What Can We Learn from Finland - by Mr. A. Boonstra
At the end of September, I had the amazing opportunity to join 34 other Christian school principals in visiting the country of Finland. Last spring the Ontario Christian School Administrator Association proposed visiting Finland to see first hand what makes their school system so successful. Finland’s educational system is world renowned and is known to have some of the highest student achievement results when it comes to PISA* scores. Joining with the principals from other local Christian schools, I spent 5 days in Helsinki touring a number of schools as well as connecting with the administrators of these schools.
In preparation for the trip, we were required to read Pasi Sahlberg’s book called Finnish Lessons, which outlines some of the reasons for Finland’s educational success. Not only did we have an opportunity to read the book, we actually had Mr. Sahlberg join us on many of our school visits. His presence in our midst allowed us to pick his brain to explore what makes the Finnish model so successful.
A few years ago, I had the privilege of going on a similar excursion to San Diego, California. We visited High Tech High, along with a couple of other schools at that time. We brought back some amazing ideas, including Project Based Learning, or PBL. CCS has immersed itself in this strategy of learning for the past couple of years and even designed a specific day for students to share their projects with our broader community. That day of sharing is affectionately known as our Shine Festival.
My trip to Finland, however, was a little different than the San Diego trip. It was much more difficult to glean a specific pedagogical approach to learning that connected to student learning. Much of the Finnish success can be traced to the cultural approach the Finns have towards education, and changing culture is not an overnight process. However, there are still many lessons to be learned and some subtle changes that we could consider.
For example, in Finland, education is very highly valued and supported within society. Teachers are held in high esteem, and access to education at all levels is provided for the general population. The influence of education on culture is further seen in language acquisition. Not only is Finland a bilingual country (Finnish and Swedish are official languages), but English is practiced by most citizens of the country as well.
Furthermore, Finnish education is characterized by meaningful and exciting classroom work, active movement within the classroom, individualized student programs, and students taking responsibility for their academic progress. In other words, students are invested in their education.
I like to think that CCS is well on its way towards implementing some of the strategies mentioned above at our own school. However, there is room for us to explore how we can support teachers so that they can be empowered to be innovative with lesson implementation and student training. Perhaps a greater emphasis can be placed on deeper learning that teaches children how to be agents of justice in a broken world. Maybe we need to create more space for students to be leaders of their own learning. At CCS, we are in the very unique position to look for opportunities that allow our students to shine. Exploring other school models that help us build upon the programs we already have can only benefit the students that come through our doors. It is indeed an exciting time to be in education, and with the grace of God leading us, we will continue to look for ways in which we can serve the students of CCS in such a way that they can make a difference in our world. * The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a worldwide study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in member and non-member nations of 15-year-old school pupils' scholastic performance on mathematics, science, and reading (taken from Wikipedia).
~Mr. A. Boonstra, Principal
April 26 is Administrative Professionals Day.
It certainly is appropriate to set aside a day for administrative professionals. These people are, in most situations, the “front line” staff.
At Calvin Christian School, our front office personnel are Marlene Gallea (Office Manager) and Lianna Reitsma (Office Assistant). Although differing in job descriptions, these two women have many tasks in common. In fact, these tasks amount to just about everything, the unwritten yet presumed.
Without a doubt, these ladies are the pulse of the school. They know what is going on. They are the people to go to when you need to know what is going on, and if you need advice, suggestions, and guidance. They respond to staff and students and parents gathered in the office, while responding to door bells and deliveries and telephone calls. They deal lovingly with injuries, the serious and the not so serious but deemed serious. They follow up on Board of Director and committee requests, gather and distribute cheese orders, and ensure hard copies and e-blasts of the Courier are sent out. They also... I am sure you can fill in the rest.
We would like to celebrate Administrative Professionals Day in their honour. Marlene and Lianna have the gifts, skills, and personalities that make our front office run smoothly. They have a heart for the well-being of students, staff and parents. They serve to make a difference. We thank God for placing Marlene and Lianna in our school and we gladly celebrate this day in their honour. Thank you, Marlene and Lianna, for all that you do at Calvin Christian School.
Assessment is an exciting and important component of good teaching. A teacher conducts assessments before learning takes place, while learning is taking place and after learning has taken place. In the education industry, we usually say, assessment for learning, assessment during learning and assessment of learning. When the teacher readies the student for learning, the teacher may wish to know what the student already knows, or what the student has already mastered. Assessment for learning indicates whether the teacher's lesson plans and unit plans need to be modified. Then, as learning occurs, the teacher may wish to know whether the student is progressing in meeting the skill objectives or learning outcomes. If not, what can be done? The teacher may decide the appropriate learning has happened, or provide additional lessons to provide the students opportunities to meet the skill objectives. Then finally, there is the summative test or assignment. At this point, the teacher conducts an assessment of learning. Much good work has gone into preparing the student for a final assessment.
Calvin Christian School has embarked on a whole new set of reporting protocol regarding student performance. This protocol exists to provide parents with information early in the school year concerning student work habits, behaviour and academic performance, by means of a progress report and a parent/teacher conference. Both the teacher and the parents love to see the student growth and achievement. The progress report serves as an early indicator of student achievement, and indicates areas for growth and improvement. The progress report becomes the basis for further reporting at the subsequent parent\/teacher conference. The motive behind the reporting protocol is to give parents and students time to follow “next steps” so that by the time a student obtains the final report card for the semester, much good work had been done by teacher, the student and parents in preparation for assessment of learning.
Mr. T. Postma, Principal
Principal’s Message by Ted Postma
We often mention that we are here to assist parents by providing a Christian education. Accordingly, we have sought to provide curricular and extra-curricular programs designed to nurture and enrich all of God’s children. But, there is something to consider: some families have had to withdraw from CCS because they simply do not have the finances to continue. We say farewell to each other with sadness. In this context, we are challenged to be here for their children as well. There are two ways to address this concern: 1) improve our Tuition Bursary Fund so that it can be stretched further and be more accessible; 2) invite the broader community to participate in supporting items in our budget which benefit the community. And so, dear friend, please consider donating to our Tuition Bursary Fund or our Building Reserve Fund or our Bus Reserve Fund. Your participation will help a family as well as help keep our tuition at a reasonable level so that all of God’s children may receive Christian education.
Tuition Assistance Fund
We are striving to make Christian education affordable for all those seeking a Christian education. Our Tuition Bursary Fund is set up to assist families who are financially challenged and are unable to afford the full cost of Christian education due to lost jobs, etc. It is a confidential process that looks at each request individually. Over the last ten years the need for this type of support has grown by over 600%. Regretfully we have declined or reduced requested assistance for over five families in the last two years. Please help make Christian education affordable!
Bus Reserve Fund
CCS will be operating a fleet of six school buses in September to safely transport many children to and from school each day from our large catchment area. To keep our fleet up to date and maintain bus reliability, CCS needs to replace one bus every two years. The cost of a new bus is approximately $100,000. Your donation to the Bus Reserve Fund helps fund this important need.
Building Reserve Fund
The Calvin Christian School building is over 45,000 square feet of classrooms, gym, kitchen, office space and more. There are no areas in the school building that are not being used for educational purposes, administrative duties, before and after school programs and outside rentals. Our building is constantly being used for the glory of God. The Building Reserve Fund is there to help make sure that Calvin Christian School maintains a high quality, up-to-date school facility for our staff and students. Your donation to the Building Reserve Fund will help Calvin Christian School meet the needs of tomorrow.