Christian education is a partnership with you. We are here to do our best for your children, to continue sowing into their lives as the Spirit works in them. Even as you have continued to support us in this extraordinary season, we want to support you. We are here for you, to serve you, our HDCH families. We thank God for you.

I wish to highlight today two areas of both joy and struggle for the HDCH community:

  1. Learning at home;
  2. School and family finances.

Learning at Home
We are half-way through our second week of remote learning. It has been a joy to reconnect with our students, to see their faces, hear their voices, and to engage with them in their learning. It hasn’t been easy as we seek to find the sweet spot that challenges our students without overwhelming them, where they continue to grow in faith and intellect and compassion. For each student, that sweet spot is different and varies each day as we all come to terms with our own diminished capacities in this season.

You may have seen in our communication in Edsby on Monday that we have made adjustments and clarifications to the expectations of our students in our desire to find a healthy balance for them in their at-home learning:

  1. Classwork will be given and assignments due only on the days set for that class (Mon/Wed or Tue/Thu in a regular week) to avoid overlap with other class due dates.
  2. We will be aiming at a total of three hours per course per week, including both synchronous (together as a class) and asynchronous (on their own time) learning. Senior level academic courses may require slightly more time.
  3. Fridays, when no class is scheduled in a regular week, can be used for catching up, connecting with teachers or learning support workers (LSW’s) for extra support, or peer collaboration.

Midterm reports will be published a week later than originally scheduled, due to the extra week of adaptation after the March break. We will make sure Grade 12 midterm marks are ready to be sent to post-secondary institutions on the due date, but we plan to publish in Edsby the full reports with comments the following week, April 30th.

School and Family Finances
We are aware that many people in our province, including our HDCH community, have taken a financial hit in the current crisis, whether through lay-offs, business losses or other fall-out from the shutdown. As a Christian community, and as members of wider church communities, we hope we can lean on each other for help during this time, even as we lean on the Lord.

Although our programme delivery has temporarily shifted off campus, we remain steadfast in our mission, cultivating character through learning for lives of service to God. I hope you will notice that your children are known and cared for by their teachers in what is for many a stressful and uncertain season. Furthermore, we are continuing to deliver the Ontario curriculum with our distinctively reformed Christian perspective, and, thanks to the work of our teachers and support staff, are still on track to offer credits towards the Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD), as approved by the Ministry of Education.

Whilst HDCH is currently saving some facility operational costs with campus closure, we are also losing rental and other revenue. We are still therefore dependent on tuition payments in order to fulfil our contractual obligations to our teachers and support staff.

Our Board, Finance Committee, and staff are exploring ways to relieve financial strain both in the present and in our budget for the 2020-21 school year. However, this does not necessarily mitigate a financial crisis you might be experiencing as a family right now. We encourage you to communicate directly with our Director of Finance, Sherry Osinga (sosinga@hdch.org), for information about tuition assistance or rescheduling payments if you find yourself in such a position. In the same vein, please contact me (dtodd@hdch.org) or Sandra Baker (sbaker@hdch.org) if you feel called to offer help through tuition assistance to other families at this time.

We are also grateful to both our Federal and Provincial governments for their initiatives to support those who have lost income, and we urge you to explore the following links if any are applicable to your situation. These include enhancements to Child Benefits and Employment Insurance as well as other income supports and wage subsidies.

https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/corporate/notices/coronavirus.html
https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/cerb-application.html

See here for an explanation of some programmes and instructions on how to apply:
https://business.financialpost.com/personal-finance/taxes/what-the-government-is-offering-you-in-coronavirus-related-benefits-and-how-to-get-them
https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/how-to-apply-for-the-canadian-emergency-response-benefit-and-ei-sickness-pay-1.4858089
https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charity-life/covid-19/a-charitys-guide-to-canadas-covid-19-governmental-supports-and-programs/

The following Ontario initiative offers direct one-time support for each child you have aged 0-12 (for those HDCH families with younger siblings) or 0-21 for children with identified special needs:
https://www.iaccess.gov.on.ca/FamilyAppWeb/public/index.xhtml


Thank you again, our wonderful HDCH community, for your encouragement, support, and prayers.

In all of this, we place our trust in God. We belong to the Lord, and we rely fully on His grace and loving kindness toward us. He is our provider, our rock and our salvation!

Duncan Todd, Principal
Hamilton District Christian High

Online Learning Together

Welcoming Back Students

We are excited to reconnect with you next Monday, March 30 as we cultivate our character together, through our learning, for lives of service to God. We understand that a new approach to learning will also present us with new challenges. Your teachers desire to work with you through high expectations and high support, as we navigate learning together.

Some keys for you as we enter learning next Monday.

Learning from home is now our new classroom
We want to create an environment that supports great learning and allows us to enjoy our experience with each other. The expectations online reflect the same expectations we have in our physical classrooms. This includes the language we use in discussions and in online discussion groups and chat rooms.

Attendance

Teachers will take attendance each day
You are required to attend your 10AM and your 1PM class. See the schedule below. (ie. On Mondays you will go to period 1 at 10AM and go to period 3*** at 1PM).
NOTE: We will always be using Week 1 for classes.

If you are unable to attend a class, your parents need to communicate that you will be absent.
If you cannot be at a scheduled class at 10AM or 1PM, your parents can e-mail the HD office at info@hdch.org. We will follow up with students who are absent from classes, as attendance and participation is a key to good learning, just as attendance is critical when we are in the HD building

When you are absent
We realize there are times when you will be unable to attend a scheduled lesson. The expectation is that you engage with your lessons from the day at another time during the day. Your teachers will provide lessons that allow you to access material after the class. Your engagement in the lesson that day will serve as your attendance for that day

Schedule

 


Technology Requirements

  • computer
  • internet access
  • a headset with a mic would be helpful as it reduces extra noise (cell phone earbuds with a mic generally work well); otherwise you can use the speakers and microphone on your computer.
  • Zoom

Teachers will frequently be using this online video conferencing application for conducting your lessons. If technology is a challenge for you at home due to multiple users or connectivity issues, we ask that your parents contact Mr. Todd (dtodd@hdch.org) regarding your concern.

Getting school resources
If you need to pick up textbooks, binders, instruments, or other supplies that are at school, you can come in at the dates and times below. You will be met by members of the leadership team to assist you. Be aware that proper distancing protocols will be enforced while inside the school building.

  • This Friday March, 27 10am – 11 am AND 5 – 6 pm
  • Tuesday, March 31, 7 pm – 8 pm

Staying Safe/working publicly

We encourage you to work in a space that is public and visible in your home. We realize that we’re entering your homes and you are entering each other’s homes. We want to create a safe learning environment as we work together.

Video recording and privacy
Teachers will be recording some lessons so students who are absent are able to view the lesson from the day. Teachers will make you aware when this is the case. You can turn off the video in the chat if you wish not to be recorded. Videos will only be posted for internal use.

Asking questions
We desire to provide you with high support. In a physical classroom, we often can see where students are challenged by content or technology. We highly encourage you to ask questions so you can receive support when you are unclear of expectations or unable to proceed due to technological issues.

Wardrobe
Please follow dress-down / spirit wear expectations when you are online.


Stay Up-to-date

Final words of advice from those who have done online learning: One of the struggles that students have with e-learning is that there isn’t “class time” in the same way, to do work. We want to encourage you to stay up-to-date in your courses each day, using time after class to follow up the lessons. Be prepared to spend a few hours per class each week to stay ahead in your courses. Your teachers will do regular check-ins to support you in achieving daily learning goals.


Questions?

For class specific questions, please contact your teacher via Edsby or email. For wellness resources or concerns, please see the contact card Mr. Apers sent in his health and wellness memo. Let me know (owebb@hdch.org) if you have any other questions that aren’t addressed here.

We are looking forward to getting back to learning with you.

Mr. Owen Webb, Dean of Students
Hamilton District Christian High

CARE: A Core Value

When we conducted a fundraising feasibility study in the Fall to consider next steps with our facility development, the feedback from both staff and our parent and support community put a high value on care: care for students, care for our building, and care for our resources – material and natural. Our community felt that deep care for the wellbeing and growth of our students was both a core value and key strength of HDCH.

Now, as we consolidate our plans and look to the future, we want to keep God’s call to us to care for people at the centre of our vision.

On Tuesday evening (10th March), the Board has called a special Membership Meeting to vote on some facility maintenance (roof and HVAC) and development projects (accessibility and learning spaces) that we want to tackle this summer.

I hope you will come to the meeting, whether or not you are a Member, to hear and participate in our shared vision for our facility and our children. And I hope you will see in our plans the theme of care shining through: stewardly care for this building God has given us, and loving care for the people He brings us

Duncan Todd, Principal
Hamilton District Christian High

Winter Residency

Staff Conversations on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

On Thursday and Friday last week, our staff gathered for our “Winter Residency” – two days of focused professional development where we can dig deeply into a particular topic. When we mentioned in the last uKnight that we would be talking this time about SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity) as it pertains to our student community, there was a range of responses from our school community. Some voiced their support that we were going to speak frankly about the marginalized experience of a portion of our student body. Others saw in it hints of a political agenda creeping into our Christian school. Some expressed concern that we might compromise our Biblical foundations for contemporary sensibilities.

Our staff, much like our wider school community, reflects a diverse range of theological, emotional, and intellectual positions on this topic, as we do on several others. Even so, we are united in our desire to honour and serve the Lord in all we do, to live in and teach obedience to His Word, and to love and serve faithfully every child-growing-into-adulthood that He brings to us here at HDCH. We all desire to see each one enter and grow in a living relationship with Him.

From that foundation of our shared purpose, we had rich and encouraging conversations, hearing and learning from each other’s perspectives. We are also becoming more aware of ways in which we can (unintentionally, by our language, our actions, our omissions, and our assumptions) hurt others and even “shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces” (Mt 23:13), alienating from Christ some who may thirst for Him most.

We intend this conversation to continue over the coming years and extend to include more members of our school community. Our hope, as we converse and learn, is that our posture to all our students might become one that is more Christ-like in accepting and loving each one, and walking beside them as the Spirit transforms and sanctifies each of us.

Duncan Todd, Principal

HDCH Leadership Team

 

Care for Every Student

Image-bearers of God

This year we are continuing to focus on the theme of belonging and to explore what it means to belong. Belonging and inclusiveness are the topics of assemblies, devotions, and projects, and this theme makes its way into the details of our school day in how we relate to each other from a restorative viewpoint.

As teachers, it is our desire that each child feels known and accepted in our classroom. To that end, we encourage students to get to know one another in circle time by asking questions that allow for personal expression. We facilitate small group and large group discussion so that all voices may be heard. We model structured learning conversations to provide feedback both publicly and privately so as to honour all learners. Intentional, meaningful things are happening all around the building to foster a sense of belonging for all of our students. But we are also aware that more can be done.

Next week Thursday and Friday the staff and some members of the Board will gather for the annual Professional Development days that we call our Winter Residency. In past years, the topics have included Christian perspective and worldview in education, using design thinking to tackle “big stumpers” in classroom practice, and many elements of teaching pedagogy related to project-based learning. We have invited speakers, taken field trips, worked hard, and built relationships through these focused days of teacher learning.

This year, our staff will focus on how we can better provide a place of belonging for our students who identify on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. Our goal is to be unified in our desire to be a place of care for every student who walks our hallways and sits in our classrooms. It is our deep hope that each child feels safe, loved, and known.

To guide us toward that goal, we have invited Darren Spyksma from The Society of Christian Schools in British Columbia to lead us in conversation. Darren travels all over North America speaking to schools about how to care more intentionally for all kids, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. It is not our goal to take a stand on a theological position or to challenge the viewpoints of our members; rather, it is our desire to love kids deeply, recognizing their worth as image-bearers of God.

Please partner with us in prayer as we listen, discuss, and learn together as educators, support staff, and board members. Pray for clarity in our communication, for community and love to be strengthened, and for God’s name to be honoured throughout the process.

We are blessed to be a part of a community where we can dialogue in honesty, care, and love. We hope to model healthy dialogue together as staff and to our students as well. Thank you for your continued commitment to HDCH.

~ HDCH Board & Leadership Team

Stress, Rest & Growth

It has been an intense time at school since returning from the Christmas break. The Celebration of Learning was indeed a celebration of many good things that our students have been doing. The hard work that went into this coincided with a time of wrapping up courses, completing summative assignments, reflecting on what has been learned, and, for some classes, preparing for this week’s exams.

These couple of weeks bring a heavy workload for most students and a lot of stress for many. As teachers and as parents, we are always trying to find the right balance for encouraging and stretching our children, but not overwhelming them. There is a fine line between eustress (the positive stress that motivates us) and distress (the negative stress that can discourage us).

At HDCH, we don’t always get it right for ourselves or our students. It’s more of a dance than an exact science. Each person is unique, and so many varying factors affect our ability to cope with stress. Since cultivating the character of our students is at the heart of our mission at HDCH, we do look to challenge and stretch them. We also seek to support them wisely and well. We will continue to evaluate and review how we do this.

When the last exams are written this week, there is a change of pace for a few days, and a chance for students to catch their breath. Then there is hope for a fresh start to a new semester next Wednesday. I hope that they will find time to rest and rejuvenate in the short break between these semesters, and, more than that, that a regular “Sabbath” rest will be part of their healthy weekly rhythm. For growth, we all need a balance of good stress and good rest.

Join us to Celebrate

Tomorrow night is our Celebration of Learning.

I hope you will all come and see the beautiful work our students have been doing this semester. To us, beautiful work does not mean just pretty displays, but work that shows effort, perseverance, and depth of thinking and learning, work that connects to a purpose beyond themselves, that is permeated with God’s redemptive action in our world, work that is directed toward loving God and loving our neighbour.

You might have heard this summarized in the catch-phrase “deeper in and further out” – look for evidence of this in tomorrow night’s celebration of our students’ learning. Ask the students about their work that they share, why it matters, how they have been stretched and have grown through it.

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I hope you will see glimpses of what gives my colleagues and me, the staff of HDCH, so much joy and hope in what we do here: the cultivation of sound Christian character in our children, through their learning, oriented to lives of service to God.

Duncan Todd, Principal
Hamilton District Christian High