Trinity Insights

List of 1 news stories.

  • 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 if you have questions relating to our blogs or would like to see us discuss certain topics.
< 2019


  • October

    What Is An Independent School?

    Adrianne Clifton
    What is an independent school, and why don’t you just call yourself (Trinity School of MIdland) a private school?

    An independent school is an independently organized non-profit school governed by a board of trustees. Unlike private schools in our area, independent schools are free from external control. Private schools, which might be profit or non-profit, could have to answer to some overarching organizational framework such as a church or state government that could dictate how they are to operate. Independent schools represent the ultimate in school-based management, which has been shown to produce excellent outcomes for students, even in the public sector where experiments in school-based autonomy have been undertaken. Independent schools are also financed independently, most often through a combination of tuition dollars, philanthropic support, and endowment income. This means that independent schools are unencumbered by most state mandates, including the burdens of standardized testing, which has not been shown to improve outcomes for students.

    So independent schools can do whatever they want?

    Not quite. Independent schools are mission driven, that is they declare clearly and publicly what their goals are, and their focus is, first and foremost, on the welfare of the students enrolled at the school--even before the teachers or staff who work at the school. They seek to enroll students who can benefit from and contribute to the fulfillment of the mission, thereby creating an intentional community of learners who are collectively committed to supporting one another in achieving a range of educational outcomes. Parents choosing an independent school for their child will want to pay close attention to the mission, which is a declaration of the school’s purpose and is the way the school is held accountable -- more on that in a minute. 

    Independent means that decisions about curriculum and pedagogy, about extra-curricular activities and sports, about discipline, about all aspects of school life are made at the school by professional educators,  rather than by politicians or others who know nothing about education. The faculty and staff of an independent school, whose responsibility it is to carry out the mission of the school, make decisions relating to the education program and are also the people in charge of implementing them. Such a framework ensures the buy-in necessary to be able to implement changes in a way that is positive and constructive and meets the needs of students; moreover, it also means that decisions can be made quickly, if necessary, and in response to changing circumstances. Decisions do not have to be “run up the line” to a district downtown office or past some bureaucrat in our state capital. This means that independent schools can be responsive to student needs and can quickly implement educational practices that are in the best interest of children. 

    What about accountability?

    Independent schools are accountable, first and foremost, to the children that they serve, to their parents who pay tuition, and to the market at large.
    We must provide an exemplary educational experience for our students and produce consistently excellent outcomes, or people will not enroll. It’s as simple as that. However, in our continuous striving to be excellent, independent schools also band together, often in regional associations. For Trinity School, this is the Independent Schools of the Southwest, or ISAS. ISAS has been authorized by multiple state education agencies to accredit its member schools, a process that ensures that each school is fulfilling its mission--its declared purpose. If independent schools do not do what they promise to do, they risk not having their accreditation renewed by ISAS, and they risk disappointing parents who will take their children elsewhere to be educated. 

    Aren't independent schools pretty homogenous places that lack diversity?

    No. Actually, depending on the region, independent schools can often be more diverse than the local public schools because public schools draw their students from one specific geographical area, which can often be racially and economically homogenous. Independent schools, by contrast, draw students from a much wider geographical area (for us, Andrews, Ector, Martin, and Midland counties as well as internationally), which often comprises a more diverse range of potential students. In addition, most independent schools have as part of their mission a commitment to equity and inclusion, so the schools seek to enroll a diverse population of students, including students from families who might not be able to afford the tuition. 

    Are independent schools utopian outposts?

    No. Independent schools are filled with regular students from a range of different kinds of families, who have all chosen the school to educate their children in an environment that puts the needs of the students first. Because independent schools are human organizations, we have challenges just as any other human organization; however, in working through our challenges, we benefit from a shared commitment to the mission of the school, a central focus on the needs of children, and a decision-making and problem-solving framework that means we can address issues quickly, thoughtfully, and humanely.

    If any of this sounds like it might describe a school you would like to learn more about, I urge you to give Trinity School of Midland a call-- or go to or the National Association of Independent School’s website,, to find a list of independent schools near you.  
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  • September

    The Power of Expeditionary Learning

    Tim Jones, Head of Upper School
    Regardless of how intentional schools are in the design of daily educational and co-curricular experiences by crafting activities in the classroom that are appropriately challenging, engaging, and fun, there are certain things that just cannot be covered in a traditional classroom and experiences that cannot be replicated on campus. This is one of the primary reasons that school expeditionary learning trips should be planned and prioritized each year.

    These activities take a variety of forms: from investigating early civilizations in New Mexico, to visiting a variety of college campuses as students begin the process of thinking about their personal futures, to symbolically encouraging students to take a leap of faith by jumping off the cliffs above the Nueces River. 

    Having led trips of this nature for almost twenty years, I vividly remember many examples of student success made possible through these adventures. Last year, after the Junior Trip, Leap of Faith,participants were challenged to get out of their comfort zone by completing a series of high element activities, (like zip lining, rock climbing, and rappelling) over several days. One of the participants shared how proud she felt after successfully completing all of the activities even though she was initially scared to participate. She went on to explain how glad she was that she did not shy away from what seemed a little overwhelming at first. Participating in new activities such as this helps students develop both the courage to try new things and the ability to face challenges from a new perspective, all while fostering a stronger commitment to personal growth and development.  

    Expeditionary learning is a powerful tool that we use to enrich the everyday experience for students. It affords participants the opportunity to grow as individuals, to build self-confidence, and to learn to take calculated risks. It forces students out of their comfort zones, causing them to be vulnerable and open with their classmates in the pursuit of challenging goals in unfamiliar territory. These activities help students build trust and a stronger sense of belonging to their community. Along the way, students also pick up skills and strategies that will remain with them throughout their lifelong learning journey.
    Originally from Odessa, Tim moved to Fort Worth after high school to attend TCU. In the Summer of 2000, he became the Athletic Trainer at Trinity Valley School. During his career at TVS, he spent time as a classroom teacher, assistant director of Experiential Education Program, and as the school’s 
    Director of Athletics for almost a decade. He moved back to West Texas in 2018, when he became Upper School Head at Trinity. In his time away from school, he enjoys watching college sports, reading, cooking and traveling with his wife, Dawn, and their two German shorthaired pointers, Gus and Sage.
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  • August

    I Can Do It Myself!

    Shelby Hammer, Head of School
    During our workshops before school started, Trinity faculty were asked, “What percentage of student learning are you responsible for?” Responses varied with the ages of the children taught and the philosophies of individual teachers and ranged from a low of 35% to a high of 80%. Wherever we fell on the continuum, we all agreed that students have at least some degree of responsibility for their learning. There is a fundamental truth here. Teachers can teach their hearts out, pour every ounce of energy they have into their lessons, and plan engaging and rigorous learning activities, and students still might not learn. The lack of learning could be attributed to a learning difference, emotional distress, or some other challenge. Sometimes, though, students do not realize that they are in charge of their learning. In other words, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”

    Though the idea that students own the learning is relatively new, it is taking root in pedagogical practice. Back in the twentieth century, when I was in school and when I started teaching, learning was considered a knowledge transfer. Students went to school without knowledge, listened to the teacher, and then left knowing what the teacher knew. To use an apt cliché, the teacher was “the sage on the stage,” and students were there to receive whatever knowledge was offered. Even in this model, however, students bore some responsibility for their learning. They had to be good note takers, listeners, readers, and memorizers to be successful. However, content knowledge was the goal, and students were supposed to learn what teachers wanted them to know.
    With our increased understanding about how the brain works, new challenges in our world, and a different generation of students and parents, school is changing. Content knowledge is still important, but it alone is no longer the desired result. Rather, students first need to learn the material and then they need to analyze, evaluate, and apply it to solve “real-world problems.” In some ways, this is nothing new. Think about word problems in math, engineering challenges in physics, or persuasive essays in English. Those learning activities require more than content knowledge acquisition. What is different is the growing understanding that students need much more practice in figuring out what to do with their content knowledge once they have it. They need more practice with creative thinking and brainstorming divergent answers to questions that do not have a single correct response. The only way that students can build these skills is to engage in them. The responsibility of the teacher is to create learning environments and activities that give students the practice they need, the resilience to persist when things inevitably go wrong, and the ability to ask questions that further their understanding. However, the kids must do the real work. Coaches and music and art teachers have known this for years. In these settings, the teachers engage in some direct instruction, but students spend the rest of time doing. Other disciplines are now adopting that approach.

    At Trinity School, as we seek to enrich the mind, we are working to provide enduring knowledge and authentic practice that will prepare our students for college and for life. By teaching new courses like Robotics, Innovation and Technology, Project X, and Creativity and Design alongside English/Language Arts, math, social studies, and other traditional courses, students truly have the opportunity to enrich their minds and prepare for college and for life. Just as they did when they were in preschool and learned to tie their shoes, at the end of the day, we want to hear our students exclaim with confidence and pride, “I can do it myself!”

    Shelby Hammer is Head of School at Trinity School of Midland. She decided to become an educator when she was in seventh grade and has enjoyed a variety of roles and schools over the past 25 years. She began her tenure at Trinity in 2018 and has embraced life in Midland. Prior to her move to Midland, Shelby served as the Head of Middle School and the Assistant Head of School for Special Projects at River Oaks Baptist School in Houston, Texas. In her spare time, she likes to cook, read, and play golf. She and her husband Allen, also an educator in Midland, have two children, a Trinity School alumnus and a current Trinity student. 

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