supporting Cambridge public school students

“I Didn’t Want to Miss a Single Word”

On November 14, Cambridge School Volunteers (CSV) hosted a workshop led by Alice Cohen, the lead teacher for social emotional learning for the Cambridge Public School District. This was the third workshop Cohen has presented for CSV’s upper school volunteers.

Cohen focused on the importance of relationship building between youth and adults, also sharing aspects of adolescent development that impact the way students process and learn new information. Cohen opened the event by emphasizing relationship building as the foundation for a positive learning experience: “Whenever I talk to kids who are successful, I ask them why they have success. They don’t reflect on their school but they mention people.”

During adolescence, the largest period of brain growth after infancy, students between the ages of eleven and fourteen experience growth in executive functioning, empathy, understanding different points of view and gaining power of logical persuasion.

Volunteers in attendance had the opportunity to integrate Cohen’s talk with their own experience at the session. They worked individually to create “mission statements” for their yearlong tutoring work at CSV’s Learning Centers, where one-to-one tutoring is provided to sixth- through eighth-graders.  Tutors also shared challenges in a large group discussion focused on developing strategies to implement at the five Learning Centers. Solutions included: taking brain breaks for students that incorporate mind and body activity, specific praise for students when they work through a challenging problem, and transparency in communication. Throughout the workshop, Cohen emphasized there was already a body of expertise and knowledge in the room, and how fellow volunteers and CSV staff can help to troubleshoot challenges and create solutions that mutually benefit the tutor-student pair.

After the conclusion of the workshop, Cambridge School Volunteers staff collected written feedback from the attendees. Reactions included “I can’t remember a time when I have felt so engaged that I didn’t want to miss a single word—Alice Cohen is amazing.”

High quality training is an important feature of CSV’s support for its Cambridge Public School tutors and other volunteers.  The next upper school volunteer workshop will be held on Monday, December 4. Math educator Elsa Head will teach new and experienced tutors the style and methods of the Math in Focus curriculum for Grades 6–8.  Click here for details and to register for this workshop.