Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Understanding School History

Recently I was attending a conference and the speaker quoted his daughter who had said, ‘I wish they tested for history on the state exams because then they would teach it in my school.’  As a former history teacher this was discouraging to hear on so many levels.

It is nearly impossible to dissect, understand and relate to the present if one doesn’t have a clear understanding of the past.  Recently, I had an experience that serves as the perfect metaphor to illustrate this point.

One day last week the juniors and seniors were off campus at Bass Hall and so 33-year Trinity Valley School veteran history teacher Bill Shelton and I took a tour of TVS’ past.

We took a drive toward the school’s former campus on McCart where the school most recently resided until 1998 when it moved to it’s current location on Dutch Branch and Bryant Irvin.  As we drove I was treated to a history of the area - from the background of certain developments to the former uses of different historic buildings, to old stomping grounds of Dr. Shelton.

As we drew closer to the school he pointed out the Walgreens where the faculty parking lot once stood, the Brahms Ice Cream store where the faculty parked during construction (and the busy road the teachers had to cross to get there - dodging teen drivers all the way.)  We pulled into the school (successfully avoiding security) and as we drove around I received the insiders’ history lesson on the origins of the school, the challenges TVS overcame, the opportunities afforded the school by generous supporters (and even a few stories that cannot be repeated in order to protect the innocent.)

We visited several other historic sites and areas and discussed the growth and development in Southwest Fort Worth since the time the school was founded and eventually moved (twice).  Dr. Shelton filled me in on important figures who paved the way in order for the school to be the place it is today as a result of their hard work and vision.  I learned the connections to some of the folks I have recently come to know, and their impact on the school.

As a result of this extraordinary opportunity to step back in time I gained such an important context and understanding for how far TVS has come, the significance of certain traditions, and a foundational understanding of the tenets upon which the school was founded, and should be kept sacred as we move forward as a school and a community.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Teaching and Learning in an Election Year

Having recently seen the President’s final address and anticipating the inauguration this morning, few could argue that this has been an election year like no other.

There have, and continue to be, passionate political views from all corners, and Trinity Valley School is no different.  This is a natural hallmark of a school that embraces intellectual curiosity and supports respectful discourse (and even disagreement) and appropriate dissent.

What an opportunity we have, and are taking advantage of, in the current political climate, to fan the flames of curiosity and help our students understand, real-time, the nuances, flaws and challenges inherent in a democracy.  We can help our students dissect the Constitution and understand the challenges in applying a document that is two-hundred years old to a global and ever-changing society.

All of this happens within an educational environment where respect and tolerance is not negotiable and discourse is considered an important and valued component of learning and teaching.  Students at TVS are doubly fortunate to have families who are interested in furthering  the conversation in the car, at the dinner table, and beyond.  This is noticed and appreciated by faculty and administration alike.

We look forward to continuing the conversation, and anticipate there will be much fodder in the days, weeks and months ahead.