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School in Owen Sound highlights gifts and talents of students

Written on December 8th, 2008

The goal is to build the school community, says principal

Timothy Christian School (TCS) in Owen Sound is focusing this school year on highlighting the gifts and talents of its students.

The ultimate goal is to build a sense of community at the school, says principal Matt Bittel.

“We want to focus on trying to build each other up, rather than tear each other down,” he says, noting that it can be easy for young students to respond to weaknesses they see in themselves by turning on other children.

To hopefully help minimize that tendency, TCS has introduced an afternoon a term in which students have the opportunity to showcase their talents, whether that be in singing, playing an instrument, speaking, or other areas.

Generally no classroom time is taken to prepare for the event but students are required to run their performances by a principal or a teacher beforehand.

This isn’t to ensure a perfect performance but rather to see that the students have practiced and are prepared, says Bittel, noting the opposite of the desired effect could be had if they aren’t ready.

A first show, which has been dubbed Afternoon Live, took place recently with great success.

About a quarter of the student population volunteered to perform, and a significant number of parents attended.

“Kids were cheering for each other and supporting each other,” says Bittel, relating how one student in particular, who has struggled to adapt to the school in the past, seemed encouraged simply by the opportunity to be in the spotlight.

“I think all kids need that moment where they’re at the centre of attention for a while,” he says.

He expects more students to get involved at the next Afternoon Live, which takes place the following school term.

Another way TCS is aiming to build school togetherness is by providing opportunities for students in diverse grades and situations to work and do activities together.

To that end, the school has begun a theme day a term.

The most recent theme day revolved around sports, with students wearing clothes to match — team uniforms, jerseys, and so on.

On a Friday afternoon, after regular morning classes had finished, the entire student body of about 80 children ate lunch together in the school gymnasium. They had tacos, something they might eat on an outing to a sports event.

The rest of the afternoon was then spent with the student population divided into teams, each consisting of the cross-section of grades.

The teams worked together finding a name, creating posters to celebrate their individual groups and coming up with a team cheer.

“Again, it was about building the community, building each other up,” says Bittel.

While it can be easy to support close friends, the challenge can be to reach out and help anyone that crosses one’s path, he points out.

“We need to encourage these children to help and support anybody,” says Bittel. “Anybody will do better if people are encouraging them; that’s what we’re trying to teach them.”

TCS’ all-school devotions once a month are also geared to emphasizing this idea of strengthening the school’s sense of community and togetherness.

Bittel says he can already see how students are excited about coming to school and having a good time.

“We’re excited about that; we think school should be a place where they want to come and they feel safe and they have a great day in the classroom, in the gym, wherever they are.”

TCS is a member of the Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools, which represents about 79 schools and 14,000 students in Ontario.