Well, the weather here has begun to take a turn towards the cooler fall temperatures and I have been forced to break out the winter coats, although this past weekend was somewhat of the exception. The other week, my husband was driving to work and saw snow! I’m not one for the cold weather. I prefer to be warm and toasty, maybe drinking some hot chocolate by the fireplace. What about you? Do you like this cold, almost winter weather? We are also quickly approaching Remembrance Day here in Canada, Veterans Day in the United States. This is a time where we remember and thank the soldiers who sacrificed so much so that we could enjoy the many freedoms that we have today.
There are times where I find myself outside on cold and rainy/snowy days and just shiver and stand there because I think it is too cold to move. But then as I begin talking with my students about what is Remembrance Day and why it is important, I begin to re-evaluate my thinking. I have a warm winter coat to wear and an umbrella to keep off the rain. I have a place of shelter from the wind and other elements when my 30 minutes of outdoor supervision is over where I can go to get warm again. I have dry socks and clothes to change into when I need to. The soldiers who fought for the many freedoms that we have were considered to be extremely lucky if they had even one of these things during World War I or II. This is a reality that many of our children may not understand.
Each year, I read “A Bear In War” and “A Poppy is to Remember” to my students. The first is an amazing true story of a soldier, a medic, who fought during WWI told from the perspective of a teddy bear sent to him by his daughter. This story allows children to see that life is not always as they know it, that there were many people who gave up everything they had – even their lives – so that we could know this life today. I follow it up with the second book to get them thinking about why Remembrance Day is important. How will your family honour the sacrifices made, and the sacrifices that continue to be made this year?
Erica Schuster, Teacher Grade 1/2A
Thursday and Friday last week provided the annual late-October long weekend for our WCS families and provided spiritual and professional refreshment and growth for our staff team. The Edvance Annual Gathering was live streamed from Toronto District Christian High and began with music and devotions forming the framework for our two days of work. As our staff gathered in the WCS gym, we professed together with educators across the province these words from the song, Testify To Love: “every word of every story, every corner of creation lives to testify … I’ll be a witness … with every breath I take, I will give thanks to God above. For as long as I shall live, I shall testify to love.”
As Christian schools across Ontario, as Woodstock Christian School, we testify - we declare - we claim God’s love. In all we do, in all we study, in all the places we explore, we see God there. As we open up the world for our students, to explore the beauty and the brokenness, we testify that God is there too. In the presentations we heard, again and again, the importance of working to combat isolation and individualism, to build and maintain community. When parts of society are broken, it is more important than ever to find and share our common story, to bring people in, to build trust, to serve with justice and mercy. It is crucial to share God’s love with one another and create spaces in which to welcome others. Our theme verse for this year is a call to action, but always within the framework of love.
Carol Verbeek, Principal
On Thursday October 29 and Friday October 30, the WCS staff will gather together for the annual Teacher’s Convention. While the event will look different this year, (live streaming into our gym) we anticipate that it will be a great time of learning and sharing together.
From the Edvance Christian Schools Association website: The theme of this year’s convention is called “Opening Doors”, “Christian schools play a fundamental role in shaping the values that inform how students encounter and contribute to the world locally and globally. We live in an age where both the importance and the risks of our local human connections are being scrutinized more than ever, and our communities feel vulnerable in the face of significant global tensions. How do we navigate issues such as health, race, and identity with a sense of shared purpose and honoured differences such that community and character blossom? How can we pursue the call to love our neighbour with local action and global awareness without feeling overwhelmed? What doors can the school open with students to encourage courageous encounters with and for the world?
Below are our speakers and study topics for the day:
"How Your Classroom Changes the World" featuring David Brooks "Another Torn Veil: Having the Courage to Boldly Go Through..." featuring Dr. Mary Ashun “Whose Education Counts? Who is my Neighbour” featuring Dr. Steve Sider "How To Really Know Your Students" featuring David Brooks We are thankful for this opportunity, for all the work that Edvance put into organizing the day and for providing Christian educators around the province with opportunity to grapple with these ‘big picture’ ideas and tensions. This will be a time of learning and inspiration for WCS staff. Please pray that they will use this knowledge to continue to lead students toward wisdom. Linda Westerveld, JK Teacher
Have you thanked a bus driver lately? Each year, in the third week of October, the Ontario Bus Safety Week highlights the importance of school bus safety across the province. Our classic yellow school buses travel hundreds of kilometres every day, transporting their precious cargo to and from school daily, in all kinds of weather and traffic conditions. We thank God for our regular drivers, our spare drivers, and all those who work behind the scenes to ensure that our student transportation services are safe, efficient and reliable. School Bus Safety Week provides an opportunity to talk about the overall importance of safety in the buses, in the community, and especially near school bus stops and school zones. Whether you have kids travelling on a school bus or are a driver in a school zone, everyone benefits from increased vigilance, obeying posted speed limits and being careful around school buses.
Help us celebrate School Bus Driver Appreciation Day on October 21st by greeting and celebrating our drivers and acknowledging the important and complex job they do. Thank a driver this week!
Carol Verbeek, Principal
One of the things I enjoy about Thanksgiving weekend is that it is one of our holiday’s that isn’t ‘over materialized’. It is simply an opportunity to hit the ‘pause’ button on our busy lives and truly ‘give thanks’ for all of the many blessings from God. On Friday in Grade 8, we took some time to create a ‘Thanksgiving Craft’. Initially, when I planned to do this activity, I did not know how the students would respond, but I was impressed with their engagement in the task. The grade 8 students were able to create “Thanksgiving Handprint Turkeys” to take home and share with their families.
As silly as a craft like this may be for a Grade 8 class, it also provided us with some very meaningful conversation about the many things we are thankful for. Each student wrote ‘I Am Thankful For…” on the belly of their turkey and then they listed all of the things they are thankful for on the ‘feathers’ of their turkey. Then everyone shared one thing they are thankful for and it turned out to be a very meaningful way for all of us to enter this past weekend of celebration with our families. I am reminded of Psalm 100 where it says: “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. 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. 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 forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
There is much discussion among educators around the world right now about teaching and learning in pandemic conditions and the importance of providing - along with academics - solid social-emotional learning (SEL) for our students. SEL is the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, feel and show empathy for others, and establish and maintain positive relationships. At WCS, we are committed to looking for ways to improve our teaching practice and have trained all of our teachers in Responsive Classroom practices. Responsive Classroom is a student-centred, social and emotional learning approach to teaching and discipline. It is grounded in research, and its evidence-based practices are designed to create safe, joyful, and engaging classrooms and school communities for both students and teachers. This approach blends beautifully with our understanding of Christian community and care for one another. Responsive Classroom focuses on four key domains: engaging academics, positive community, effective management, developmentally responsive teaching. We recognize that in order to be equipped and successful in and out of school, students need to be spiritually grounded and also learn a set of social and emotional competencies—cooperation, assertiveness, responsibility, empathy, and self-control. When they feel like they belong in their classroom community, they are more likely to engage in discussion, be willing to make mistakes, and try again. Belonging helps them grow. How can I learn more about the Responsive Classroom approach? Visit the Responsive Classroom website: www.responsiveclassroom.org or follow Responsive Classroom on Facebook or Twitter.
Carol Verbeek, Principal
Lunchtime in my classroom has changed. We now have lunch at a different time than our outdoor recess time. I have allotted time to eat and have an indoor playtime once finished. There is no rush to get outside, no rush for me to be somewhere, there is a peace. As I have sat at my desk eating my own lunch, observing my little ones eating and interacting with friends, the Lord has blessed me with seeing these times as sacred. They are breaking bread together; something they haven’t been able to do for sometime. They laugh and share stories. But the most important part is they are relaxed and enjoying this time. It is not just lunchtime, it is a sacred time of breaking bread with friends. Breaking bread together is a very sacred time between people and in our Christian faith and history. Jesus went to the homes of many and broke bread. He went to the house of the tax collector, the religious leaders, his close friends- Mary, Martha and Lazarus. The Last Supper Christ broke bread with his disciples and with each of us. Eating is indeed, an act of worship.
Miss Body, Senior Kindergarten Teacher
As I reflect on the first week of school, I’m amazed at how flexible and adaptable kids are! In order to help prevent the spread of Covid-19 there are of course many new routines and rules in place this year. From my perspective (in the Gr. 5 classroom), students have handled it extremely well. I’m sure some of it has to do with how you, the parents, have instilled confidence in your child (thank you!), and how teachers are trying to make this as much of a positive or normalized experience as possible - but still - I’m impressed with how students have adapted to our “new normal”, so quickly. Another thought that keeps resurfacing in my mind is: the importance of putting our complaints into perspective. A month or so after March Break, I had a conversation with my grandfather about Covid-19. I asked him how he was doing, and if he was staying busy. He replied: “Yes, I’ve been reading a lot, keeping up with the news, working on projects around the house, etc.” He was quite chipper. The conversation evolved, and we both began stating what we were missing out on due to all the shut-downs, and isolation. There was a pause, and then he quickly brought it all back into perspective by mentioning that “yes it’s a tough time, but not nearly as bad as the millions of people living in war zones and concentration camps with no shelter or even food.” I wasn’t expecting that. I was a bit stunned. Partly because the conversation took a sharp turn, but also because there was so much truth to it. I have had conversations like this before, but it had been awhile. This one stuck with me - perhaps because of who said it, and how it was said. I was reminded of what I do have, and that is: a massive amount compared to many. Over the course of these pandemic months, I have been grateful for the conversation I had with my grandfather, as well as last year’s school theme, “Overflowing with Thankfulness (from Colossians 2) because it keeps me grounded, it makes me think about others, it steers me away from negativity and ungratefulness. Furthermore, and more so than ever before in my teaching career, I’m grateful for the adaptability/flexibility inherent in kids! I pray that as a school community, we’ll be thankful, flexible, and adaptable, all the while keeping things in perspective, as we navigate these ‘uncharted waters’.
Axel Hiemstra- Gr. 5 Teacher
Woodstock Christian School has come alive with the students and staff back in this place! Each morning, buses pull into the parking area and I get to greet and welcome students back to school for the day. As they walk and run through the gate into the school playground, Mrs Bulthuis is there to greet them, ready to listen to any exciting news and to pass students along to classroom teachers who are waiting in the halls and at classroom doors to greet them. This is actually one of the highlights of my day, seeing the students’ smiles (behind their masks, but still, their eyes are smiling) eager and ready for school and being with their classmates. Parents, we miss seeing you, and want you to know that when you entrust your children to us, they are in good hands. There is joy in this place! Classrooms buzz with student conversations, morning circles and devotions are taking place, with students sharing news, concerns, reasons for praise, and praying together. There is so much learning happening! Outdoors, students are making extremely good use of the playground - now divided into six zones to provide everyone access to age-appropriate activity areas. Did you catch last week’s Facebook post? Students are happy to be back at school, so they can learn, be with friends, get better at math, art, science, be with teachers and be busy together. The words of I Chronicles 16: 25, 27 are reassuring: For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise... the Lord made the heavens. Splendour and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his dwelling place. In the face of uncertainty, the strangeness of new normals, anxieties about health and wellbeing, God is constant - he provides strength and joy.
Carol Verbeek, Principal
STAND FIRM through 2020
It’s a brand new year and it’s our 61st year of Christian education in Oxford County! Welcome back to school families, students, and staff. It is so good to be together after 180 days away from the building! A special welcome to our new students! This morning we were able to live stream from the gym to the classrooms for the first time for a back-to-school greeting and message. We are happy to have your support and share your excitement for another school year. Despite the extra health and safety requirements, and changes in schedules, we are having a solid first day. Students, we hope you will soon feel ‘at home’ in your classrooms. We praise God for a new year and new beginnings! I am excited to explore our new theme: STAND FIRM. Stay tuned for future chapels and editorials exploring how we can live for God and stand strong as believers in Jesus. Blessings for the new school year.
The communal graduation verse that the students chose to direct and focus their celebration comes from Romans 15 verse 13. What a great choice, given our current situation. It is a prayer and a blessing and so very relevant and meaningful in this unsettled time: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Congratulations, WCS Class of 2020! Let’s hold onto the hope and joy and peace that only God provides.
We have known some of our grade eight students for 10 years, and some for just a short time. Staff and students at WCS have been blessed by our bold, creative, athletic, sincere, godly, caring and awesome (and more!) grads. We will miss you, but we also know it’s time for you to move on to new challenges. Know that God continues to provide grace and love in abundance. He will continue to guide and bless you. Farewell & God bless you, Abi, Aiden, Aliyah, Alyssa, Brett, Cora, Elena, Erin, Hendrik, Ken, Lauryn, Mackenzie, Miranda, Ryan and Tony.
- Carol Verbeek, Principal
It seems this has been an ongoing theme over the past weeks and months. Everything we are doing, it seems is from a distance. As we enter the month of June, I know for the students in grade 8, our minds go to graduation and the end of elementary school celebrations and events. We at Woodstock Christian School are excited about our Class of 2020 Graduation Celebration plans and of course we are also very proud of our graduates. Over the past little while, I have been thinking about my elementary school graduation and trying to recall my experience as a graduate. As distant in my memory as it may be, around 30 years ago, there are a few details that still stand out for me. It took place in the gymnasium at Pineview Public School, in Athens, Ontario. The ceremony took place in the afternoon, the gymnasium was packed full of people and I wore a silver suit, with pleated pants and had a ‘mullet’ haircut. I do not remember any specifics of the ceremony, I do not remember who the valedictorian was, but I do remember they shared with us a song that still comes to mind often. I believe we also sang this song together as a graduating class choir. The song was called ‘From A Distance’ by Bette Midler, I encourage you to take some time to listen to this song on Youtube or Spotify. It speaks about how our world looks ‘from a distance’. Even today, in the midst of this pandemic it raises some questions for me about the state of our world and if things have really changed all that much over the past 30 years. The one line that stands out for me in this song has always been “God is watching us, God is watching us, God is watching us...from a distance.” I have always had a hard time with this one line in the song, because I believe God is always right here with us, living our lives right alongside us. This concept of God being present in my life has often been an encouragement to me, but especially now as we continue to navigate through this pandemic together. Though it may seem like God is far from us at times, it is comforting to know that He is right here with us, our God will not abandon us. Even in this time of living life ‘from a distance’, God is still with us. His word is full of examples of His faithfulness and we need to hold onto His promises. It is my prayer that we can all take comfort in the fact that God is with us even though it may seem like it is at times...from a distance, even through this uncertain time.