2014-09-04

 
When I was a student, I would get so anxious before the first day of school that my stomach tied itself in knots. It didn’t matter what academic level I was entering: elementary, middle school, high school, or college. The first day always made me nervous. Day one as a City Year AmeriCorps member at Pine Villa Elementary in Miami was no different.
 
During the first morning circle of many throughout the year, my program manager asked my team to chat with students as they ate breakfast in the cafeteria. While the request seemed reasonable, all I could think was, “The last three weeks of training did not prepare me for casual conversation with elementary students!”
 
As part of the training, I’d attended Pine Villa’s orientation the Saturday before the first day of school. We were able to work with the administration and put together an event for the students and parents with fun activities like corn hole, ring toss, and soccer. 
 
The event helped us make connections with parents and build bonds with students before school even began. Students and their parents got to know us in an informal setting, and we got to see the students interact in a casual and fun environment. We knew that come the first day of school, students would already familiar with corps members and would be excited to have us in their classrooms. This was City Year’s fourth year at Pine Villa, so red jackets in the hallways were a regular part of the school. 
 
That first morning, when I walked into the moss green cafeteria, my team leader nudged me towards a table of wide-eyed 4th graders. As I approached the table, they gave me questioning looks, but within a few minutes, they were more than happy to fill me in on their summer adventures.
 
I can't speak for students at other schools, but students at Pine Villa do not welcome change easily. At Pine Villa, which has had City Year, year after year, students form a strong attachment to their City Year. They’ll never forget their City Year friend from the year before, even as they eventually get excited to make memories with a new one. 
 
After a few days, I know my nerves will settle down. I’m idealistic about the year to come, my team and I are excited to make a difference and to #makebetterhappen! We’ve already identified problems to take on inside and outside the classroom and are simultaneously thinking of ways to resolve them. My team and I will continue to channel our energy towards what's best for our students every single day for the next nine months. 
 
One piece of advice I’ll give to all of my fellow corps members? “One squishy a day keeps the doctor away!” That’s a City Year saying. It means we all need to move beyond our comfort zones to achieve and grow.In the meantime, I’ll keep in mind that our students may be just as nervous as we are on the first day so relax, take it easy!
 
Freddie Montgomery
City Year Miami, Team Leader
Pine Villa Elementary

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