Corps members have been working in schools for a little over a month now, and now that they've gotten introduced to their school's staff, administration, and students, they are integrating themselves in the classroom and are working with teachers to identify which students require support from City Year. Each corps member is partnered with a teacher for the school year (herein referred to as a partner-teacher), and developing a strong working relationship with their partner-teacher is the backbone for having a successful year of service.
Last year, towards the end of the school year, we visited a number of our school teams across the city and sat down with them to hear how corps members were doing as their year of service drew to a close. Part of that discussion included corps members sharing their experience working alongside teachers, and we asked them to expand on the relationship between a corps member and partner-teacher.
Rachel Brown, the Team Leader at Chalmers School of Excellence, also served her first year at Chalmers. When we visited last year, we sat down with Rachel, and she pointed out that her teacher had set her up for success since the beginning of the year.
By providing Rachel with prepared lesson plans, Rachel could use that structure and build off of it as she worked with students on her own. The collaboration that Rachel and her partner-teacher developed over the year not only helped build their professional relationship, but by Rachel adapting to, and building off of, the teacher’s structure, it allowed for a stronger learning environment for the students to work in.
Allen Scaife, the Hyatt Hotels Foundation Team leader at Fulton Elementary School, served last year at Tilden High School. When we visited the Tilden team last year, Allen shared his experience of learning what it means to be a teacher from a behind-the-scenes look, adding that at times he was able to gain valuable experience vicariously through his partner-teacher.
Allen found it especially interesting to watch his partner-teacher grow, as it was her first year teaching, and she was doing a lot by adjusting to her role and simultaneously working alongside a City Year AmeriCorps member. As the year went on, they both adjusted to similar learning curves in the classroom by being flexible with one another, and it provided them each a unique experience, as they each had the other to lean on and support as they navigated through the year.
Emily Gottlieb leads the BMO Harris Bank Team at Collins Academy High School, and served at Collins last year as a corps member. When we spoke with Emily last year, she described her partner-teacher as being extremely passionate and as someone who challenges her students to be better.
She described that her partner-teacher provided so much structure in her class, that there wasn't room for students to misbehave. The students responded to this environment and understood that their teacher cared about their success outside of the classroom, which is why she would pack her lesson plans full inside of it; where she had control.
In terms of their working relationship, Emily explained that one of the things that made working with her teacher so successful was that they would check in with each other every morning and discuss which students Emily should take the extra time to focus on. They maintained a strong line of communication throughout the year, and informed each other of things that happened in the school that may affect students’ behavior/attention.
Thanks to Rachel, Allen, and Emily, we’re able to see a few examples of what makes a strong partner-teacher alliance; preparedness, flexibility (keeping an open heart, and an open mind!), and collaboration. We’re excited to see the ways in which corps members and their partner-teachers work together this year so that we can help next year’s corps stand on the shoulders of giants!