Monthly Archives: February 2012

Payment Enough

I recently turned a year older which is better than the alternative. My First Love of a class always surprises me with a gift for my birthday which I don’t deserve. These poor souls got the very worst of me as I was green and quite stupid but oh so excited about teaching sixth grade.

I remember standing in front of them the first day of school thinking that I was going to faint or puke before the school day would end! I remember the love they shared with me right away so that I was their teacher from the first day of school. I remember the day I was reviewing third person singular pronouns when I very accidentally and very clearly ran two of the pronouns together to make one profane word and all the class heard me. I remember our Camp Laurence Day when the rain came uninvited and made our fun day even better. I remember our trip to the Harvest House and our trip to the Tyler Zoo. I remember the day that I had to deliver some very sad and very grown-up news to my First Love. I remember sharing our small room with two other teachers and a piano! I remember laughing until tears streamed down my face because of an utterly ridiculous story told to the class by one red-head. I remember our trip to SFA to watch “Huck Finn.” I remember smiling a lot and worrying even more about ruining every last one of them. I remember our End of School Party where I stood before my more mature sixth graders and cried because I hated to see them leave me.

My First sixth grade class always remembers my birthday and they treat me with such tenderness and love that I can truly say that they are payment enough.

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“Johnny Tremain” Day

It was costume day in the 5th grade!

After finishing reading Johnny Tremain, a historical novel set during the Revolutionary War, the fifth grade, led by their teacher Ruth Hoffmann, dressed up as characters from the story and did research projects on famous men from that era.

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Sayers Sets the Stage

One of the most persistently influential voices for classical Christian education has been Dorothy Sayers. Mrs. Sayers was a renowned writer, essayist, translator, and student of classical and medieval languages. Her 1947 Oxford lecture “The Lost Tools of Learning” has had a powerful influence on the classical school movement of which Regents Academy is a part.  It is an absolute necessity that every parent read and consider Sayers’ words. You can easily find the essay online. I am quoting a section of it here for you to whet your appetite (if you have not read it) or to refresh your mind (if you have).

Here, in brief, is the essence of what we mean by “classical.”

Is not the great defect of our education today–a defect traceable through all the disquieting symptoms of trouble that I have mentioned–that although we often succeed in teaching our pupils “subjects,” we fail lamentably on the whole in teaching them how to think: they learn everything, except the art of learning. It is as though we had taught a child, mechanically and by rule of thumb, to play “The Harmonious Blacksmith” upon the piano, but had never taught him the scale or how to read music; so that, having memorized “The Harmonious Blacksmith,” he still had not the faintest notion how to proceed from that to tackle “The Last Rose of Summer.” Why do I say, “as though”? In certain of the arts and crafts, we sometimes do precisely this–requiring a child to “express himself” in paint before we teach him how to handle the colors and the brush. There is a school of thought which believes this to be the right way to set about the job. But observe: it is not the way in which a trained craftsman will go about to teach himself a new medium. He, having learned by experience the best way to economize labor and take the thing by the right end, will start off by doodling about on an odd piece of material, in order to “give himself the feel of the tool.”

Let us now look at the mediaeval scheme of education–the syllabus of the Schools. It does not matter, for the moment, whether it was devised for small children or for older students, or how long people were supposed to take over it. What matters is the light it throws upon what the men of the Middle Ages supposed to be the object and the right order of the educative process.

The syllabus was divided into two parts: the Trivium and Quadrivium. The second part–the Quadrivium–consisted of “subjects,” and need not for the moment concern us. The interesting thing for us is the composition of the Trivium, which preceded the Quadrivium and was the preliminary discipline for it. It consisted of three parts: Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetoric, in that order.

Now the first thing we notice is that two at any rate of these “subjects” are not what we should call “subjects” at all: they are only methods of dealing with subjects. Grammar, indeed, is a “subject” in the sense that it does mean definitely learning a language–at that period it meant learning Latin. But language itself is simply the medium in which thought is expressed. The whole of the Trivium was, in fact, intended to teach the pupil the proper use of the tools of learning, before he began to apply them to “subjects” at all. First, he learned a language; not just how to order a meal in a foreign language, but the structure of a language, and hence of language itself–what it was, how it was put together, and how it worked. Secondly, he learned how to use language; how to define his terms and make accurate statements; how to construct an argument and how to detect fallacies in argument. Dialectic, that is to say, embraced Logic and Disputation. Thirdly, he learned to express himself in language– how to say what he had to say elegantly and persuasively.

At the end of his course, he was required to compose a thesis upon some theme set by his masters or chosen by himself, and afterwards to defend his thesis against the criticism of the faculty. By this time, he would have learned–or woe betide him– not merely to write an essay on paper, but to speak audibly and intelligibly from a platform, and to use his wits quickly when heckled. There would also be questions, cogent and shrewd, from those who had already run the gauntlet of debate.

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2nd Grade Class Visits the Boy Pharaoh–King Tut

The following is a journal-style entry by Lori Cunyus, second grade teacher at Regents Academy.

Regents Academy 2nd grade students and parents recently travelled to Houston to visit the archaeological find of the century– King Tut’s tomb!

Several children had trouble sleeping the night before their trip. Others awoke early and wanted to know if it was time to leave. Excitement was in the air as students travelled to the Museum of Fine Arts early last Thursday morning.

Mrs. Cunyus’ 2nd grade class has been studying Ancient Egypt and all were eager to see all of the golden objects, the enormous statuary, the mysterious Pharaoh mummy and other amazing treasures straight from the history books. Everyone found something to fascinate; diminutive statues that were supposed to gain purpose as servants in the after-life, the stone toilet seat, a single mustachioed likeness of a royal, the box that once contained a royal cat mummy, the long escalator to the museum’s 2nd floor– or maybe it was the golden glittering gift shop where everyone found something to take home as a memento of the day.

“At first I was scared,” admitted one second grader, whose thoughts were echoed by a few others who wondered if the much-discussed mummy was real. One student decided to skirt the room where the boy Pharaoh (an exact replica) was on display for all to see. Students gazed in wonder at the golden finger and toe tip covers and the large, flat, gold sandals that covered the boys’ small kingly feet. The exhibit presented theories about his wounded knee and whether it caused his early demise. Nearby several other museum guests smiled at the children as they excitedly discussed the legendary “curse of King Tut”.

Museum docent, James told the group that the exhibit would travel from Houston to Australia and then head back to Cairo, Egypt. There are no plans to take this world treasure back on tour. This was likely the only chance these young people will ever have to see the most famous archaeological find in the world–Howard Carter’s 1922 discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings.

Back in class the students wrote in their journals, documenting their thoughts and experiences. Additionally, Mrs. Cunyus’ second grade class has made mummies and sarcophagi, Egyptian paddle dolls, falcon crests, and other artistic projects relating to their studies. Soon they will decorate their own golden falcon breast plates with jewels and hieroglyphics.

And so the 2nd grade adventure continues at Regents Academy.

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Fostering a Christ-Honoring Culture

Schools have cultures, just like civilizations, homes, churches, baseball teams, and every other society we’re part of. There are things I like and things I don’t like about every culture I’m in. For example, I don’t like how our national culture is obsessed with money; greed and consumerism seem rampant. Yet I am very glad that our culture has produced such amazing technology that makes so many astounding things possible that were only a dream a generation ago.

There are things I like and things I don’t like about the culture of Regents Academy. I was meditating on the culture of our school recently, and several things came to mind, both things I love about our school’s culture and things I would love to see changed about our school’s culture.

I love that Regents Academy’s culture is built on respect: honor for teachers and parents, respect for fellow students, respect for propriety and decorum, esteem for tradition, and reverence toward God.

I love that our school’s culture is marked by joy in hard work: rather than exalting laziness and shortcuts, our school exalts hard work and fosters seeking the reward that comes to those who achieve through diligence and not entitlement.

I love that Regents is serious about academics. Academic decline in our nation is well-documented and oft-lamented, yet Regents offers a positive environment that takes a classical Christian education seriously. There is a constant upward pressure on academic standards.

I love that Regents has been built on sacrifice and vision, not on baser motives like egotism, vainglory, profit, or power trips. The founders of our school have always been about the mission, not about personal ambition. That sacrificial love has trickled down into the cracks and crevices of the school’s culture, from teachers to students to families.

Are there things I want to see changed about our school’s culture? Of course there are, just like with every other culture in which I find myself. I happen to see the Regents culture up close and personal – and I know that many of its failings find their way back to its leadership (me).

There is a tendency in our school’s culture to be about grades rather than about learning. Those two things don’t have to be exclusive, of course – a student can strive for good grades and also love learning. However, the two can be mutually exclusive. A teacher sees it very clearly: the first question the student asks when presented with a new assignment is, “Will we get a grade on this?”

Something I have addressed with our junior high and high school students is their use of the tongue. Like all young people, our students are tempted to use their tongues to cut down and criticize one another and to speak inappropriately. I can think of no quicker way to foster a culture that oppresses the weak and that glories in crudity and rudeness than to allow an unbridled tongue. And even as I write these words, I am reminding myself also of the Bible’s teaching about the power of the tongue – both for good and for evil.

There are other things I could mention, of course. Everyone at our school is a sinner. But God’s grace is greater than our sin, so the keynote of our school’s culture is not sin and condemnation but redemption in Christ. Therefore, our school culture is really filled with thankfulness and joy.

The question I am left with is, What am I doing to foster a school culture that honors Christ and that lifts students up so that they reach the great heights that we aspire to?

I hope you will ask the same question, too.

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Boys Basketball Team Makes it to the Top (of Enchanted Rock)

Congratulations to the Boys High School Basketball Team. After a 6-4 season, our team competed in the TAPPS 1A Bi-District playoffs against Heritage Christian School of Fredericksburg. We are proud of our 1st Team All-District players: Will Alders, Mitchell Henry, Ali Hosseinpour, and Timothy Marshall; and our 2nd Team All-District Players: Sam Alders and Payton Andrews. Congratulations also to Coach Mark Sowell, who was voted District Coach of the Year.

Pictured below is the team at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, which they visited during their trip to the Hill Country on February 14-15.

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TAPPS Speech and Academics District Champs!

Regents Academy’s high school team placed first in the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) district contest this past weekend.

From left, front row, placing 3rd in Original Oratory and 2nd in Ready Writing – senior Anna Daniel; placing 3rd in Current Events & Issues, 5th in Duet Acting, and 1st in Original Oratory – senior Will Alders; placing 1st in Persuasive, 6th in Duet Acting, and 2nd in Original Oratory – sophomore Haley Duke; placing 3rd in Prose, 6th in Duet Acting and 2nd in Current Events & Issues – junior Elizabeth Castleberry; placing 5th in Duet Acting, 5th in Poetry and 2nd in Solo Acting – sophomore Aaron Bryant; freshman Megan Marshall; placing 6th in Spelling and 5th in Persuasive – junior Tim Marshall;  and freshman Kendall DeKerlegand; middle row, placing 6th in Social Studies – freshman Jonathan Sowell; placing 5th in Current Events & Issues – junior Tyler Sowell; placing 6th in Ready Writing and 3rd in Solo Acting – freshman Alice Bryant; and placing 2nd in Literary Criticism, 3rd in Poetry, 4th in Prose, and 1st in Solo Acting – Miranda Kunk; back row, placing 5th in Spelling and 3rd in Duet Acting – freshman Graham Culpepper; placing 4th in Poetry, 5th in Prose, 6th in Literary Criticism and 4th in Advanced Math – senior Ali Hosseinpour; and placing 2nd in Calculator, 7th in Science, 3rd in Duet Acting and 1st in Number Sense – sophomore Sam Alders.

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Gov Class and the Lt. Gov

The Regents freshman government class attended the Lone Star Legislative Summit at SFA on Thursday. The class heard the Lieutenant Governor speak at a luncheon and then sat in on forums on the use of natural resources and the media’s role in the presidential race.

Pictured below is the class with their teacher Daniel Alders and with Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst.

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