Today’s guest blogger is Tahia Islam, an AmeriCorps Member on the Microsoft team at Newtown High School.
When I received an email about the upcoming “Leadership After City Year” Day, my eyes darted anxiously back and forth between words like “grad school” and “interview skills” and “resume editing.” As a recent high school graduate, I already know my immediate plan for “Life After City Year,” or LACY as we endearingly call it, is college, so these terms made me tense since they seemed only applicable for me years down the road. However, on the crisp fall morning of Friday, October 17th, I dressed for success alongside my fellow AmeriCorps Members serving in New York City. We followed the red bombers to the front of the historic New York Life building and I was eased when warmly greeted by the hospitable staff and volunteers from New York Life: our gracious host for the event.
The entire corps gathered for an opening ceremony, during which Sean McDevitt, Senior Director of Alumni and Career Services, prefaced the day with “it is not just about your immediate plans after City Year, but rather working on the skills necessary to pursue those plans.” With this sage advice in mind, I embarked on my first session of “Transferring Skills,” facilitated by New York Life staff. This session began with an exercise to simply list everything we do during a weekday at our schools. The obvious came to mind: lesson planning, in-class support, tutoring, scheduling, tracking student progress.
However, through further discussion and exploration, I realized that these tangible skills are just the tip of the iceberg. Every single day as a City Year AmeriCorps member, we develop invaluable communication skills through our interactions with diverse audiences – from students to our teammates to the administration members. Every day in class, we are not just tutoring students how to multiply negative numbers, but embodying the intangible skill of flexibility when we recognize that a student’s fundamental math skills are underdeveloped and we tailor our language and coaching to best fit that student’s needs. We demonstrate patience when collaborating with our teammates, respecting each member’s opinions and work style. Every day we utilize time management skills through punctuality and demonstrate dedication as we are among the first people to enter our school buildings and last to leave. On Mondays, we enter data in Excel for our Student Support trackers, detailing our experiences with our students in order to contribute to City Year’s documentation of our impact on students and to the greater research on education reform. Recently, City Year New York determined that 82% of students in grades 3 to 5 in Whole School Whole Child schools increased their raw literacy score. This was a culmination of years worth of tracking done by AmeriCorps members.
Impact Coach Alvin Irby says, “I love being helpful; working outside of the context of the classroom to help the corps member directly and engagingly.” About three months into service, it is easy to become complacent in our nearly overwhelming routine of working with our students, teachers, and team and forget to work on us. LACY day reminded me how beneficial every task is, not just for my students, but also for my own professional and leadership development. Acknowledging my personal growth in these skills helps me to be a more effective model for my high-school students. I believe in myself because City Year believes in empowering young people. Despite being eighteen years old, if I am coached on how to speak and write about my experiences with clarity and awareness, I know that my students at the age of fourteen can as well. I am inspired to help them pinpoint opportunities for development, recognize the skills they already possess, and continue to improve upon them.