By Eleanore MacLean, AmeriCorps member serving on the Bank of America team with Young Achievers Science and Math Pilot K-8 School
When City Year alumni and staff told me in August that March would be the most challenging month, I didn’t believe them. I also reasoned that since I’d been forewarned of the difficulty of this stretch of the year, I’d be prepared, and therefore wouldn’t fall into the March slump. But by this point in the year, the grooves our daily routines wear have solidified, and I’ve started to adjust my approach to March in order to beat the March Blues.
1. Take breaks. By now, I know how my day will typically go (though there is no truly ‘typical’ City Year day). This can be comforting, but it can also create something of a rut. That said, March has been a dissonant mix of routine and change. In contrast to this sense of routine, the students in my classroom have started testing the limits of the classroom expectations again. They, too, seem to be trying to figure out how to beat the March Blues. At the beginning of the year, we were warned that it was normal for students to test our limits when we came into the classroom in order to figure out what type of adult figure we’d be. It seems like now the students are pushing those originally set limits again, to see if anything will change. In the face of this shift, several people have reminded me that taking breaks are necessary in order to be a source of energy and patience in the room. It’s been helpful to remember that if you’re not taking care of yourself, you can’t be fully present for your students.
2. Talk it out. It’s also been helpful for me to make time to talk to people both on my team and outside of City Year. Teammates can be helpful thought partners since we serve in the same school, and, naturally, teams are meant to support each other. Often teammates will experience similar challenges, which can be both surprising and reassuring because it’s easy to get caught up in my own classroom. In fact, talking with a teammate on one afternoon reminded me of another tip we received on our opening day of service: get enough sleep.
3. Catch some Z’s. I’ve heard this advice my whole life, and it’s not revolutionary or profound, but it’s true. This is an intense year of service, and each day runs the gamut of intense emotions. This year can be emotionally exhausting, but the positive experiences always end up outweighing the negative, which pulls me back to service every day. At some point, I just have to set aside whatever I’m thinking or doing in order to be prepared for the next day mentally and physically. At the beginning of the year we also heard about how, as AmeriCorps members, we’re running a proverbial sprint, not a marathon. My Team Leader recently reminded me of that image when she said that there’s always something more you can be doing, but taking time to be prepared to bring emotional constancy and strength each day is, in the end, the paramount priority as corps members sprinting this year of service. Taking that time looks different for everyone, and I’m no expert, but figuring that balance out will at least soften the March Blues.
The end of March has always been a turnaround point for me during the school year. When I had March break in high school, it always felt like the time between returning from break and the end of the year went by faster than any other part of the year. I’m confident that will be the case this year, too, and I’m looking forward to being able to move our science activities back outdoors as the weather warms up!