Written by Lydia DuBois, AmeriCorps Alumna
My last blog post of my AmeriCorps Member career! It seems fitting that I am writing about the City Year value “Students First, Collaboration Always,” because I am having trouble deciding what this value means to me. (Tip: Take time to take apart the city year values when you begin your year of service. Choose one that resonates with you, and try to keep it in the back of your head throughout the year.) Why are these two tenets part of the same value? Are they mutually exclusive? Are they reminding us that often, when we spend so much time putting our students first, we forget to collaborate with the rest of our team? I have a few different interpretations for this City Year value, so I decided to list them out in no particular order of importance:
1. You are placed in schools to help your students and your partner teacher. But be wary: you are not here to manage an adult. The well-being of your students and their academic careers comes before you copy papers, grade tests, or organize the classroom. Those things are all important, and you will find that your partnership with your teacher is essential - you will find yourself as the voice of reason, the second eye for lesson plans, the friend, the main support. But remember that you are given a responsibility to your students first. Be an uplifter to your entire classroom. Collaborate with your teacher in your classroom, and with your students as you learn. If you go off-script during a lesson, it's okay. You're probably giving yourself a moment to go off on a tangent about life, or to engage in conversation with your students, enabling yourself to learn from what they have to say.
2. Collaboration with your team is key. Strong individuals create a team, but the team’s collective spirit creates the school’s City Year atmosphere. Be kind and professional to everyone on your team: your students are always watching. They learn about sportsmanship, teamwork, and collaboration as your City Year team leads by example. Don’t forget that your TL, IM, and the rest of the school staff are all part of a larger team. Your work in the classroom wouldn’t be possible without a strong team’s emotional support. Practice kindness within your team, and it will rub off on your students. Set an example by being a flexible, solution-oriented, collaborative adult.
3. My personal favorite: We all came to serve because we were once students. We know how it feels to sit in a classroom, to be told what to study, what to write, what to do. We’ve had great teachers, terrible teachers; mentors; supportive parents, guardians, and friends; and now we’re here to give it all back. But do not forget that we are all ever-evolving students. There is always something new to learn. Humble yourself and take something new from everyone around you. We are teachers, mentors, and role models, but first, we are learners. Eliminate hierarchy, equalize the playing field, and learn from everyone. You will grow.
And to next year’s AmeriCorps members, whether you’re in Baton Rouge, or another city: take it all in! Write things down, because the time flies! Take pictures with your students, write notes to your students, and form relationships with the people in your schools. Form a strong team bond, learn from each other, learn from yourself, learn from your City Year! You will never forget the moments that matter most.
All the best,
Lydia served on the Capital Area United Way team at Capitol Middle School. Next year, she will continue her undergraduate studies at Johns Hopkins University.