Trinity Insights

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  • Welcome to Trinity Insights!

    Welcome to the Trinity Insights educational blog. We hope you will learn more about the way education is evolving and how we are adapting through this monthly blog from Trinity's academic leaders. Please comment or email us directly at info@trinitymidland.org if you have questions relating to our blogs or would like to see us discuss certain topics.
< 2020

2020

  • March

    When You Need a Life Raft

    Carrie Brown, Head of PS/LS at Trinity Midland
    Are you like me right now and feeling a bit too connected to the digital world and a little too disconnected from the real world? In this “stay at home” phase we’re in, I notice how easy it is to get sucked into the digital world of news stories, social media, and television. Since today we are confined to our homes, I thought I would remind you that there is another world out there, a world that can save us from boredom and the rabbit hole of social media. A world that teaches us important lessons and helps us become better, more empathetic people. It is a world that could very well be compared to a life raft, and that is what we need most right now: a life raft that comes to us in the form of books.  

    I had the blessing of being born to parents who valued education, read to me, and exposed me to the world of literature from the time I was born. My mother, also an educator, spent a significant portion of her career leading the school district’s reading department, where she impacted hundreds of teachers and students throughout the district. Interestingly, it was not her expertise on the subject that made me love reading; it was exposure to the imaginary worlds and indescribable characters she read about that hooked me on the world of books!  

    As a young child, Amelia Bedilia and the hilarious poems of Shel Silverstein left me rolling on the floor with laughter. As I began to read chapter books, the lives of Kristy, Mary Ann, Claudia, and Stacy in The Babysitter’s Club, The Bobbsey Twins, and Nancy Drew captured my interest.  In 5th grade, I discovered the library shelf containing biographies. The lives of Clara Barton and Florence Nightingale sparked my interest in medicine and science. Middle School led me to The Upstairs Room by Joanna Reiss and a new genre of interest, historical fiction. It seemed wherever I turned, there was a whole new world waiting for me. (I have to admit historical fiction is still my go-to genre.) As I grew older, I also developed a love for dystopian novels and futuristic thrillers. To this day, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is the book I have read the most times! 

    Books have helped shape who I’ve become. Reading was the primary draw for me to become an educator. The idea of sharing all those books and stories with kids warmed my heart.  For me, reading is like breathing. I am shocked that slightly more than 1 in 4 Americans did not read a book last year, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center1. I am currently active in two book clubs. In these clubs, we actually read the books and both are lifelines to my sanity!  Our most recent reads were A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum and Call Me American by Abdi Nor Iftin.  It will be interesting to navigate how we will meet next time, but I am looking forward to discussing the books, nonetheless.

    If you are scratching your head as to where you can find books when the world seems to be in lockdown, I want you to know there are many options. This week Audible is offering free access to hundreds of audiobooks for children. For younger readers, Epic and VOOKs are great resources. Both are allowing free subscriptions or trials right now and contain thousands of books and audiobooks across a variety of genres. Our public library is also a great source for free ebooks. My daughters and I use the app Hoopla to access thousands of ebooks and audiobooks through the public library.  There are at least two other apps available to access their titles as well. I recently downloaded On the Come Up by Angie Thomas, author of The Hate You Give and winner of numerous educational awards. I look forward to popping in my headphones and falling into a new world as I listen to it while cleaning the house, exercising, and making dinner!  

    Some of you may already be lifelong readers or book lovers, while others of you may never have found a book that lit that spark. Use this opportunity to find that spark!  This is also a chance to reconnect as a family through books. I wish everyone the best during this time and hope you all find a way to escape into another world through reading.  Don’t know where to start? Look here for suggestions from Trinity Faculty.

    I think Terry Kay captured it best when she explained the experience and satisfaction of delving into a book. I’ll leave you with her poem, “While Reading:”

    While reading, I have been –
    A cowboy (and an Indian) with Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour.
    The confederate soldier with Joseph Pennell and Phillip Louis Williams
    A pirate with Robert Louis Stevenson
    An orphan with Charles Dickens
    An eccentric with Flannery O’Connor
    A dust bowl traveler with John Steinbeck.
     
    While reading, I have been –
    A whaler with Herman Melville
    A golden-dreamer with Erskine Coldwell
    A small-town barber with Wendell Berry
    A runaway with Mark Twain
    An old-time gospel god James Weldon Johnson.
     
    While reading, I have been –
    A b-flat cornet player with William Price Fox
    A battler of windmills with Miguel de Cervantes
    An attendant in the House of Gentle Men with Kathy Hepinstall
    A basketball player with Pat Conroy, a firefighter with Larry Brown, a defense attorney with John Grisham.
     
    While reading, I have touched the oceans darkest depths and walked on planets in solar systems beyond our seeing.
     
    While reading, I have climbed mountains lost in the clouds, and walked a different road with Robert Frost and gazed at the little cat feet of fog with Carl Sandburg and danced to the language-music of Byron Herbert Reece and Edgar Allan Poe and David Bottoms.
     
    While reading, I have flown the Atlantic with Charles Lindbergh and pierced the caul of space with John Glenn.
     
    While reading, I have stood at Gettysburg with Lincoln and in Montgomery with Martin Luther King, Jr.
     
    While reading, I have rejoiced with the still-living of Dachau on the day of liberation, and I have seen the unspeakable horror of Hiroshima on the day of killing.
     
    While reading, I sat at the feet of Abraham and Moses and Jesus and Muhammad and Buddha, and all the other men of God, and all those who would kill God—the insane, the madman, bigoted, the fanatics.
     
    While reading, I have been a boy and a man, girl and woman. I’ve been young and old. I have died and have been re-born.
     
    While reading, I’ve become people I cannot be, doing things I cannot do. And I do not know of any other experience that could have given me such a life.
                Terry Kay, Copyright, 2006
    1. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/09/26/who-doesnt-read-books-in-america/
     





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  • February

    Creativity

    Tim Jones
    See the video of the Student Center redesign project here

    “Mr. Jones, do you think we could just have keys to the school?” That was a question posed to me a few weeks ago by a high school senior so impassioned by his work that he wanted to have more access to the campus than what our normal school week provides. Earlier this year, another group of junior and senior students embarked on a creative design project meant to address an overused and under cared for part of campus. 
     
    In his 2010 TedTalk, Tom Wujec introduced the world to the Marshmallow Challenge. Through this simple yet challenging exercise, participants are asked to create the tallest free-standing structure they can in less than 20 minutes with minimal items: limited sticks of uncooked spaghetti, masking tape, and string. The only real rule is that the structure must support a marshmallow on top. What Tom and other researchers have found is that kindergarten students outperform MBA students on this task. Why?
     
    Quite simply, this is because older students with more formal education are trained how to think and how to approach a problem. As students age, their ability to be creative consistently declines. Sir Ken Robinson, an acclaimed educationalist, claims that schools and the process of education kill creativity, arguing that “we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather we get educated out of it.” As Robinson cites, “creativity is as important as literacy and we should afford it the same status.” A recent article in Forbes magazine cites creativity as one of the top skills people need in order to be successful in 2020 and beyond; just behind complex problem solving and critical thinking.
     
    Remember the senior requesting unfettered access to campus? He is a member of the Upper School’s Robotics team. Robotics is a first-year program in the Upper School. This group started with a few parts, motors, wheels, and a challenge. Their robot improved each week and the results were evident in each competition, eventually allowing them to go undefeated in their last tournament. The group of students responsible for the redesign of the Student Center utilized an empathetic design process. Seeking feedback from peers, teachers, and others in the community who regularly use that space, these students leveraged the feedback gathered to inform their designs. The final iteration of their Student Center project recently raised over $100,000 of support from the community.
     
    These are just a few examples of how passionate learners utilize their ability to be creative on our campus. I believe that Trinity School is uniquely positioned to combat the effects of students losing their aptitude for creativity by instilling a passion to learn and a willingness to experiment. Evidence of this can be seen not only in the Robotics team and Student Center redesigners but also in the recent Glowtastic Museum. Students from PK-12 displayed a wide variety of glow-in-the-dark works of art. This creative spirit and energy can be seen in students of all ages in spaces all over campus.


     
     
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  • January

    The Trials and Triumphs of Middle School Friendships

    Chrystal Myers
    Middle school is a unique yet awkward memory that most who have experienced wish they could forget. Middle school, often thought of as our dress rehearsal for life, is challenging and vital for so many reasons. During the middle school years, adolescents experience many changes academically, socially, emotionally, and behaviorally. Most of these changes happen quickly, leaving the tweens with many unanswered questions and realities they cannot explain. Through all this change, some prescribed by the adults involved and some natural, these “want to be adult children,” begin to beg for autonomy. They have a yearning to be independent and they are confident they have the skills to do it all on their own. This particularly applies when navigating the ever-changing dynamics of friendship.

    As a toddler, friendships are influenced by their environment, which almost always involves the children of their parent’s friends. Parents meet to catch up on life in a kid-friendly environment. The parents place the toddlers in the play area together, and all is well. As children get older, friendships are built on convenience and interest. Children began to ask parents to schedule playdates with their classmates at school, kids at church, or their extracurricular teammates. Emotions also begin to play a role in these newly formed relationships. Kids start to determine with whom they do or do not want to interact based on shared interests. The relationships are generally pliable and change as the children move from one class to another or leave one activity to explore another.

    The next phase of friendship happens during middle school or tween years. Adolescents, at this point, begin to choose friends based on their own set of criteria rather than on the environment or convenience.  Some embrace these relationships based on similarities or their desire for fashion, interests, peer/social groups, and/or values. Tweens crave independence to navigate and accept new friends. Friendships are very fluid and emotional for the kids in this age group and for their families; however, they are essential for understanding relationships. While making new friends, tweens never really give up their friendships from previous years. These friendships are comfortable and pleasant.  Having the stability and certainty of the “known” relationship allows them to navigate through the “unknown” more easily. “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver; the other is gold.” (Girl Scouts)

    Jessica Lahey, the author of The Gift of Failure, explains that through this phase of friendship, middle schoolers experience the feeling of a broken heart. Most, for the first time, will feel the pain of betrayal and rejection by being “dropped” by one of their friend groups. In some instances, the comfy, old group does the dropping, while for others, this inflicted pain comes from the new friendship group.

    The parents also feel the pain and heartache the tween is feeling. This pain fuels the parent’s impulse to step in and “fix” the friendship. However, stepping in robs the tweens of the ability to begin to understand how to handle and deal with pain, apologies (giving and receiving), and assertiveness. In The Gift of Failure, Lahey reminds us that these relationships are “not about us.” Though this concept is hard for many parents, it is important to understand. Through these trials and triumphs, tweens find their “people” and their identity, while also learning critical, lifelong lessons. 

    This dress rehearsal juncture of life allows tweens to make crazy, irrational, and poor decisions while having a large support team to pick them up and help them learn from their mistakes and failures. The autonomy to make and break their relationships, with no adult involvement, equips these tweens with the tools needed to continue to foster, develop, and initiate current and new friendships.

    Chrystal Myers is Head of Middle School at Trinity School of Midland. She is most interested in the best practices for educating and understanding middle school students. 
     
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  • Debunking the Rumors Around College Admission

    Dr. Trey Wetendorf
    It seems like, more than ever, we hear and see the phrases “fake news” or “the rumor is,” and it turns out the news was not accurate or that the rumor was indeed just a rumor. Often when I visit with students and parents, I find myself debunking some of the same “fake news” and “rumors” surrounding the college admissions process. A few examples are: 

    Some students and parents believe that the more activities you put on your resume, the better chance you have at getting into a particular college. There is not anything wrong with having a “well-rounded” list of activities to report to a college when you apply; however, does the quantity matter? I had coffee with a dean of admissions a few years ago, and this topic came up. He talked about the pressures parents and students must feel to include as many activities as possible on a college application to get admitted. He suggested that students make a list of all of the activities they currently do and then go back through the list and mark out the ones they no longer like or enjoy doing. Many deans of admission I speak with feel the same: the quality of the activity and a student’s demonstrated passion for that activity is what colleges look for. Students who stretch themselves too thin with so many activities often see a negative impact on their grades. After all, it is student grades, according to a recent survey by the latest National Association of College Admissions Counseling, which is the most critical factor in helping a student getting admitted to college. A parent recently asked me if their child should then stick to just one particular activity. My advice is that students should continue exploring extracurricular activities, community service opportunities, job opportunities, etc. that they are curious about doing. It is through those curiosities and trial and error attempts that students have the chance to find new interests and passions that end up looking great on college resumes or, in many cases, get discussed in a college essay. My advice? Be reasonable with your time and keep grades in mind. Oh, and don’t forget to relax, sleep, and spend time with your family and friends. 

    Some students believe the only way to have a positive college experience is to attend a Big 12 or SEC school with a major college football program. The University of Texas, for instance, plays 12 games a season. This season they had seven home games (other colleges typically have an even number of home and away games). Last year I ate lunch with several of our students and an admissions rep from Southwestern University, a fantastic liberal arts college located in Georgetown, Texas. There was one thing the rep said that stuck out for me in his conversation with the students: while he attended Southwestern, he went to most of the UT football home games and had a blast. However, he said that experience only lasted a few weeks out of the year. Having grown up under the “Friday Night Lights” of West Texas high school football, I get it. But, there is so much more to the college experience, such as the numerous clubs and organizations colleges offer, long-lasting friendships made in and out of classrooms, those unforgettable dorm stories/experiences, studying abroad, experiential learning opportunities, etc. These are the kinds of things former students come back to Trinity to tell our current students and me about—not what happened on the football field. Don’t forget there are several colleges in the same city or within a short drive to those Big 12 or SEC football games, so you can always have the best of both worlds. 

    Some students and parents believe that a student’s class rank in high school is vital to the college admissions process. Earlier this year, I went to a college event in El Paso where Duke, Harvard, Georgetown, Penn, and Stanford were all in attendance. After the event, students and parents were able to visit with the different colleges. I stopped by each small question-and-answer session, and it seemed like one of the biggest questions asked over and over again was, “Do you consider rank in class for admissions purposes?” All of the representatives from each of those schools replied that they do not consider or care about rank. As the night continued, I heard stories from different families that I visited with about how students move around town repeatedly so that their child can attend the least competitive high school possible and gain automatic admission into The University of Texas and Texas A&M. Automatic acceptance based on ranking to public universities in Texas was a rule passed by our state legislature and signed into law by then-Governor Bush, who took the idea from his brother, who was at the time Governor of Florida. Interestingly, Florida got rid of that rule years later. It seems crazy that people would go to such extremes to get “automatically admitted” to only two universities in the country that care about class rank. (I would note that despite the fact that over the last several years The University of Texas and Texas A&M rarely make it out to recruit in the Midland/Odessa area, Trinity School students get admitted to these Texas flagship institutions at an exceptional rate, despite the fact that we, like so many other independent schools and two-thirds of all schools in the country, don’t rank.) 

    I have heard many students say to me, “I don’t want to go to a liberal arts college because they are just too liberal.” The other day a former student of mine just arrived back home from their first semester at a liberal arts college. I asked how it went, and the student told me (and I am paraphrasing here) that AP-type classes are great, but they teach to the test. “At my school,” the student said, “we are challenged to explain our thoughts, our ideas, or explanations in front of our professor and our peers. There is something more enriching to this type of classroom experience.” I think it is essential to know that the word “liberal” in liberal arts colleges has nothing to do with a political viewpoint or perspective. Nor does it mean that a “liberal” arts college is going to steer a student towards a particular political party affiliation purposefully. Liberal arts colleges attempt to educate the whole person by offering a broad-based and enriching learning experience. Liberal arts colleges do an exceptional job of producing students who think critically, who communicate, and who read and write exceptionally well. It is no wonder that more and more companies, especially those in STEM fields, are hiring these graduates at a higher rate than ever. I challenge students and parents to look at the four-year graduation rates of these schools, which are often double that of most large and state universities. Liberal arts colleges are also great stepping stones and have extremely high placement rates for those who wish to continue to graduate school...medical, law, business, and engineering. Some might argue that liberal arts colleges are just too expensive. The vast majority of our students’ merit-based scholarship dollars comes from those liberal arts colleges. Those scholarship awards can make liberal arts colleges as inexpensive as the in-state tuition costs of many of our Texas public colleges and universities. My advice to parents and students is to branch out and explore all types of colleges and universities so that you can identify the best fit for your child. If you are out visiting colleges this spring, put a liberal arts college on your list of places to visit. 

    My advice to students and parents when it comes to the college admissions process is to reach out to myself or Betsy Faris here at Trinity School when you have questions. Some websites, social media, and hearsay can often be misleading. And while you may have experienced the college admissions process yourself, let me tell you that much has changed over the years. Thankfully, the administration at Trinity School provides us the resources to be able to travel and visit with college admissions officials from universities and colleges all over the country. They also provide memberships to the most credible organizations for college admissions, such as the National Association for College Admissions Counseling and the Texas Association for College Admissions Counseling. All of this helps us to have the most current and up-to-date information to properly advise our students and parents on the college admissions process. 


    Dr. Trey Wetendorf is Director of College Advising at Trinity School and a Trinity alumnus. 
     
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