By: Kaitlyn Townsend-Gray City Year Little Rock AmeriCorps Member
Congratulations City Year AmeriCorps members! We’ve made it this far. We’ve survived Basic Training Academy, getting our school teams assignments, meeting our partner teachers and, of course, our students. Now we’re here, it’s winter. Each morning we rise before the sun, bundle ourselves in hats and scarves and head to service. We don’t leave school until the sun has retreated again behind the horizon. There are days when it may feel like we’re not making progress with our students. After months of working with my focus list students, I still don’t understand why they won’t turn in their homework when I watched them complete it in our after-school session the day before. Why?
It’s easy to assume that the reason they do these things is because they just don’t care. But it is in these moments that I have to remind myself I’m running a marathon, not a sprint. I remind myself that progress takes time and that I can only control myself and how I treat my students. It’s important to keep positive.
Here are three ways that I try to keep us all positive during these long days:
Keep everything they give you! Since I serve in elementary school, I often get drawings from my students, whenever a student hands me a drawing I ask them to describe the drawing to me. Every time their face lights up and I’ve opened myself up to an amazing interaction with my students. I hang all their art on a wall in my team’s office and every time a student comes in they can see that I hold onto their work because I care about them. Little gestures like that have drastically improved my student’s attentiveness during interventions.
Celebrate the small victories! You are not going to see immediate results no matter how hard you work during your interventions. It’s easy to feel discouraged when you really think a student is improving but their overall grades don’t reflect that yet. But remember not to get down on yourself or your students! Did one of your focus list students get a 100% on a spelling test? That’s great! Give them a special pencil to celebrate. Stickers are my students’ favorite motivator.
Spend some time apart! Remember everyone, use your vacation days before you lose them! There is nothing wrong with taking a little time to yourself. A day off could even give you space to reflect on what is working and not working with your mentoring and tutoring sessions. It allows you to go back to service feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. There is no feeling in the world that compares to a group hug when you return to school after time away.
Winter is hard. Second semester is hard. Living on a stipend is hard. City Year is hard. But remember you are here for your students. Before we know i,t the semester will be over and then comes the hardest part of all: saying goodbye.