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

  • 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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