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Dr. Koonce’s Resources

A favorite author of mine, Anne Lamott, wrote a little book once with her usual humor and candor, which gave insights into life as we know it. The book is titled Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers. In simple reflection, I find that the title of Lamott’s book to be a perfect synopsis of our school year and, I hope, of our school itself. 

We began this year with a resurgence of Covid – Help! and cycled through many iterations of the virus in our community. We saw not only God’s faithfulness in restoring everyone to health but also in giving us opportunities to love one another well – Thanks! And despite the many strong and worthy differences of opinion on masks and vaccines and quarantines and all Covid-related topics, our community did not break apart in dissension and vitriol as some did – Wow!  

We strive to be a school culture that readily goes to God with all things, and at the risk of being too simplistic, I propose that we strive to be – and are in our best moments – a culture of Help! Thanks! Wow!

There is power in the phrase, “I need your help.” It connotes a trusting relationship, a vulnerability, a mutual respect. When a student says this to a teacher, when a teacher says this to a colleague, when any of us says this to God, we are not only opening ourselves to help and growth, we are building relationship. We teach the children that asking for help is important and part of the learning process, so we need to do so as well. We are a school community marked by a culture of helping, but we must celebrate being helped as well. The ancient Christian writer, Teresa of Avila wrote “He never tires of giving, nor can He exhaust His mercies. Let us not tire of receiving.”

Schools with strong culture are genuinely thankful for all the good that is happening, and this aptly describes the TCS culture. I find TCS parents to be the most gracious and appreciative of any parents I have ever worked with. And while this is nice in and of itself, gratitude as a habit of culture has profound implications. In a talk at our school on Monday night, David Thomas said that many research studies have shown to be true what we all know to be true – that a grateful, thankful person is a more calm and contented person, less susceptible to the woes of this world. I would also hold that a grateful, thankful community is less susceptible to the woes of this world. 

We who work at the school are blessed to witness a thousand Wow! moments during the course of school day, as truly awe-inspiring and wonderful things take place in all corners of the school. You as parents also have those moments with your children when your whole heart just melts into a heavy Wow! and you want to capture the moment and hold it forever. May we savor these times and also not forget to Whom our Wow!s should be directed. Awe is a rare emotion in our world today, but we are not of this world. Let us teach our children to be in awe of all that God is doing and has done in the great and powerful context of His story in the history of mankind and in the intimate and smaller context of our own stories. 

Help! Thanks! Wow! Three Essential Prayers. Amen.

 

We’re growing, TCS Community! And not just in the student body, but in lots of tangible ways that make our school a unique and dynamic place to learn, work, and grow! 

We’re growing by design, with a thoughtful and disciplined approach that sustains our timeless mission along with our commitment to thinking as image-bearers of Christ in today’s world.

Our passion for both teaching and learning compels us to be deeply rooted in the truth and traditions that define this wonderful school, but we’re also driven to find more effective ways to connect with and inspire our precious students and their families.

Like you, we recognize that,

Growing old is inevitable.

Growing up is a choice.

We have chosen to grow up.

We’re growing up as a professional learning organization that delivers a remarkable experience for children as they are in their wonder years, soaking up learning at rates they never will again. 

We’re growing up in wise stewardship, finding better ways to enhance and expand our assets in order to be a place of which we can all be proud.

We’re growing up in unity as we seek to model the utmost in spiritual maturity, relationship development, and purpose-driven leadership.

And your children are growing, too! As we celebrate birthdays and lost teeth on Fun Fridays – hallmarks of children growing older – we also celebrate their growing up as we see them make more mature choices, reflect the teaching they have received, and emulate the Christian teachers and staff who speak into their lives every day. 

As we grow, we need your partnership, parents! 

Each of you is an ambassador for our school, and we encourage you to be active ambassadors. Talk about our school with other parents on your children’s community sports teams, at your neighborhood pool this summer, at your church. Let’s grow up into the reputation and the visibility in the Nashville community that our school deserves.  

This won’t happen without each of us championing our school and our school community, being on the lookout for prospective families who are mission-aligned and reaching out to encourage them to give Ben Gatlin a call to start the process of looking at Covenant. Nearly all of you current families are at Covenant because someone told you about us, and you decided to take a further look. How many more families in the Nashville community would do the same if someone told them about Covenant?

Thank you for your commitment to grow with us. It is an honor to serve and partner with you in raising up the next generation of Christian thinkers and leaders. It is a noble work that you do as parents and that we do as educators, and I am humbled and privileged to work in a community that actually does this in authentic partnership. 

To Him be the Glory,

Dr. Koonce

 

Dear TCS Families,

Lots of things in life are highly unpredictable.

The weather.

The mood of a teenager.

Viruses.

Events or decisions happen suddenly without warning, and then we remember just how much we don’t control in this world.

We serve a God who is steadfast, though, faithful in His promises, in His character, and in His love. Lamentations 3:22-23 is a beautiful illustration of this:

Because of the LORD’s great mercies, we are not consumed;

His compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;

Great is His faithfulness.

One of our top priorities as a school is to provide a reliable, daily experience for your children, for your family, that is predictably excellent.

Springtime is when we see growth happening everywhere, and it’s happening here as well. As a learning organization, we are finding new ways to meet the needs of our faculty and families. Our Growth Plan is well underway, and we’re finding better ways to make and measure progress. We’re advancing our leadership capacity and organizational health in this journey to authentic, sustainable excellence.

Thank you for the reliability of your trust and for your many contributions to our school. You are a blessing that touches more people than you know.

Thank you for the reliability of your engagement in this community. Your enthusiasm and influence energizes others.

Thank you for the reliability of your faithfulness. Your commitment to relationships serves as an inspiration and model that invites people into this community.

We are fully prepared to sustain this momentum and energy through the conclusion of this school year, while also laying the foundation for 2022-23 to be truly remarkable. May the Lord continue to bless and shape our plans as we grow into his calling.

In covenant with you,

 

Dr. Koonce

 

Listening to the prayers of a child makes me realize how much we adults unnecessarily complicate things. Children get straight to the point in prayer; they don’t hesitate to ask for what they want, and they believe unswervingly. There is such beauty in that simplicity. A treasured book in my library – Anne Lamott’s Help Thanks Wow – Three Essential Prayers – reminds me that most of my prayers can be boiled down to these three words: Help me please, Lord; Thank you, Lord; and just plain WOW, Lord!   

A lot of my prayers for The Covenant School have fallen in the “Help!” category over the past five years. This prayer reminds me, and allows me to acknowledge, I am not in charge and I have very little ability to make anything of value happen on my own. It opens me to the only force, the only source, from which anything truly good comes. And when I am clear in my own mind that every good and perfect gift is indeed from above, coming down from the Father, I can move naturally to prayers of “Thanks.”  

There have been many such opportunities to bring prayers of “Help” to our Lord on behalf of The Covenant School. I marvel at the countless people who have prayed countless prayers for our school, and at the untold ways that God has met us in our need and provided for us. These prayers have yielded so many opportunities to bring prayers of “Thanks” that I couldn’t count them.  God’s gracious presence has been with us as we have prayed for His direction, considered needs, investigated options, made plans and revised plans, and done so over and over and over again on our journey of growth and strength, and commitment to His Truth. Now more than ever I find myself offering prayers of “Thanks!” – astonished by the love and all that is good and beautiful about our school. 

When a child recognizes God at work in his life when another experiences the courage she has prayed for, when a class learns the real-life application of a familiar Bible verse, when a school enjoys exciting momentum, strong culture, and blessing that could only come from God Himself,   . . .  what else is there to say but “Wow, Lord. Just WOW.” 

Happy Spring Break to All!

Dr. Koonce

 

 

Dear TCS Parents,

What a wonderful time it is to be a student at The Covenant School! I have been overjoyed to see the joy and witness the energy for learning all around our school these past few weeks.  The weather is turning, and we are outside more often, which brings a blessed renewal of spirit, an outlet for the energy of childhood, and a reminder that God indeed makes all things new. 

As I was privileged to share in the experience of the third and fourth grade production last Friday of A Grand Ole Country Review, I was overwhelmed with joyful pride for those children and for Ms. Maples. They had worked so hard to prepare for their performance, and they brought it!! To see the audience of parents and grandparents, fellow students, teachers and staff cheering them on, engaging with clapping, singing along, and shouts of encouragement, was the essence of what is best about community. It was the grandest of successes because love abounded in that fellowship hall for that hour, and those children will remember that time for the rest of their lives. 

In other news, the re-enrollment contracts (due today) are rolling in, as are the applications from families in the community. To date, we have received 30% more applications than last year at this time, and they continue to come in. As I interview each set of parents, I am thrilled with the prospective families applying to Covenant, and I look forward to many of them becoming a part of our community in the fall! I know you will welcome them with traditional Covenant graciousness.

There is still so much to look forward to this semester: lots of field trips, the fifth/sixth grade production of The Lion King, the Big Knight Out for parents, Bring Your Pastor to Chapel Day, Read Across America Week, Week of the Young Child, Field Day, the All School Celebration and Sixth Grade Parade, and soooo much more! It is nothing short of remarkable that our school can accomplish all it does academically and programmatically and still have time and energy for so many special events. This is a testament to the tireless dedication of our faculty and staff and of the solid commitment of our families and students to this school. It is a beautiful orchestration of community, indeed. 

I invite you to take a moment today to simply thank God for all the good that is happening for us at Covenant, for your children especially. No school is perfect, and there will always be issues to address, but the faithfulness of the Lord to this place deserves our gratitude. I hope you will join me in some moments of joy and gratefulness today for all that God has done to bring blessing and growth and life to The Covenant School.  

Grateful to be in covenant with you,

 

Dr. Koonce

 

2.3.22

Dear TCS Parents, 

I led a discussion in late January for parents that some of you may have attended. It was about expectations – specifically those we have for our children and those we have for ourselves as parents. I posed some questions, including, “Are your expectations too high? Are they too low? How do you know?” It sometimes seems impossible to know the answers to these and many other questions about raising children and being a parent. 

I’m asking some similar questions about The Covenant School right now. Are our expectations, our plans, our goals, our dreams for the school too high? Are they too low? How do we know? The school’s leadership team and board of trustees have been wrestling with these questions in research, discussion, and prayer as we consider strategic initiatives that will strengthen our school. 

Our expectations are high, and they should be. The Covenant School is a strong, competitive, and compelling choice for families looking at private schools in the Nashville area. We have the most well-developed, highly educated, and genuinely caring faculty of any school in Nashville. I can say that confidently. We hear this repeatedly from parents, we witness the relationships forged with every student, and we recognize teachers’ exhaustive efforts to prepare and teach lessons that engage children and advance learning. Everyone employed by The Covenant School works under high expectations because we know that it is our people who make our school so special. 

We are counting on you as TCS parents to spread the word! Who do you know who needs to hear about The Covenant School? Are there friends or family who need to come and take a tour? They don’t know what they don’t know, but you can give them a call and encourage them to go online and schedule a tour. 

We are strong, and we are growing. Our academics are rigorous; our graduates go on to their schools of choice. Our athletic and after-school programming is vibrant, and kids love them! The friendships formed at The Covenant School can last a lifetime. We have wonderful plans for the next few years that you’ll hear more about later this semester. But the data and projections bear out what I know to be true when I am in prayer for our school. And I look to the future and smile.  

In covenant with you,

Dr. Koonce

 

Dear TCS Families

This 2021-22 school year at TCS will be remembered as one in which we faithfully persevered through the challenges of a pandemic that disrupted our community, our country, and our world. We have individually and collectively learned the truth and beauty of this verse, among many:

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’” 

Lamentations 3:22-24

But we’ve accomplished so much more than just managing the repercussions of an infectious disease!

  • We’ve learned how to more effectively listen and engage with each other. 
  • We’ve learned how to use technology more creatively to teach and learn and communicate.
  • We’ve learned how to sustain our commitment to excellence, facing head-on those situations that could disrupt and obscure our mission and culture. 
  • We’ve learned how to keep community in spite of restrictions, to remain respectful in spite of frustrations, and to remain faithful in spite of uncertainties.  

We are a learning organization that is committed to the journey of authentic, sustainable excellence. Thank you for your support and collaboration as we continuously elevate the quality of our people, programming, and resources. 

Lord willing, many of our traditions will be renewed this spring as infection rates are expected to wane and some level of normalcy is restored. That is certainly our prayer and plan as we celebrate this new season of growth and the achievements of students. 

Our collective unity and work together have produced so many reasons to be thankful.

  • Enrollment and re-enrollment for next year are already going strong because of the joyful spirit and commitment to excellence of our teachers and staff. 
  • High-quality communication remains a top priority as we seek to nurture relationships with each other in our school community.
  • Consistent progress on our strategic goals is being achieved through disciplined work and wise stewardship from both the school and board leadership.
  • Children are joyfully engaged in learning in every area of their TCS experience while growing to recognize and embrace God’s timeless Truths. 

Thank you for your commitment to TCS and for being an enthusiastic ambassador for our school. It is my privilege to partner with your family to inspire the next generation of strong TCS thinkers and leaders. 

In covenant with you,

Dr. Koonce