Principal Ray Hendriks reflects on 2006 – 2007
As Rhema Christian School wraps up another academic year, principal Ray Hendriks explains how the theme of Living Sanctuaries was present within Rhema’s walls.
The theme was developed from re-occurring parent discussion about the desire for a safe place for education, explains Hendriks.
“One of the biggest challenges of schools today is that in all schools parents are looking for safe places for their kids to be. Safe physically, safe emotionally, safe from bullying – but also safe to explore ideas and concepts. Safe for kids to figure out who they are, and our school is known to be a safe place,” says Hendriks.
There are two elements to living sanctuary, explains Hendriks. The first is the sanctuary as a place where God lives as presented in the Old Testament. Sanctuary also refers to a place where people can go who are troubled or in trouble to be restored and find security from injustice.
“Rhema is a place where God lives, where He is real,” says Hendriks. “We wanted to be living sanctuaries; we wanted to stress to our community that this too is a place where the people, the buildings, the curriculum are all part of being a safe place.”
Rhema re-built their emphasis on God’s presence in the school, says Hendriks. This was felt during a moving Easter assembly that challenged the students in their faith, he notes. Other events related to living sanctuaries include weekly singing chapels for kindergarten to Grade 4 and devotional times for the higher grades.
“We regularly emphasized in their devotional times and some of our subject areas the need to accept each other for who we are, the need to use words and actions that respect each individual,” he says.
By focusing on a theme for the year, Hendriks says people become more aware of its meaning. He says there were some challenges, but these situations were more effectively dealt with because of the living sanctuary theme.
“We dealt with a couple of situations this year that we didn’t like how students were treating each other or how students were treating teachers or teachers treating students, and we were able to deal with those effectively with that theme in mind. We found our sensitivity was heightened throughout this year,” he says.
Hendriks says Rhema is known as a safe school, so instead of radical change this past year there was highlighting in specific areas to ensure “that they are firmly entrenched in the school’s culture.”
An area that was emphasized is the importance of special education and help for students with learning disabilities. There were special professional development days in January and April that provided learning opportunities for staff on the subject.
Rhema staff also attended a presentation by Richard Lavoie to gain insight on children with learning disabilities and their social situations. In May, Rhema hosted a learning conference sponsored by the Speech, Language & Hearing Association of Peterborough. This summer Rhema staff are reading this summer for reading a book by Richard Lavoie titled It’s So Much Work to Be Your Friend.
“All of those things have lead us to a heightened awareness that children with learning disabilities also come with social disorders that make school and school culture difficult for them,” says Hendriks.
“If we’re going to be living sanctuaries this needs to be a safe place for those kids.”
Parents of students with learning disabilities were invited into the school early in the academic year to discuss goals for their child’s learning, says Hendriks.
“The fact that our resource room was a safe place was extremely important to them,” he says.
Before finishing the school year, Rhema’s staff decided on the 2007 – 2008 school theme, which is Shine Like Stars.
“Sometimes, as a Christian school, we underestimate how brilliant our light needs to be within the community, and how brilliant it already is,” he says. “We have some stars in our school amongst our students, amongst our staff and amongst our parents.”
Hendriks says Rhema can show its light to the community, including the wider educational community who may chose to emulate some of Rhema’s successes.
“We really want to show people how blessed we are.”