by Aria Brennan, AmeriCorps member on the MFS Investment Management team with McCormack Middle School
Welcome to City Year Boston!
Congratulations on beginning the journey of a lifetime. It’s going to be awesome, but there are a few things I wish I’d known from the start, so here it is.
It gets easier, and you will miss this. Not to put out your raging fire of idealism, but the first few months of in-school service are rough. It takes awhile to figure out how to schedule sleep and self-care around 11-12 hour workdays, and even longer to get into a solid work pattern in a team environment. Luckily, both will happen in time. Your students will come to respect you once they know you, and you will build strong relationships with students who wanted nothing to do with you when you first arrived (oh, and you’ll be in an ELA class, and you’ll even come to enjoy it!).
Ask why more often. There is usually a reason why people say the things they say and do the things they do. Asking why will help you understand why students may make choices that don’t seem best for them, as well as providing them a space to problem-solve with you. This changes the dynamic of coaching conversations from one where the adult tells the child what to do, into one where the child and adult work together to find the best outcome for everyone. Asking why helps relationships on the team too; it’s easier to come up with ideas that work for everyone when everyone has a chance to voice their priorities.
Strive to be right, rather than correct. A lot of people are going to give you more pieces of advice than you ever knew existed.. Some will be invaluable; others, while they may have worked well for the advice-giver, won’t apply well to your situation. It’s okay to find your own “right answer,” the one which supports your students the best, instead of working towards the “correct answer,” what you were told to do in training. City Year involves making some hard choices, and at the end of the day, the most important thing is to put students first.
Since hindsight is 20/20, I can tell you that it will all work out for the best. Get ready for the ride, enjoy the hilarious moments, and know that you’ve made a choice that will change the course of your life forever, and, I hope, your students’ lives for the better.