CLiA coordinates three paid professional development programs with local schools

Lydia Duan

The Center for Learning in Action (CLiA) is coordinating three paid professional development opportunities for the College’s CLiA Education Fellows over the regional school district’s February break period. These three programs are linked by the joining of interests by CLiA and Mount Greylock Regional School District (MGRSD) to increase trauma-informed training for their community partners. 

CLiA Director Paula Consolini explained that these projects aim to increase the depth of student engagement with local communities. “There’s an awareness that the challenges are really substantial in these schools,” Consolini said. “The idea here is that we want to advance students’ learning around the work they’re doing in these schools.”

The first of the three was a brunch event on Feb. 17, titled “Get to know WES [Williamstown Elementary School].” At this event, Joelle Brookner, principal of WES, gave a presentation on the demographics of the three schools in the MGRSD – WES, Lanesborough Elementary School and Mount Greylock Regional School. 

She referenced the recent 2018 official accountability report issued by the Massachusetts Department of Education, highlighting indicators for groups the department deems “high needs,” such as students with disabilities or students who are English language learners. She then provided background context about WES and its current academic programs in place to meet state curricular standards. In addition, she noted that the school has incorporated more teaching about emotional regulation, mindfulness and empathy for its students. When reflecting upon a school’s role in developing interpersonal and social skillsets for its students, Brookner cited the school’s mission statement, which reads, “To inspire in all students a love of learning and challenge them to grow in heart and mind.” 

Co-hosted by the campus chapter of No Lost Generation, a national group centered around refugee and immigration advocacy, last Wednesday’s screening of Day One provided an additional professional development opportunity. The film features a “group of teens from war zones in the Middle East and Africa as they are resettled in St. Louis and enrolled at a unique public school for refugees-only,” as described by its studio synopsis. Day One examines themes of trauma and diaspora, and a brief student-led discussion event followed the viewing in Griffin Hall.

A “Mindfulness in Kids” dinner and workshop event at The Log last Thursday explored the application of mindfulness techniques in everyday interactions with schoolchildren. Monica Endres, mindfulness coordinator at the Pine Cobble School, shared her principles of meditative practice. 

Consolini emphasized the reciprocity of expanded training among students, faculty and community members. She referenced ongoing programs such as the Justice League partnership with Reid Middle School that engages with models for restorative justice, the Learning Intervention For Teams collaboration between College students and teenagers involved with the juvenile court systems of Berkshire County and the recent Community Matters initiative at Mount Greylock Regional School that seeks to foster discussion around topics of identity. “Young lives are at stake,” Consolini said. “The challenge is to get the awareness and understanding to bring the necessary resources to bear.”