by Leah Hall, AmeriCorps member on the State Street Foundation team serving with Higginson/Lewis K-8 School
“Practice makes perfect!”
Many of us have heard this phrase at some point in our lives. We hear it from coaches, teachers, family members, or even friends. Although the phrase is simple, it holds great value. It is our constant reminder that if we want to get better at something, we have to work for it. So far this year, I have had the opportunity to put some of my skills into practice. Here are four of these skills that I have strengthened so far throughout my service.
One major part of City Year culture can be seen through the use of our ten core values. AmeriCorps members use these values to help influence decisions, and to keep our minds focused on service. One vitally important City Year value is “Students First, Collaboration Always”. This means our students come first no matter what, and we will work together with whomever we need to—whether it is with teachers, parents, teammates, or outside organizations—to ensure that we are helping our students achieve the quality education that they deserve. There have been many occasions this year where I have relied on my partner teacher, as well as other teachers I see regularly, to develop strategies that will help promote a better learning environment.
Although collaboration is a key component to success, I have learned that being independent is important, as well. At the beginning of the year, I was more likely to seek help when I was unsure of something, rather than try to work it out myself. I have since moved past that method of problem solving, as I have started to become more self-reliant. I have started to trust my judgment, and have more confidence when making decisions. Doing so has allowed me to be an emotional constant for my students, and has made me feel more like a leader.
Being in school every day has allowed me to develop a great deal of patience. I have practiced this skill in math class by going slowly, and breaking down problems that students have trouble starting. I also practice patience when I kindly remind my students to raise their hand in class, and stay in line while walking through the hallways. Patience allows us to have a more meaningful experience with our students, and to meet them where they are in their learning process.
In addition to patience, I have also realized that resilience is another great skill to have. This is especially true after making mistakes during the day. While it is important to acknowledge that some days will be more difficult than others, it is equally, if not more, important to learn from those days. Instead of focusing on those mistakes, I now find ways to grow from them, while simultaneously highlighting my successes.
Strengthening our skills and applying them with our students makes our service even more meaningful than it already is. Just like our students, we need to challenge ourselves consistently in order to see change and growth.