Let me share with you a recent conversation I had with Charlie, one of our kindergarteners, upon her return from Thanksgiving:
Me: “Charlie, what happened?”
Charlie (with arm in a sling): “I broke my arm.”
Me: “How did you do that?”
Charlie (in complete seriousness): “I was trying to fly.”
While I am sorry for the outcome of Charlie’s failed attempt, I love her spirit! This kindergartener’s response is representative of so many Petra Academy students, teachers, and families “trying to fly” as part of the classical Christian education movement growing throughout our country and world.
Now in our 22nd year, Petra is a leader within this movement, preparing students to live purposeful, godly lives. We strive to awaken love and wonder in our students for the flourishing of humanity and the renown of Jesus the Christ. We teach students “trying to fly,” and it’s a joy and privilege to do so.
Would you help us? This year, we have planned for charitable giving to account for $155,000 (11% of our annual operating budget). The good news: we’ve already raised $64,721 – 42% of our goal!
To stay on target and meet our budget for the 2017-18 school year, we need to raise $30,000 in year-end giving by December 31, as well as $39,000 as part of our annual spring play sponsorships by February 28. Here are two ways you can help us stay on track:
1) Make a year-end donation by December 31. No gift is too small, and all are tax-deductible.
2) Provide a sponsorship and/or an item for our spring play silent auction for our spring play (Little Women) by February 15 (note: if you respond with a check by the end of December, you will receive a tax deduction for 2017 as well).
As 2017 draws to a close, please consider a financial gift to Petra Academy. As I know you agree, the more we can help students who are “trying to fly,” the better! Thanks for your prayerful consideration of our needs.
PS: To give, make a check payable to Petra Academy and mail to 4720 Classical Way, Bozeman, MT, 59718. All gifts are tax-deductible, and you will receive a tax receipt in January.
PPS: If you have questions about Petra or other ways to support our school, please call me at 406-582-8165.
“TRYING TO FLY” HIGHLIGHTS FROM 1ST SEMESTER
Senior Elsa Bentz wrote and directed our first-ever fall play this November. Premiering to full houses both nights, Le Noir d’Arthur was a powerful retelling of the King Arthur legend in a 1940’s noir setting and allowed us to involve even more students on stage in the fall as well as in our traditional spring play.
Our new soccer team debuted this season as a co-ed club team comprised of 7th-10th graders (and one 11th grader) who had never before played together. It could have been a long and difficult season with the potential to squelch any initial enthusiasm because of a bad start, but the team went 10-3 in their first year and exceeded expectations of all involved (including members of the opposite teams and their coaches).
We have kids “trying to fly” in our classrooms every day – students for whom mathematics, or science, or Latin, or the humanities does not come easily. But neither they nor their teachers (like 3rd grade teacher Sabrina Moody, pictured above) are giving up; instead, they’re leaning into their studies and learning along the lines of the ancient trivium – to observe with humility, think with reason, and articulate with charity.
Since the dawn of its existence, theater has been a communal event – born of a community, brought to life by members of the community, and participated in by the entire community.
The last element of participation is a vital one, and one in which we may all partake. Not all of us were cut out to be actors, directors, stage managers, or set designers, but when it comes to theater, we all have a part to play! This part is the part of the audience, without which even the grandest of Shakespeare’s plays are nothing but a group of splendidly dressed, crazy men who ardently believe that they are someone else, delivering their lines to empty space. The audience is one of the most vital elements of any theater production because without the playgoers, the play itself is meaningless. Without the audience who would hear the story waiting to be told?
To be the audience means to enter into the stories, the passions, and the lives unfolding on the stage. The audience rejoices and weeps with the characters and becomes acquainted with the tenderest feelings of these scripted souls. On that stage, fantasy and reality meet and become one, and it is there that we learn to know ourselves better than before with the aid of the villains, heroes, and star-crossed lovers of the play. Theater is a place of give and take; the audience gives the characters purpose, and the characters teach the audience to reflect upon their own actions and hearts.
Our upcoming show, Le Noir d’Arthur, is just like any other play. It is written about the legendary King Arthur and his knights and, like other plays, it has a lesson to teach. It exists to keep the legend alive while giving life to the characters and the stories of the knights of the Round Table. But it also invites the audience to sympathize with and see themselves reflected in the characters, which we hope you’ll do by joining us this Friday and Saturday night at 7 pm for the theatrical debut of Le Noir d’Arthur!
All reserved seating is sold out and general admission tickets are going fast. Buy your tickets now!
(The following is Mr. Dunham’s message given at our first-ever Fall Season JV and Varsity Athletic Dinner on Friday, October 27. Team portraits by Ashley Dawn Photography.)
You may not realize it, but Socrates was a sports fan. After all, it was he who said, “No citizen has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.” As we seek to train you to be upstanding citizens, we do so mindful of the bodily benefits Socrates mentions as part of the mix. Not only do we see the benefits of physical training, we have known the joy of you seeing the beauty and strength of which you are capable, which does our hearts good as parents.
In addition to your accomplishments on the court and the field these past months, I hope you have recognized that in some ways your effort has been and will be its own reward. You have been pushed by caring coaches and you have pushed yourselves and each other not just physically, but emotionally, intellectually, and even spiritually. This is proper and good, for as Socrates said, it’s a shame for us to grow old without experiencing any of this, lest we replace true competition with only its digital counterparts. (Thankfully, once you have played the games – of soccer, of volleyball – there’s no comparison to their video versions.)
Each of you accomplished much this season. I say this because each of your teams accomplished much this season. In this, our inaugural soccer season and under the leadership of Coaches Ashley and Wilmington, we not only showed up and competed, we won – 10 of 13 games! – by way of play that was beyond expectations for a first-year, co-ed, broad age combination of student-athletes. You learned your roles and played them well, deferring to strengths and protecting weaknesses, which is what a true team – in sport or otherwise – does. You were both surprising and inspiring, not to mention a whole lot of fun to watch, and we honor you for your efforts.
Our junior varsity volleyball team rose to the occasion this year as well, going 7-3 and improving almost every game. As you know, junior varsity players, JV in any sport requires flexibility, as in addition to practicing as a team, you never know when you’re going to be on the receiving end of the practice serves and spikes from the varsity. You rarely get as much glory or time on JV, and yet because of your attitudes this year, you became better as you worked hard and earned your place in our program. Along the way, you went 7-3 and earned the respect of those you played, as well as those varsity players you played against.
And now to our varsity volleyball team, a team that has won my respect for the way you have worked to improve, play together, and play for one another. When I first met you, few overhand serves were flying (let alone getting past the net), but together and with Coach Iversen working with you in new and strange ways – wall sitting, running with basketballs over your heads, and serving and spiking at you until you didn’t know to do anything different but bump, set, and spike it back – we as parents saw you blossom into a capable and fun volleyball team to watch. You came close – oh, so close! – to a .500 season, going 6-8, but more significantly you recorded our first varsity volleyball wins ever – and six of them to boot, one for every year that you, our seniors, went without.
All of our student-athletes have benefited from the physical training this season’s sports required, because as Paul reminds us in his words to Timothy, physical training is of some value! You’re better physically than you would have been otherwise, and you’ve tested your resolve, because sports don’t build character; they test it.
You have gotten better at ordering your loves and handling your responsibilities because you’ve had to – there are only so many hours in the day! You have learned how to handle pressure on and off the court and field. You have learned how to win humbly and how to lose graciously, how to lift one another up and how to repent from dragging one another down. You have learned how to humble yourself to take instruction, and you have learned that when you don’t, the game often does it for you. These are all important lessons – not just for soccer and volleyball – but for life, and I hope you see just how much they are and can be of great value.
Take what you have learned this fall – these years at Petra for some – and continue to train yourself to be godly, for as Paul writes, “godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” Be disciplined, be humble, be hopeful, and persevere as you pursue living out the beauty and strength of which we have seen you are capable, by His grace and for His glory.
Non nobis Domine, Domine (Not unto us, O Lord, O Lord)
Non nobis Do-mi-ne (Not unto us, O Lord)
Sed nomini, sed nomini (But to Your name, but to Your name)
Tu o da gloria (May all the glory be)
This year’s fall show – Le Noir d’Arthur – is a film noir adaptation of the Arthurian legends – Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory and Idylls of the King by Alfred Lord Tennyson – our 11th grade students read. Humanities teacher Sam Koenen, having taught the story multiple times, observed that Arthurian legend would make great film noir, as all the thematic ingredients are there: an obsessive quest/case, femme fatales on both sides of the law, and a group of men who come together for a common cause but end up turning on each other. Someone just had to write it.
Enter Elsa Bentz, a current senior and a student in the class in which Mr. Koenen made his observation (not to mention an aficionado of all things 1940s). Over the summer, Elsa and I wrote the script for Le Noir d’Arthur, going through several drafts and revisions before submitting a finished copy to Mr. Dunham and Mr. Koenen for approval. Because the source material and thematic mood is very different from any other show that we have produced before, let me give you some background as you consider joining us for Le Noir d’Arthur.
Historically, film noir is considered an aesthetic type of film originally made in the mid-1940s to the mid-1950s. The term was coined by French film critics to describe a film that was bleak, dark, or cynical both in style and thematic mood. Many of the American-made films after World War II fit this description, capitalizing on the tension and distrust that followed the war. Source material included hard-boiled detective novels of the 1930s and ‘40s, with Raymond Chandler’s stories about Philip Marlowe becoming archetypes of the genre.
Cinematically, many of the films were influenced by German expressionism from the 1910s and ‘20s, including the use of gloomy gray colors, bleak city scapes, and dimly lit interiors. Stories typically revolved around a disillusioned male protagonist who is characterized by a pessimistic, gloomy, or melancholy disposition due to a past mistake, regret, or grudge. He would come into contact with a femme fatale, who would then lead him into a deepening web of deceit or trickery that would ultimately lead to their downfall. Thus, film noir was a counter-balance to the popular (but unrealistic) musical genre of films that solved every “problem like Maria” with a song.
The real question for us in writing the show was, how do we take a bleak, pessimistic film style from the ‘40s and a medieval legend about common human failures and turn it into a quality production? At Petra, our staff and students read books that point us toward truth – the truth of Christ and the truth of living in a fallen world – and our goal is to tell stories onstage that do the same thing for the audience and the actors. This play is no different, but the hard truth of Arthurian legend and film noir is that the unredeemed world is bleak and full of sin, no matter how hard we fight it. But that doesn’t make the fighting any easier or any less important; on the contrary, it makes it even more so!
In our plays, we don’t glorify sinful attitudes, behaviors, or actions onstage, so we do our best to balance the tension of maintaining integrity to the source material and play style with putting on a production Petra families will want to attend. Some aspects – like the presence of tobacco and alcohol (both of which are just props) or the death of several characters – may be off-putting to some, but to keep from glorifying these elements of the story, we’ve made specific directorial choices so the audience knows what is happening without exploiting it, much the way film noir masters Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Welles did. While these aspects of the show are hardly the primary focus of the play, we felt it important to make sure families are aware of them in order to make decisions about younger students attending.
Our drama program continues to grow with each passing year, and this show represents two big firsts:
1) It’s our first-ever fall play. By adding a second show to the school year, more students get to be a part of what we’re doing during a different time (and sports season) of the year than our spring show.
2) It’s our first (but hopefully not last!) show created in-house by/for Petra, as it was written and co-directed by one of our very own students. This has been one of my goals as a drama director/teacher from the beginning.
Buy your tickets now and come out in November for the world premiere of Le Noir d’Arthur!
My oldest daughter, a freshman studying elementary education at Montana State University, was assigned to read The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession for her EDU101 Teaching and Learning class. Making application from my previous post, I picked it up and read it over the weekend.
Plodding through 175 years of American education felt excruciating at times, not because of the research and writing (which were excellent), but because of the history and heartache chronicled (and experienced particularly by teachers).
As author Dana Goldstein summarized on page 261,
When American policy makers require every public school to use the same strategies – typically without confirming if their favored approaches are actually effective for kids – they reduce the discretion of the most motivated teachers, whose contributions to the profession should be scaled up, not shut down or ignored.
This is an age-old problem in American education reform. Our system is highly decentralized in terms of curriculum, organization, funding, and student demographics and needs, yet we have expected local schools to implement one-size-fits-all reform agendas imposed from above.
Since political reality suggests we aren’t likely to drastically centralize our education system anytime soon, perhaps it is time to look not just to nationally prominent politicians or philanthropists or social scientists to improve schools, but also to teachers themselves.”
Goldstein’s epilogue, “Lessons from History for Improving Teaching Today,” surprisingly then read as if from the playbook of an independent school. Let me share just five (there are plenty more) of her key observations/recommendations for public school improvement, with a sentence or two from me (as a headmaster of an independent school) as to why I agree:
1) Teacher pay matters. Most parents I talk with find it hard to believe that teacher salaries – public or private – are as low as they are (the median annual public school teacher salary in Bozeman is approximately $45,000; Petra’s is around $31,000). Even if one believed the lie that “teachers only work nine months out of the year,” it’s amazing how little schools – public and especially independent – are able to financially compensate those who invest so much in shaping our children.
2) Teaching communities should be able to choose their own curricula, assessments, and teacher evaluation practices. As we like to say at Petra, teachers don’t just handle our curriculum; they are our curriculum. Few care as much about what kids are learning as teachers and administrators accountable to local parents rather than state and/or federal politicians and mandates.
3) Long-serving “star” teachers often come from low-income backgrounds, graduate from non-elite colleges, and are people of faith. Mission – not pedigree – is what makes the best teachers. While training and education are important (and we believe in both), the degree that most qualifies a teacher to be in the classroom is the degree to which he or she is committed to the mission of our school. Interestingly (especially for a secular book), Goldstein remarks that people of faith make better teachers, which we would say is a result of being created in the “imago dei,” or “image of God,” who is the ultimate Teacher.
4) Tests should be returned to their role as educational diagnostic tools, not educational funding metrics. Thankfully, this one is (finally) getting some notice as leading education researchers (not to mention any teacher worth his salt) will tell you that, as Goldstein writes, “…the most authentic use of achievement tests is to diagnose what students know and can do so teachers can better target instruction toward them.” I’ve written on this before, so for Petra’s particular take on testing, click here.
5) Be real about the limitations of the public system. And, I would add, any systems (including independent ones) that try too hard or are depended on too much to somehow replace the family or the Church. “We consistently expect teachers and schools to close achievement gaps and panic when they fail to do so,” wrote Goldstein, “but we do not provide families with the full range of social supports children need to thrive.” This can be just as true of independent schools as public ones, yet we must ideally function only “in loco parentis” – “in the place of” (not “in place of”) parents.
Some issues are no respecter of schools, public or independent. Kudos to Dana Goldstein for writing a book The New York Times called “meticulously fair and disarmingly balanced,” as well as to Montana State University for including it in their freshman education curriculum.
According to the educational website, Edutopia,
Parent involvement is the number one predictor of early literacy success and future academic achievement.”
But, according to the Pew Research Center,
About a quarter of American adults (26%) say they haven’t read a book in whole or in part in the past year, whether in print, electronic, or audio form.”
We all intuitively know that reading – to our kids, in front of our kids – benefits our kids. But we also all experientially know that reading requires time and energy – two commodities we as parents too easily believe we possess in too small amounts.
Perhaps we do better reading books in the summer when the schedule seems lighter and the days longer. And yet, if we aren’t reading consistently ourselves (and especially during the school year), how will we convince our kids of this supposedly important habit, both in their studies now as well as later for the long-term?
This weekend, I began reading Jackson J. Spielvogel’s Western Civilization, the excellent history textbook our secondary students use all through their 7th-12th grade years. My daughters (all of whom had weekend reading assignments in Spielvogel) noticed my seemingly strange selection as they walked by me lying on the couch, and wondered out loud why I was reading their textbook on a Saturday night.
Before I could answer, they each mentioned how much they themselves liked Spielvogel’s text and how it helped them anchor in the timeline of history the many original source novels and essays we read. This, of course, is exactly how our teachers intend the book to be used, but it was nice hearing my kids’ explanation of our pedagogy (the method and practice of teaching) and how it helped them learn.
(Candidly, it was also nice to feel like I was doing something – i.e. reading the same book they were – that communicated interest in their lives and what they are learning. And, I learned and re-learned quite a bit about the ancient world of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and classical Greece.)
At all levels of our curriculum, our students read plenty of great books. As parents, why not read some with them? In lower elementary, learn some phonograms with your little ones; in the upper elementary, jump in on a chapter book every now and then, or read along in Susan Wise Bauer’s The Story of the World history series.
If you have a student in the secondary, ask him for the booklist this year (we’ve already handed out all his books) and get started on a novel or essay now that he’ll read later in the year. Last year, I intentionally chose to read Moby Dick with my senior, but as I knew it would take me longer to read than her, I gave myself a couple months of extra lead time and finished just before she did. On the several occasions at the dinner table she shared what had been discussed in class and her thoughts concerning it, I could engage genuinely, which meant a lot to me and, I think, to her.
Forsake the “all or nothing” mentality that paralyzes so many of us (dads especially) and pick a book or two to read with your student this semester. Our kids – regardless of age or grade – will take note of our efforts and benefit as we model (even sporadically and imperfectly) this important tool and discipline of learning.
The following four-minute video debuted at Parent Orientation, with the text taken from Mr. Dunham’s “One-of-a-Kind and of One Mind” address to parents.
There isn’t one parent here who doesn’t want the fruits of classical Christian education listed in the video for your child:
We are of one mind here, which is why we are here. As Petra parents:
– we’re finished with academic education that doesn’t contribute to a student’s physical, emotional, and spiritual experience;
– we’re done with curriculum that does not teach the biblical story of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation, tying all subjects together and giving them meaning;
-we’re through fighting trial-and-error educational progressivism, test-driven curricula, and no particular moral end in mind.
Instead, we’re of one mind in pursuing this one-of-a-kind classical Christian education as our desired means to the best of ends for our kids. We intend for them to engage with the best books, impassioned teachers, and most beautiful school culture possible.
Prior to the school year’s start, our staff invested good and profitable time learning and preparing to cultivate in our students four key faculties of flourishing, as presented by Academic Dean Sam Koenen:
1) Attentiveness. We become what we behold because we are worshiping beings. 2 Corinthians 3:18 describes this reality: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” We want to call our kids to study with rigor, defined as “being able to pay close and extended attention to that which is studied.”
2) Memory. The ability of students to access what they have learned in the past so they know how to live in the present is crucial to their success. Memory has always been an essential attribute of God’s people (consider the theme of Deuteronomy: “remember, remember, remember”), and is therefore an important element of our curriculum and pedagogy.
3) Imitation. We are made in the image of God and are called to act as he does – in imitation of the truth, goodness, and beauty of his word and his work in the world. How do students learn this at school? Through our teachers, who do not just handle our curriculum; they are our curriculum.
4) Harmony. Helping students recognize and resolve discord in their character is important for helping them do the same in resolving discord in the world. To learn to love and live at peace with God, man, and themselves is how human flourishing happens.
Ours is a one-of-a-kind education, and we want to be of one mind concerning it. We invite you to get informed, to stay involved, and to pray for our little school as we seek to instill these four characteristics in your students – not only for themselves, but for the flourishing of humanity and the renown of Jesus the Christ.
The following is an excerpt from Mr. Dunham’s opening message, “Clinging to Calling: Vocation for the Here and Now,” at this week’s Faculty & Staff Orientation.
What does calling look like in the classroom? In our context, a faculty member who has embraced his or her calling takes the following approach:
– He or she is always prepping. I’m not just talking lesson plans and seating charts (though those are important); I mean being spiritually ready to do what needs to be done. If your heart is unprepared to love students, if your sin is unconfessed, if your Bible is not read, if your prayers are not prayed, what is it that you are bringing to your role? The only answer you’re left with is yourself, and none of us are that good. Doug Wilson, in a message given at this year’s Logos Summer Teacher Training, said, “Everything going on at your school is going to have something to do with everyone’s walk with God.” How will your walk with God affect Petra Academy?
– He or she is mindful of mimesis. Mimesis is the modeling of – not just teaching – an ideal. The degree to which you are virtuous in your approach is the degree to which you can teach virtue – otherwise, the hypocrisy is too great. If I am going to teach my 8th graders the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control), my approach in doing so cannot consist of the opposite (hate, despair, turmoil, exasperation, rudeness, evil, harshness, infidelity, and unrestraint). Can you imagine being taught by someone like this? This is hypocrisy in its worst form.
– He or she explains the “meta-.” “Meta-” is the sense of the “why” to go with the “what” and the “how”. If we can’t answer why we’re teaching something, we should stop teaching it until we can. There is much value in pulling back with our students and reminding them of the “why” of “what” and “how” we’re doing, of showing them the box cover of the puzzle that goes with all the pieces they’re trying to put together. Simply put: the “why” of the “what” and “how” matters.
– He or she pursues relationship. As faculty, we must have a ministry of presence as we relate to our students. Teaching is hard, but it doesn’t have to be harder than it needs to be; much of it is simply doing the things our favorite teachers did – listening to students, taking them seriously, imparting them with truth, goodness, and beauty, and loving them unconditionally along the way.
The degree that most qualifies you for our mission is not from any college or university; it is your degree of commitment that matters most:
“Recognizing our need for God’s grace, Petra Academy strives to awaken love and wonder in our students by teaching to observe with humility, think with reason, and articulate with charity for the flourishing of humanity and the renown of Jesus the Christ.”
Jesus’ words in Luke 16:10 are still true: “He who is faithful with very little will be faithful with much.”
Let us cling to this calling in the hope of being so faithful.
We look forward to seeing you at Petra Academy this fall! School officially begins on Tuesday, September 5, but there are several important happenings across August of which to be aware:
– Tuesday, August 1, 3:45 p.m. is our monthly Board Meeting in the Petra Library (the Board took July off, as we do every year). Watch for your packet arriving via email.
– Monday, August 14 begins our 5th-12th grade girls volleyball (3:45 p.m.) and 7th-12th grade boys soccer (8 a.m. and 3:45 p.m.) Questions? Contact Athletic Director Tyler Ashley.
– Tuesday, August 15 is the deadline for families who elect to pay semi-annually or annually.
– Saturday, August 19, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. is our annual Petra Work Day. Petra families are invited to join members of our Admin Team in repairing all the vole and gopher holes in our playground, as well as trimming up the willow trees along Cottonwood. Bring wheelbarrows, shovels, trimmers, gloves, water, and a lunch; we’ll provide donuts, orange juice, and coffee!
– Wednesday, August 30, 7-8:30 p.m. is Petra Parent Orientation. All parents – new and returning – are requested to attend this important gathering to meet and connect together.
– Thursday, August 31, 1-3 p.m. is our Elementary Meet the Teacher PreK-6th grade students (with their parents) are invited to visit their classrooms and meet their teachers before school starts. (Note: Classrooms assignments will be sent by August 15.)
– Thursday, August 31, 1-3 p.m. is our Secondary Locker Setup Secondary students are invited to outfit the inside of their lockers before school starts.
Downloadable school forms and supply lists for 2017-18 are here.
Petra’s offices will remain open Tuesdays-Thursdays from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. throughout August. (Important note: Staff Orientation will be taking place Monday-Wednesday, August 28-30, from 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., during which staff will be unavailable without an appointment outside of those times.)
Finally, CTP test results and Petra Academy yearbooks will be available for pick-up in our office beginning Tuesday, August 1. New and returning families, be sure to grab your new Griffin car decals when you come in!
We look forward to seeing you soon as part of Petra Academy’s 22nd year.
PS: If you have not yet signed your tuition agreement or paid fees, please do so no later than August 15. Questions? Contact Business Manager Tosha Bos.
One of the joys of summer (apart from the school year ending, of course) is the opportunity to walk back through the past nine months and thank God for His blessings, for they are many.
Academically, we saw students at every level work hard, embracing the curricular challenges presented within each new grade and seeking to understand what our teachers so passionately attempted to present and inculcate. Our new Upper School Lyceum presentations from faculty contributed to the weekly intellectual stimulation, as did the many Grammar School field trips and educational festivals highlighting different aspects of our world. We witnessed the manifestation of fruit from our academic endeavors at each Recitation (Grammar and Upper School), by the expression of creative projects hanging on the walls, in the conversations and discussions engaged in in the classrooms (and, I’m told, at dinner tables everywhere), and through our Upper School Thesis presentations – all culminating in our Senior Commencement at the end of the year, in which we graduated 10 students we loved very much.
Artistically, we witnessed the deeper establishment of our music program with our new 4th-6th grade Orchestra joining our dynamic 4th-8th grade Choir for two wonderful Schola Cantorum concerts. We studied many and varied forms of visual art, and learned some of the history of each along the way. We dedicated a full two days to our Upper School Shakespeare Festival, extending our love for the Bard down into our Grammar school in partnership with Montana Shakespeare in the Parks and their Montana Shakes! week-long program in which over 40 of our 3rd-6th graders participated. Our Upper School students participated in our first-ever Film Festival and studied three stunning films from Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Decalogue project. And, we took a big step in our Drama program, producing a custom version of the theatrical favorite, Meet Me in St. Louis, complete with rousing song and dance numbers performed in front of record attendance numbers – our first foray into the wonderful world of the onstage musical.
Athletically, it was a banner year of spirit and accomplishment: we saw continued improvement at all four levels of our volleyball program, turned in our best JV basketball record to date of 10-3, and won our third state championship in five years in Ultimate Frisbee. Most importantly, we saw the beginnings of an actual fan base – of students K-12 (and their families) attending and cheering on our Griffin teams because they were our own. Our new line of Griffin Gear helped unify our look, and Spirit Days and our new Contio Spiritus pep rallies each month gave expression to our newly-cultivated school spirit.
Of course, if we’re talking spirit, there were our traditional feasts for Reformation/All Saints’ Day, Advent, and Easter, as well as yet another beautiful morning for Field Day, all of which added to the fun. We installed the first elements of our new Grammar playground (with more still to come), our 3rd-6th graders took history on parade, our 7th-12th graders learned about etiquette (and looked great doing so) at Protocol, and we loved hosting our elders for Grandparents’ Day. Finally, our Upper School house system competed – athletically, dramatically, academically, and musically – throughout the year, and we were all reminded of – maybe even surprised by! – the unity fostered by the houses when we retired them for summer at our year-end closing awards ceremony, where we celebrated each other’s accomplishments and cried a tear or two at a powerful slide show summarizing 2016-17.
Administratively, we celebrated our freedom to educate students the way we do during School Choice Week, welcomed dozens of school leaders from other parts of Montana interested in what we were doing, and secured another five-year accreditation from our accrediting body of the Association of Classical and Christian Schools. We improved systems (most significantly being online registration), welcomed new Board members, and attempted to lead humbly and with care for each and every student and family. We sought to own our shortcomings and failures, asked forgiveness and took responsibility for what we could or needed to, and worked to view issues as opportunities to get better. Most importantly, we sought God’s Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, and remain ever-grateful for what we discern to be His gracious response to us.
Thanks be to God…for 2016-17, and for everything.