by Adrienne Poon '15, AmeriCorps member of the 2014-2015 Staples, Inc. team with Rogers Middle School

In June, during my last two weeks in service, I interviewed my students to reflect upon and celebrate the progress we had made together this past year. After a few students, I realized that we all had truly improved together - they had improved, we had improved… and I had improved. Amusingly, I mostly learned about my progress from fifteen astute 6th-graders instead of noticing it myself, so I recorded the seven best things here to remember in the future.

1) I dance and it makes people smile. My “dancing” is mostly shuffling and haphazard elbow swinging, but now that I know how my goofy jig made my students smile I will never stop dancing.

2) I like classical music and so do 6th-graders. I bonded with one of my students over classical music after he mentioned Beethoven one day. After that we had piano lessons weekly during lunch. I never imagined that my basic knowledge would be useful but here it was, fulfilling the lifelong dream of a student to learn piano.

3) I am a “math person” so I can do anything. As someone who has not taken a math class in five years, the idea that someone believes that I “will be a teacher for math” is jarring. However, to a student that I tutored in math this year and that considers me “a smart lady,” this makes sense. Despite my far humbler opinion of myself, who am I to question the confident expectations of a sixth grader? If a twelve year old believes that I can be a math person then I can certainly be a math person - or anything else that I want to be.

4) I make faces. I “make lots of funny faces” that provoke laughter. I should but probably will not learn to control my face.

5) I say “good morning” to everyone. One student responded that her favorite memory of me is when I say “good morning.” Despite the many ways we interacted this year, simply greeting my student daily had a powerful positive impact on her. Thanks to her I will always try to remember the small things that create large impacts.

6) I work hard and people notice. I am accustomed to most of my work being overlooked, yet multiple students of mine acknowledged the work I do for them and even related to it. Not everyone notices or appreciates hard work, but hard work is still worthwhile for the worker and those inspired by the worker alike.

7) I am loved - and everyone else is too. I expected no lavish displays of gratitude when I committed to a year of service. Nonetheless, I received generous amounts of bubbly laughter, hearty (side)hugs, and thanks whispered into my red jacket. The crinkle of red nylon under my students’ warm hands was all the proof I needed that I succeeded in my primary goal this year: to make my students feel loved unconditionally by this strange person in a red jacket. Oddly enough, it left me feeling loved in return.

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