By Laureanna Crump, City Year Baton Rouge Alumna
When compiling tidbits of advice for incoming City Year AmeriCorps members, we always hear from City Year staff and alumni but, what about the teachers and staff we collaborate with each day? I decided to get the inside scoop from a few of my favorite coworkers at Kenilworth Science & Technology School (KST), but I did not anticipate how eager each person would be to share their opinions.
Lauranna Crump (LC): What piece of advice would you give to future City Year AmeriCorps members?
Ms. Catherine Coulter (7th and 8th ELA Teacher/Teach for America (TFA) alumna): Take the time to understand your partner teachers’ teaching style and how they run their classroom. Form a relationship with that teacher. Figure out ways to support them best inside of the classroom as well as how to support the students in that classroom. Invest in the student holistically and not just through data. Enjoy your corps year. It’s supposed to be challenging. If it wasn’t challenging, there’d be no need for City Year or AmeriCorps. Just remember that you are making an impact even if it doesn’t always feel like it.
Mr. Andrew Jones (6th Grade Math Teacher/TFA Alumni): Make sure that you always revisit the why. On your good days, it will strengthen your decision, and on your bad days, it will reaffirm it. Embrace all of the positives and negatives you encounter each day. Know that no matter how you feel, you are bettering students’ lives. Even when you feel you’re at your worst, know that students will still find positivity in your effort.
Dr. Latrisha Dean (School Counselor/Administrator of Student support/TFA alumna): Relationships are everything. Relationships with staff. Relationships with students. Relationships with your peers. Building relationships are essential because it gives you various perspectives, gives you insights on others experiences, and ultimately brings everyone on the same page in pursuit of one common goal, which is maximizing student success.
Mr. Elkhan Akhundov (Assistant Principal): Always be there for all kinds of circumstances. City Year has a lot of young energy, and it often saves the school. It is helpful for the school because you cannot always find that type of energy. Our City Year members were always readily available. Unexpected things are always expected so future City Year members need to be ready for anything. For example, Kenilworth does a lot with our diagnostic testing results. At the beginning of the year, our diagnostics would have never gotten done if City Year wasn’t willing to help program those 500+ Chromebooks for students to test. Lastly, be dedicated because we do work with students. Humans are not like computers where you input one thing and you get one specific result. Patience and perseverance is key for City Year members and educators, in general.
Mrs. Kristina Daniel (7th grade math teacher): Be prepared to be patient. Since the students are so off track, you need to be prepared to teach them 2-3 grade levels behind to get them caught up to what we’re working on in class. Use concrete examples. Anything that they can draw and touch, especially with math, is extremely beneficial. Don’t be afraid to express your own ideas about the content to your partner teacher. If something is working with your focus list students, let him or her know because it may work for all of the students in the class.
Mrs. ReKeema Thomas-Toussaint (Assistant Principal/7th grade math teacher): As adults, we are holding students' future opportunities in our hands. In any given situations, we should always be professional and courteous, while also being empathetic, compassionate, and caring. Students should enjoy school, not endure it. Remember that people make an impact on others, regardless if we intend to or not. Make your impact a positive one for every person you come into contact with during your life!
LC: Since you have worked with City Year AmeriCorps members for two years now, what qualities would your ideal AmeriCorps member exhibit?
Mr. Jones: My ideal AmeriCorps member would be self-motivated and driven to provide support for the teacher and students, whether that looks like designing a worksheet for a student who they know is struggling or by simply asking a teacher if they need help. I just keep thinking about Ms. Christy and Ms. Bao. Ms. Bao volunteered to come to Saturday school and made study notes for students. Ms. Christy stayed after school to provide students with extra tutoring. They went above and beyond what was asked of them, but everything they did was because they were genuinely concerned with helping students grow.
Mrs. Thomas-Toussaint: My ideal City Year AmeriCorps member is passionate about student growth and learning. This person finds ways to make learning fun and exciting while engaging students in community empowerment and citizenship. This person helps the whole child and not just in academics, within reason of course.
Mrs. Daniel: I’ve literally never had a bad City Year experience so this one is difficult for me to answer. All I know is [LMs. Laureanna] and Ms. Bao (laughs). Tell them to be like Ms. Laureanna and Ms. Bao. Y’all did really well with students, and were always helpful to teachers. You two were always giving advice to teachers and to students. Y’all constantly reminded students to think about the bigger picture. School is not a sprint, it is a marathon and sometimes students need someone to help put that into perspective. And, y’all were actually good in math so that was a plus. If you are working in a math classroom, you need to really know your math. Also, make sure you tell them they need to love snacks and bring them to their partner teacher. (laughs) You have NO IDEA how that will brighten their day #tooexcitedforfood. Seriously, it changes my entire mood!
The Kenilworth family had some valuable feedback to future AmeriCorps members whether or not they serve at KST in the future. Be transparent, be flexible, be eager to learn and help, be willing to do more than the bare minimum, be open to forming relationships, and you absolutely must love food!
Laureanna Crump proudly served on the Irene W. and C. B. Pennington team at Kenilworth Science and Technology team as a Second Year AmeriCorps member. Next year, Laureanna will be attending grad school.