Last Thursday, WCS teachers joined more than 1300 Christian educators, paraeducators, and administrators at Redeemer University for the annual teachers’ convention. The theme of this year’s gathering was “Flourishing Students, Beautiful Work”. I love the word flourishing to describe what we want for our students. We don’t just want students to “get by” in our classes; we want them to flourish. We want them to have experiences of deep learning and connection. We want them to feel known and loved in a class community that recognizes each student as an image bearer of God.
We want students to experience what Jesus says in John 10:10 - “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” The Voice translation of the Bible gives Jesus’ words as “I came to give life with joy and abundance.”
Sometimes in the daily grind of life, we lose sight of this focus. We get stuck in the thorns and thistles of Genesis 3, as one keynote speaker from the convention put it. That makes experiences like the teachers’ convention all the more powerful as they give teachers moments to step out of their daily work rhythms and meet together with other educators, being refreshed and renewed for the work ahead. Hopefully your children, too, had moments of rest and refreshment and renewal in their days away from school. And may you, too, continue to experience Jesus leading you into an abundant and joy-filled life.
Bethany Pasma, Gr. 6/7 Teacher
One of the things I like is a good ‘Dad-joke’. This picture came up on one of my social media feeds the other day. The caption read; “It looks like someone drove over the speed limit”. Besides getting a groan out of me, it also struck me and caused me to do some reflecting on speed and the pace of life right now. People are busy, the school year is in full swing, and many are involved in extra-curricular activities. It is indeed a busy time. At times it may feel like we are speeding through life, and that we do not have time for everything. While most of the time the things we are busy with are good. One thing I have been reminded of over the past number of weeks is the importance of slowing down. In fact, I feel like God has caused me to slow down. Just over a month ago, I injured my calf playing baseball and was instructed by doctors to wear a walking boot/air cast. Many of you may have seen me hobbling around at school. Well, this injury has forced me to slow down in a number of respects. For example, just the other day, our family went shopping and while they walked at their ‘normal’ pace, I was slowly walking behind them and before I knew it they were in the store, and I was still in the parking lot. Life has had to slow down for me because of my calf injury. In some respects, this has been good, but at other times it has also been frustrating. I have been reminded again of our need to rely on God in all things. Our school theme this year is ‘Praise the Lord’, and I have been working on that. A song that keeps coming to mind for me is ‘Lord I Need You’ by Matt Maher. Take a listen here: Lord I Need You - Matt Maher. It is my prayer for our students and the rest of us as well…that we can find time to slow down and ‘Praise the Lord’ amidst the busyness of life.
Tony Schaafsma, Grade 5 Teacher
Recently in grade 2, we were studying prayer. We learned about the prayer model ACTS: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication.
Adoration: This word was unfamiliar to us, but we learned that it means we need to praise God for who he is. We know God is Almighty, strong, big, Mighty, Creator, Saviour, powerful, forever, forgiving, loving, patient, kind….. When we pray, we need to tell God that we know who he is and praise Him for who he is. We talked about how this is often a part of prayer we tend to forget about.
Confession: We learned we need to confess our sins to God and ask for forgiveness. This is a hard part of prayer for us. We don’t like to think about our sins, but we need to tell God what we have done wrong and ask for forgiveness. The best news is that our God is always willing to forgive us!
Thanksgiving: In this part of prayer, we thank God for everything He has done and is doing. We think we are very good at this part of our prayers. It is so easy to look around God’s world and see so many things to thank Him for.
Supplication: This was another unfamiliar word to us. We learned this is when we ask God for our needs or for the needs of others. This is another area of prayer that we felt we usually do.
As we approach Thanksgiving this coming weekend, just don’t thank God but remember to do all parts of the ACTS model.
I pray you all have a blessed thanksgiving with your family and friends.
Natalie VanAndel, Grade 2 Teacher
Did you know that Woodstock Christian School follows Responsive Classroom practices? Responsive Classroom is “a student-centered, social and emotional learning approach to teaching and discipline.” This means that we have morning meetings, a quiet time, and frequent brain breaks. We also begin and end the day together, and focus on building a community in our classrooms that everyone can learn in. We are a school that greets your child at the door, because we know how important it is for students to be known as individuals.
At our PD day last Friday, we spent some time learning about how to better implement these practices. We shared strategies that work for our classrooms, and discussed ways that we can improve.. Our goal is to be a school that is able to meet the physical, emotional, spiritual, and academic needs of our students, and we believe following Responsive Classroom practices will help us do that.
If you want to learn more about Responsive Classroom, feel free to check out their website at (https://www.responsiveclassroom.org/).
Our theme this year is “Praise the LORD” based on Psalm 147:1. God commands us in the Bible to praise Him, and we see many examples of praise. David plays the harp and wrote many psalms of praise. We’re also told that creation praises God, just by being creation. Moreover, Jesus gives us examples of praising God with His words, actions, and through prayer. Clearly, there are many ways to praise God.
In education, we know well that all students are different. They all have unique academic needs and strengths, as well as unique interests. Students also love different things: some love math, while others love music, while still others love reading and writing. These are good things because God made us this way. Can these gifts be used to praise God? Yes!
One of our hopes for students this year is to help them recognize that they can use their unique gifts in acts of praise. We sometimes think that worship is only for church, or only for chapel, but the Bible tells us that all of life can be an act of worship, so long as the desire of our heart is to do our work to the glory of God. Colossians 3:23-24 says “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord…It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” This means that we can praise God all day with the learning we do at Woodstock Christian School. What a joy this is!
Mike Vander Kooi, Principal
If your house is anything like mine, the question “What did you learn today?” did not end up leading to engaging conversations. There were pauses followed by ”nothing.” As parents, we knew that was not the case and began asking more pointed questions: “What was something hard that you did today? Something that was easy? What was funny? What would you have changed?”. In later years, we changed our conversations to what were your highs and lows of the day.
I treasured these conversations that helped me get insight into my children’s learning. We wanted to celebrate their learning. I also treasured their “work”. Any piece of school work that required creativity was saved. Larger pieces of artwork were place under our bed and under various mattresses. Spring cleaning at my house was full of welcomed surprises. I have also come to realize that all my children’s work and pieces were just a small part of their learning journeys.
At WCS we have discovered that celebrating learning has a positive impact on learners’ memory and other cognitive functions. It instills a love of learning and can propel further learning. Research shows that when actively engaged in their learning, your children are more likely to succeed in their studies. We begin with teaching students that each of them has gifts. As educators we take pride in nourishing this potential to bring glory to God.
On April 26, the school will be opened in the evening (6:30 -7:30pm) to see a sample of what your children have been working on. The effort, hard work and process of your child’s project will be celebrated. These projects will demonstrate that success is possible and that a process has been followed. Presentation skills are being rehearsed and we are waiting for an authentic audience…. YOU!
Linda Westerveld JK/SK teacher
It is officially Spring. I must admit that even though there is still snow on the ground, I am excited for the next season. Warmer weather, birds chirping and flowers appearing. Seasons may change, but God is always our constant.
March break provides a wonderful opportunity for our students, staff and teachers to rest and grow with God. It can also be a time to knock out some home projects that you have wanted to complete, make time to see friends and family, travel to a warmer destination or watch your favourite March Madness team in action (even if they lose in the second round).
Years ago, during this time, I took a trip to Tegucigalpa in Honduras to serve God’s people. One of the many things that I remember were the houses. So many houses were incomplete. During our Sunday service in church, our Pastor reminded me that even though these houses may never be finished, God will continue to keep building up our hearts stronger and stronger. He is always listening, and He never takes breaks. Maybe there were some things that you didn’t get to complete this week, but He will never leave us unfinished.
“Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5.
Jessica Van Leeuwen, SK Teacher
Community - a feeling of fellowship with others as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests and goals.
In our classrooms here at WCS we strive to create a sense of community among our students. Recently, grade one has been working on memorizing and presenting a poem. Each student was to stand in front of the class to recite their poem. After each student presented their poem they were met with cheers, claps, “good jobs” and just pure and genuine encouragement from their classmates. It did not matter whether the student was highly successful or not, they cheered and celebrated each student equally. It warmed my heart to hear the students honor and encourage one another.
This year our theme verse reminds us to “ Be devoted to one another in love and to Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:10). I pray that at WCS we will continue to find ways to build eachother up, cheer each other on and create a genuine sense of community where we celebrate each person that God has made.
Marcia Horinga, Grade 1 Teacher
Poinsettias are the flower of Christmas. Many families have one in their homes and there are special displays in churches and other public places. How did this plant become a traditional part of Christmas decorations? This is what I found out.
The Christmas tradition of poinsettias is inspired by Mexican folktale about a poor little girl called Pepita who had no present for the baby Jesus at a Christmas Eve service. Her cousin Pedro tried to cheer her up by suggesting that even the smallest gift would be enough, so Pepita picked up some weeds growing near the church. When she stepped up to the altar and placed the arrangement they suddenly transformed into the bright red flowers we know today.
Symbolically, we have Jesus’ life story in one plant. The leaves symbolize the star that led the Wise Men to the newborn Jesus, the red leaves are a reminder of the blood of Christ shed during His crucifixion and the white leaves represent Christ’s purity.
I heard a story about a family who used to take poinsettias after the service on Christmas morning and try to kill them each year. The mother would nurture them all summer long, then throw them in a closet in October. Early December, she would pull them back out and they would be this beautiful red plant. You can regrow the plants every year, but it requires putting them away in a dark place. It's a great reminder of the Resurrection story. Jesus was born to save us from our sins. This Christmas, as you look at the lovely poinsettias may it be a visible reminder of Christ's birth and death.
“Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8
Over the past while in Grade 5 we have been doing a novel study of the book ‘A Single Shard’ by Linda Sue Park. The story takes place in 12th Century Korea and is about a young orphan who becomes a potter’s apprentice. Over time the orphan who goes by the nickname ‘Tree-ear’ learns the craft of pottery. This week our class hopes to go to a pottery studio to experience how to make some pottery of our own. I have heard the students are looking forward to our trip. Yesterday in church our Pastor spoke on Isaiah 64, with the theme of waiting. In particular, verse 8 stood out to me because we have just studied A Single Shard, and I was again reminded about how we are constantly being shaped and formed by our Master Potter. Everything we go through… all of our experiences are happening for the purpose of God forming us into the people he created us to be. As we wait during this Advent season, may we all be open and receptive to God continuing His good work through us here on earth.
Grade 5 Teacher
The last few weeks have brought a return of winter weather to Southern Ontario, and to WCS. The recent snowfall was my first experience with winter weather in many years, as Hong Kong does not get winter quite like we do! For our students, the fresh snow was like a toy that hasn’t been played with in awhile. They were so excited to play with it again and they had a blast collaborating with their classmates rolling giant snowballs, making forts, and playing in the snow. It has melted since, but I’m sure we’ll get more snow soon.
Perhaps we don’t look forward to it quite as much, but the winter season is a reminder of God’s faithfulness. Genesis 8:22 says “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”
We praise God for each changing season because it reminds us of His continual faithfulness, day after day, week after week, and season after season. We serve a God who fulfills His promises, and this is a great blessing, even on those chilly winter mornings.
Mike Vander Kooi, Principal
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” - Matt 11:28
This verse reminds me that I can’t do everything in my own strength. When I try to, that's when I get overwhelmed and stressed. Jesus gives us His presence to guide and strengthen us. We can “rest” knowing that not only will he enable us to do the “work” we find before us, but most importantly that our entire future is secure in his hands. I pray that as you walk through this week, you will give Jesus the heavy burden of trying to “do it all” and focus on what matters the most, knowing and following him every step of every day.
Ms. Martin, Grade 6 Teacher