If you stop by the office, you might see a new face behind the desk! We are pleased to introduce Ms. Natalie Sytsma (soon to be Mrs. Mouw) as our new administrative assistant and art teacher. Ms. Sytsma graduated from Calvin University with a B.A. in classical studies and literature. Having been raised in a classical school, she knows the fruit of classical education firsthand and is eager to join the Trinitas community both in the classroom and the office. For the past year and a half, Ms. Sytsma has taught Latin to K–8th graders. She is also a self-employed artist and proficient in drawing, painting, and calligraphy and has been able to share her experience with students teaching in various art camps. Her professional experience includes working at Calvin University’s Center Art Gallery (architectural research and gallery exhibitions) and administrative assistant roles at both Calvin and in a church office.
Please remember that the office is open Monday through Thursday, from 8:00 a.m. to noon. If you plan to stop by school this summer, we recommend you call first as staff may be unavailable or away from their desks during office hours.
Keep an eye on your mailbox as report cards and certificates should be arriving the week of June 26.
Our Virtue of the Quarter is Humility. “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” may not be the first story that comes to mind for instruction in this virtue, but had the tale of the burglarous little girl been available to Aristotle, he might have chosen it to illustrate a fundamental observation about all virtues. According to this ancient Greek philosopher, virtue is a mean between two extremes. In Goldilocks’ vocabulary, “A virtue is something not too much and not too little, it’s just right.” Courage, for example, is the mean between the extreme of cowardice on the one hand and rashness on the other. Neither Goldilocks nor Aristotle had much to say about humility specifically, but we can use the idea of getting things just right or finding the mean between extremes as a fruitful way to explore this virtue.
So, what are the two extremes, the vices, on either side of the virtue of humility? The more obvious vice is pride. Simply put, pride is thinking too much of oneself, of one’s abilities or importance or worth, especially in comparison to others. Pride can be a private sentiment, but it also often seeks to draw the attention of others. The proud “are like the fly on the chariot wheel, crying, ‘See how fast I make it go!’”1 The other extreme is a less obvious vice because it is sometimes mistaken for the virtue of humility and it goes by a less familiar name: pusillanimity. Pusillanimity is thinking too little of oneself; it is a “smallness of soul,” a smallness “that shrinks from noble or arduous tasks.”2
Mrs. Tellinghuisen returns to the CCE Corner with another reflection inspired by the Calvin Worship Symposium and the March 6 Vital Worship Grant event.
We are story-shaped people who live in a story-shaped culture. Let’s withhold any “that’s good” or “that’s bad” judgment for the time being (spoiler: it depends on the stories we hear and tell) and simply acknowledge the reality. Everyone and everything tells a story. For all that we see around us has history, context, function, and purpose. When we walk through a neighborhood, we are not just seeing houses and sidewalks and trees and utility lines. We are seeing a story. When we stroll through an art exhibit, we aren’t just seeing pictures and sculptures and artifacts. We are seeing a story. When we meet a person for the first time, we aren’t just exchanging words and social pleasantries with someone. We are seeing a story incarnate.
Granted, we don’t see the whole story. To know more about that neighborhood, you’d need to talk to some of the neighbors and research the history of the city that led to that area being developed. To learn more about the area or people group featured in the art exhibit, you would have to read some books, take some classes, or even travel to that location. To learn more about another human? Well, you would need years together. And even a lifetime together wouldn’t tell you everything. (You’d probably learn more about yourself along the way too!)
Stories are involved and complex. They take time to tell. But we like facts, don’t we? “Just the facts, ma’am,” said Dragnet’s Sergeant Friday. Facts are simple, obvious, clear-cut. Unless they aren’t. One need only flip through the various news channels to see that we don’t always agree on facts. But you don’t have to take the path that leads to flat-out relativism to recognize that facts are always internalized and interpreted before we inject them into our conversations and contexts. If this sounds at least a little disconcerting, it is. How can we live in community (familial, local, national, global) if we are “my story is what I know” kind of people? On our own? Not so well. But there is a good answer for this, and hopefully your mind is already going there.
Before we talk about that answer, let’s look for the good in the fact that we all have “my story” and the fact that we are story-shaped storytellers and—story listeners—at our core. Consider the different answers to these “simple” questions.
Trinitas recently hosted two annual highlights: Book Character Day and Thoughtful Reader Book Club. Each year, students and staff look forward to leaving their uniforms home and coming dressed like a favorite Biblical, historical, or book character. Last Wednesday was a delightful day for the likes of Fantastic Mr. Fox, Ebenezer Scrooge, Anne of Green Gables, King Arthur, and St. Paul to be greeted at the door by Principal Gandalf and to do their math lessons with Grandmother West Wind and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, literature with Athena and Laura Ingalls Wilder, Latin with the golden fleece, history with the Cat in the Hat, and logic with Tweedle Dee (or Dum, we’re not sure which). Students return home excited to read new books or re-read an old favorite. Some even begin planning next year’s costume.
During Friday Focus time the previous week, we enjoyed activities and discussions related to our Thoughtful Reader Book Club selections. This year, our shared reading for the younger grades included fables by Aesop and Arnold Lobel. Students in grades 3/4 talked about how stories that feature animals and their particular characteristics (e.g., monkeys are inquisitive, beavers are industrious) can communicate truths about human strengths and weaknesses. The morals at the end of the fables continue to instruct over 2,000 years later!
We are pleased to present “Complicated Narratives and Important Failures” on Monday, March 6, at 7:00 p.m. Dr. Jennifer Holberg from Calvin University will speak about the shaping influence of stories and storytelling. Register online or call the school at (616) 855-6518. (Registration is not required, but encouraged for planning purposes.)
This program is free and open to the public. A reception will follow the presentation.
Attendees should use the upper parking lot and entrance for Saint Mark Lutheran Church on the west end of the building (access to the lot is from Maple Creek Ave.). Please note that childcare will not be available.
This program is made possible through a Vital Worship Grant from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Grand Rapids, Michigan, with funds provided by Lilly Endowment Inc.
We continue our series of reflections inspired by the recent Calvin Worship Symposium. This week, Mrs. Tellinghuisen shares about a faith practices workshop she attended.
A few weeks ago, the summit of Mount Washington in New Hampshire recorded overnight wind gusts of over 100 miles per hour and a temperature of −47 °F. This produced a new US record low windchill temperature of −108 °F. These conditions are comparable to what airplanes experience at cruising altitude. I was told by my brother (a biologist and weather fact enthusiast, who lives in South Dakota, where they know a lot about cold and wind), that it wasn’t the cold and wind that led to such extreme conditions, but an interesting atmospheric phenomenon. In effect, the top of Mount Washington became part of the stratosphere. Talk about a mountaintop experience! But not one anyone would want.
Mountaintop experiences usually involve moments of clarity, conviction, or renewal. From a spiritual—and Christian—perspective, it might be descriptive of a moment when someone felt especially close to God or felt the moving of the Holy Spirit in a very tangible way. For me, any visit to mountains can lead to a mountaintop experience. The landscape inspires awe and draws my eyes upward and inclines my heart toward praise and wonder.
I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1–2)
The psalmist was saying more than just mountains are pretty. High places were locations for pagan rituals and sacrifices (e.g., Ahab and prophets of Baal as told in I Kings 18). But the psalmist is saying that when he looks to hills, it is not to seek answers in the idols of man. He trusts in the one true God, maker of heaven and earth. In the gospel accounts, Jesus goes to a mountain to find solitude and to commune with his father in prayer on several occasions. One of the most memorable accounts is the Transfiguration, where Jesus appears radiant in his glory to Peter, James, and John. And, more than that, Moses and Elijah appear alongside him (Matthew 17:1–13; Mark 9:2–13; Luke 9:28–36). Now that was a mountaintop experience! Isn’t it remarkable then that those same three disciples were the ones who fell asleep, ran, and even denied? How could they have seen that and not stood firm? Or maybe, if we are honest, we know all too well what it means to see and yet forget.
It was just over a year ago that Mrs. Poortenga and Mrs. Tellinghuisen submitted their application for a Vital Worship Grant from the Calvin Institute for Christian Worship. This week brought them to the CICW Worship Symposium where they continue to learn and plan for the remainder of our grant year. We wish there was a simple “download” button that would allow us to share everything they’ve experienced, but we will share summaries and resources you can use in the coming weeks. Watch for CCEC posts that will discuss the following workshops: Performing the Bible: Exploring the Performance Genres of Scripture; Discerning Leadership with Students; Faith Practices for All Ages. This week, we want to share from the panel presentation, “Fruits of the Spirit, Mental Health Crises, and Our Practices of Christian Worship.”
This workshop covered a number of the same themes we covered in recent CCEC posts. Angela Williams Gorrell and John Swinton began the presentation by drawing attention to the crisis of psychological distress that is intensifying across all age groups–stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness, and trouble sleeping all continue to rise at alarming rates. They pointed to both the lack of a coherent moral story and the dangers of many of our digital habits. If we see ourselves as mere individuals in this wide universe, as creators of our own identities, and as part of a world that is interminably in conflict, the natural result is a sense of meaninglessness, anxiety, depression, and loneliness. The pandemic showed us how much we need to be connected to others, but it may also have shown us how much we have come apart.
I was going to title this post “Screen-free Learning at Trinitas,” but our decision to be a screen-free* environment is about more than helping kids build their attention spans for academic achievement. It’s also, and more importantly, about helping them build their ability to pay attention to others, to engage the person next to them or across the table, to “be present” in community. We founded Trinitas in 2006, the year before the first iPhone was introduced. Already many schools were jumping on the screen-learning bandwagon. We resisted that temptation, not primarily for budget stewardship reasons but rather for the sake of the students (and their teachers and families). We suspected that benefits of screens in schools might turn out to be something like the emperor’s new clothes. What we had not anticipated was how screens at school and at home and in cars and in pockets and nearly perpetually in hands could be worse than the naked emperor.
We’d like to highlight two articles recently linked by Protect Young Eyes. (If you do not receive their emails, we recommend you sign up for them.) The first article is very short, it’s on social media and brain development. The second is longer, but worth the read; it’s a call by Doug Lemov for phone-free schools and for re-wiring (or de-wiring) the learning environment for attention, achievement, and belonging. As Lemov points out, it’s not good enough for schools just to say “be responsible with your phones.” I remember waiting to pick up one of my high schoolers for an appointment during lunch. It was a lovely day, and a group of girls was eating together outside. I should say “together.” In the ten or more minutes that I waited, not one of them looked up from her cell phone. Well, that’s not entirely accurate, one did look up briefly. To take a selfie. I’m not exaggerating when I say my heart broke a little when I witnessed that snapshot of what we are losing. Simply put, in light of the overwhelming data on attention, anxiety, loneliness, and depression, a best practice for school and home is carving out long periods of time free of screens.
We are glad to welcome Dean Wiers-Windemuller to teach our music classes. Dean grew up in West Michigan, studied jazz and classical guitar at Wheaton College, and spent five years playing his own music as a solo performer and with a band. He started Riverside Guitar School eleven years ago. Located in Eastown, they have eight full and part-time staff members. We are excited about the opportunity to incorporate guitar for students in grades K-8 as part of our music program!