The much loved and highly anticipated Evening of Theatre, Song, and Recitation is just two short weeks away! This special evening is open to the community and a wonderful way to catch a glimpse of the treasures within our school walls. Our students have been working hard to prepare a memorable presentation on “Love” and we hope you will plan join us 6:00 P.M. on Friday, February 2nd at East Brent Baptist Church.
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People come and people go. That is a truth in any organization. It is human nature, I suppose to some extent, for people to get interested in a thing, even convinced about a thing, then lose interest or become unconvinced over time. Because it is enrollment season and families are deciding whether or not they ought to attend Trinitas, I want to spend the next few weeks focusing on some of the top reasons people give for losing interest in and leaving Trinitas.
#1 The standards are too high!
Standards are high at Trinitas. After all, we ask kindergartners to memorize things like 1 Corinthians 13. We ask 1st graders to take three spelling tests every week. We ask seniors to write and defend a fifteen page thesis. But it’s more than just rigorous academics: we expect students to look each other and adults in the eyes when they speak to them. We expect them to greet each other and adults in the halls. We have an honor system for buying snacks and drinks; we don’t use cover sheets when taking tests; we don’t have hall or bathroom monitors; we expect students to be young men and women of integrity— we expect them to love God and neighbor.
These examples of expectations are the tip of the iceberg. We do hold the bar high, but not out of reach; in other words, it isn’t too high. If the standards at classical Christian schools like Trinitas seem too high, it is because the rest of the world has lowered theirs. When Trinitas students play with their cousins or their friends from church or the neighborhood, they often see reactions of disbelief on their faces when they talk about what they do at school. Our society has become obsessed with how everyone feels, and as it turns out, we do not often feel like working hard or stretching ourselves or pushing ourselves to achieve more. So instead of pushing our children to learn, we often let them do what they feel like doing instead. The result is that our society does not expect much of its children, and they usually meet that lack of expectations. At Trinitas, we ask much of our students; and with the right support and encouragement at home, church, and school, they almost always rise to meet or even exceed what is expected of them.
Yes, high expectations mean hard work. And when children are transferring in from another school or coming from a home environment where expectations haven’t been high, the transition is hard, so hard in fact, that it sometimes causes families to leave the school. Don’t let that be the reason you leave the school. I remember when my oldest was in first grade (he is now a sophomore in college); he did not want to meet the handwriting expectation, and quite frankly, I wasn’t keen on forcing him to either. But after much patient explaining and re-explaining and encouraging from the teacher, he and I both came to see the importance of beautiful handwriting. We worked at it together; we worked hard; we worked every day for years, and in the end, we learned much together. We learned that our struggle was about much more than handwriting. It was about doing everything as to the Lord, even the very small things. It was about coming to an understanding of beauty and how making things beautiful is a way of imitating and glorifying God. It was about realizing that I had never expected enough of my son…or myself.
It is hard work to meet high expectations, and the expectations at Trinitas are certainly high. I encourage you, though, to think about the kind of man or woman you want your child to become. Where should the bar be? Learn to work hard or just do what it takes to get by? Low expectations or high? I hope you choose to expect much of your children to the glory of God.
Mr. Ron Gilley
Sometime around the end of the nineteenth century, American colleges and universities began to use a form of grading students that resembles what most high schools, colleges, and universities still use today: A, B, C, D, and F. The grades are intended to be a way of measuring and reporting a student’s performance on a given assignment or within a given subject over a period of time. They are useful for that task, but far from perfect. At Trinitas we also grade students using a variation of the aforementioned marks.
Shortly after grades were put into use, high grades—A’s and B’s—became the coveted prize of students, and as human nature would have it, those marks, or measures, became more important to students (and others) than the thing being measured. There is something in us that wants to abbreviate everything, to sum it all up in a clever label or a catchy bumper sticker, to sort everything according to some shorthand symbol and then wear that symbol like an identification badge. Grades scratch that itch in us, and that is one of the biggest problems with grades.
Now, the conversation about grades and grading is labyrinthine with tendrils and trails and switchbacks and double-backs going every which way. There is a lot to talk about, and we simply can’t address it all in this space. I do, however, want to spend a few minutes talking about one aspect of grades that we can all do something about.
As I said, grades are intended to measure and report on students’ performance; in other words, grades are intended to measure learning. Again, they aren’t a perfect measure, but that’s one of those double-backs and a conversation for another time. More to our point today, I want the Trinitas community to begin placing more emphasis on the thing being measured—learning—than on the measure itself—grades.
If we value the grade above the learning, we are almost certain to create an environment where grades become an idol to us. When students begin to ask, “Will that be on the test?” they are betraying their real objective, which is to get a good grade, not necessarily to learn. They are showing that they are only interested in having the information that will be on the test so they can make the grade; and often material that is crammed in preparation for a test is not retained, not learned. If our teachers and students will focus on the teaching and learning processes, pouring all of their attention into giving their very best efforts there, the grades will take care of themselves without our giving them much thought at all.
Paul exhorts us in Colossians 3:23 to do everything we do “heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” Again, Solomon in Ecclesiastes 9:10 tells us to do with our might whatever our hand finds to do. From these passages and others, one can conclude that God would have his people give our best at all times. It seems plain enough that doing our best with the gifts God gives us is a way of honoring him. Taking that attitude at school, and remembering that what we are doing is learning, may result in high grades, but more importantly, it will result in learning. The value for us is in the learning and the work it takes to do that learning. The grade is simply a measure of how we’re doing at that. Let’s focus on the thing that matters and let the grades be what they really are, just a measure of how we’re doing. Let’s resolve in this new year to turn our attention to learning what is before us before even considering the grade.
Mr. Ron Gilley
Twelve of our student volunteers served at the Special Needs Respite at Pine Summit Baptist Church. They graciously gave of their time to be a “buddy” to a child with special needs and their siblings. This program allows the parents of these children, who have varying disabilites, to have a few hours for Christmas prepartions. With smiles on their faces, they made sure a great time was had by all.
Our logic and rhetoric students brought beautiful Christmas carols and joyful blessings to local nursing home residents last week. Students from houses Valerian, Augustine, Polycarp, and George visited various facilities and played bingo, sang songs, shared treats, and enjoyed sweet conversation with these elderly residents. God reminds us in Acts 20:35 that “It is more blessed to give than to receive”, and this truth became quite real as we saw the joy on the students’ faces when giving their time to these residents. It was a lovely afternoon and a great opportunity for our children.
For the second year in a row, the 1st place winner for the annual Chrysostom competition is Miss McKinley Traylor! With profound content and exceptional delivery and oratory skills, Miss Traylor was outstanding and received the coveted “Golden Mouth” trophy. In her speech, “Redemptive Violence: Exploring Grace in Flannery O’Connor’s Fiction,” McKinley discussed a few “strange and disturbing” stories, explaining how the violence these characters experience prepares them for their “moment of grace”. Her speech was videotaped for entry into the national competition. Master Kevin Dulion won second place in the competition with another extraordinary speech entitled “Frankenstein’s Deadly Sins” and he was commended for his fine work. Congratulations to both McKinley and Kevin on a job well done!
In John 14:15, Jesus tells his disciples, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” He does not offer them a points system wherein they might earn rewards for keeping commandments. He does not offer them 100 points for loving God and 90 for loving neighbor and another 50 for not coveting so they can earn their way to heaven. He says simply, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” There is no bargaining, no threatening, but a simple invitation to prove love through obedience. The invitation is valid for us as well.
Perhaps it would be easier for us as sons of Adam and daughters of Eve if there were a points system so that we could set goals: so many obeyed commands equals so many square feet of mansion in heaven. Or maybe the threat of fire falling from heaven to consume us if we didn’t obey would keep some of us in line (because the very real and present earthly consequences of our sin sometimes don’t). But Jesus doesn’t give us any of that; rather, he says to obey “if you love me.”
Well, of course we love Jesus. No Christian I know would say he or she doesn’t love Jesus. We tell him in songs and prayers and sometimes even on bumper stickers. Yet sweet words are not exactly what Jesus is looking for—he wants us to put our money where our mouth is, so to speak. He invites us to prove our love. He has already proven his love, and he did it long before we could even think to love him (Romans 5:8). God loved us before we could love him and he sent his only son to save us, open our eyes, and make us able to love him back. All we have to do is keep his commandments.
Children, even as they are being trained up in faith and pointed toward Christ, should trust and love their parents enough to obey them just as we ought to obey Christ. A small child who will not obey his parents is going to have trouble obeying God, keeping Christ’s commandments. Sometimes what the Bible calls “chastisement” is necessary in order to return a wayward child to the path of obedience. This is correction, and the Bible tells us, especially in Proverbs, that it is good for children because it delivers their souls from hell (Prov 23:14). Parents model the relationship between God and man as they relate to their children. The unpleasantness that may come from chastisement corrects the child’s actions and thinking because it creates a small calamity in his or her life concerning disobedience. This is practice for becoming a God-fearing adult.
I say again, a child who will not obey his or her parents will have trouble obeying God, keeping Christ’s commandments. The time to train Christians to obey, to keep Christ’s commandments and thereby prove their love for him, is when they are very young. This is the reason, dear parents, God has given you charge over your children. Your job is to train them to obey now while they are still being formed so that they can keep the commandments when they are older. The consequences of our sin at the age of twenty-five or forty-five can be far more calamitous than a small spanking for breaking a rule at the age of three, but the one might just prevent the other. A child who grows up readily obeying the parents he or she trusts and loves will find it easier to keep Christ’s commandments when he or she is old. So the next time you consider whether or not to correct your child over a little disobedience, remember: there is a lot more at stake than what is happening in that one short moment.
Mr. Ron Gilley
There were no Scrooges here today as Ms. Robson’s 6th grade class enjoyed an authentic Charles Dickens Christmas complete with dancing and delicious food. In long plaid skirts, shawls, top hats, and capes, they learned to waltz and perform the box step with the help of grandparents Patrick Kinnell and Toni Glass. While dining by candlelight and toasting the festive day, they feasted on a bounty of turkey, stuffing, carrots, baked apples, and homemade pie. “For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.” Charles Dickens- A Christmas Carol
Argh!! Ahoy mateys!! Ms. Robson’s sixth grade class has been reading Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island this month. These buccaneers followed clues around the school on their scavenger hunt to find the buried gold. With treasure maps and an “X” to mark the spot, they raced against time and each other to reach the bounty. This famous book first published in 1883 is a commonly read adventure story about pirates, bravery, and determination.
We should all be familiar with Jesus’ exhortation in Matthew chapter 6 to seek the kingdom of God rather than chase after the things we think we need. He doesn’t say we should forget about the things we think we need—food, clothes, the important stuff—but that those things will be added to us if we will seek first the kingdom of God. The idea seems to be that seeking after food and clothing (and fill in the blank) is something akin to getting so blinded by individual trees that we become unable to see the forest. Or worse: Jesus seems to be cautioning us against a form of idolatry, against letting our material needs (and wants) take the place of God as the focus of our worship and devotion.
A common form of this idolatry at school for the student and the teacher is grades. Both groups can get so caught up worrying about the test and how it will affect grades that they forget the goal is to learn and that learning comes to those who give their best effort. Just as Jesus did not say that food and clothing weren’t necessary, neither will I say that grades aren’t necessary on some level to get along with the rest of the world. Neither will I say grades are unimportant or that they don’t matter. But I will say that grades are secondary. What is primary is to go after learning with all the tools God gives you, to do it heartily as unto the Lord. When teachers encourage students to make this their primary focus and when students buy in, the learning comes and the grades follow. That doesn’t mean everyone makes an A, but everyone makes what he or she is capable of.
Recently our Mr. Hughes gave a speech at the Trinitas National Honor Society Induction Ceremony. He didn’t use this text from Matthew 6, but he spoke along the same lines about money that Jesus spoke about food and clothing and I just wrote about grades. His premise was that being “smart” is often equated with the idea that you will make lots of money someday. He gets around to saying that what smart people actually do is the thing they set their minds to—which could certainly be making lots of money. Just like people with great athletic ability and people who are born beautiful, smart people have been given their gifts by God for a reason. The only way to really meet God-given potential is not to set your mind to making a wad of cash, but to “seek first the kingdom of God” and everything meant for you will be added to you—everything God intended for you to do and to have will be yours for the good of His Kingdom. But don’t take my word for it. Mr. Hughes says it far better than I, and you can hear his speech in its entirety here.