By Elyse Elder, Corps Member, Warner Bros. Team at Clinton Middle School

Before we stepped onto Clinton Middle School’s campus at the beginning of the year, the Warner Bros. team knew that we would be working in classrooms, aiming to be the very best mentors and role models to students.  However, we didn’t fully realize that we would be navigating multiple and intertwining levels of relationships with students, administration, teammates, community members and teachers.

The success of the Warner Bros. team thus far is largely due to the teacher partner relationships we have developed over the past three months.  One of our strongest partners is Mr. Black, a seventh grade English teacher. My teammates Joe and Elizabeth serve in his classroom, which on average consists of over thirty students. Despite the chaos of any given day, Elizabeth and Joe really enjoy working with Mr. Black, so I asked them to divulge what has contributed to such a successful teacher-corps member partnership.

1. Open Communication

Elizabeth and Mr. Black usually spend a few minutes at the end of class discussing what went well during the period and what didn’t.  “It gives us a chance to see where we can improve things to make the class run more smoothly,” Elizabeth explains.  City Year encourages corps members to communicate with teachers every day if possible; it opens the door for productive brainstorming and fosters a better atmosphere within the classroom.

2. Flexibility

“Mr. Black is cool,” Joe says.  “He has the mindset that, no matter what, the students are going to benefit from City Year.  He’s open to letting me try different things so they can understand things better.”  One of corps members’ goals is to spend as much 1-1, or small group time as possible with our students, so it’s key to work with teachers and their schedules to achieve it.

3. Collaboration and Planning

A highlight of the teacher partner relationships at Clinton are the Early Warning Indicator (EWI) meetings held twice a month. These meetings are focused on students that are exhibiting one of the early warning indicators – poor attendance, unsatisfactory behavior, and failure in English or math. Corps members, teachers and counselors use this time to collectively reflect and brainstorm on how to best reach these students.  “We are pretty vocal at EWIs,” Joe and Elizabeth agree.  “It’s helpful to walk away with some sort of game plan with Mr. Black that we can use in the classroom.”

Being a corps member can be very challenging, and City Year’s mission to eradicate the dropout crisis in our country can seem daunting. We can only be successful if we work together as a team, especially with teachers, who provide corps members an environment of success for students and their futures.

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