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State of the School 4/9/2020 Distance Learning Update

April 8, 2020 | Thomas Postema

Note: below is the transcript of Mr. Postema’s address on April 9, 2020. It comes at the end of the fourth week of distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Welcome, Mustard Seed Community,

It has been a much different Holy Week than any of us have ever experienced. Someone told me that this is the Lentiest Lent we’ve ever Lented. I agree! 

In the story of our faith, from Palm Sunday to Good Friday, the expectations of Jesus’s followers were overturned in the face of reality. Jesus entered Jerusalem to “Hosannas!” and in the matter of a few days, ended up on the cross and then in the tomb. Surely for those who were there with him, it seemed like death and darkness had the final say.

I wonder how you’re feeling right now. Our expectations for this year have been completely upended. We’re all adjusting to a complex new reality. Most of us know someone who is sick or has even passed away. Maybe you are sick. Or have experienced other hardship. We continue to pray for the health and safety of our community. 

And in the midst of this crisis, we’re distance learning. We continue to follow the guidelines regarding social distancing set by the Federal Government. 

Consequently, Mustard Seed will continue distance learning until at least May 1. 

At the same time, I have asked our faculty to continue course planning with the assumption that distance learning will last through the end of the school year. We can always adapt those plans to in-class instruction should guidance from public health officials allow us to return to campus. While no one can predict where we will be in a few weeks, I think this is a prudent move to enable our faculty to effectively plan their lessons.

Today you’ve received an email from our Academic Directors updating you on the progress of the distance learning program.

We’re committed to seeking excellent, authentic ways to develop the whole child in an online environment. We want the work that students do at home and online to have meaning.

To that end, we’re building routines and procedures that nurture connection, curiosity, and risk-taking. In each division, we’re building flexible and supportive systems.

  • We’re increasing developmentally appropriate use of live instruction.
  • We will provide schedules that are as predictable as they can be so that you and your child can plan. 
  • We will record live sessions that include instruction so that students who are unable to attend can view them later. 
  • We will continue to offer live instruction and independent learning and exploration.

I ask that you help us with your flexibility, understanding, and clear communication about what is working for your family and what isn’t. We plan to send frequent surveys to assess how it’s going. And you can always reach out to your teacher, academic director, or me. 

The pivot to distance learning a month ago was forced upon us by circumstances out of our control. You’ve responded with a spirit of creativity, flexibility, and care that we’ve come to expect of our Mustard Seed community. Surely there have been stumbles along the way. Overall, I am proud of how we’ve adapted. Nonetheless, we remain flexible and open to changes in our plans as our experience in this new reality grows.

And, on this Maundy Thursday, I want to remind you that Good Friday is not the end of the story. There is always Easter and the resurrection. John 1:5 says. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” 

It might feel dark now, but death does not have the final say. Jesus defies the grave that we might have the hope of eternal life. And hope does not disappoint. 

May you and your family experience the joy of Easter, even as we walk through this time of challenge. I continue to pray for you.


Thomas Postema

Head of School

Mr. Postema was the Head of School from Fall 2011 to Spring 2021, when he retired.

An educator for over 35 years, Mr. Postema taught math and was a school administrator at international schools in Japan and South Korea, as well as schools in the USA (New Jersey and Alaska). He taught at Mustard Seed from 1989-1991 when Mr. Cuervo and Mr. Johnson were MSS students!

As Head of School, Mr. Postema successfully led the school through the NJAIS accreditation process and the Together for Tomorrow endowment campaign, which raised over $3M to benefit MSS students. Mr. Postema loves to tell the Mustard Seed story and continues to be passionate about the mission even in his retirement.

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