Written by Mallory Orr, AmeriCorps Alumna

According to the dictionary, empathy means: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

As a City Year value, empathy reminds us to put ourselves in the shoes of others, especially in times of trial. When faced with problems and conflict during your year of service, I encourage AmeriCorps members to approach each situation with empathy and a desire to connect.

Empathy was a grounding force for me during my City Year, and was a major tool I used to overcome obstacles I faced in many facets of my year.

Student behavior is often one of the largest challenges AmeriCorps members encounter. It is hard to understand the reason behind student behavior most of the time, because there are so many possible causes. Students can become overwhelmed in a large classroom, students may have had a rough night, students may feel stressed with burdens they carry from home, or students may be scared to speak up and ask for help. In any situation where a student may act up, empathy is perhaps the most powerful tool to help them overcome their struggles. By remembering to empathize with our students, we open the door to powerful connection and communication that can help solve even the most difficult problem.

City Year also calls on AmeriCorps members to work closely in a team which poses its own unique challenges. During 10 months spent at school together, my team and I faced inevitable moments where we found ourselves butting heads. However, most of these moments quickly passed when we remembered how much we all had in common. When I became frustrated with my team, I empathized with them by reminding myself that we were all together for the same reason--to change the lives of our students. When we had opposing views, remembering that their ideas were motivated by the same force as mine was the key. Once we were able to realize that we shared a common goal and respect for eachother, we were able to beat any trouble that came our way.

While obstacles are inevitable during City Year, each one was overcome by the power of empathy and connecting with the feelings of those around me.

Mallory served on the Entergy Lousiana Team at Broadmoor Middle School. Next year, she will serve as an AmeriCorps member with Reading Partners in San Francisco.

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