By John Henry Evans
It’s a little crazy to think that I came on with City Year only about three month ago. It’s been a complete whirlwind experience so far. I’ve found that City Year is all about forming a supportive community, committing to serving your best, and looking towards what the future can become. Sometimes, though, looking towards the future is a lot harder than looking at the present.
When I visited this blog to start thinking about how best to reflect on my first month as a corps member, I’ll admit that I was more than a little intimidated. So many brilliant corps members have come before me, and they’ve all worked long and hard to make a huge impact on the lives of their students. Looking back on their legacy, I couldn’t help but wonder, did I really have it in me to give all the time that they had? And even if I did, would I have made as great a difference at the end of it all?
Fortunately, I’ve found that, in the midst of the long days and difficult work, we find little moments of inspiration. Little moments in which we can see glimmers of that future we hope to reach, and it doesn’t seem so far off after all.
For me, the first of these came about three weeks ago, when I was helping a student with his homework on possessive nouns. He was really confused at first, and kept not getting it. I would explain how to answer a question, walking him tediously and explicitly though every step, and just when it seemed he understood, he would be lost on the following question. I can’t really say that it was disheartening; he was still putting in his best effort even though it was difficult for him, and that was merit enough in my book. I did, however, start to worry that I wasn’t going to be able to help him, and then he would be lost when his class moved on. I didn’t want to fail this student.
Eventually, though, something must have clicked into place. I had left him to work on his own for a few minutes, and when I came back, he’d finished more than half of the work. Correctly. I was impressed, but worried too. I had asked him to skip some of the questions that used more complicated rules, and the time had come to explain them. I was sure I would throw him for a loop and make him even more confused. To my great surprise, the opposite happened; he perked up and said "Oh, I get it now!" I said I was glad and asked him if he wanted me to help him with the next question. At that, he did something I didn’t expect. He looked me straight in the eyes and gave me an incredibly sincere smile.
"No. I get it now."