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Upcoming Schools as Communities of Safety and Hope conference to engage teachers in conversation

Written on April 8th, 2009

Registration open for April 20 high school teachers curriculum conference

The Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS) Professional Development high school teachers curriculum conference April 20 will explore the theme Schools as Communities of Safety and Hope.

OACS director of secondary services Gary VanArragon says the day’s theme aims to open conversation about a number of different issues that may be arising in schools as they become more diverse in many facets including population, ethnic backgrounds and learning styles.

“We are trying to get staff to identify the issues and then we are trying to give them a framework in which they can talk about these issues internally,” says VanArragon, adding the next steps will be follow-up with future workshops to further develop the topics.

The keynote address entitled “Welcoming Diversity In Our Schools” will be presented by Dr. Mary Ashun, who will speak about the issue of race and hospitality. Ashun is a faculty member in the education department at Redeemer University College. She was born in Ghana and went to school in Ghana, the U.K. and Canada.

In the morning and afternoon participants choose a workshop to attend from seven different sessions. The workshops cover a range of topics such as welcoming racial diversity, gender and safety, sexual identity and autism spectrum disorder.

VanArragon says more OACS member schools are asking questions and are interested in learning about these topics. For some topics, such as sexual identity, there may be issues within the school and also in the broader community, he says. The workshops aim to ensure students are respected and also provide tools that will enable them to be respectful to people they will contact in their churches, workplaces and neighbourhoods.

“Our schools need to see themselves as increasingly serving a public function, and therefore we have to become more aware and better equipped to deal with issues that exist in the public square,” he says.

Some schools are dealing very effectively with diversity issues while others are just beginning to think about it, VanArragon notes.

“If our schools are going to be effective players in the public sphere, then we just have to deal with these issues more effectively,” says VanArragon.

He says they have always been aware that as Christian schools they need to be hospitable to all people, but this is the first time the topic has been explicitly highlighted at an OACS conference day. Partner schools in other areas of Canada have had similar conferences and the OACS has been able to borrow some of their ideas, he adds.

The OACS has also been in conversation with the Ontario Christian School Teachers Association (OCSTA), who is interested in some of the topics for its fall convention.

The event will be held at King’s Christian Collegiate high school in Oakville. Registration is open and encouraged to be completed by April 10.