by Hana Uyeda, City Year New Hampshire AmeriCorps member serving on the Northwest Elementary School Team generously sponsored by Comcast NBCUniversal
I am a little over halfway through my year of service with City Year, but I can already identify the impact my students have had on me. I could go on about the ways I have been impacted by my kids, my partner teacher and this experience, but here are the most important lessons I have learned: 1. Love is infectious. 2. Patience is not just a virtue, it is an essential.
My week days start at 7:30 AM, at an under resourced public elementary school in Manchester, NH. At 8:45, I walk into my third grade classroom, where, every day, I am greeted by hugs and excited shouts of “Hi Ms. Uyeda!”
I am constantly energized and impressed by my students’ willingness and desire to love and be loved in return. As I often say, third graders just want to love you. Some of these kids have very little means or familial support, and yet they give more and appreciate so much more than many privileged adults I have known. A letter I got one day from one of my more challenging students, thanking me, and which he had gotten the whole class to co-sign, is probably among the best gifts I have ever received. The love these third graders showed me from the very start of my time with them made it easy for me to learn to care for them, teach them and encourage them. It is what drives me to show up to work every day, and creates such a positive classroom environment. Their love is infectious.
Though I wish my job could be all hugs and love notes, the job requires that I teach math and reading, as well as coach attendance and behavior. My least favorite of these tasks is math. My job is to review concepts with them that they should have mastered in second grade, but which they still don't have a good grasp on. I am constantly challenged to reach kids who are far behind grade level in math, while also challenging students who are ahead. Earlier this week I was practicing word problems with a group, and had to coach a student who had finished five minutes early while also helping a student who did not know how to do multi-digit subtraction. Some days I observe my partner teacher, an amazing woman who has been teaching for eighteen years, teach with much grace and patience, and wonder how she does it. Among the many things I have learned this year is admiration for all teachers. The patience and passion they demonstrate is inspiring. Many days I find that I have to force a smile, and repeat the mantra I was taught: “Yes, there may be kids you do not like, but they can never, ever know.” I have learned that patience, especially with the most demanding students, is critical. Patience is something I have struggled with, but I have learned that my teaching would be practically ineffective without it. Patience is not just a virtue, it is an essential. Working with third graders is exhausting, but because of how much they demand, also so rewarding.
Two years ago, teaching in a third grade classroom would have been the last thing I saw myself doing directly after high school. However, this experience has turned into something I treasure more and more each day.
If you or someone you know is interested in joining City Year, click here for information about the application process. The next application deadline is April 13th.