By Mel Suckow '15 of the Sun Life Financial team with Mattahunt Elementary School
1. Connecting with my partner teacher
My partner teacher, Ms. Conway, was a new teacher at Mattahunt Elementary School this past year. During one of my first days of service before school officially commenced, Ms. Conway introduced herself and declared that a U-Haul filled to the brim with school supplies would be arriving with all of her supplies. I immediately knew she meant business. Together we spent hours unloading the truck and bringing the classroom to life—staying in school until 8 or 9 p.m. for multiple nights, preparing the room for our future class.
During this time we were able to really connect with each other, personally and professionally. Ms. Conway shared her background, teaching philosophy, and the reasons why she chose to teach at Mattahunt Elementary. In turn, I told her about myself and the reasons why I chose to serve with City Year Boston. We found that the reasons why I serve and the reasons why she chose to teach at the Mattahunt aligned. In addition, we also chatted about our work styles. Because we worked together and took the initiative to get to know one another, we became an excellent team to better serve our students.
2. Meeting my students’ families
Taking the initiative to be present during the moments in which my students’ families were involved was one of the most important decisions I made. All those events attending data nights, parent teacher conferences, and events at the Mattahunt and Mattapan Community Center were crucial in order to bolster relationships with my students.
Attending the first data night in November, a time when parents could review their students’ progress, was an amazing experience because I was able to meet many of my students’ families and in turn learn more about them beyond the classroom. For example, when I met Gabriel’s* mother, she informed me that education was extremely valued in their household. Gabriel’s success was incredibly important to her and her grandmother. Knowing that education and the importance of hard work was a theme in Gabriel’s household, I was able to use that knowledge to further inspire and motivate Gabriel when she faced challenges. As a result of meeting many families, they saw me and my teammates as partners our students’ learning.
3. When my literacy group students increased their reading levels
“You gotta read, baby read… Say what? You gotta read, baby read. The more I read the more I know. The more I know, the smarter I grow because knowledge is power and power is freedom, and I want it! I want it!”
Above is a song my class sang to get us pumped up about boosting our reading skills. It is this continuous enthusiasm and hard work during literacy instruction, guided reading, and independent reading that our students are able to increase their reading levels. Every time my partner teacher tested our students, we saw their reading levels grow.
Each student showed their excitement in different ways when he or she found out that their reading levels had advanced. For some students, a huge smile spread across their faces. Some students jumped up and cheered, and others bashfully smiled and some ran directly to the classroom library to pick out a book on their new level. Every time they celebrated, I experienced this overwhelming and powerful feeling of possibility. Every student has the potential to succeed.
4. When our team went from good to great
“Teamwork makes the dream work” is a mantra my teammate, DeAris Greenridge ‘15, frequently repeated and was a belief our team held true. When our team returned from our two week winter recess, something clicked within us. It was evident that we were all truly committed to City Year’s core values, such as service greater than self and students first collaboration always. At final circle after our first day back, each person mapped out what their vision consisted of for the rest of the year. Our visions were connected and aligned.
We inspired and motivated one another to be the best we could be for our students and their families. Our passion for service has since rippled throughout the school. Our teamwork and collaboration was evident in many events we hosted, such as Read Across America Day, a perfect attendance movie night for the younger grades, the school AttenDANCE, and multiple teacher appreciation events. When I first began City Year, I was a person who was not only used to working independently, but preferred to work alone. Now, working with an amazing and diverse team, it is clear that teamwork is essential to developing sustainable growth.
5. The moment I realized that I wanted to become an excellent urban educator
During one of my guided reading groups, it hit me. I was with four students from my class in a deep discussion about our latest book, Superfudge. My students were evaluating the text while building and challenging each other’s ideas. I was absolutely amazed at what my guided reading group had grown into. I knew I wanted to be a teacher in that moment. After reflecting about my year of service and experiences with our students at the Mattahunt, my career passions were confirmed.
I am extremely passionate about educating students in need of extra support. I am proud to announce that I joined Urban Teacher Center in Baltimore, MD. I will be earning a graduate degree in elementary education and special education, as well as teaching the students of Baltimore. I could not be more excited to fulfill my dream of becoming an excellent urban educator, and I know Urban Teacher Center will set me up for success!