Southold Middle School students would normally be hustling to find their seats when the bell rings on a Friday morning. But on March 15, school was closed and those seats were instead occupied by teachers and administrators.
Three facilitators from Southold Elementary School — special education teacher Liza Karnich, social worker Rose Patti and psychologist Jennifer Moley — listened as one teacher spoke about a student who is struggling academically and socially due to trauma.
“There’s a fine line between trying to help and trying to see something from a traumatic point of view,” Ms. Moley said. “At the same time, we don’t want to enable them and hinder their success.”
“Trauma and Behavior” was just one of over 40 workshops that were available to more than 200 teachers and administrators during last week’s Ed Camp NOFO, an annual conference at which participants from the Southold and Greenport school districts discuss education-related topics and guide their peers.
Southold elementary school principal Ellen O’Neill said that, after attending two national conferences last year, she was eager to bring Ed Camp to the North Fork.
“There’s a lot of knowledge and professional experts that work in our district,” she said. “So, why do we have to go outside the district if we have some experts inside?”
Ms. O’Neill said she teamed up with Greenport and Southold Superintendent David Gamberg three years ago to roll out the program. Ed Camp, which has been held in school communities nationwide, is designed to avoid the traditional conference format, she said.
“It’s very much organic,” she said, “about what you talk about in each session. A lot of planning goes into it, but once you’re here, it’s purely organic, whatever comes up.”
During the first hour of Ed Camp, participants brainstormed talking points and others volunteered to facilitate discussions. Topics ranged from emotional learning in elementary school to the benefits of teaching students outdoors.
Southold teaching assistant and head athletic trainer Alyssa Cardillo said she attended the trauma workshop because she has multiple students with behavioral or physical disabilities.
“We talked about getting [students] to the proper channel,” she said. “A medical issue? Send them to a nurse or to me, an athletic trainer. Behavioral issues? Send them to the school psychologist or social worker.”
Ms. Cardillo, who is new to Southold, facilitated a discussion about student concussions, which she said aren’t uncommon in school sports.
Greenport English teacher Kaitlin Daniels, who co-led a session about her teachings in AP seminar, attended the concussions workshop. As a varsity field hockey coach, she retained a lot from it.
“Concussions are something that we are seeing much more frequently because the symptoms are now being spoken about and addressed, which is so important that they don’t go undiagnosed anymore,” Ms. Daniels said.
Another discussion, focused on English Language Learners, was facilitated by Greenport special education teacher Vanessa Lara. She encouraged an audience of mostly Greenport faculty to use whatever Spanish they know when speaking with these students.
“Even just saying a few things to them in Spanish, it means a lot,” she said, “because they’ll know you care.”
Ms. O’Neill said smaller districts sometimes struggle to discuss issues related to certain student demographics. For example, she said, if three or four teachers are at one grade level they don’t always get to talk to other teachers.
“It’s nice to be able to share and learn from one another, because nobody ever knows everything, no matter how many years we’re doing this,” she said. “You can always learn something and get better.”
Photo caption: Greenport special education and ENL teacher Vanessa Lara facilitates a discussion about student English language learners at last Friday’s Ed Camp. (Credit: Kate Nalepinski)