Mid Year Update
As I write this, it’s January 16th, and I’m stuck on a layover in Denver, Colorado while returning from observing an Outdoor Education program in Jackson Hole, Wyoming (more on this later).
Flight delays aren’t good for much, but this one is allowing me to capture some thoughts on the months ahead. I want to share two groups of reflections with you. First, some observations about our remarkable community and school. Second, some initiatives we’re undertaking with the ultimate goal continuing to create an exceptional learning environment for our most important constituents – your children.
Observations. I’ve shared with you, in many settings, four key areas of emphasis for our families: enrollment, matriculation, retention, and communication. I’ll keep you updated on those issues throughout the year – but I also want to add two more key themes.
Our exemplary academic program and faculty. My first impression of Trinity is now a conclusion: the academic program is outstanding. The faculty and staff are experts in their field, they consistently seek out best practices – and the result is evident in our classrooms every day.
- Their firm grounding in Reading, Writing and Mathematics. Most of our faculty has been trained in the Columbia Teachers’ College Reading and Writing Project, believed to be the most effective writing program for young children in America. Further, their ability to differentiate is a strength of our program. In most classes, there are three groups of learners in mathematics and the instructional rotation is both fluid and effective.
- Their commitment to collaboration. I am inspired daily by the faculty’s commitment to collaboration and collective growth. After 30+ years in education, I can tell you that this is rare. While each teacher is individually talented, their complementary, mission-aligned styles translate into an enhanced learning experience for the students.
A parent community that is deeply dedicated to the Trinity community. I’ve consistently witnessed our parents’ desire to be involved in the life of the school. All of you collaborate with the TPA, participate in community events, and lend your considerable expertise to topics ranging from communications to community service. I am committed to continuing to leverage your expertise, and to furthering our community-building opportunities.
Initiatives. It’s been seven months since I started at Trinity. After meetings with faculty, parents, administrators, and the Board, and after events such as Chapel, Admissions tours, Roundtables, and more – I believe we can now take concrete steps towards merging best practices in the arts and sciences, and in experiential and social-emotional learning.
- Deepening our Social-Emotional Learning program (SEL). Our students’ world is increasingly complex, and they need an SEL toolbox that differs substantially from the one we would have offered them a generation ago – or even ten years ago. We plan to implement a coordinated, sequential SEL program based on the latest brain research and practice by partnering with the Institute for Social and Emotional Learning (IFSEL). This would include in-service training, parent education, summer workshops, teacher observations, and the development of a scope and sequence for Trinity SEL in 2019-2020.
- Cultivating the musical genius in every child. Music is a language unto itself, and a keen understanding of music can lead to breakthroughs in others areas, such as mathematics. With this in mind, we are exploring the expansion of the Orff Methodology at Trinity, which includes storytelling, movement, rhythm, percussion, collaboration, and dance. Unlike a traditional orchestra, Orff is dependent on collaboration and developing an ear for collective movement and harmony. We plan to provide this more comprehensive experience during the 2019-2020 academic year.
- Creating a more experiential math program. If one looked at scores alone, we might not review math at all – overall, our students perform above the independent school norm in Quantitative Reasoning and Mathematics on ERB testing. Still, our mathematics program – largely hinged on Saxon Math – is strongly associated with solving equations through repetition, rather than through experiential learning. It’s a bit like learning science in a lab, but ignoring fieldwork. Our goal is to help students investigate numerical relationships, understand how numbers inform social issues, and continually apply new skills. We need to determine if Saxon is the “spinal cord” from which we want this learning to flow by doing a comprehensive review that – when done thoroughly – will take a bit of time.
- Reviewing our Outdoor Education experience. Trinity has an outstanding science program – the methodology and content are consistently reviewed and well-applied. Still, similar to mathematics, fieldwork remains a critical element. Currently, 4th and 5th graders participate in a yearly outdoor education trip – in places like Pt. Reyes National Seashore or Big Sur. Over time, we’d like to expand that offering to 3rd grade, and include a variety of ecosystems and cultural landmarks. Examples could include the Deep South, the Northwest rainforests, Grand Teton National Park, and more. (Which leads me back to my flight delay – I’ve just observed the program at Teton Science Schools). As residents of Silicon Valley, we can all attest to our students’ dexterity with technology. However, we’d like to increasingly look “beyond the iPad” – combining the latest tech tools with rich, place-based experiences in the natural world.
I know this is a lot to digest – it has taken the faculty, staff, and me months of observation to come to a place where we feel ready to blaze a path forward. I’m excited by the opportunity, proud of the work the faculty has done to date, and grateful to be on this journey with all of you.