Pittsfield Public Schools, Pittsfield, MA
Working as a Social Studies Curriculum Equity Intern at the Pittsfield Public Schools, I had the great opportunity to work directly with social studies teachers at the elementary and middle school levels in the district to help them develop new additions to their curriculums for next year.
I collaborated with Justin Kie-Burdick, a 5th grade social studies teacher at Williams Elementary school, on incorporating the book Stamped (For Kids): Racism, Antiracism, and You, by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi (a children’s adaptation of Kendi’s famous book Stamped from the Beginning) into his curriculum. After reading the book, I put together a list of notes on the book’s weak points, and added some resources for teachers to talk about underrepresented historical topics (e.g., the role of Black activists in resisting the Vietnam War). I also looked through the relevant chapters in Into Reading (the ELA curriculum that Pittsfield uses) to see what units the book would fit in best with.
After that, I began working with Debbie Guachione, a civics teacher at Reid Middle School, and the Pulitzer Center to create lesson plans based on the 1619 Project. As part of the Pulitzer Center’s network of teachers, our lesson plans would be made available to educators across the country to use in their own classrooms. Our lesson plan started out by discussing differing perspectives on national civic and historical symbols (inspired by Nikole Hannah-Jones’s essay “The Idea of America,” which appeared in the 1619 Project), then it went on to cover the role of slavery in colonial Jamestown, the treatment of Native Americans in New England, and the influence of the Iroquois on the U.S. Constitution. Students assisted in the project by researching and mapping historically significant locations on a collaborative map, and producing a short creative assignment. This project in particular made me consider more seriously a career in education, and taking more classes in history and American studies.
In addition, I had the opportunity to observe many different aspects of how a school district operates, including watching class activities, meeting with principals and administrators, and sitting in on department meetings and a meeting of the local NAACP’s Education committee. Along with the other Williams interns, we had weekly lessons from Ryan Buggy ’19, who organized the internship, on different topics related to education, like classroom management and evaluating student work. I was also able to observe a book club for district administrators based on Natalie Wexler’s The Knowledge Gap, which gave me a new perspective on how schools teach reading skills to students, and how those approaches can affect lower-income students. These meetings provided incredible insight into all the work that it takes to run a school district behind the scenes.
I would like to thank the ’68 Center for their support throughout this internship, as well as the family and friends of Liz Gray Erickson ’89 for their generous of this opportunity.