Academic Insights: TCS Grade 9 Program

Grade 9 Day Trip

Your child’s well-being is a central consideration of every adult in the Trinity College School community, because young learners will only take the risks necessary for learning when they feel cognitively and emotionally safe. And, as every caregiver knows, learners bring their whole selves to learning experiences, which is why we, as educators, place tremendous value on your parental insights of your child. You are the expert of your child; we are the experts in creating meaningful learning experiences; and when we share common perspectives we begin to align a learner’s needs with the curriculum that satisfies those needs.

As responsible educators we strive to take great care in helping learners construct the stories of their learning, as they become blueprints for action. With this placed firmly in mind, Grade 9 teachers this year are considering that, to find competence in the realm of academics, learners must have both academic skills and enablers intact. The skills of reading, writing and math are consistently assessed and evaluated. The enablers are a little more nebulous, but nonetheless, exceptionally important to consider. For instance, as teachers we are often asking ourselves whether learning skills or other emotional factors may account for the progress being observed. To learn the most valuable lessons students must be engaged, self-reflective and willing to persevere through difficulty.

We saw this kind of engagement and determination on the part of our Grade 9 students early in the year, when the entire grade took part in a day trip during the opening week of school. Students actively took part in collaborative problem-solving activities, and stepped outside of their comfort zones to take on new challenges. Despite their understandable nervousness starting the new school year, the students were soon laughing and smiling, making friends and feeling more at ease. This experience also allowed many of our Grade 9 faculty to get to know the students as individuals, building a foundational relationship between teacher and student that will enhance classroom learning.

So, how can you, as parents, help? For young people, paying attention can be exceptionally difficult and requires tremendous effort and practice. This year, we are taking a proactive approach to instilling good habits around cellphones specifically. For our Grade 9 and 10 boarders, this means phones are being handed in at 10:00 p.m. on weeknights and returned to the students in the morning. Similarly, we are sending a stronger message about cellphone use during the school day. Phones are put away during class time and at night not as a punishment but because they compete for a student’s valuable attention. As parents, we hope you can reinforce the message to your child at home, that there are times appropriate for using their phones and there are times when phone use interferes with learning.

We also encourage you to have frequent and honest conversations with your child about their time at school. What challenges are they facing and what supports can they access at TCS to help them meet these challenges? One added benefit of less screen time is that it allows for more face-to-face time and the chance to have deep conversations with your child about their hopes, their fears and their plans for the future.

For young people, the high school experience can seem to have as many challenges as there are opportunities, which makes it vitally important that you, as a parent, believe the wisdom you have about your child is valued and held to the highest degree of respect and, where necessary, confidentiality. Equipped with the knowledge that teachers are looking to support both academic skills and their enablers, we look forward to continuing the conversation on how we will make your child’s Grade 9 experiences rich and meaningful.

- By Mike Harding, Grade 9 coordinator