By Laureanna Crump, City Year Baton Rouge Alumna
City Year AmeriCorps members often begin their service year expecting to make an impact on at least one student’s life, but we often neglect to realize that students have the potential to influence us even more than we do them.
I often say that one of the greatest lessons my students have taught me is to practice what I preach. It sounds incredibly cliché, but I cannot stress it enough. Children appreciate transparency, and when they don’t get it, they will call you out. I’ve spent countless hours telling my students that they need to limit their screen time so that they can have more time to study for their problem subjects. However, once they realized that I had goals after City Year, they started questioning my own study habits. I can’t exactly tell my students that I missed an application deadline because my urge to binge watch a Netflix show overpowered my urge to complete graduate school prerequisites. Moreover, my influence on them exceeds educational goals. They watched everything that I said and did. I could not expect them to communicate effectively if I used derogatory words. I could not hold them accountable for dress code violation if I didn’t adhere to City Year’s dress code. Not only is it hypocritical, but they were always ready to point out any discrepancies in my behavior.
I’ve learned that children are fairly intelligent and make a lot of sense…if you actually take the time to listen to them. This idea may seem like a no-brainer to some. However, there are a few of people out there (parents or not) who are simply used to caring for and/or disciplining children with that being the extent of their interaction with them. I was raised a certain way, resulting in me only now becoming closer to my mom and the rest of the adults in my family. For the most part, I only spoke when spoken to first, I never interrupted an adult conversation, and I never spoke to the adults in my family as if we were friends. Consequently, I think that may have affected my relationships with the current children in my family. They have always been protected, loved, and cared for, but I think some of their words could have potentially gone unnoticed. It’s similar to how some teachers may instruct their students not to bother him or her unless they are dying or the building is on fire. After serving with City Year for the past two years, I love talking to my niece and nephew...primarily because they are the same age as my students. I don’t send them to another room to play anymore. I think I actually annoy them now, so they’ll voluntarily leave me alone. My nephew is an amazing human being, and I don’t believe I would have noticed this if I never took the time to entertain his thoughts and interests in life.
Lastly, I truly believe that my students have affected the way I view education, educational policies, and the level of involvement that I plan to have in my own children’s education. I’ve always have planned to be an active part of my children’s education, but it was rooted in my own personal vendettas. Now, I see my involvement as more of an asset to their success.
Laureanna Crump proudly served as a Second Year AmeriCorps member on the Irene W. and C. B. Pennington team at Kenilworth Science and Technology.