Saturday, May 16, 2015

At the Train Station with the TK Cubs

My day on Friday started with lots of smiles and hugs at the train station in Durham.  I bade the TK Cubs, Mrs. Holland, and a lot of parents goodbye before their annual train trip to Burlington.  

Reports from parents and Mrs. Holland at the end of the day: Apparently the Cubs were more excited about their grand destination of BURLINGTON! than if they had disembarked at Disney World.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Prepping for Graduation

One of the Trinity traditions I really like: Having a first grader read Scripture at graduation.  Symbolic of the distance these students travel.  It's also a celebration of the distance the first graders travel in their year of learning to read.  This year we have asked Mary Ellis Merritt to read from Psalm 25.  Today I met with her to go over the passage, and Mrs. Simpson snapped some pictures.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Listening for God's Word with the Junior Class

We started a new tradition today.

The juniors joined Mr. Gould, Mr. Cate, Dr. Utz, Mrs. Van Tongeren, and me for pizza and a conversation about their taking the lead on choosing the school verse for 2015-2016.  I heard about this idea from one of our accreditation team, and I loved it right off the bat.

It gives the rising seniors a chance to own the school's mission and listen for God's direction by soaking in Scripture over the summer and coming together at their August retreat to agree on a verse that captures something essential about Trinity, about themselves, and about their fellow students.  As Mr. Cate said afterward, it's like we're looking for a verse that we would want to put on the doorways of our house--that's biblical!

We had good conversation about the importance of senior leadership, about the school's mission, and about the ways that God guides us as we listen prayerfully and read his Word.

So stay tuned, everyone, for next year's verse, to be announced at the Opening Chapel the first Monday of next year.

With the Rising Seniors at Lunch (Montae and B-Lo were helping clean up after worship and joined us later)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


I knew something was up this morning when I saw Mr. Gould standing at the southwest corner of the US building, directing morning traffic.  

Last night the Trinity seniors pranked the Upper School.  It's always amazing how creative and productive these seniors can be when it comes to such shenanigans.  

I'm especially appreciative of the care that our US leaders take to make sure these pranks are safe and respectful.  And Mr. Gould says that the seniors had it all cleaned up by 9 am.  

Chalk another one up for playfulness!

Students navigating a mine field of cups full of liquids of all sorts.
Mr. Hicks and Mr. Cates with their balloons

Mr. Bridges got lots of sticky notes

Mrs. Steel's pagan shrine, complete with candles

Cornerstone under the stuffed animal mobile

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Greco-Roman Day!

Greco-Roman Day in fifth grade today.  What an array of gods, goddesses, heroes, poets, statesmen, generals, and all manner of renowned famous folk.  

The students do a great job inhabiting their characters, and their projects were rich and meaningful.  The student art in the halls was beautiful.

Three goddesses

Zeus, Apollo, and their entourage

Mosaic and pottery

Dramatic masks

Other Trinity students and parents enjoy hearing from the fifth graders.

An interview with Homer, Julius Caesar, Demeter, Helios, and Medea

 I was especially impressed with the new (second year, I think) format of having them interview each other with prepared questions.  The students were well-spoken and prepared.  I left the fifth grade rooms and headed over to catch the end of the Middle School Sanctuary, where two eighth graders (as is the custom in MS) were presenting on a passage of Scripture, before the entire Middle School.  I hear good feedback from people outside Trinity that our students and graduates are good on their feet and in public presentations.  This is such an important skill in today's economy, and it starts early in LS and cycles through the MS  and up into the Upper School, where honors symposia and Capstone presentations culminate long periods of rich and deep work.  

Saturday, April 25, 2015

What Kind of Story Have We Fallen Into? In Which the Headmaster Remembers What He Said Twenty Years Ago

What Kind of Story Have We Fallen Into?
In Which the Headmaster Remembers What He Said Twenty Years Ago
Tonight is Trinity’s 20th Anniversary Auction. Many thanks to Kate Barron and her dedicated crew of auction volunteers,  who have worked tirelessly so that every dollar raised tonight goes to support the Blake Hubbard Commons furnishings.

I go back to the first auction, in November 1995, at the Fearrington Barn. My mind is a sieve, and there is so much I don’t remember: what I wore that night, what items we had for sale, or what our auction total was (I’m guessing $12,000). But I do remember what I said when I introduced our speaker, Bruce Lockerbie. I evoked Frodo and his band of hobbits as they rested and convalesced at Elrond’s House, Rivendell, what they called “the last homely house” before the wilderness of daunting adventures. Like those hobbits, we had a few adventures under our belts, but I had a sense then that there were some rough spots ahead.  And on that November night in 1995, I was glad for the warmth of the Fearrington Barn, for the hospitality of those who had planned the event (thank you, Jim Lamont and Desiree Denton!), and for the fellowship of people who thought this was something worth doing. Rivendell.

Twenty years later, I am looking forward to another respite of an evening with the Trinity community, and my mind goes again to Tolkien’s tale. I’ve been warned not to go there—I know that Middle Earth is not for everyone. But being part of a great story is for everyone, and Frodo’s story reminds me so much of our own. I’m thinking of an episode at the end of the second book, when Frodo and Sam are at the gates of Mordor, resolute but nearly hopeless. In a rare moment of calm reflection, before the storm that is looming, Sam waxes eloquent:

We shouldn't be here at all, if we'd known more about it before we started. But I suppose it's often that way. The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say. But that's not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind.

Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually—their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn't. And if they had, we shouldn't know, because they'd have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on—and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same—like old Mr Bilbo. But those aren't always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in! I wonder what sort of a tale we've fallen into?  (The Two Towers, pp. 320–21)

There are four things that Master Samwise can teach us, and one we can teach him.

  • We shouldn’t be here at all if we had known what it would mean. Too true, Sam.  If we had started Trinity by saying, “We’ll need twenty acres of land, several million dollars, extraordinary teachers, a board that meets twice a month for five hours, and a mission that will take us years to craft”-—would we have ventured to start Trinity School?  

We didn’t choose this so much as we fell into it.  I don’t think any of our founders set out to start a school, but we found ourselves in a place where the world’s need was for a school such as this. “I will lead the school, though I do not know the way.”
We may have made a lot of mistakes, but we just went on.  Decisions about admissions, about expansion, about not expanding, about discipline, about hiring and not hiring, about policies, about uniforms, about carpool—there is no end to school conundrums, and God knows that we have gotten it wrong more than we’d like to admit. And when we do admit it, we might want to turn back and give it up.  But we haven’t, and with God’s good help we have continued to show up. For twenty years. That’s something to tell about.
We don’t know what kind of tale we’re in. Indeed we don’t. How many times have I been surprised. I thought we were going to buy additional land with the proceeds from the Blake Hubbard Memorial, but God closed that door three times. And then we did master planning and the board set out to build this new student and learning commons. Who’d a thunk it?

These are things that Sam teaches us.  But there is one more he cannot see, but we do, the readers of Tolkien’s tale. Not because we are wiser than Sam or better, but because we stand in a different place. As we read the trilogy and see the stories of the broken Fellowship--of Sam and Frodo, of Pippin and Gandalf, of Aragorn, of the warriors of Rohan, of Gollum even--weave together and arc toward a fitting telos, we understand that Sam’s story fits into a larger story. Tolkien’s richly layered metanarrative, thick with mythology and history and tangled with many agendas, emerges as a single story (spoiler alert!) of the triumph of the humble good over arrogant evil. Sam cannot see this from his dark path into Mordor, but we see it emerge slowly. We can almost see it coming together.

Two years ago, at our auction at Bay 7, I walked upstairs for a moment of quiet in the middle of the chaos and loud chatter. I stood above the crowd and looked down on all that was happening. I will never forget that perspective, that sense that I could see things unfolding that those below could not.

So it is with Trinity. Those of us in the chaos and loud chatter of daily life at school are caught up in the conflicts and triumphs of the day, and we find ourselves confused and challenged by the crisis du jour. And when something really big happens—like the death of a ninth grade boy—we wonder if there is really any Story at all, or if this is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury.  Without vision, the people perish, and God has given us a bird’s eye perspective of our story and how it fits into his: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).  He knows the plans he has for us, plans to prosper us. These things we cannot see from where we are, but we believe them, and that belief makes our journey a great joy.

Non nobis.

Chip Denton

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Spring Strings Fest 2015

Back in the day when we held school at Hope Creek Church, I decided that I would try to master the first Suzuki Book with my son, Chad, who was taking up the violin.  It was a humbling experience in many ways.  Despite my best efforts, I was never able to master the art of the bow hold, which my son seemed to get instinctively.  Every time I hear young students play the violin, I stand amazed and am grateful for their hard work and dedication.

When we were nearing the end of Book I, I decided to make an object lesson of my mediocre violin accomplishments.  I stood before the entire student body and played Bach's Minuet No. 3; then I asked Nancy Brooks, then on the board, to come up and play it.  The lessons were legion, and I made all I could of my humiliation.  Mostly I talked about excellence and the importance of practice in many things, not just the violin.

So you can imagine that I took a strange pleasure tonight in hearing our young strings group playing that same Bach piece.  I closed my eyes and listened with joy, glad that these students so young had already surpassed all that I had been able to do, hopeful that they would keep learning.  Here is the very last of that piece:


And here is a piece (Minek) played by the ensemble and danced by senior Alexandra Hall.


Our strings program continues to grow.  It was wonderful to see our younger players beside our most accomplished musicians.  Here is one of the several quartets that played tonight, this one performing Vivaldi's Concerto for Four Violins in B Minor.


Special congratulations to our seniors, Cammie Behnke, Anna LaDine, John Matthews, and Christopher Wu, whose modeling and leadership has helped to build this program.

Nancy Brooks and Carrie Engsberg Wiseman, our two directors, should be commended for a fine program and performance.

May it continue to grow, Non Nobis.