By Emily Siskind, AmeriCorps member, Wellington Management team serving at Trotter Innovation School
“Get psyched, alright, alright, alright–get psyched!"
My team clapped and sang this chant over and over again as students arrived. We hadn’t quite yet perfected the more complex morning greeting songs, but we mastered “Get Psyched,” putting forth as much energy as our team of seven AmeriCorps members could muster.
For my teammates and I, morning greeting, which generally involves energetic singing, dancing, and welcoming students into the school building, was a new experience. Likewise, all of the students we were greeting were new to us. From the students’ view, City Year was back, and while the faces of the AmeriCorps members were different, the uniform and the meaning behind our khaki pants and red jackets were familiar and comforting. As more students sauntered off the buses, walked up the steps, and heard us singing, we saw the smiles on their faces. Some sprinted towards the school with their arms spread out, ready to high five each of us on their inside. Apparently, enthusiasm is contagious—students were excited to see us and were “getting psyched” to start their days.
At 7:30 a.m., it was time to end morning greeting and head into the classroom. This would be my first day serving in a 6th-grade classroom, and I was a bit nervous to be serving with students of this age. How would a group of 26 students, fresh out of 5th-grade, react to having me, a 5-foot-2-inch petite female, in the classroom? What strategies could I use to build relationships with these students? Would they feel like they could connect with me? As I walked up the stairs, all of these thoughts and fears were running through my mind. However, the second I walked into the classroom, several students shouted “Yay, City Year!” In a flash, my worries had disappeared.
It didn’t matter that the students did not know me personally–they knew the uniform, they remembered their past experiences with City Year, and they were open to getting to know a new AmeriCorps member. In short, they welcomed me, just as I welcomed them back to school. I know that wearing the Red Jacket does not automatically mean all students will immediately connect with me, but this first experience in the classroom makes me proud and excited to have the opportunity to serve these young scholars.