Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Habits of a London Christian High Graduate

You might recall that over the past 18-24 months we have been busy putting together our 'Playbook' here at London Christian High.The Playbook is essentially a concise document that attempts to explain clearly and quickly what we are trying to do here at the school, why we are trying these things, and how we intend to accomplish them. This is still a living document as we are still and always collecting and considering feedback on it to guide us in this journey.

The first two sections of the Playbook set the tone and scene for the rest of the document. The first question is: Why do we exist? Simply put, we have written that London Christian High exists to move people towards purpose in Christ.

The second section asks: How do we behave? I'd like to focus in on these behaviours for a moment within the context of considering who we would like our graduates to be and what they'll be able to do when they leave London Christian High. These are all 'working thoughts' and we welcome your feedback on them:

1. Relational - We hope that our students (and staff, board, wider supporters) have a deeper and deeper appreciation that because people matter to God, they matter to us. To the best of our ability, we want our graduates to honour one another in relationships because everyone is a child of God.

2. Collaborate - We recognize that increasingly the world is a complex place and there is a greater and greater need to be able to work with other people to solve difficult problems. The Bible refers to this as the 'Body of Christ' (1 Corinthians 12) where everyone brings something to the table for the greater good in the Kingdom of God.

3. Communicate - We believe it is important for our grads to talk to people about problems that they have, rather than about people. We refer to this as the Matthew 18 principle. It is often difficult, but speaking the truth in love is a bedrock principle for growing as a Christian.

4. Iterate - We understand that to get something right usually requires lots of effort, often many drafts, lots and lots of knowledge and wisdom and multiple revisions. Having a 'growth mindset' in education as well as just in life in general is so important to growing, learning, experiencing grace and helping one another.

5. Community - We want our graduates to understand that the world is much bigger than them. They are tremendously unique individuals, but they are also a bigger part of God's family on earth which requires a wide understanding of 'neighbour'. Developing empathy for one another is key in this process.

What do you think? Are we missing something in this list as applied to graduates? What would you add or take away? We would be happy to hear your thoughts.

Monday, February 5, 2018

High Challenge, High Support

This past week we had exams at London Christian High. Exam week and the days leading up to exams are always full of stress, last minute preparations and high hopes for results that are a good reflection of the work done throughout the semester. As I watched the activities of the week unfold, it reminded me about how much work our Learning Commons team does with our students to make sure they are prepped and ready for exams, but also throughout the semester for things like tests, keeping up with assignments, general organization and a whole range of other learning support. On this note, if you have questions about your child's progress at school, want to learn more about what potential supports are available to them and/or just have questions about what the Learning Commons does, please feel free to connect with Carla Hosmar, our Learning Commons lead: chosmar@ldcss.ca.

At one point in time it was likely seen as a weakness to want extra help or support in school. However, in today's world there is a growing awareness that learning differences are not bad, rather they are quite normal and really beautiful in a lot of ways. In fact, in the future it would not be surprising to see all students on some version of an Individual Education Plan (IEP). For me, this is interesting to note because I believe it is a deeply Biblical idea taken right out of Psalm 139 where we read that we are 'fearfully and wonderfully made'. When we talk about honouring PEOPLE for who God created them to be, this concept is right at the center.

In closing, we like to think of London Christian High as a high challenge and high support environment. Regardless of which type of student you are, or which gifts you have been given or what previous experiences you may have had, our staff team really wants to challenge our students but also provide equal levels of support for meeting those challenges. This will look different for each student, but the point is that we care deeply for the growth and development of our students and we very much value partnering with you, our supporting families in this critical life stage.

As we head into the second semester, again, if you have questions or want to learn more about how your child could possibly be better supported or encouraged moving forward, please let us know. We would love to talk further!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Our Diploma


The big idea in this blog post is that we would like to get your feedback on our London Christian High Diploma (see the link at the end), but first, here is a bit of context:

As many of you are aware our school has its own diploma, we call it the London Christian High Diploma. In addition to the Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) that we grant each year to our graduates, the London Christian High Diploma is also granted to those who meet the requirements that our school has established (also see below). Like most Christian schools around the province, our school started this diploma many years ago as a way of signifying that our education and learning was and remains a fundamentally different kind of process as compared to other high schools. Each Christian school has formatted the requirements for 'their' diploma in individual and unique ways, but the general concept is the same: we collectively believe that Christian education is based on a world and life view that everything belongs to God and as a result, we study and learn from a uniquely different perspective.

Recently, we spent some time as a staff looking at the current requirements for the London Christian High Diploma. Our staff has done this from time to time over the years to ensure that the requirements are still relevant, useful and ultimately God-honouring for our students. Part of our interest in going through a review process this time around is that we believe there are some things about our requirements for the diploma that are perhaps somewhat inconsistent with learning in the 21st century and honouring to People while developing Purpose in Christ. It was a good discussion!

For your reference, here are the current requirements for the London Christian High Diploma in addition to the Ontario Secondary School Diploma that we offer:

A. Biblical Studies (Grade 10)
B. World Religions (Grade 11)
C. A Senior History Course (Grade 11 or 12)
D. One of Media Studies (Grade 11) or Families in Canada (Grade 12)
E. Complete 40 hours of Community Service (min. 10 in community, max. 20 in church/school, max. 20 on a mission trip)

At the end of this process, we agreed on a few things that we would like to share with you, our wider community of supporters. At this point we would like to invite you to provide us with feedback about the London Christian High Diploma so that we consider various angles before institutionalizing any changes to the diploma.

Here were some of the key things that we concluded as a staff also for your reference:

1. A prominent idea that was clear from many voices is that Christian perspective should be evident and central in all courses.
2. The actual London Christian High Diploma itself (the piece of paper) is not important other than that it signifies a specific Christian education process that has taken place at our school over the duration of a students' time at our school.
3. There was a general feeling that the current structure to receive the diploma is too rigid and that there are not enough options for students to express their gifts and/or learn about God's world and their place in it, particularly in the senior end.
4. The study of Bible and World Religions were mentioned repeatedly as being important to ground our students in a Biblical worldview, which is often contrary to what we see in our wider secular culture.
5. Many other more specific ideas were also mentioned/discussed to add to or change in our current program of learning although it became a long list and would be hard to capture adequately here.

So, having said all of this, what do you think? We would love to hear from you! Please follow this link to fill out a very short survey about the current state of our London Christian High Diploma, our staff's thoughts and some possible next steps. This survey will be open until Feb. 2. Thank you for your participation!

Survey link: London Christian High Diploma

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Christmas Concert & Celebration of Learning

Although it might seem like a long time ago now (in a past year actually), on December 19, 2017 we held our annual Christmas concert in celebration of the Christmas season at London Christian High. The concert itself was a great evening with lots of terrific songs from our choir as well as other various musical acts. To get into the Christmas spirit, there is hardly a better event to attend in my estimation.

In addition to the concert, this year we also invited our entire community (parents, grandparents, friends, siblings, relatives etc.) to come a little bit early to take in our end of semester Celebration of Learning event. If you have attended previous Celebrations of Learning, you will know what I am referring to here. If you have not attended one of these events before you should mark June 7, 2018 on your calendar to plan to come out to our second semester Celebration of Learning and Spring Concert.

The great diversity and quality of student work on display around the building was inspiring and the buzz was palpable. Everything from art class 'busts' to food class taste tests to world religions projects to hoverboards and more was on display. The best part was students who stuck around to talk to people about what they had been working on throughout the semester. In many cases the student passion for their work was really neat to see.

It was a great event and we look forward to seeing what the second semester holds in store!

On behalf of the staff at London Christian High, we would like to wish you a blessed New Year with you and your family. We look forward to seeing how your son or daughter grows and develops in this new year filled with new opportunities.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Notes From The Annual Fall Community Meeting - Nov. 23, 2017

A few weeks ago we invited our entire community to our annual Fall Community Meeting at the school. These events used to be known as Membership meetings and there are still a few parts that pertain only to members, but for the most part these meetings are open to anyone who supports the school. For your information, the Spring Community Meeting is scheduled for May 24, 2018 and you are welcome to be there!

Here is a brief synopsis of what happened at the meeting:

The big question that we dealt with throughout the evening was: Should we stay or should we go? To be a bit more descriptive we posed the question to our community, should we stay at our present location or should we potentially look at alternative locations around the city of London as the future site for our school?

The reason we are asking this question comes down to two big ideas:

1. Stewardship - Our current building has many parts that are approximately 47 years old and they are starting to show their age. Within the next 3-5 years, we will likely need to replace and/or update many 'big ticket' items in the building including things like the boiler, most of our rooftop HVAC units, many of our windows and some of our bathrooms to name a few major upcoming capital expenditures. Before we go ahead and spend significant money on our current building, we thought it would be wise to ascertain whether it makes sense to look at all options before committing definitively to that path particularly given the second point…

2. 21st Century Learning - Education has changed dramatically in the last ten years or so. With a much greater emphasis on community connections, collaboration in teams of people and the need to be flexible with spaces, our current building again quickly shows its age. There is lots more that could be said here, but the impact of space on program cannot be overstated enough and it has wide-reaching effects on everything from teacher planning to technology integration to enrollment to the quality of theatre productions and more.

So, to get the conversation started, we asked these five questions:

1. Very broadly, what are the key questions that we should be considering as a school to make a decision of this magnitude?
2. Who are some people who you can think of who would be helpful to us in making this decision?
3. In order to support one direction or the other, what would you (a key stakeholder) need to know?
4. What is really good about our present location?
5. What would be good about moving to a different location?

It was a great conversation and we, as a leadership team and board are now planning to take some time to sift through the responses that we got. In the meanwhile, we would love to hear from you! If you have any thoughts on any of these questions and/or you are willing to help us out as we delve into these questions, please connect with us at principal@ldcss.ca. We would welcome your feedback!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Our Playbook

Over the past two years, our board and staff have been working away on a short and clear document that is designed to easily communicate who we are as a school to anyone who might want to know. We call this a 'Playbook' and it is based on the work of Patrick Lencioni who wrote a book called The Advantage. If you are interested in learning more about this process or the thinking behind the Playbook, I would encourage you to read Lencioni's book.

Essentially the point is to create a document that answers six really fundamental questions about any organization. We have attached a draft version of our Playbook to this LinkEd for you, our wider community, to invite your feedback. Please note that this is a draft document and in many ways it will likely always be a draft document as context and situations change over time. We look forward to hearing from you!

I will pick up on a few points from our Playbook briefly to highlight where we are at in the process to the present date including some of the thinking behind the questions/answers:

Why Do We Exist?

This is the first and most fundamental question in any organization. By now you have likely heard about People and Purpose at London Christian High. We are understanding our central idea here to be moving people (students) towards purpose in Christ. From this basic idea the rest of the questions and answers flow.

Skipping a few questions down, How Will We Succeed?

Because we are a school, we are trying to be intentional about a learning process that we believe is both God-honouring and purpose-full in nature. We want to see our students actively engaged in the wider world, wrestling with real-life questions and making an impact wherever they go. We believe that God is calling each person to use their gifts to build His Kingdom in a multitude of ways.

What Is Most Important Right Now?

In order to work away at a learning process that is both God-honouring and purpose-full, we believe the first thing that needs to happen is investing in our staff so that they are equipped to lead learning. This is what we mean when we say 'people capacity'. We have made significant investments of time, energy and resources into our staff team to date and we are excited by the results. We are seeing our students impacting our wider community in a variety of classes from French to Shop to Biology and beyond! Building empathy is also central to this process as we work away at becoming a school community that understands others on a much deeper level, which actually makes a huge learning difference as well.

In the end, there is a lot more that could be said about the Playbook that can't adequately be captured in a single blog post. If you would like to learn more or you have feedback to add, please let us know!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

What is Christian Education?

This is a fundamental question for us in Christian schools and from a first glance, it seems like the answer should be rather simple. However, when you start to drill down and really explore the nuances of this question, it can turn into a really good topic for dinner time conversation! Try it out around the table at your house. Ask: What is Christian Education and see what you get from your children!

In answering this question, I have found that often there are ideas about the Bible being central in class, learning led by committed Christian teachers, integrating faith with life and then things like building Christian character, values and morals. I think all of these things are important and definitely part of the discussion.

However, to push the conversation a little further, I wonder if it is useful in this context to think about the difference between Christians educating and Christian education. In other words, do we in Christian schools see our task as sprinkling on some 'Christianity' to mostly 'neutral' curriculum or is there more going on here? At London Christian High, we certainly believe that there is a huge difference between Christians who happen to be educating and a more holistic understanding of education from a uniquely Christian perspective.

Certainly things like Bible classes, devotions, prayer and musical worship are a part of our holistic approach. But, in a sense, we believe every class is a Bible class (or an extension of Bible class) and a form of worship back to God! We believe that God is speaking to us in all aspects of His creation, inviting us into His redemptive story and into a personal relationship with Him. There is no such thing as a 'neutral' curriculum and Christian education goes far beyond a sprinkling of Christian thought at the end of the course. The reason Christian schools exist is because we believe and continue to affirm that our whole world (every square inch) belongs to God and it deserves to be understood and explored in this way.

So what does this look like in real life?

Just recently, our whole school took some time to pause and reflect during our annual Remembrance Day assembly. This is nothing unusual as you would find this in many schools around our nation. During this assembly, our grade ten history class presented some videos that they had created to honour local people who died in service to their country. The stories that our students told about these local heroes from WWI and WWII were really moving when you consider they came from places like Woodstock, Sarnia and St. Thomas and were not a lot older than our Gr. 12 students. The stories were powerful, but what really set them apart from a more holistically Christian perspective is that we believe as Christians we are called to try to 'Redeem the Past'. As imperfect and sinful human beings, there are many wrongs from the past that require apologies and healing. As such, we believe that telling the stories of these local heroes goes some way towards honouring their efforts and making sure their stories are not lost in the sands of time. In other words, in our own small way at London Christian High, we are trying to promote peace on earth as a part of God's ongoing, overarching redemptive story. Powerful stuff when understood in this context. Check our the video below for more on this.

I could list many more examples of how we are trying to connect our learning to redemptive opportunities all around us. To this end, I would encourage you to check out the upcoming edition of the ConnectEd, which will tell some more of these stories. In the end, through stories like these, it is my hope and prayer that we will all continue to learn about the differences between Christians Educating and Christian Education.