“Cool” – school announcements not broadcast – tweeted to students instead. Hayden High is different.

October 16, 2013

By Milla Pickfield

BURLINGTON, ON.  New technology, new furniture, new teachers, and new students; everything about Hayden High is new! I sat down with Jacqueline Newton, the principal, to discuss what makes Hayden High so special.

 When I first arrived at the school I was skeptical. It’s such a large school with few students, and last year the school I attended lost some really great teachers to Hayden High.

Hayden High School – named after a prominent Burlington citizen, is part of a three purpose complex that includes a recreation centre and a library.

 It is always hard when a new school is built. Students leave their friends, legacies are lost, and favorite teachers are taken from many different schools. It’s hard but it also leaves room for change… and change they did.  Hayden High is not just different because of its impressive layout or the fact that the morning announcements are done through twitter.  Not different because it is attached to a community center which allows them to use the eight large gyms or the library until nine o’clock at night.   Hayden High is different because it’s highly interactive with its students.

Every week a poll is organized on one matter or another to get feedback from the students on how they are finding school, how they would like to design one area of the school, or what they want their gym uniforms to look like. Getting feedback from the students is very important to Jacqueline Newton. “We want the kids to build school their way.”

Another way  Hayden High is different is the fact that students can rent a Chrome book from the library if they need a device to use. Gone are the days of worry whether your parent’s laptop is free for a school project, schools today provides you a device to work on.

Student cafeteria with table settings that allow for large groups or just two people – the room looks out over the playing field.

But the coolest place in the whole school would have to be the cafeteria! Set up much like a café with varying sized tables, this eating spot allows the students to sit with large groups or with just the one friend.  So if you’re feeling like you just want to talk to your best friend and no one else you could choose a two person table instead of a ten person group table.    

Of course the school is only as good as its teachers but no worries there, Jacqueline Newton and Michael Gallant interviewed every one of them! “We wanted to make sure that they (the teachers) were excited to work at a new school.” “It was necessary that they knew how to use social media. We even asked the students what questions they wanted to be asked during the interview and used those questions.” Really?  How often do teenagers get asked their opinions? Not that often.

Jacqueline Newton took last year to really study in depth how to use social media to her full advantage and that is exactly what she is doing. How many high school students really listen to the announcements (especially when half of them don’t relate to you sometimes)? Now instead of listening to them every morning you can go onto twitter and scroll through them.

Not only is twitter frequently used but so are cell phones, computers, and iPads! When was the last time you heard your teacher tell you to take out your phone in a lesson (for something other than writing down your homework)? Definitely a foreign thought! But at Hayden High this is a regular occurrence. Everything is paperless which means everything is on technology. Textbooks, announcements, even group assignments! You can use Google Docs to all edit a page at the same time!

Technology is there to help us innovate, not just help us do old things in a new way. Jacqueline Newton and others on the Board really wanted the students to feel comfortable and happy coming to school. Creating a place where kids can be creative and excited was one of their top goals, and I think they succeeded. Even the classrooms are different! There are no rows. The desks are deliberately placed in semi circles or other configurations in hope that this encourages the students to participate and feel more like a community than a sole individual. Getting the students to voice their opinion and feel as if they run a part of the school really sets this high school apart from others.

Gone is the old way of teaching; the new way is through technology and it’s a lot more fun. It reminds me that technology is there to help us innovate, not just help us do old things in a new way.

New is cool, new is frightening, new is possibilities. Possibility is exactly what the staff at Dr. Frank J. Hayden Secondary School have accomplished; the possibility of a new start.

Milla Pickfield is a graduate of Nelson High school who is freelance writing as well as improving administrative skills before she starts university.  The principal of the new Hayden High school was a teacher at Nelson when Pickfield was a student there.


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