By Shane Totten, City Year Boston Senior AmeriCorps member serving with the Advent International team at the Condon K-8 School in South Boston
I remember how the other third-graders whispered and stared every time my reading tutor called me over to practice comprehension in the back of the classroom. At the time, I felt like something was wrong with me.
It wasn’t until I was older that I realized that the extra attention helped me improve and feel more confident in my learning. That experience is what brought me to City Year and propelled me to pursue a teaching career after I complete my service year.
I wanted each of my students to know that needing extra help doesn’t make you a bad student.
Last year, I served at the Tobin K-8 School and mentored students with academic struggles similar to my own. I wanted each of my students to know that needing extra help doesn’t make you a bad student. Most of the time, a little guidance and encouragement is all they need to believe in themselves, like my 6th grader, *Kayla.
She was really smart but had a tendency to leave her materials at home. Forgetting homework really sets students back, and it was impacting Kayla’s grades. I made sure to check in with her every day and ask, “Hey Kayla, do you have your homework?” In the beginning, she would usually say “nooooooo” and walk away. But I didn’t give up.
Kayla loved to talk, so we bonded by talking about our interests. She would show me her latest dance moves, and I showed her pictures of my dog. Whenever she needed a little extra encouragement, I’d offer a game of UNO as an incentive for tough class work.
When you take the time to show up and believe in a student, they will always surprise you.
By the end of the year, I started noticing a change. I didn’t have to ask Kayla about her homework anymore. In class, she was alert, and took notes. I could tell she was focused and motivated, and her Fs, and Ds turned into passing grades. I was proud of the progress she and all my students made last year. I knew they had the skills to succeed on their own but more importantly, they knew it too.
I joined City Year to show students that no matter what challenges they faced, they could succeed if they believed in themselves. I know firsthand how transformative confidence can be in a students’ life. Without teachers who encouraged me and pushed me, I might not have realized I could be a teacher too. Confidence building is the most important work City Years do with students. When you take the time to show up and believe in a student, they will always surprise you.
Are you ready to invest in yourself? Click here for more information about serving in Boston or start your application today!