Training was a whirlwind. 8 full time staff. 10 part time staff. 3 high school aged teens. 5 days. Each day began with an ice breaker. Our favorite quickly became “peel banana peel peel banana. And then go bananas go go bananas”—a wild activity involving singing, jumping, and occasionally hugging. Our staff got to know each other through goofy name games and energy builders, perfect activities to begin the summer with our campers.
In creating the training schedule, we asked, how can we build an effective team of leaders and teachers? How can we support staff to develop skills in teaching, classroom and behavior management, and curriculum development? How do we equip counselors to teach English as a second language? How do we provide staff with the necessary background about issues of refugee resettlement, the Providence Public schools, and experiences of living through war and trauma? The task seemed daunting but we dove right in.
On our first day, we brainstormed on post-its about camp values. Each of us wrote down our visions, values, and hopes, and upon coming together, created a core set of camp values. Our afternoon was a scavenger hunt in South Providence. We made the clues and sent people off—staff found our camp location on Thurbers Avenue, The International Institute of Rhode Island, St. Michael’s Church where camp was held last summer, and the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence. We ended at Apsara for a meal together after visiting key locations and community institutions in South Providence. The first day gave staff a sense of the landscape we are working in and helped to build our team.
One of the best trainings was led by a teacher and trainer who works in Central Falls, Rhode Island. When we arrived at the training, she had set up her “classroom” complete with books, sticky notes, balls, and a morning message. As she began her lesson, we were her eager students. She chose a leader and we filled out the morning message. It read something like, “Today is ________ and it is ________ outside. Have a _______day.” “Have a fabulous day,” the class leader wrote. We read the phrase out loud together. We learned about the importance of starting each day with a morning routine. Read aloud was next. We stopped every few minutes to make predictions and discuss the characters. We ended by doing a post-it activity about the main character’s feelings at the beginning, middle, and end of the book. We learned about building vocabulary and comprehension skills, about the importance of read aloud, about different strategies to build understanding of the text. I was incredibly impressed by how much care went in to choosing the books—a good story matters, we learned. The training was phenomenal because in modeling different games, activities, and strategies, our staff got a sense of how to both develop and implement curriculum. We were also trained by a Providence Public School teacher who works with first grade ELL students. She gave us many ideas for center-based learning in which students can rotate through different activities. As she explained each activity, we were inspired by her real love of teaching. She referred to the activities as a bible and when our staff received copies, they were thrilled. The trainings helped staff understand how to structure their days, how to build in routines, and how to make basic spelling, phonics work, and reading comprehension engaging.
The trainings continued. We were trained on positive behavior management strategies. As we did role plays and debriefs, we discussed effective ways to manage behavior. We discussed systems of positive discipline and brainstormed how to minimize violent situations or bullying. In another training, we visited the International Institute of Rhode Island and learned more about refugee resettlement in Providence and the work of the International Institute. We met with Akimana Abdourahim, the school liaison, who is a huge support in planning and running summer camp. (He supported us in visiting each house and enrolling students in summer camp.) This visit gave staff a real sense of how integral The International Institute is to BRYTE’s success. Other trainings included discussions on social justice pedagogy and our reasons for doing this work. Why are we here, we asked. I was continually impressed by the honest conversation—the willingness, after just a few days, to push each other. Sitting around a table planning summer camp workshops, there was a sense of real nervousness and excitement. What kind of art workshop will I lead? How will I teach music? What will it mean to teach 6 year olds soccer? What behavior management system will I implement in my classroom? What should my first morning message be? What book will we read together? How can I inspire a love of learning?
On Friday, we moved into Juanita Sanchez High School on Thurbers Avenue. We carried boxes and boxes of supplies to the third floor, peeking into the classrooms. Standing, sweating, on the third floor hallway filled with books, notebooks, paints, and pens, it was real.
-Jesse McGleughlin, Co-Director