Written by Alex Gribler, AmeriCorps member serving on the New Schools for Baton Rouge team at Claiborne Elementary

When I committed to serving with City Year, I knew there would be valuable lessons to teach. I thought back to the fundamentals of English and Math I would need to brush up on before entering the classroom. Once I was placed in an elementary English class, I was relieved at the thought of teaching sentence structure and spelling rather than Algebra and Geometry. After multiple trainings, I felt I was prepared to take on the task of mentoring and tutoring in a third grade classroom.

What I wasn’t prepared for was everything my students would teach me. On top of teaching me the latest dance moves and cool new songs, they’ve also taught me important life lessons. The lessons I’ve learned in just one semester with these students have been more valuable than any classroom instruction I’ve ever received. While reflecting on my first semester, I was surprised at how significantly they had changed the way I view life. They’ve taught me to laugh at my mistakes and try again. They’ve taught me how to celebrate the small victories without losing sight of the end goal. Most importantly, they’ve given me a purpose and showed me that every individual has something unique and incredible to offer the world.

Watching my students work through adversity with a smile on their faces inspires me to do my best work daily. PITW #115 says, “Try to be both a student and a teacher in a school for idealism”. To be the best AmeriCorps member I can be, I have switched from a teacher role to a student role on a daily basis. The young minds at Claiborne Elementary have taught me much more than I expected, and I will forever be grateful for the privilege of learning from them. 

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