Any problem can be seen as an opportunity, so when George VanKampen, principal at Hamilton District Christian High (HDCH) in Ancaster, realized 12 staff members and around 100 students would be absent the Friday before March break, he hatched a plan.
VanKampen considered his options and decided hiring a wave of supply teachers to cover regular classes when nearly a quarter of the student body would be absent wasn’t his best option.
“We do have supply teachers that we can bring in,” he says, “but with the diminished classes it would not be a good stewardship of resources.”
Instead he decided to build upon a program the school offers where students are provided tutoring on individual assignments, referred to as assignment assistance day.
On March 10, the day of the mass absenteeism, normal classes will be on hold and students can instead opt to participate in academic assistance day.
Or they can sleep in.
He admits it’ll be an interesting experiment and he’s not sure how many students will take advantage of the opportunity for direct tutoring and one-on-one instruction, but he’s optimistic.
He says assignment assistance day was once viewed as punitive, but today students welcome the opportunity to improve poor grades on individual points of study.
“It’s giving the kids an opportunity to take control of their learning,” he says, “and some of the kids are really starting to do that — it’s changing the culture a bit.”
So while some students will be skipping the Atlantic Ocean for a ten-day tour of historic European battlefields, others will hopefully be at school, taking advantage of a day outside of the ordinary.
In the wood shop, for example, VanKampen says there are many students who are excited to take advantage of direct experience with a new CNC router.
The motivation behind the day was to take a potentially bad situation and turn it into a positive one, says VanKampen, “but I think it could work out really well.”
When students take control of their education for academic assistance day this week, VanKampen will be watching closely.