Connecting it forward

October 21, 2015 by Jeffrey Rubel, Contributing Writer

On Oct. 3, President Falk proudly declared the launch of the College’s latest and grandest capital campaign. This campaign centers on the most fundamental aspect of a Williams education: the interactions between teacher and student in the classroom. From this stems the campaign’s slogan, one that will embody the College for years to come: Teach it Forward.

As you keep moving through the priorities of the campaign, you will eventually find one at the bottom of the “Beyond the Classroom” page on the website: Mount Greylock Regional School. For most students at the College, the local high school is invisible. Few of us even know where it is. But, it is an integral part of our Williamstown community. As the capital campaign says, “The health and quality of the Mt. Greylock Regional School is essential to the recruitment and retention of college faculty and staff.” The benefit of a high school to faculty and staff at the College is clear. Over the next decade, a third of the College’s faculty will retire, and their replacements will likely be young professionals looking to raise families in Williamstown. Thus, a flourishing high school is key to the future success of the faculty at the College.

But, the benefit of Mount Greylock extends far beyond professors and its students. The high school is a place for the College’s undergraduates to engage with the community around campus. Every week, more than 40 students make the trek to Mount Greylock because of a shared passion to, in the words of the College’s capital campaign, “teach it forward.”

Every day, Williams students can be found in the Mount Greylock classrooms: working one-on-one with a student editing essays on Romeo and Juliet, talking with a group of students in physics class about friction, speaking in Spanish with students to help them improve their fluency and more. You can also find Williams students around Mount Greylock after the last bell rings: mentoring students in the after-school tutoring program, leading an outing club to explore the mountains, coaching a Model U.N. team and more.

Mount Greylock is a meeting ground. It is an opportunity for us, as students at the College, to share something we love – from geology to singing – with others around us. While our work at the high school is invisible to most of our peers at the College, our work is visible to the students and teachers at Mount Greylock.

But, we learn just as much from the students as they may learn from us. We learn how to communicate ideas, how to inspire students to get excited about a topic and how to push a student to go that extra step. Some days, we drive back to campus feeling defeated – we could not get that student to find a quote for his essay or speak even a sentence in Spanish – but some days (most days), we come home smiling after showing a student why biology is so interesting or why calculus is important. These inspiring moments are the ones that keep pulling us back to Mount Greylock. Every time we interact with a student or a teacher, we are challenged to think differently about how we engage with our subject and those around us.

Every week, we have the opportunity to “teach it forward.” The campaign launches this idea as a novel one, but it is not. It is engrained in what students at the College do each day as they go to Mount Greylock, or Williamstown Elementary School or any other school in the area. Teaching it forward drives us; it’s an opportunity for us to share what we know and what we are passionate about with others. Thus, this small part of the campaign, hidden at the bottom of their website, is our campaign.

We aim to connect with the community, build bridges and share what we know. At Mount Greylock, we are putting our Williams education into action. The combination of learning and teaching pushes us forward and drives us to think about what it means to live and learn in the Purple Valley. We are not only learning how to teach, but also learning how to empathize. We are learning how to empathize with both the student in-and-out of foster care and the one whose parents are our professors.

Thus, we are not just teaching it forward – we are empathizing it forward. We are building a community of learners and educators, bringing the College and Williamstown closer together. We are teaching it forward, one essay and math problem at a time.

Jeffrey Rubel ’17 is a geosciences major from Mission Hills, Kan. He lives in Bryant. 

 

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