by Alana Friedman, AmeriCorps member on the MFS Investment Management team with McCormack Middle School

Even though I'm less than halfway through my year of service with City Year, I’ve already learned an incredible amount. Here are five pieces of advice I wish I’d known at the beginning:

1. Get to know as many people at your school as you can. This includes faculty, administration, staff, students, and anyone else you may pass in the hallway. Everyone at the school plays an important role, and by getting to know as many people as you can, you’re able to help each other and build a stronger school community.

2. Be like water. Just go with the flow. In service, you’ll be thrown into situations you couldn’t have anticipated. Just go with it. Your lesson plan falls through and you need to come up with curriculum on the fly? Go with it. You’re asked to help plan a bird-watching class when you know nothing about birds? Go with it. Smile, be flexible, and do your best!

3. Build a strong relationship with your partner teachers. Every teacher has a different style, and whether you're working closely with one teacher or rotating with a group of students and working with several teachers like I am, it's crucial to get to know your teacher. For example, one teacher I work with appreciates when I step up and lead parts of class, while another prefers me to quietly help students in the back. Getting to know them allows you to help your partner teachers as much as possible, and it also allows them to help you best utilize your own strengths in class.

4. Utilize your team! It’s easy to get caught up in everything that happens in a day of service and forget that you’re not alone. Reflecting with my teammates has become invaluable for me; my teammates give me valuable advice on managing challenging situations, especially when it comes to working with students. In addition, hearing my teammates’ daily joys and successes is a highlight of my day.

5. Take care of yourself. Everyone in City Year is here because we’re passionate about our students and the service we do. It’s way too easy to get wrapped up in that service and forget to take care of yourself. Go to bed early, pack a good lunch, and always remember to practice self care. I like to relax by listening to music and talking to friends and family, while a teammate of mine likes to go for long runs. Whatever self care means to you, make sure it remains a priority; that’s the only way you’ll be able to give your students your best self.

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