fbpx

Learning to Celebrate (in) Our New Normal

by Maureen Crone

When Jack, a Trinity second-grader who is attending school online this year, learned that our annual “Fall Into Fun” celebration was happening this month, he was as excited as every other student to participate in the event. His teacher wasn’t about to let him miss out, either.

 

Trinity’s second grade is a lively group of 15 in-class students plus Jack, who attends via a live video feed each day. Almost every teacher at Trinity has at least one online student in addition to a classroom of in-person learners. Including these children in everyday social interactions, an important part of a child’s education, has been a challenge that teachers have met in different and wonderful ways. Rather than strip down the curriculum to academics-only material for online learners, teachers are using technology, imagination, collaboration, and faith to ensure that their mission to nurture the development of the whole child is accomplished.

 

School traditions have always been a big part of our students’ learning journey, and provide many meaningful opportunities to interact with the community of families and friends who have attended Trinity. This year, we have had to re-imagine some traditions; some have been put on hold until we can gather safely in person. The Lion’s Share Breakfast will have to wait until next November. Our beloved Lessons and Carols holiday service will also wait until social distance measures are no longer necessary. Meanwhile, the ingenuity of faculty, parents, and students has enabled us to celebrate some traditions differently this year, but with no less enthusiasm. The weekly chapel service music has been repurposed from singing to dancing– often, with costumes. Our Christmas program will include 60 student actors and singers– but they’ll be recorded one at a time, and layered together for a video production to remember. Other events have been postponed with the hope that maybe we’ll be able to schedule them in the spring.

 

For now, though, we’re traveling through this school year focused on safety and with a community dedicated to inclusion. “Fall into Fun” turned into an afternoon of games, costumes, and treats all delivered to individual classrooms rather than the usual schoolwide carnival.

 

 Jack was there, too. He joined the class on Zoom with his camera off. He wrote and read three clues to the class about his costume. They wrote their guesses on index cards, and then shared them with Jack. Finally, it was time for the big reveal! Everyone received a prize for playing, and continued the celebration together. 

 

And for the rest of this year, that’s our plan… finding a new normal, together.

 

Maureen Crone is the marketing and development director at Trinity.

Going Gaga With Giving

 

by Maureen Crone

 

When Nate Baker considered what he wanted to do for his Eagle Scout project this year, his first thought was of Trinity Lutheran School. A 2018 graduate of Trinity, Nate is now a junior at Smithfield High School and is also enrolled in the Governor’s School STEM program. His mom, Ellen, is the school’s library resource teacher, and his two younger brothers attend Trinity. 

 

Nate has been an active member of the Boy Scouts since he was seven years old, so achieving the title of Eagle Scout has been in his sights for a while. The Eagle Scout project is the pinnacle of any boy’s scouting experience. Its purpose– to demonstrate leadership of others while benefiting one’s community– has been illustrated by thousands of helpful contributions to communities around the world by local teens. Nate used his previous experience with construction projects (he built a treehouse for his family a few years ago) and his memories of being a student at Trinity to guide his decision. “I remember that the playground (at Trinity) didn’t have a lot to offer. We played a LOT of ‘tag’! And I wanted to do something that would be durable, that could be enjoyed by students of all ages.”

 

His creation of a Gaga ball pit checks all boxes. Gaga ball, for those of us who are not up-to-date on playground trends, is a kinder, gentler version of dodgeball played with a soft foam ball. Nate and his crew of volunteers built the walls for the pit at his home. They brought the pieces to Trinity on a sunny Saturday afternoon for assembly. Beyond the gratification of making something lasting for his old school, he said “the opportunity to work with a group of friends and volunteers was awesome.”

 

The fellowship shared during the construction of this playground improvement is echoed every day at school in the shouts and laughter of Gaga ball competitors. This is one Eagle Scout project that has improved a school community for years to come. 

 

Maureen Crone is the director of marketing and development at Trinity Lutheran School.

Good Thoughts From Mr. Goetz– It’s Good to Have a Plan

Jack be nimble, Jack be quick… this nursery rhyme has been going through our minds all summer at Trinity as we prepare and revise our plans for the coming school year. As guidelines are made available, Trinity adds to our plan, always understanding that flexibility is key. 

 

Knowledge is power. Science is our guide. And safety is our top priority, for our students as well as our staff. 

 

While we are still collecting data and input from authorities, we do have specific measures in place I am able to share with certainty. It is my hope that the knowledge of these specific measures will help all of our Trinity families fill in your mental  picture of what the next school year will look like.

 

  • Trinity Lutheran Church and School will be disinfected daily, thanks to the purchase of a Clorox Electrostatic Sprayer. This commercial machine is capable of eliminating germs and viral particles in large areas in a matter of minutes. We also have portable sprayers which will allow us to disinfect school buses immediately after use. We will also use more conventional methods of maximizing air flow by opening windows and taking classes outside when possible.

 

  • Masks will be required for all staff, faculty, students, and visitors. Students will be allowed to take “mask breaks” when appropriate throughout the day, under the guidance and supervision of their teachers.

 

  • Recently the CDC reduced the recommended distance for desk space from 6 feet to 3 feet. To the maximum extent possible, our classrooms will allow for a distance of 6 feet between desks. In some cases, such as the science lab, this may not be possible. 

 

  • Bus transportation will continue, with the added safety measures of twice-a-day disinfecting of vehicles. Masks are required for all passengers, and distancing among passengers will be implemented as much as possible.

 

  • We established an entryway protocol during our summer camp season that will continue for the school year. All students and staff  will undergo a temperature check and will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms either in their cars (for students) or at the door (for faculty and staff). Parents will also be asked to screen their students at home before departing for school.

 

  • Students will learn in a more insulated environment this year, with limited movement throughout the building. Learning communities (or “pods”, if you’ve heard that term lately)  of students and teachers will remain in their respective classrooms all day, including lunchtime. Recess will always be a big part of the school day at Trinity! But instead of the entire lower school going outside together, each class will go out separately in order to give our students plenty of space at recess. 

 

  • In the event of a possible exposure to COVID-19 or a probable case of COVID-19 in our school community, we will work quickly and collectively to notify all families and staff with information and next-step guidelines. 

 

We are all in this together. We are here for each other to learn, but also to hold each other up in times of stress and uncertainty. Please know that your priority and mine are the same: the well-being of our children and school community. Trinity’s plan to start a safe school year together will be adapted as needed, but we will always put our families first.

Kevin Goetz is Trinity’s Head of School.

5 Resources to help in having the conversation about Black Lives Matter with your kids

by Ellen Baker and Maureen Crone

Dear parents,

This summer we have been presented with an opportunity to teach our kids about the
history of race relations in America. We have learning tools at our fingertips, delivered
every day in our news feed. It can be overwhelming… but it can also be a gift.
Here are a few helpful resources to get you started.

1. The Embrace Race website has a host of articles to help parents get started, or
keep going, as we continue the learning process and work to end racial injustice
in our country. The important thing to remember is that it is never too late to
start– but the earlier, the better, as stated on their site:

“Research from Harvard University suggests that children as young
as three years old, when exposed to racism and prejudice, tend to
embrace and accept it, even though they might not understand the feelings.
By age 5, white children are strongly biased towards whiteness. To counter
this bias, experts recommend acknowledging and naming race and racism
with children as early and as often as possible. Children’s books are one of
the most effective and practical tools for initiating these critical
conversations; and they can also be used to model what it means to resist
and dismantle oppression. “

2. Books like “Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial
Injustice” by Marianne Celano can spark a conversation about fairness, and can
help your children identify and counter racial injustice in their own lives. The New
York Times curated a book list for parents of young children to encourage
discussion about the current unrest, as well as the history of racial inequity in our
country.

3. This radio interview with child psychologist Beverly Daniel Tatum addresses the
worries children have, and how parents can help.

4. This article in the Massachusetts newspaper Patriot Ledger addresses the Black
Lives Matter movement, what children are thinking about right now, and how to
help them turn their fear into understanding.

5. This book list published by Embrace Race features titles for children of all ages,
with lengthy descriptions of each title. Additionally, the Thomas Crane Public
Library has published reading lists for both children and adults on race and
racism, and will be discussing some during their weekly book chats. For more
information and resources, visit http://facebook.com/pg/tcplibrary/ or contact
Clayton Cheever at ccheever@ocln.org.

Many of these books are available on Trinity’s Virtual Book Fair site, or in your local
library.

Have the conversation.

Ellen Baker is the Trinity Lutheran School librarian.
Maureen Crone is the director of marketing and development at Trinity.

The Most Important Thing Students Need During COVID

We’ve all seen some amazing acts of love and kindness from teachers lately– both at Trinity, and across Virginia. Parades, Zoom parties, and virtual music class are just a few of the novelties that come to mind. It turns out that these gestures have a much bigger impact for good than just making a child’s day, though.

Let’s face it– we are four months into the most bizarre, terrifying, and unstable year the modern world has seen. And while the adults of Planet Earth are working tirelessly to problem-solve, heal, help, and mitigate, our children are suddenly suspended in a strange new world of their own. According to a recent report by UNESCO, over 90% of the world’s children– almost 1.6 billion–have been sent home from school for the remainder of the year. In the United States, 75% of school-aged children are now at home.

There is already hope for the future, both near and long-term, for education in America, although it will doubtless look much like it did back in September. Still, signs of a new educational model are emerging. But what about now? Although plans are already underway at every level to map out the future of education– from stepped-up hygiene practices and  small class sizes to a continued emphasis on remote learning–it is important to take note of the impact this moment has on our children. How is this closure on such a massive scale going to impact our students– both next year, and beyond?

A recent NPR article focused on the effect of long-term school closures on children, specifically those in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. After the hurricane devastated the region, schools did not re-open for an entire semester. Many students did without any instruction or interaction with their teachers at all. The result? Those students who were “behind” the curve were dealt a blow that took years to recover from. Inequalities in the classroom are magnified without continuous instruction, and extremely challenging to overcome.

This grim scenario does have a hopeful ending, though. Studies at the Harvard Graduate School of Education  showed that regular interaction between teachers and students through episodes of extreme social disruption does more than just continue the lessons. It has the ability to offset enormous stress for children, bolster confidence and security, and encourage positive communication strategies.

So, for parents and teachers at Trinity Lutheran School, this is good news. The online instruction, Zoom meetings, and virtual chapel services are serving our students in more ways than one. Our teachers seemed to know right away that the connection between teacher and student is the most important element of education– that’s the thing that motivates and empowers, that instills the confidence to tackle hard things, that instills a love of learning. With this connection intact, we are learning together and moving forward. This truly is what “educating hearts and minds” looks like.

Maureen Crone is the marketing and development director at Trinity Lutheran School, and the mom of two really good digital students who connect with their teachers every day.

Good Thoughts From Mr. Goetz: Emilio’s Legacy

 

This is the time of year when schools across the country usually start their “home stretch”. The weather warms up. Recess gets a little more joyful. And the oldest students start to look out the window a little more often, daydreaming of what comes next. Trinity’s eighth grade class has had a lot to process in the past few years, and this year’s ending is not what they thought it would be. I’ve been thinking about how strange and anticlimactic this school year ending must be for our eighth graders. I’ve been reminded, too, of one student we lost who would have graduated this year, and how that loss impacts our current students even now. I’m  very thankful, though, that we were able to celebrate the life of this very special student just before our transition away from the building and into online instruction.

 

 We held our second annual  Emilio’s Fun Run on Friday, March 6th in the gym. All of our students from preschool through eighth grade participated. While our younger students were filled with excitement and school spirit to be a part of this weeklong event, I know that for our soon-to-be grads, our faculty, and for me, this run was about celebrating a boy’s life, and reminding ourselves that we can all make a difference for the better.

 

Emilio was just a 6th grade student when he was diagnosed with cancer in February 2018.  He passed away, surrounded by his family, later that year. He was a gentle soul who was a  friend to everyone he met, and who excelled in his academics. He was also a gifted runner, leading Trinity’s cross country team as both a 5th and 6th grader.  He loved the outdoors, and was participating in Coach Butler’s Outdoor Education program at the time of his diagnosis.  

 

As a community, we wanted to honor Emilio for all of his special traits, so we started a  scholarship fund in his name. Our first Emilio’s Fun Run was held in March 2019, and raised enough money to award a full academic scholarship for one deserving student.  As luck would have it, that student came from Emilio’s own class– Trinity’s Class of 2020.

 

Through the overwhelming support of Trinity families and friends, this year’s Fun Run was another success for Emilio’s scholarship fund. Our students and their families raised almost $10,000. As we move forward, we will again offer either a full scholarship for the 2020-21 school year or several partial scholarships.

 

 You hear a lot about 2020, or 20/20…about 20/20 vision, and hindsight, being perfect, for example. This year’s students of 2020 have nothing certain ahead of them, though, at least for the short term. So I am taking a moment to look back, where things look clear. I see a young man who didn’t know that his legacy was to provide scholarship aid to future students at his school. I see families who decided to honor and celebrate his life every year, even though they did not know him personally. I see a community that has held each other together for six decades. When I look back at all this, I can then turn my gaze forward. And I see hope, in all of you. 

 

Thank you, Emilio.

Trinity’s Head of School shares his insights and perspectives in “Good Thoughts From Mr. Goetz.”

5 Things for Parents to Remember During COVID-19

The following is an excerpt from a letter sent to parents by an elementary school principal. Although its author cannot be verified, this message has been shared thousands of times in the past few days. We at Trinity Lutheran School feel that this message of hope and encouragement is an important one for all of us.

This is my advice for those who have been thrust into schooling your kids at home due to the coronavirus COVID-19 shutdowns. You are NOT homeschooling. You are CRISIS schooling. Crisis schooling is stressful and even trauma-inducing. Being at home all day is NOT our normal! Our kids are not used to being in their houses all day long. Children are grieving right now. Out of the blue, they lost a lot. It is wonderful that so many classes are going online, but it’s not the same. They lost their in-person time with friends, their daily routine and the predictability of life that gives us security. We all did.

1. HONOR that grief process! Don’t expect to just jump into a perfect program and learn, learn, learn. Expect them to act out. Expect them to not want to get out of bed. Expect them to not have words to express their inner turmoil.

2. YOU are grieving and experiencing loss. Give yourself a lot of GRACE! Even some of us veterans in education are struggling because our security has been yanked from under our feet. Some of you have lost jobs. Those who are working are afraid of going out. Some of you have been to 5 grocery stores and still do not have what you need. Our society has been turned upside down. Give yourself a break.

3. It is okay to NOT be amazing. Don’t try to be Pinterest Homeschool Mom/Dad of the Year. From experience, I can tell you, something always “gives”, no matter how perfect people pretend to be. When you have 18 kids in a class, it takes a lot of time to get all of them to turn to page 32, take out pencils, get their paper, stop pulling their friend’s hair. There are natural distractions with a big class that do not happen in a small one. You will get done fast!

4. Don’t artificially create busywork to do for 6 hours a day. That will anger and bore your child, and make you tear your hair out. When you’re done, you’re done! Go do some fun things! Or… even crazier… have fun learning! If your school did not give you loads of worksheets, be glad. Now you can read lots of literature and do hands-on learning! There is a lot of learning that does not end in a worksheet. Read, read,read!

5. Get crazy and ask your kids what they are interested in– and then learn about that! If your child thinks the solar system is really cool, then read about the solar system, look up YouTube videos about it, do projects about it, making it fun and engaging. If you do that, your day will fly by… and you’ll still be learning.
Life will go on even if you are not stellar during a worldwide crisis. Maybe your best today will be to cuddle up with the kids and just be together. Maybe your best today is that everyone is fed and you didn’t cry in front of them. It’s okay, and even necessary, to be REAL with yourself about what’s happening. A bomb did not literally go off, but metaphorically it did. Our lives may never be the same after this. If you crumble, honor that. I promise you, your child will learn. We learn from all of life! Blessings and love to all of the parents who are taking on this huge challenge! Give yourself grace! You got this!! I believe in you! I have seen parents work miracles in schooling their children.

Distance Learning is a Team Effort– Teaching During the COVID-19 Pandemic

As the coronavirus pandemic has shuttered schools across the country, teachers have transformed their plans in every way in order to provide continuous learning for their students. Trinity’s preschool team has responded to this change with communication, ideas and  resources for parents. Although this message is written for parents of youngsters, its message is relevant for parents of all ages…

 

Dear Parents,

We are working hard from home to provide you with appropriate content and to keep our curriculum running–albeit in a different way than we all expected.  We are learning new things and trying new strategies everyday. Some work better than others. Please understand that this is as new to us as it is to you.  Have patience as we navigate these uncharted waters together.

 

One thing we are hearing from parents is a desire for a schedule.we want to assure you that we do NOT expect you to replicate an entire school day while at home.  Working one-on-one with students is much different than working with a classroom full of students. Your child will probably complete their daily assignments at a faster pace when working one-on-one with you at home, and there will be less time needed to transition from one activity to another.  That means your school day will be shorter, which is perfectly fine! Even when we are at school we take “brain breaks” to allow children some down time. Worksheets and flashcards are okay once in a while, but it is not “best practice” to have 4-5 year olds sitting at a desk all day and moving from one structured activity to another.  We do not do it at school, and we would not want you to do it at home.  

 

Use snack and lunch times to teach.  We do it every day at school. You can count, compare, and sort your snacks.  You can make patterns. Or you can just talk and make connections to things you’ve been learning.  Use these times to model good manners such as sitting down while eating, chewing with your mouth closed, taking turns to talk, and cleaning up after yourself.  Some of our best interactions at school happen during snack and lunch!

 

All of that being said, we want you to plan to have some time during your day where your children are just “being children.”  Allow them the opportunity to explore things on their own, experiment and socialize. If your child has a sibling, encourage interactions between them, and try not to  direct things for them. Children need time to play freely and use their verbal skills and problem solving skills on their own.  

 

If your child does not have siblings, learning to play independently is important too.  While you can sometimes be your child’s playmate, be sure that when you are, you are teaching and modeling appropriate and realistic social interactions.  For example, do not always let your child go first or win at a game. That is not how things work in the “real world,” so let them learn that now. When playing with your child, allow for your child to be uncomfortable with new things and do not rush in to fix problems for them or make things easier.  Children need to learn how to handle frustrations appropriately and navigate obstacles independently.  

 

We are all learning those same lessons ourselves, aren’t we?  This distance learning situation comes with some obstacles. We are trying to navigate through them with our families as well.  Be patient with us, and just as importantly, be patient with yourselves. We will figure our way through this together.

 

Mrs. Lebel and Mrs. Topping are the Pre-K teachers at Trinity Lutheran School.

The Building is Closed, But the Learning Continues– Trinity Goes Digital

Trinity teachers are engaging in online instruction now through March 27 in response to the coronavirus health crisis. This is a whole new world for some of our faculty, while for others (mostly upper school teachers) digital tools have been part of the curriculum for some time already.

So, how did we get here? As usual with Trinity, our community of support is strong and constant. Immediately upon receiving news that school closures could be a possibility, our Head of School, Kevin Goetz, communicated with school leaders across the region. This close communication has been very helpful for everyone to create a plan of action that will benefit the biggest possible group, while keeping public health  the top priority.

Teachers at Trinity began researching, collaborating, and sharing resources for digital instruction. We leaned in and asked for guidance from other schools whose teachers have been using “digital learning days” as part of their instruction. We are giving parents and students resources too, so that they can create a new normal at home and continue the school experience for their children.

We count on our own parents, too, to help us provide guidance and leadership to our families. Parents who work in the health care field have been instrumental in helping us communicate messages that are clear, consistent, and up-to-date.

Beginning this week, all students will receive digital instruction from their teachers. This looks different from one grade to another, but across every classroom we will be as committed to the education of each child as ever before. While upper school students will rely on their Chromebooks, younger children may engage in virtual story time or visits to museums. Athletic director Sandy Butler has plenty of online lessons for P.E. for every grade level, too!

It will be a while before we’re all back in the school building again– but we are still Trinity, and still together. Thanks to our community of support,we got this.

Maureen Crone is Trinity’s marketing and development director.

Celebrating Trinity’s 60 Years… Reflections from a Head of School

By Lynne Fritzinger

 

For me, Trinity has always been a place where children are inspired to learn and thrive as individuals; it is a place filled with young people who care about each other and who work together to make the world a better place. Trinity has proven its worth and weathered the test of time.  It has flourished because of its recognition of the needs of the world and a commitment to fill those needs. This was first seen in the 1960’s when there was a need for kindergarten opportunities, and again in the 1970’s when there was a need for a middle school environment. It continues to be seen now as young people need a compass on values, a place to prepare for the 21st Century, and an understanding of their role as world leaders. 

 I know no better place for young people to learn than Trinity Lutheran School.  I am grateful for my 10 years as Head of School and that my grandson now a student at this thriving institution. During my time at Trinity, we accomplished so many great things! Looking back, here are a few of our accomplishments:

  • In 2011, Trinity became the only private school in Virginia to bear the distinction of being an authorized International Baccalaureate World School. Our journey added life into how we viewed young people and what they needed to succeed in the 21st Century.   I loved opportunities to connect with other schools during IB Conferences and our own staff to implement this program.  By participating in IB, we continued Trinity’s mission to teach the whole child.
  • Also in 2011, Trinity competed with other elementary, middle and high schools in Virginia and North Carolina to create a video for Harris Teeter’s jingle, and we won the $10,000 Grand Prize!  Thanks to Google, that video can still be seen. When I look back at the students who performed and the talent of music teacher Mrs. Lois Reese I can’t help but feel enormous pride. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMyLyvlxRjQ     
  • In 2013, Trinity Lutheran School forged another pathway to greatness through accreditation with AdvancED/Cognia, the world’s largest educational network encompassing 27,000 public and private schools throughout the United States and 69 countries worldwide. AdvancED/Cognia remains the most comprehensive accrediting institution for schools worldwide to this day.
  • Other memorable events that left lasting impressions and made Trinity a special place to be were the Charity games, Lessons and Carols, spelling bees, and even the infamous taping of the Head of School to the gym wall. They represent the people, mission, and climate of this very special school.  
  •  As my time at Trinity came to an end in 2015, our school was recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence.  This distinguished award highlighted Trinity as an exemplary, high-performing school with student achievement in the top 15% nationwide in both math and reading.
  • Trinity also embarked on innovative ways to learn based on compelling research and a commitment to unleash the potential in every student here.  Some of my favorites are still in use today, including the SuperKids Reading Program and Singapore Math.

I’m proud of all that was accomplished over the years while I served as Trinity’s Head of School. It felt like we continued the vision started so long ago by Reverend and Mrs. Bosserman.  

One of my favorite books is “The Purpose-Driven Life” by Rick Warren; I kept a copy on my desk at Trinity. When I think about my time there, I am reminded of a quote that illustrates the difference Trinity Lutheran School has made for so many over the years. 

“There are three things you can do with your life: You can waste it, you can spend it, or you can invest it. The best use of your life is to invest it in something that will last longer than your time on Earth.”  

 Trinity has done just that for me, and for generations of young people who pass through its doors. 

 

Lynne Fritzinger served as Trinity’s Head of School from 2005 to 2015, and is a proud Trinity grandparent.

X