Education Withness

Student Learning Conferences

Tomorrow night is our first round of Student Learning Conferences (SLC’s) for this semester. For a few years now we have been strongly encouraging students to come to these meetings with their parents and teachers:

  • so that they can participate in the conversation about and take ownership of their learning,
  • so that the partnership between home and school for the student’s growth and learning can be strengthened,
  • and so that we can do education with rather than to or for our students.

I hope these evenings (Oct 17 & Oct 22) will confirm for you that their teachers know and love your children. We don’t always get it right, of course, so hearing your insights into your child’s unique personality and gifts are always helpful.

We hope that each student will feel honoured and supported as they talk about their learning in each class, their struggles and successes, their frustrations and their joys. And we hope that you, the parents, will learn something about your child and the way the Spirit is calling them and working in them and through them in their learning at HDCH.

Duncan Todd, Principal
Hamilton District Christian High

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Every Child Matters

Hello Privilege; It’s me, James

Okay, so I shamelessly borrowed the title for this week from a recent Netflix production about the experience of advantage and disadvantage in America. While that’s not exactly the theme of this reflection, the title still kind of fits because I, like so many, have begun (finally) to reconcile how my story intersects with the stories of others. Part of that process involves the recognition that ‘privilege’ persists, partly, through the prioritization of a particular voice or story over another.

Like most every other kid in Ontario, I took Canadian History in high school. But the history class I took was pretty different from the one students take today; there seemed to be a reluctance to shine light into the darker chapters of the collective Canadian experience (whatever that is). So, we never heard about the internment of Japanese Canadians during WWII, about the refusal for asylum of people aboard the MS St. Louis in 1939, or about the long history of residential schools. There were important stories I didn’t hear, and I think that not hearing these stories allowed me to exist within a single cultural narrative and a narrow, sanitized framework for a long time.

This past Monday, students at HDCH participated in the “Every Child Matters” orange shirt day. About seventy students also had an opportunity to visit the Woodland Cultural Centre in Brantford to see a residential school and to hear about the experiences of survivors. When someone challenged me on the value of this day, I thought about the opportunity it provided for us to engage with the reality and legacy of residential schools and to adopt the position of listener and learner. I’m grateful that the students of HDCH had a chance to hear these stories and to reflect on how these stories intersect with each of their own.

One of the compelling things about Christ’s ministry is exactly this: the radical desire to challenge a dominant cultural narrative, the commitment to hear a person’s story, and the empathy to understand how that lived experience shapes the individual’s journey. In doing this, Jesus certainly ruffled a few feathers, but He unequivocally demonstrated that a person’s worth is not determined by culture, status, origin or experience. He lived the idea that belonging is about listening, learning and loving.

For a second year, our school theme is “belonging.” As we journey forward as a school community committed to being a place of belonging, the model of Christ’s desire to hear story and understand context is worth emulating. I’m grateful for the stories our students get to hear, and I’m excited to think how diving into a wide variety of experiences and expressions helps us all to strive toward living in humility and love.

James Apers
Director of Student Services

A Community of Care

Community Forum Evening

On Monday night, over sixty members of our HDCH community (parents and grandparents, prospective parents, alumni, current and past staff, friends of HDCH and others invested in the wider community of Christian education) gathered here at HD to participate in a community forum. For over 60 years we, as a community, have been answering God’s call to take courageous steps towards sustainable and innovative Christian education. Now again, we are seeking as a community to discern God’s wisdom and leading in the process of determining campus renewal to bless the next generations of Christian teenagers with a facility that will support the Kingdom mission of cultivating character through learning for a life of service to God.

The meeting was facilitated by M&M International, an independent consulting firm that is conducting a fundraising feasibility study on our behalf. The forum was an opportunity to ask questions about campus renewal and to complete questionnaires that will inform M&M’s study report.

Here are a few of my take-aways from the evening.

  • We are surrounded by a community passionate about Christian education – excellent quality, Christ-centred education that is accessible to all who seek it for their children.
  • There is some excitement about the future of HDCH, and some healthy caution.
  • There is a strong desire to be proactive about the current and future enrolment growth.
  • There are concerns about the potential effect of the proposed project on future tuition for HDCH families.
  • There are some misconceptions and some lack of clarity surrounding the details of the proposed building project.
  • There is some doubt about the rationale for a new build, and the concept of flexible, transformative learning spaces is still somewhat nebulous for many.
  • HDCH has a deeply committed and generous support community that is serious about investing wisely.  They are seeking good value and Kingdom vision.

I am greatly encouraged by our support community.  I was encouraged by the thoughtfulness and care evident in the questions people asked. I have said to staff more than once this year that the only way we can do this beautiful HDCH thing we do is together. Evenings like last Monday are forums for the dialogue that is so critical as we move forward.

The report from the Feasibility Study will go to the Board later in October, and we will report back to our community after that time. We have important decisions ahead of us. We have facility opportunities and challenges that we will need to address. Thankfully, we have a God who we believe gives wisdom and guidance. And we have a remarkable community that has stepped out in bold faith many times through its history.

Please continue to pray for HDCH: our students, our staff, our Board of Directors, and also for our future.

Duncan Todd, Principal
Hamilton District Christian High

Welcome Back

Welcome back to the new school year!

Yesterday, we welcomed close to 500 students through the doors of HDCH.  We are bursting at the seams, but, more importantly, the students were bursting with joyful possibility.  Yes, some were apprehensive, some unsure of how the year would unfold.  Some were overwhelmed, some tentatively making new friends.  Some were loud and some quiet.  Some found comfort in the familiar, some excitement in the new.  Some were just trying to find their way from one class to the next without getting lost or trampled in the hallways.  But everywhere was a sense of hope: a new year, new people, and new possibilities.

We are hopeful that every student will find HDCH to be a place where they belong, where they are known, and where they continue to discover their gifts and calling and purpose.  We don’t and won’t always get this right, but we are hopeful.

We, the teachers and staff, are excited and honoured to be entrusted with this privilege of working with your children this year – co-labourers in God’s work in their lives.  Thank you for partnering with us on this journey of joyful hope.

Duncan Todd, Principal
Hamilton District Christian High