Flourishing: A Trinity Journey

Needless to say, I have done more than my share of reflecting this past week as Sarah prepared to graduate. The last nine years of my daughter’s life have been spent at Trinity School. With each passing year, I watched her engage with the faculty carefully chosen to support the learners at each stage of development. I watched her experience the curriculum and activities that we as a school had developed to help students build a strong academic and character foundation, cherish childhood, empower learners, deepen experiences and to cultivate curiosity, creativity, and confidence. All of this was designed to help students flourish. It’s a lovely tagline, evoking a picture of life unfolding. The marketing strategy is more than a clever draw on one’s heartstrings. A Trinity journey results in students who flourish. I know. I watched it happen.

Sarah entered the Butterfly class, full of delight and activity. She was disinterested in coloring in the lines, often failed to follow instructions, and was busy when she was supposed to be sitting still. At the same time, she loved the roly polys she found at recess, cherished dress up time, and devoured the lunches – as her clothes clearly showed each afternoon. Reading came hard and slow for her. Her classmates zoomed ahead. Learning Team members intervened to support her, yet she still lagged behind. Friendships lagged as well. It was hard to be different. I often wondered if perhaps she wasn’t a good fit at Trinity. Sarah could do math with ease, and she loved art and music. But still the reading and writing kept her from feeling like she was a student.

Third Grade came and our lives changed in an instant with the death of her father. It was the Trinity family who made sure my daughter was okay. Miss Paige bought her art supplies, knowing how she loved to draw and perhaps drawing would help her sort out her feelings. Miss Coote showered her with love and encouragement. Miss Suzanne wrote her a note about her own loss at the age of 9. Ms. Hansen honored the math student that she was so proud to be. Reading was still the enemy, and she was even further behind due to the emotional toll and lack of progress.

Fourth Grade. A year that I had dreaded as a parent, knowing that the amount of reading and writing increased. Knowing that friendships become even more difficult for girls. Knowing that reading would impact the math student she was so proud to be. A diagnosis of dyslexia, flair pens introduced by Miss Nims, new methods of taking notes shared by Mrs. Dickey, Mrs. Lynah, a devoted Trinity teacher who tutored her with gusto, and Learning Ally turned her story around. Day-by-day, she gained confidence as a reader. For the fourth year in a row, her teachers had carefully placed her with her dear friend who loved her for who she was, and she had new opportunities to show what she knew in different ways. All of a sudden, she started talking like a student, sharing what she was learning, seeking information, choosing to read. She worked hard. So hard.

Fast forward to her Leadership year. Cobalt blue. Meaningful school field trips and outdoor education trips. Student Council. Carnegie Hall. Tours for prospective parents. Taking tours at prospective secondary schools. Projects where art and creativity were honored. Opportunities to think differently. Opera. Capstone about the advantages of dyslexia! And this week. . . Graduation.

Each year, growth as a learner. Each year, growth as a friend. Each year, growth as a thinker. Each year, opportunities to shine in her own way. As I have reflected upon her journey at Trinity School, and I have shed more than a few tears at this loss of childhood, I have been immensely proud of the school that has shaped Sarah, allowing her to stretch and honoring the gifts she brings so joyfully. Thank you, Trinity School, for helping my girl flourish.

 

Learner, Thinker, Writer: Maryellen Berry serves the Trinity Community as the Upper Elementary Division Head.

A Song in the Spotlight

It’s the final stretch. I can see summer’s promise of mornings lazing in my PJs, afternoons lost to the hammock and a book, and evenings’ dark freckled by fireflies. But between me and all the splendid serenity of summer are progress reports.  And Graduation rehearsals.  And Fun and Field Day.  And Morning of Memories.  And the kickball game.  And final reflections for MyLearning.  And, and, and!

This is a time of year when I often feel rushed or to feel the desire to speed through final things that seem to be standing in the way of my well-deserved break. It’s easy to think, “Ugh! The kickball game is coming up. It’s going to be so hot out there. I don’t know why we bother.” Or, “I’ll just throw this in their MyLearning as a final piece. The parents don’t even look at these anyway.” I’ve been at this job for a while. I’ve seen it all. I know what to expect in these last weeks and from these kids.

But, last Thursday morning, I was reminded of something very important during the student performance of “Carmen.”

Heather F. as Micaela. Photo by Paul Ward

Our Micaela began singing her aria, but the audience couldn’t hear it. Those of us who had been in the rehearsals with her for the last four weeks knew she was singing it in French, and we knew the lovely sound of her voice because we had heard it many times. But, for this almost 12-year-old chanteuse, this was her one shot to show her fellow Trinity students how hard she had been working on mastering this song. It was through the admirable actions of our talented music teachers that I was reminded of the importance of every moment for our students. While I may be returning to 6th Grade again in August, these students will never have another chance at being Trinity 6th Graders again. Dr. Chandler quickly brought her piano playing down so that the young lady might be heard. But after a few moments, Mrs. Vrieland stated, “No, she’s going to start over.”

These decisions allowed the other adults who were working as stagehands and crew to remedy the issue with the young singer’s microphone, and she was given the chance to sing her song in front of her fellow Trinitians so that it could be heard. Doesn’t every young learner deserve the chance to sing their own songs so that they can be heard, regardless of how many times we, the adults, might have heard it in practice or a similar tune before? Where are the places that we, as teachers, can bring down the competing noise or restart the song once everything is in order?

In these last weeks, I hope every one of our students is given their rightful moment in the spotlight because each moment only comes around once, and they will never again be 6th Grade stars of an opera, or 4th Grade egg safety capsule designers, or 1st Grade authors of a book on Georgia animals, or Pre-K explorers seeking a wayward pastry.

Learner, Thinker, Writer: Kate Burton serves the Trinity School community as 6th Grade science teacher.