Friday, December 16, 2011

What a Wonderful Christmas Concert

A friend of mine sent me this picture from his camera-phone tonight. It does not include the full section to the right of the stage. It was a full-house, and a wonderful concert that reflected the joy and meaning of  Christmas.  We had to set up an additional 100 chairs, and there still dozens of people standing along the back wall and entrances.

The bands and choirs of all ages did an outstanding job. I must admit, my eyes watered at the last song, when after singing "Silent Night" as a congregation along with nearly 80 MS and HS students who were also singing in sign language, the choir signed the last verse again in a room so quiet it brought new meaning to the last line "...sleep in heavenly peace."  Well done, Students! Well done, Teachers and all who made tonight possible!

One of the most wonderful things about this event is that there are always hundreds of grandparents in attendance. I met several for the first time. I also met a grandmother whose husband was on the school board when I first came to CCS back in 2000. I visited with a grandmother who served on the school board for several years. Earlier today, she was wrapping Christmas presents at the bazaar. This afternoon, I visited with a grandfather who came to the rehearsal because he could not be at the concert tonight. After the concert,  I met a grandfather who drove up from Indiana. He and a number of other grandparents stopped me to specifically say they are praying for Calvary Christian Schools and that they're so glad this school is here for their family. 

In a few days, my own family will be with grandparents in Kansas (Julie's parents), and I can't tell you what a blessing they have been in our lives. I'm looking forward to being with them. 

If you read this post over the holidays, and if you're visiting with the grandparents in you life, please share the following poem with them, and please let them know we appreciate the vital role they play in our student's lives.

Three Generations

It takes two generations
to bring along the third
for the echo of truth
is sometimes heard
more clearly than
the words first spoken.
A cord of three strands
is less likely broken
than one or two,
and perhaps equally strong
is a chord of voices
intent to pass along
what matters most
from age to age.
The older voice can gently lead
and help confirm the page
the father reads
is worth the ink
and worthy indeed
to make man think
beyond his lifetime.
The family tree, it’s true, will grow
new limbs and leaves of green,
but the aging trunk that holds them
is held by roots unseen.
Some say "it takes a village,"
but more often than is heard,
it takes two generations
to bring along the third.
© 2007 Tom Kapanka



Monday, December 5, 2011

A Spirit Not of Fear...

I heard this song for the first time about a year ago. It is a great reminder that courage is not the absense of fear but the ability to press on in spite of our fears. Or as the apostle Paul told young Timothy "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." II Timothy 1:7  The NIV says, "the...does not make us timid, and the ESV implies that "a sound mind" is demonstrated through "self-control." But the point Paul makes to Timothy is God means for us to have courage in Him so that fear does not cause panic (or unsound thoughts or wreckless actions).

As Christians, when we DIScourage people, intentionally or unintentionally, we sap them of courage and the sense that, with God's help, they can reach their goals. When we ENcourage one another we  inspire hope and confidence to press on knowing that our Hevenly Father goes before us. I love the way these thoughts were put to music in a song called "Pioneer." (lyrics below the screen).

Pioneer, Pioneer
Keep pressing onwards beyond your fears
And only your Father goes before you to your own frontier
Youʼre a Pioneer
 Uncharted wilderness stretches before you
And you thrive on going where no one has gone
Still it gets lonely when darkness rears
So sing by the fire until the dawn
You travel light and you travel alone
And when you arrive nobody knows
But your Father in heaven, He is glad you can go
Cause those who come after you will need the road
And what you have done, others will do
Bigger and better and faster than you
But you canʼt look back, you gotta keep on pressing through
Thereʼs a wilderness pathway and itʼs calling you
 Calling you, calling you
Keep pressing onwards beyond your fears
And only your Father goes before you to your own frontier
Youʼre a Pioneer

Written by Nancy Honeytree Miller

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thoughts for Thanksgiving

At Grace

it’s the little things
like putting in the extra leaf
and keeping window watch;
then taking covered dishes at the door;
and hugging through coats
that bring in winter’s air.
Staring fondly at the face
come furthest home;
laughing with the funny uncle
in the kitchen;
holding hands once large and small—
but ever more alike—
around the laden table;
and smiling at the changeless gaze
(framed on the far mantle)
of one not there to pray.
It’s the little things
that make Thanksgiving.
The tastes and smells
and long-awaited feast
at best are just
the garnish of the day.
It’s the enormity
of little things
providentially in place
that lumps our throats
and lifts our thoughts
…at grace.
© 2006, Tom Kapanka

Lord, we thank you for Calvary Christian Schools. We thank you for meeting our needs through the years and for the hope of continued blessing for years to come. We thank you for the folks at Calvary Church whose vision through the years provided a foundation for changing times and paradigms we now face; for the more than 120 homes in our school family; for the 45 new students who joined us this year (with another joining us next week); for the outward focus and service opportunities that have helped us earn the good-will and trust of our community; and for our faculty and staff whose steadfast service puts flesh and feet to God's Word in this place.
Praise God from Whom All Blessing Flow!
Wishing you and yours a wonderful sharing of thankful hearts this week.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sadie Hawkins is This Friday

See Update at end of this post:
About ten years ago, CCS started the Sadie Hawkins Party tradition. For some it is a "reverse courtesy" event to which the girl can ask the boy. But for many of our students it's just a great "group of friends" event with a special theme. Last year was "Night at the Museum" (click on that title for more details). Six years ago it was a hoe-down in a barn. One year it was "South of the Border." This year, the theme is "Back to the '50s." So there will be lots of poodle skirts, penny loafers, greased hair, etc. The night includes dining at the very retro "Dog and Suds" drive in on Old Grand Haven Road. We've got the whole place to ourselves.

This is not the first time we've gone with a "Fifties" theme. The last time we did, I blogged about it the next morning, and the headline read:

My Wife Got Pulled Over for Drunk Driving Last Night!
Here's part of that post from 2007:

We'd been partying all night, it's true. Doing crazy things that, frankly, people our age rarely have the energy to try. We felt like a couple of teenagers again and stayed out way too late. It was about 1:15AM, to be exact. It was fun, but we were worn out. As always, we were the last to leave. Lights out. Doors locked. All we had to do was drive safely home.

Julie and I were in separate cars. [Natalie was in 7th grade at the time and had been staying at a friend's house. Julie stopped by to pick her up. She had fallen asleep on the couch and just piled into the front seat bundled in PJ, a winter coat, and a knit stocking cap with flaps with her knees up on the dashboard.] I was a few minutes ahead of Julie on the road home when she called me on my cell phone.

"Hey, Tom, you might want to come back here. I just got pulled over."
"By a cop?" I asked, as if "pulled over" has many cultural nuances.
"I think so." she whispered.
"You think it's a cop? Why did you stop if you're not sure it's a cop?"
"I'm pretty sure... I mean there are red and blue lights going around and I'm squinting in the rearview mirror because his lights are shining so bright at the car, but I'm going to stay on the phone until I see his badge. Here he comes."
I heard the window roll down. Julie was first to speak.
"Hello, Officer, is everything all right?"
"Ma'am, were you on your cell phone while I was following you?"
"No. I didn't even know you were back there until you turned on the siren-light thingy. Then I called my husband because you didn't come out of your car and it was making me nervous."
"Well, Ma'am, you make me nervous..." Click... Silence.
Julie had hung up her cell phone in the middle of the policeman's sentence. It was an attempt to look less suspicious. Julie has never gotten a ticket in her life--that's right... never. Not one. I knew that would definitely help her case.
Speaking of cases. Come to find out, "cases" was the problem-- the cases of empty brown bottles in the van’s rear window.  I had not stacked them high above the window line and that Julie had not been driving with all the inside van lights on. (She does that when she's driving a van late at night in case someone is in the car. She wants to see if she's going to get attacked from behind. That make sense =)
We had purchased six cases of IBC bottled root beer at Sam's Club for the Sadie Hawkins party as part of the whole "retro" atmosphere.
There was no school the next day, so the party was late by design with the last part being a big-screen Fifties movie, popcorn, and root beer floats back at the school. ANYWAY!.... After the party, Julie and I and the seniors cleaned up the gym, and I carried the cases of empty IBC Root Beer bottles out to our Astro van.
I enjoy knowing the history of cultural things. Did you know that a hundred years ago when pop was a drug store "soda fountain" item the brown bottles were used because light shortened the shelf life of their product? That's why  "retro" root beer brands go for that look.
As naive as this may sound, it did not occur to me that stacks of empty brown bottles in the back of a van after 1:00 in the morning might make a police officer think the vehicle is swerving a little more than it really was.
"Where are you coming from?" the policeman asked.
"A party." Julie said blankly.
"You better explain that..." Natalie muttered from under her coat and cap.
 The officer shined his flashlight on our 12-year-old daughter who looked like a kid-napped, homeless midget.
"Is that your child?" the officer asked.
Julie smiled and explained the whole evening right up to my loading the bottles in the van... and then her eyes lit up. "Oh, you saw the bottles in the back window. That's why you pulled me over, right?"
"They caught my eye, Ma'am--especially at this hour of the night. I could go the rest of my career and not hear an explanation so opposite from what I was thinking... but I need to see your license just the same."
He ran it and must have been impressed that a lady of... well... nearly my age (though she looks much younger--especially in a poodle skirt)... has never had a single ticket. He simply walked back to her window, handed her the license and said, "You have a good night, Ma'am."
I am very grateful for the men in blue who take no chances in such matters. There is nothing funny about people who drink and drive, but I’m sure he had a laugh telling the story (as I have telling it since!).

That officer was not the first man to be "won over" by Julie's disarming charm, calm smile, honest voice, and good clean livin'. I was, too...
nearly thirty years ago!

Originally written in 2007. We'll be more careful with the root beer bottles this time, but we're looking forward to another Sadie Hawkins!
Update 2011: Friday night's event was great poodle skirts, white socks, rolled-cuff jeans, saddle oxfords, and slicked back hair all around. We began with a scavenger hunt (Sophomore Class won), then ate at the very retro "Dog and Suds" (it looked like a scene from "Happy Days"),and then went ice skating (whole place to ourselves). There were some outstanding skaters as well as first-timers. (Kudos to Gage Berg for being an inspiration to us all!) And then back to the school for ice cream sundaes and trip back in time to Mayberry. Perhaps the truest reflection of the event was all the happy banter on Facebook the morning after. What a wonderful time of Friday night fun and fellowship for 50 Christian kids!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Closing Remarks at CCS National Honor Society Induction Ceremony 2011

Tonight was our our first-ever induction ceremony for NHS. I was there as a parent (Congratulations, Natalie!), but I was also asked by Mrs. Borgeson, the faculty advisor, to share some closing remarks as the school administrator. I had first written these thoughts a few years ago, and they seemed appropriate to share with this group of students, parents, and grandparents. Rather than read the piece, I thought I'd put the lines in video clip to see if the message could be of use to others beyond this evening.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

October Comes to an End

Last month, my son-in-law and I were Kayaking the White River up in the Manistee National Forest. The leaves were just beginning to turn (as you can see in this picture).

Friends and I have been kayaking three times since. I wish I had taken pictures each week. The leaves were more beautiful each time.

Our Indian Summer has come and gone, but I have not yet put the kayaks in storage. I doubt we get to use them again, and yet I keep them within reach in hopes of one more time on the water before the wintry frosts are here to stay.

Tomorrow night our street will be full of trick-or-treaters, and October will come to an end one porch light at a time. It sometimes seems October's time of harvest marks the close of a year even more than does December. I always become a little more pensive as the leaves finally fall.
A few years ago, I put it this way... 

A Melancholy Splendor
.A melancholy splendor comes
when autumn chills,
and green begins to bleed,
and red and gold
and russet runs the hills...
when all that grows
is gathered in the fields
and orchard rows
to be busheled up,
pressed and poured out,
or left alone to seep
in the fallen tea of earth...
when gardens go to seed,
and bursting milkweed
begs for second birth
by letting go the withered pod
to haunt
the meadows
and the markers
on the old church lawn
where, but for lonely shadows,
all summer shade is gone
in the melancholy splendor
of the fall.



It's been a great start to the school year at Calvary Christian Schools. Contrary to trends in similar schools in our conference, CCS enrollment is up about 12% with the possibility of one or two additional students joining us in the weeks ahead.

To begin with... Our varsity volleyball team won the conference championship last week and begins the District Tournament this week. Our first ever National Honor Society Induction Ceremony is a week from Monday night.  Basketball seasons for fifth grade through high school will soon be underway. We welcome Coach Jim Warren to our staff and wish him and the boys well. Coach Brad Richards has already begun his inspiring pep talks with the girl's team. We have had a series of fine chapel messages on this year's theme "212 in 2012," which applies the boiling point of water to our spiritual lives.  Three alumni have already been chapel speakers since first quarter. It was great to hear how God is working in their lives. We're off to a great start, and the staff and student are very, very excited about this school year.
So let's not let the tone of this poem dampen our spirits like the rain we had this weekend. Lots of people have a touch of melancholy this time of year. I think it's because we enjoy the beauty of autumn but wrestle with the finality of all that began in spring. With winter comes a sort of "reset" for another year, and every month is a gift from God--I sense that this year more than ever. Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow! 
Note about the poem (click on the red words for deeper detail): Between the lines of " A Melancholy Splendor" are hints of the relationships between life and death, harvest and labor, the garden and weeds (nurture vs. nature), beauty and decay, and hope and despair in the fall (by playing on the word as both a season and a theological term). Since childhood, I've been fascinated by Milkweed. Its life cycle is very dramatic from beginning to end when it seems to "give up its ghosts" to the wind. Its scientific name comes from Asclepius, the Greek god of healing. Milkweed also plays a "life and death" role in the life cycle of monarch butterflies.
Because I know we have several new readers this week, please read the first post of "To Begin With" by clicking on those three red words. That link will explain the title and purpose of this administrator's blog. Thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Last week,  in reference to some secular books about animals and nature, I mentioned that they superbly capture all the beauty and grandeur of creation while completely eliminating God's role in it all--wrapping all the wonder in millions and billions of years rather than the in Creator of Time. The secular worldview of the physical world and life itself is that it is as random as a box of BBs spilled.

The teachers at CCS cannot imagine teaching from that perspective. Our understanding of history, science, math and human nature as seen in literature and art, is consistent with what we know from scripture. Christian education need never compromise Truth to achieve academic excellence. It teaches fact as fact and theory as theory. It encourages curiosity, exploration, and discovery, and when explanations are truly beyond our finite minds, it encourages wonder rather than doubt.

Wonder Is

Wonder is
the meadow of the mind…
where God is kind enough
to let man find and walk
the common ground of
science and conscience—
the path between
what he thinks he is…
and what he knows he should be,
a place where quiet questions
are allowed
and praise of answers
is aloud.

© Copyright 2000, Tom Kapanka

Simply put,
thinking tests our grasp;
wondering tempts our reach.
We think about things
we know or hope to learn
and wonder about things
we may never understand.
While we assume
that knowledge trumps ignorance,
we dare not conclude
that certitude trumps wonder.
The opposite may be true.

Perhaps wondering is
our love language to God.
Perhaps wonder is our most
un-tampered-with form of worship.
Perhaps we never "know God" better
than when we are dizzied at
the thought of eternity
and the expanse of space;
when our hearts ache
with an unanswered "why?"
Perhaps when we feel
most lost, most orphaned, and when
His face is most inscrutable...
perhaps it's then

that crying, "Abba, Father"
most gladly bends
His holy ear.
© Copyright 2006, Tom Kapanka

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Life is Just...

This week we hosted a Scholastic Book Fair at school. As is always the case when a Christian school introduces secular materials, there are many, many titles that our volunteers pull from the sales racks and tables. I love books about God's creation--animals, plants, mountains, planets--they just amaze me. In fact, the older I get the more amazed I am by God's design all around us.

Unfortunately, secular books superbly capture all the beauty and grandeur of creation while completely eliminating God's role in it all--wrapping all the wonder in millions and billions of years rather than the in Creator of Time. This is true in most museums as well.

Several years ago in a museum, I saw a display of a giraffe (real but stuffed) drinking from a pond like the one in this picture. The plaque beside this huge specimen said something like, "Over millions of years the giraffe evolved a series of valves in his neck veins that allow him to put his head below his body without fainting each time he drinks. He also evolved the ability to swallow water up its steep eight-foot neck. Had these two evolutionary steps not occurred, this species of animal would have died millions of years ago." Likewise, this website says, "
"Luckily, giraffes have elastic blood vessels in their necks, this makes it possible for them to drink water from a stream, without fainting." Luckily? Really? Luckily? The giraffe is an amazing enough creature to look at let alone thinking of the design required to keep the blood from his head as it changes from highest point of his 18-foot frame to below his feet in split seconds.

It would almost be funny if it weren't so sad. No matter how obviously creation points to incomprehensible INTELLIGENT DESIGN, some folks would rather use this absurd scientific formula: RC + BY=UFB...Random chance plus billions of years equals unfathomable function and beauty.

This wrong choice is part of fallen human nature, because the alternative brings us face to face with the Creator of the universe. When the psalmist says that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, I believe he's referring to the same "fear" that is the beginning of wisdom; it is a life-changing glimpse of the chasm between the creature and the Creator, a glance from a bowed head and grateful heart at the cost He paid to close that gap.

It is a kind of fear to be overwhelmed by awe (hence the word awful). So natural man rejects that proposition, rejects the voice of creation itself that turns our heads and hearts to God, and he instead puts his faith in RC + BY=UFB.  That is the thought behind this short piece I wrote four years ago.

Life is Just

So this is what
we're to believe:
That BANG! the box of BB's spilled
with no purpose, no design,
and nothing unfulfilled.
That WE ARE trumps I AM;
and PERCHANCE trumps what's WILLED.
We must put our trust
in rocks and dust since
life is just
a box of BB's spilled.
.© Copyright 2007, Tom Kapanka

To fully understand those lines we must read "between the lines." We must understand that "just" can be an adverb meaning "simply this and nothing more" or it can be an adjective meaning "morally and unwaveringly fair, good and true to promise." This adjective sense reflects an attribute of God; the adverb sense reflects human perspective, hence the line six contrast between "we are" (human proclamation) and "I AM" (God). "Willed" reflects God; "perchance" reflects life as if he does not exist. I can't imagine living life as if that were true, and though I do not know the answers to all of life's questions,  that is the essence of WONDER, which is the subject of next week's post here at To Begin With...

Saturday, October 1, 2011

There's Something About a Child's Voice

You know you're getting old when those classic TV specials come on, and you remember the first year they were aired. It's October and that means that some time soon, Charlie Brown's "Great Pumpkin" special will be on, which means about six weeks later "A Charlie Brown Christmas" Will be on.  I love the part where Linus recites the story of Christ's birth from memory (in King James English), and then at the end he turns to his friend and says, "And that's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

There is something about a child's voice telling a wonderful story. Enjoy the following recitation.

I am assuming that the three kids behind this little girl still have to get up and do their part of the program. They seem to be in another world--probably thinking, "Why didn't we save this kid for last. She's killin' us. Please just let us go back to our seats when she is done. I can't even remember how my story starts." 

Monday, September 26, 2011

To Begin With Vol.I Part 4

The Sage and the School Boy

A lad came by the Fix-it Shop
with another broken toy.
“What is to become of us,"
the old man asked the boy.

What is?” the boy replied,
“we cannot know for sure.
My teacher says what’s truth
for me may not be truth for her.
And 'to become,' she’d say,
means what I want to be
and not, as you’ve suggested,
what God expects of me.
Of us’ the last words of the six,
there at the question’s end,
might mean man's fate is shared
alike with foe and friend.
But since we cannot know
what was or is or is in store,
my teacher says we just exist--
we are and nothing more.
And so, you see, your question
was faulty from the start.
If you had gone to school with me,
you might be just as smart.”

With that the lad took back his toy
and scampered out the door.
“What is to become of us?”
the old man asked once more.
© Copyright -2008 Tom Kapanka
A Sage is a sagacious person, one who knows that the simplest, most penetrating questions of life often prompt the answer man wishes most to ignore. When we talk about education to begin with, we are talking about a learning environment quite the opposite of that reflected by the little boy's confident answers in this poem.

This young lad has adopted a worldview void of scriptural truth in which he believes we cannot know "what is." We merely exist. The teacher he so clearly admires is an existentialist, one who believes truth is not absolute; it is "self determined" within one's own mind. Conflicting and incongruent truths have equal weight--not that it matters, because the meaning of life is meaningless. There is no God, no divine purpose, no plan, We're here; we live; we die... so eat, drink, and be merry. When existentialism gives way to pleasure, we call it hedonism ("If it feels good, do it.")  A good humanistic existentialist or hedonist may add..."Oh, and be nice. Live and let live." But even this advice will not be based in a moral absolute but rather in two pragmatic conclusions: first, being nice tends to make us feel better (and feeling better is almost as important as  "feeling good.") And secondly, "live and let live" reminds existentialists that one's existence should not be cut short by others--everyone is entitled to wander aimlessly around in search of good feelings until they naturally die and go to dust.

Christian education is not just sugar-coated existentialism or hedonism. It is different to begin with, different at its foundation, different at its core, different in perspective. A Christian education teaches all of the essential subjects for life preparation in a context of shared beliefs, including...God is sovereign and man is accountable to Him. All truth is God's truth and the beginning of wisdom is impossible apart from Him. The authority, authenticity, and reliability of the Bible are not enhanced by man's believe nor diminished by his disbelief. 

By being taught from a Christian worldview, students more fully understand the significance of life, the consequences of ideas and actions and each individual’s need for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Tom Kapanka
CCS Administrator

Saturday, September 17, 2011

To Begin With

Volume One/ Post three

The year at CCS is off to a great start, and with two very busy weeks behind us, I hope to begin my weekly installments of my "To Begin With" blog. As parents and students begin the rigors and routine of another school year, I thought it might be good to think about the nature of education. At its heart, it is all about becoming, hence the title of this post.


At its day-to-day level, education is a service enterprise—not a production industry. When those involved forget this, they begin to see students as products and the K-12 years as an assembly line: Mix, heat, mold, extrude, pass on down the line. Pause at quality control; check the specs, separate irregularities, send the others down the line. The last month of 12th grade adds a coat of paint, some packaging, and voilà! The product turns its tassel on cue and steps into the world.

But no. Educators are not foremen on an assembly line; they are service providers. As such, the teacher-student relationship is more accurately depicted in a Venn overlap than a line graph. "Life prep" education must intersect with students beyond books and lectures. The Venn crossing points bring texture to subject matter and add context to the character, knowledge, and judgment modeled by educators in and beyond the classroom.

Teachers enter a classroom with "positional authority," which comes with the title, but they must earn "relational influence," which comes with time. These are not mutually exclusive terms.Though the latter is perhaps more endearing, the former should never be abandoned. Exemplary teachers know how to maintain their professional role while fostering appropriate, professional relationships with students. The greater the Venn overlap, the easier it is to maximize each student’s learning style and personal gifts. Such teachers soon elevate process over product, the means over the end , their outpouring into lives over the immediate student outcomes.

While it is true that teachers are influencers and role models for students, if those students are considered merely products, and if the process is only data-driven, and if evaluation therefore focuses only on that which can be objectively measured, then in time, students mistakenly believe that a person’s worth is measured by numbers on a transcript. When, in fact, by the time graduates enter their careers, their potential employers look beyond transcripts in search of employees with integrity, values, good judgment, a teachable spirit, personal responsibility, team approach, strong work ethic, and the ability to do one’s best for a greater good beyond one’s self. Such students will always be in demand because such citizens are the strength of communities and the American work force.

In the 80's educators called it O.B.E.--outcomes-based-education. The intention was not bad, but the scope of outcomes often overlooked the most important aspects of personal development. The student is not a collection of papers, not a string of letters in a grade-book-—he is the person behind the eyes at each desk. The papers and worksheets and letter-grades are means to an end—and not the end itself. Grades merely reflect the more measurable elements of the process. While it is true that measurements help us evaluate that process, those measurements should never be considered the “product” or most important outcome of education.

Tests and measurements are merely an attempt to motivate effort; reward achievement; identify personal strengths and weaknesses, and assess improvement. For college-bound high school students, grades, rank, and GPA provide helpful though imperfect points of reference for colleges, etc., but such data should never be seen as the outcome of education. Perhaps the most important evaluation in a school is regular assessment of the services rendered, the character and virtues modeled, and the exemplary relationships formed.

Grades and GPAs tell only a portion of each student's preparation for life. The truest outcomes of education reveal themselves over time.

Ideally, parents and teachers understand that they, too, are not “finished products.” They are people in an endless formative process. They have “become” teachers and parents, but they are not done “becoming.” They are life-long learners who have not arrived but are further along in the journey, and therefore, better equipped to help students become what they will someday be more clearly becoming. Becoming...becoming. At our best, we are all still “becoming” our best. And it is very becoming of educators when they realize that they and their students are still works in progress.

Or as I once wrote to a very memorable English class back in 1986:

I owe you
not in dollars and cents
(though, in a way, that’s true).
I owe you
I owe you in the sense that
every day every dayevery day
we meet,
and I say, “Listen…”
and at the various levels which you do,
I owe you
for it’s a costly thing
to be paid ATTENTION
a single time more than I’ve earned it.
Open eyes and ears keep book—
and surely after all this time
I owe you
Not just in dollars and in sense,
but in reflections
..........reflections...of Him who created
time and space and you and me
and mixedtheminto… NOW…
which we occupy together.
He holds the true account,
and His grace provides the balance
I owe you….
© Copyright 1986, TK,
Tom Kapanka
CCS Administrator

Sunday, September 4, 2011

"The Little Boy"
A Story of Childhood Creativity

Twenty years ago, long before digital cameras and Youtube, a friend of mine in Iowa gave me a copy of simple but powerful piece by Helen Buckley called “The Little Boy.”

It had been published in School Arts Magazine in October 1961, the year I entered kindergarten, but that was thirty years before and even while earning my teaching degree, I had never come across the piece until Kirk gave it to me.  A year later, Kirk's wife Joan was taking a college class on teaching methods and asked  if I would help her film a dramatization of Buckley’s simple story. She had no video equipment, no editing equipment, etc. but she was willing to line up the cast of characters if I would help her shoot, edit, and narrate the film. My daughter Emily (age six at the time, now 26) was in the cast, so how could I refuse?

Joan got an “A” on the project, and the professor used the video in that class for many years--not because my video work was particularly good... but because the lesson is something all teachers should be required to learn early in their careers.

A few days ago, I found the old VHS videotape, and I must say the words hit me as hard as the first time I read them. I’m posting it  in hopes of helping teachers remember the essence of childhood, creativity, and the power of a blank slate.

Most of the children in this short film are now grown with children of their own. I hope they remember the time we spent together making this film, and more importantly...I hope they remember the story as they watch the imaginations and creativity of their children blossom a flower.

It's on summer days I'm most aware of what children are at risk to lose when life is too structured, too dictated from above (or worse yet, for today's youth...played out on a video screen). Three years ago I wrote the following and posted it here at POI.

There Was A Time

There was a time--
was there a time, O my!--
when days dawned blank
and yawning to the sky
we flung the sheets
and sprung from beds
pulled the blankets "made"
and pushed our waking heads
through wadded shirts
yanked off the night before
did up our trousers
running out the door
and leapt barefoot, impetuous,
from porch shade to the sun
arms outstretched
to wrap around another day begun.
© Copyright ,2008, Tom Kapanka, Patterns of Ink

Friday, July 29, 2011

To Begin With

There is a great courtroom scene in the film classic, To Kill a Mockingbird, in which Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) opens his closing argument by saying, “To begin with, this case should never have come to trial. The state has not produced one iota of medical evidence that the crime Tom Robinson is charged with ever took place....”

Those three words, “to begin with,” carry weight. They declare a foundational premise, implying that we must first understand the premise or the rest of the explanation will not make sense. Worse yet, if we ignore the premise we will embrace an alternate "sense" which will lead to nonsense, and nonsense has victims. (I Corinthians 1:18-20)

In the case of that courtroom scene, Tom Robinson falls victim to the nonsense that comes from ignoring the words “to begin with.”

The Bible opens with three similar words: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”

Genesis 1:1 is primarily a chronological statement--as if to say, “Step One: God built a stage before adding scenery, lighting, characters and plot.”

Beyond chronology, however, the opening verse of Genesis implies a premise, a foundational truth supporting all other truth. It not only declares the when of creation, it also declares the who, as if to say: “To begin with, [or “understand this first,” most importantly,” “make no mistake,”…] it was the Creator God who set all things in motion. He built the stage, placed the scenery, set the lights, cast the characters, and wrote the plot. He alone is the producer and director of everything that happens on the stage. Remember this premise, and the plot will make sense; ignore it, and fall victim to endless variations of nonsense before all is said and done.”

This blog is called “To Begin With” because the essays, anecdotes, poems, etc. posted here each week will reflect the foundational worldview of Christian education. I hope these gathering thoughts will illustrate that the partnership between homes, churches, and the Christian school is the ideal way for instruction to begin and that a foundational K-12 education sets the stage for God-honoring lives of service. In other words...

To begin with, Christian education provides a foundation to begin with.

Check here every week or so for a new post, and feel free to join in the dialogue if any in the comment section.

Tom Kapanka
CCS Administrator