Friday, November 20, 2015

Trinity Artists

This morning I got a preview of the art portfolios several of our seniors have put together.  They will be travelling to Charlotte this weekend to participate in the NATIONAL PORTFOLIO DAY.  Art schools send their representatives to these sorts of events to meet students and critique their portfolios before they actually apply to art schools.

I hope that many of our parents take a look at this work.  It represents the blossoming and culmination of years of development and practice.  The work that hangs on the Lower School walls is the foundation of this artistry, and our art teachers (Susy Holloway, Helen Kwon, and Banks Clark) work patiently and expertly to guide and coach these students in their development.

It is humbling to be in the presence of such talent brought to maturity through hours and hours of practice.

Non Nobis.

Michael Arcidiacano created a program to transform this image into a nodal graphic

Allison Dear created this piece, technically superb and personally meaningful

Cassie Harder's Altered Photo

Ellie Feaver's ceramic hands made of flowers
All the students did a self-portrait.  This is Rachel's.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Rainy Days and Thursdays Always Get Me . . . Writing

I got wind of free coffee and muffins in the fifth grade classrooms and decided that I'd indulge on a rainy morning.

When I walked into Mrs. Eller's class, the students were all over the place.  Some were at desks writing intently.  Some were sprawled on the floor on their bellies, with pencil and notebook.  A small group were sitting in a corner sipping hot chocolate and writing.  A few were playing a game of cards.  Soft acoustic guitar music wafted through the room, from the fingers and soul of Mrs. Eller's husband.  

And across the hall and down the hall, the same thing.

This was the fifth grade's NaNoWRiMo (National Novel Writing Month).  Each student was writing his or her own original novel, and the teachers had created a coffeehouse to enhance the experience.

I didn't want to interrupt the serious flow that I observed, but I did ask a few students what they were working on.  ONe student was writing about four children lost in the woods.  Another about a boy who got lost from his family.  I think they got it when their teacher taught about conflict and tension in a work of fiction. 

Nick showing me his writing and his hot chocolate mustache


Mrs. Steis taking orders and Mrs. Lemke getting creative with the students

Nooks and Crannies for writing

Mr. Steis playing for the students

Different postures for different writers


Brain food

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Race We Don't See

Once upon a time there was a white boy who came to Trinity School because his parents were Christians who believed in the power of education to awaken the human spirit to truth, goodness, and beauty and to give young people what they need to thrive in the world...

Is there anything in this story that seems odd? Anything that raises questions, trips you up a little?  I’m betting that it is the word white. Does it strike you as unnecessary? Do you wonder why the storyteller would mention whiteness?  

We all  know that a boy who came to Trinity School might be a person of color, and a story that started “Once upon a time there was a brown boy who came to Trinity School” would be a believable and good story--thankfully it is a common story.  But a story about a white boy coming to Trinity School is the same as a story about Any Boy coming to Trinity School. The adjective white is unnecessary because it is assumed.

At a school like Trinity, some of us get to live without having to expend significant cognitive and emotional resources thinking about race, and some of us don’t.  Most--but not all--of the people who get to live like this are white.  At a school like Trinity, being black or brown is a thing; being white is not.  White is “normal,” and “normal” is just assumed, rarely mentioned. I put “normal” in quotations because it is culturally contextualized and shaped: if we were at an international school in Dar es Salaam, “normal” would not look like me. But here at Trinity, it is an undeserved privilege for me to be able to glide through the stories of my life as a “normal” white person. Peggy McIntosh, a white woman, put it this way in her now famous essay, “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”:

I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets that I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was "meant" to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools, and blank checks.

We’ve been talking about race a lot this year–from the faculty summer read of MLK’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” to Upper School advisory discussions to the reading groups on Beverly Tatum’s Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? to our faculty meetings that explore concepts like color blindness.  What is this all about?  What are we hoping to see happen at Trinity?  I will mention four things:

  1. Respect.  We want Trinity to be and remain a place where people of different races at Trinity (students, faculty, and parents) are respectful and kind to one another, not mean-spirited when it comes to talking to and about people who are different.  I am thankful that Trinity is this kind of place most of the time, and we want to work to make even more this way. Ephesians 4:29.
  2. Empathy.  It would be good if we sought more to understand people of other races than to be understood, if we walked a mile in others’ shoes, if we spoke graciously about our own wounds and hurts, and if we received humbly the honest feedback from people different from us.  Ephesians 4:32.
  3. Inclusion.  It would be good if more people of color brought their children to Trinity and worked at Trinity and served in leadership. This is harder still, because it won’t happen if we don’t work on some of the deeper issues–like coming to grips with white privilege.  Revelation 7:9.
  4. Beyond Racism.  It would be good–really good–if race did not give one person an advantage over another, if no one had to bear the weight of another race in the world, if there were no white privilege and people of other races got the same chances as everyone else. This is the hardest of all, and we will not change this without changing a system that is bigger than any of us. I suspect that this kind comes out only by prayer and fasting and probably with the Lord’s return.  But we can hope and dream.  Isaiah 2:1-5.

And here are some things that parents, teachers, and students can be involved in this fall, ways of moving forward to realize the above goals.  

  • Our Koinonia Committee (Diversity Committee) is reading Beverly Tatum’s “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” and talking about things like white privilege and racism as a system of unfair advantage.
  • The Trinity Parent Organization (TPO) will focus on diversity and service learning at its November 17 meeting.  I hope many of our parents can come to this meeting at 8:15 am.
  • In our faculty meetings, we are exploring questions about racial identity formation:  What does it mean for our white students to develop a racial identity?  For students of color?  How might this impact the work we do in the classrooms, in athletics, and elsewhere?  If you’re interested in what the faculty have been exploring, you might check out these short New York Times videos: A Conversation about Growing up Black and A Conversation with White People about Race. Let me hasten to add that our conversations are ranging far beyond black and white racial identity, wanting Trinity to be a place that welcomes, includes, and supports all races.
  • Some faculty and staff are also engaged in a reading group this fall, one that is making its way through Tatum’s book and also Christena Cleveland’s Disunity in Christ, a Christian reflection on some of the reasons Christians have a hard time coming together across lines (racial, political, theological, cultural, etc.).
  • We are organizing reading groups for parents who want to read these books by Tatum and Cleveland. Our Diversity Coordinator, Adrienne Davis, and other members of our Koinonia Committee will be leading these monthly gatherings. If you are interested in participating in such a group, please sign up today here.
  • We are offering fellowship opportunities for all students with a desire to engage more deeply in our Koinonia Alive! commitment, where students of different racial backgrounds can come together to pray, learn, and focus on common goals. The first of these will occur on Friday, October 16, during the Middle and Upper School lunches.  
  • On Sunday, November 1, families of color and families with students of color will gather for a social time. Stay tuned for details. For more information, please contact Katherine Hicks.

I have a dream that one day someone will tell a story about a brown boy who came to Trinity School and everyone will turn and wonder why brown was mentioned at all. That’ll be a great day!  But until then, let’s work together to build respect and empathy and understanding. I’m thankful that this is a year when we have the time and resources to devote ourselves to this good work. All for Christ’s sake, who died to bring us to God and to make us one in him.  

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Home for Lunch

Thursday was a great day.  I came home for lunch, and look whom I found.  My daughter, Jenny, has gone back to work, and her husband, Nick, was out of town.  That meant that Desiree got thrown in the briar patch of watching our grandson all day long.  And here I am getting a piece of that delightful action.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

A Visit to TK

I stopped by the TK class last week and got to sit for a picture with the crew.  They were settling in nicely to the new school year, and I always enjoy the hugs and warm greetings.  

Friday, September 11, 2015

September 11

In the Upper School Cornerstone this morning, Mr. Gould asked the students if any of them remembered 9/11.  A few seniors, who were three or four years old in 2001, sheepishly half-raised their hands.  Most of the room was unresponsive.

I remember the years in the early part of the new century when we were holding assemblies to commemorate the event and were still dealing with the raw emotions among the Trinity community.

Now the event recedes into the historical background each year, and we wonder how to deal with it.

The faculty gathers each Friday for devotions, and this morning Ellen Van Tongeren led us in a time of remembrance, confession, prayer, and singing.  The American flag sat behind her, and the song she brought us was a prayer for the healing of the nations.  We prayed for people fleeing Syria, Central America, and Mexico, and we remembered our own people who were lost.  One person on staff shared how her daughter's life was changed forever by that event, how she headed with focus and determination into the military career that she is pursues still today.  One persons reminded us to pray for all Muslim people on this day.

Here is the hymn we sang:

O God of every nation,
of every race and land,
redeem the whole creation
with your almighty hand.
Where hate and fear divide us
and bitter threats are hurled,
in love and mercy guide us,
and heal our strife-torn world.

I left the devotion, glad to be in a community where we pray like this.  I walked out the front door and looked down the walkway to the gym and saw the picture I've pasted here.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Senior Class Chooses School Verse

The Senior Class gathered at Camp Tekoa to choose the annual school verse
This year we have launched a new tradition at Trinity.  The senior class has come together to choose the Scripture verse that will guide the entire school through the year.

In the past, the Headmaster and a few other leaders were involved in the selection of the school verse, but we got this idea from another school and I am delighted to report that I've just come back from Camp Tekoa in Hendersonville, NC, where I spent last night working with the students to guide them to select this year's verse.

The students worked through a carefully designed process that gave a voice to every one of the forty seniors, and in the end they came together around one verse that they think (and I agree!) captures the Gospel message, reflects Trinity's mission in a clear way, and is relevant to Trinity today.  They began their work in their four advisories and then came together as a whole class to discuss, debate, share, pray, and then choose.  I'm very pleased with what they have done.

It was gratifying to see them engage earnestly on the project, and I look forward to their leadership through the year.

The class will announce their choice to the rest of the school on Monday, August 31, at the Opening Chapel (8:40 am).

The verse will hang in a prominent place in the Gold Gym this year, and then it will take its proper place among the hall of fame of previous verses hanging in the Blue Gym.