Ruth Bristol ’23

Pittsfield Public Schools, Pittsfield, MA

Over the summer, I worked with Pittsfield Public Schools to assist a member school, Morningside Elementary, in developing a reference list of interdisciplinary projects for the first-grade team. This required that I become oriented to the motivations of the endeavor, including understanding the pitfalls of American education and working to envision creative and out-of-the-box possibilities for the school’s curriculum. After familiarizing myself with the curricular standards and material provided by the state—which was often misaligned with the reality of teaching—I worked to connect seemingly disparate content through engaging, hands-on classroom projects designed for Morningside’s shift to a block schedule. At the end of the internship, I drafted five potential projects for teachers to reference, with key questions, room for support and extension, criteria for success and examples of completed assignments.

Of these projects, one of my favorites includes the work I did to reimagine the units Better Together and Celebrate America into a collaborative process to expose students to a diverse range of American stories. Originally, the Celebrate America reading module focused on students memorizing national songs and holidays and emphasizing that America is the best country. These fell flat in their substance, and particularly for a student body with a large immigrant population. To alter this, I incorporated reading-level appropriate immigrant stories that illustrated that the strength of the country lies in its diversity and cooperation.

This internship wasn’t without its hiccups. Working in the education system during the summer illuminated to me the turnover and burnout among educators as a result of the demanding conditions they work in. I had to navigate changing roles and new hires while managing expectations of the work I’d be able to produce as an intern. I’ve developed a profound appreciation for everyone working within public education. While I may not intend to enter the field myself—at least not in the foreseeable future—this experience greatly informs my plans to work in the nonprofit sector with a focus on community and advocacy. The considerations I integrated into my work with Pittsfield Public Schools will stay with me throughout my professional career.

This internship afforded me the opportunity to contribute to and work with a set of amazing individuals deeply dedicated to giving students the best education possible. Personally, as a Berkshire County native, this experience was particularly important because I was working with a school district similar to my own, and while I never attended school in Pittsfield, I’ve always been involved in the town and have grown to cherish what the area has to offer, and more importantly, what more it can offer—especially for its youth. This endeavor reconnected me with my roots and gave me the opportunity to give back to the community that allowed me to thrive at Williams, and I hope to use this experience as the starting point of my community-building career.