Establishing a new normal (an old one, really...) ~ by Fr. Melton

The other day I had a great teacher moment that I thought I’d share with you. I was reading to my 3rd-5th grade class The Magician’s Nephew, the first book in the Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. We were at the part where Digory grabs the witch’s ankle, slips on the magic ring, and transports himself, the Witch, Uncle Andrew, Polly, the Cabby, and Strawberry the Horse into the empty world, which is about ready to be sung into existence by a mysterious Lion. But at this point in the story, they are in utter darkness, and they are feeling scared. In the fear, the gentle London cabby says, 

"Now then, now then," came the Cabby's voice, a good hardy voice. "Keep cool everyone, that's what I say. No bones broken, anyone? Good. Well there's something to be thankful for straight away, and more than anyone could expect after falling all that way. Now, if we've fallen down some diggings — as it might be for a new station on the Underground — someone will come and get us out presently, see! And if we're dead — which I don't deny it might be — well, you got to -remember that worse things 'appen at sea and a chap's got to die sometime. And there ain't nothing to be afraid of if a chap's led a decent life. And if you ask me, I think the best thing we could do to pass the time would be sing a 'ymn."

And he did. He struck up at once a harvest thanksgiving hymn, all about crops being "safely gathered in”.

It was at this point that more than half of my class began to sing, all of a sudden, “Come Ye Thankful People Come; raise the song of harvest home. All is safely gathered in, till the winter storms begin…” They knew what C.S. Lewis was hoping they would know. And the thought that I had is, “I’m so glad that my kids seem normal to C.S. Lewis.” 

I love C.S. Lewis. If there was anyone that I could resurrect and spend a day with, it’d probably be C.S. Lewis. And if I had a day with C.S. Lewis, I’d take him to my school, and let him meet my students. I don’t know if C.S. Lewis would give his approval of this school. To say so would be awfully presumptuous, I think. But I know that if he had, the day prior, toured most of the schools in Dallas and gotten over his utter shock at what the new “normal” was for children nowadays, he would have been pleased in that moment last week when my students’ normal lined up with his normal. 

The great ancient philosophers mentioned that the school, by nature, has an corrective relationship with Society. The two do not line up, because the school is to be lifting up constantly for the students’ knowledge and affection those things which are high, true, good, and lovely, even when those things are not in vogue, or popular, or even culturally accepted, or politically correct. Society, of course, operates on different principles and priorities, so the two are often at odds. But both are desperately trying to establish what is “normal” for their people. We as educators feel this every day. I see schools all around me giving up on the battle. Their students act just like the World acts, know just what the World wants them to know, and love what the World loves. I’d bet some good money that there are not many classes whose normal would’ve matched C.S. Lewis’ normal in that moment. So you can see why I was so proud. 

We are wanting to establish a “new normal” here at St. Tim’s (which is really an old normal). What does that mean? Here are a few things that we expect to be normal to a St. Timothy School student. 

  • to pray the Church’s prayers, everyday, twice a day. 

  • to know and sing the Church’s hymns.

  • to sing those songs in harmony.

  • to know their Bible by memory, over 800 verses to be exact.

  • to play an stringed instrument.

  • to know Latin fluently, that they might read the great works of the past.

  • to care for chickens.

  • to write in cursive, beautifully.

  • to speak publically, persuasively.

  • to dance, both English Country Dancing and Swing.

  • to know Poetry, over one hundreds poem, by memory.

  • to play with students much younger than they are, and much older than they are.

  • to hold a baby.

  • to think Bach is better than Lady Gaga, and Hamlet than the Hunger Games.

  • to listen to Bach, and read Homer in their spare time. 

  • to be able to draw, paint, blacksmith, and work wood; to work with their hands. 

  • to love their country, and to know their history, their constitution, their forefathers.

I am so thankful for faculty, students, and families who are in this journey with me, and that we share a commitment to be “a peculiar people” in the world.