Have you ever celebrated New Year’s Eve in a tropical country? There’s something very unusual about shouting , “Happy New Year” while standing barefoot under a spectacular display of fireworks on a hot beach. This was exactly my experience a few years ago while vacationing in Florida with my family over Christmas and New Years. We felt like we were making New Years resolutions in the middle of summer.
The end of the school year vaguely resembles that “New Year in the summer” feeling we had in Florida a few winters ago. Just as many of us do as we reach the end of each calendar year, teachers and students spend some time looking back at accomplishments, celebrative moments, frustrations, and mistakes, and ponder the things that can be taken away from and learned in each of those moments. We use these experiences to help us shape new goals and aspirations for the year ahead—like making New Year’s resolutions in the summer.
As I finish my first year of writing stories for the News Service at the Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS), I’ve also begun to take time to reflect on my work as Community Journalist. For me, the past six months have been filled with ‘firsts’—my first published news article, my first time interviewing students as they shared their perspectives on an exciting project or service trip, my first time meeting many teachers, administrators, and administrative assistants, my first attempt at getting to know people over the phone, my first interview with a retiring teacher, my first long-form article… the list goes on. The 2015-2016 school year was active, challenging, exciting, and full of changes.
The stories that I’ve been invited to share this past year have reflected school communities that are enlivening the Christian school movement in Ontario:
Immanuel Christian School in Aylmer proactively taking action against bullying, and Quinte Christian High School in Belleville taking bold steps to help students by providing a Counselling Assistance Program for Students (CAPS). These stories have shared how administrators are working to transform the culture within their schools.
High school teams dominating at the provincial level for another year at OFSAA Volleyball competitions, and groups of students from Woodland Christian High School and Trinity Christian School winning engineering competitions are stories that coaches and parent volunteers have shared to highlight the accomplishments of the students they’ve worked alongside.
A redesigned grade four classroom at John Knox Christian School in Oakville that has been deliberately designed to include a variety of learning environments for students that look and feel much more like home, and the newly renovated learning spaces at Sarnia Christian School—both examples of stories about educators intentionally transforming student learning spaces.
Celebrations of significant milestones—the 50th anniversaries at Halton Hills Christian School and London District Christian Secondary School, to name just a couple.
Reflections by students on their travels to various European countries such as France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, and England as an extension of their learning in the classroom. Other students reflected openly about the impact of serving in countries such as South Africa, Belize, and the Dominican Republic on their faith.
Celebrations of community engagement—students creating puppet shows that share the message of God’s love, knitting hats for premature babies in the nearby hospital, ripping out parking lot pavement and creating community gathering areas, partnering with township authorities to build a trail that will bring community together, curating history, and art exhibits in local museums, and performing a flash mob that spreads the true message of Easter salvation to neighbouring communities.
Although it is meaningful to look back and reflect, I’m even more excited to ponder the possibilities that lie ahead for the News Service. I’m looking forward to meeting more of you in the fall—whether by phone, email, or by taking a trip to your classroom—to hear and share your stories as part of the Christian School movement happening in Ontario. Until then, you can look for our first 2016-17 news story on August 29th, and have a happy “New Year”!