by Madeline Scharff, AmeriCorps member serving on the State Street Foundation team with Higginson/Lewis K-8 School
If you were a fly on the wall in the City Year team space in the morning, you would see 12 first year AmeriCorps members file in with scarf clad faces, rosy cheeks, large doses of caffeine, and black boots.
Backpacks are lifted from shoulders, red jackets are hung on wall hooks, lunches are put away in the mini fridge, and breakfast bars and cereal are placed on the table. By 8:30 a.m., all 12 corps members, along with their Team Leader and Impact Manager, circle in the middle of the team space. Standing shoulder to shoulder, the State Street Foundation team starts their day with a “readiness check”:
Boots or shoes!
Black and white socks!
Shirt tucked in!
During the readiness check, a few smiles emerge, knowing that half the day’s battle has already been won: making it through the early, chilly, crowded, commute. The next order of business, "Ripples, Joys, Appreciations (RJA’s)", are a team favorite. This part of first circle gives corps members the opportunity to reflect on their previous day of service by sharing, a funny conversation with one of their students, how another corps member supported them during a difficult situation, or even a tasty recipe they concocted for dinner.
However, it is "Question of the Day (QOD)" that turns up the lips of the remaining, unsmiling faces. Small, folded pieces of red, green, blue, and yellow construction paper fill a small fish bowl, from which a corps member draws from each morning. Ms. Cailin reads, “If you discovered a new species of dinosaur, what would you name it?” Mr. Andre and Mr. Hurley erupt into dinosaur noises simultaneously; squawking and squealing with hand motions that look more like zombie’s attacking. Mr. Lin and Ms. Kay join in; the team space sounds like a prehistoric zoo. All smiles are now present.
To close out first circle, everyone has a chance to share announcements for the day or present week. Announcements are shared without having to raise hands—a back and forth, give and take, conversation is had because each corps member is there to listen, learn, and support one another. They each have strong voices because of one another; they are able to persevere through long, challenging days because of one another. This morning ritual, known as first circle, unifies, solidifies, and provides a platform for open communication, which is vital for maintaining consistently successful service days.
“Bring it in,” says Team Leader Ms. Felicia.
Everyone in the group puts their right hand out in front of them, in the middle of the circle.
“And what do we have?” She adds, looking around the circle for someone to speak out.
Ms. Sarah blurts out, “Strong community!”
Ms. Felicia counts: one, two, three, and “strong community” is shouted by all as their hands fly into the air.