A Day in the Life at City Year Buffalo
Each day is long, but worth every second of my time
My name is Beth Elliott and I’m an AmeriCorps Member proudly serving at Buffalo Collegiate Charter School. Every morning, I don my black uniform pants, polo shirt, red bomber jacket, and my City Year name tag with pride. This routine acts as a way of centering myself at the beginning of the day, focusing me and filling me with pride and purpose. I secure that name tag, grab my lunch from the fridge, and depart for work at the crisp hour of 6:45 am. It took some getting used to, but now that fall is making itself comfortable here in Buffalo I cherish these dark, quiet commutes to work. I take those fifteen minutes to meditate and ruminate upon my goals for the day.
My day at Buffalo Collegiate Charter School begins quietly, soft and slow as the sun rises through the window of my fourth-grade classroom. I’m often the first person within my teaching advisory to arrive, and I switch on the lights, straighten the classroom, distribute pencils, and make sure the breakfast trays are ready for my incoming students. They enter as their buses arrive, and I greet each child as a friend and welcome them to the classroom. Our school places special emphasis on control and respect, so we as a City Year team don’t participate in power greetings. Instead, we do our best to warmly and efficiently set each child up for a day of success with a handshake or hug. As the students eat, chatter quietly, and fill out their morning worksheets, I meet with my teaching advisory and discuss the day. My advisory is a team consisting of myself and two additional teachers who share the educational responsibilities of the classroom. We’re still learning every day how to best run a class with three teaching adults, but through it our relationship and communication skills grow stronger.
I’m empowered by the women working alongside me
I finally see my beloved City Year team at our morning circle in our office on the second floor, right down the hall from my classroom. We are a family of six fierce and passionate women, and we have each other’s backs no matter what obstacles come our way; and believe me, throughout the course of the day we are presented with a great multitude of them! I spend most of my day with my class of nine and ten-year olds, seeing them through all their classes. Literacy comes first, and I run an independent group where students can complete reading lessons online or work through classwork with me. I love the one-on-one time I spend with my students, as it reveals to me in new ways each day how special and curious each one of them is, no matter their reading level or spelling skills.
After literacy, my class moves to recess and then lunch. I get to spend recess doing all the things I loved as a kid: jump rope, four square, racing friends across the gym floor. The best part is, I can see my own childhood joy reflected in the students’ young faces. I coach soccer matches, examine small scrapes on elbows and knees, and give countless high fives. I eat lunch with my team in our office, and we spend this precious time unwinding and asking advice of one another. It’s honestly hard to imagine life after City Year without them, even after only a few months.
In the afternoon, my students participate in science or social studies, then math and a special (either physical education or performing arts). The afternoons are often difficult, with the students getting antsy, tired, or bored after lunch. I take this time to keep a close eye on students that struggle with focusing, and take them for walks when I feel they need it. I also participate in a fair amount of negotiating for the students to return to their work when they get rowdy, but I am always armed with positive reinforcements like pretzel sticks or gummy bears to get the job done!
The day isn’t quite over yet
After school, I assist the after-school program run activities for the students in each grade, and generally make sure they are being respectful and kind to one another. We spend long days at school, and the students are especially rambunctious by the end of the day. My favorite activities to re-center my students are teaching them how to fold paper cranes, drawing caricatures, and playing twenty questions. Even if it takes a few minutes, most students recognize my respect for them and settle down when I show them that I’m willing to spend my time simply sitting beside them.
I leave for the day around 5:30 pm, often feeling as if I’ve run a marathon: exhausted, but in an empowering way, as if I can feel in my joints and muscles that I’ve made a difference in my own life and others. I drive home towards the sunset, looking so much like the sunrise from that morning, knowing that I’ll face new challenges tomorrow, and ready to take them on with my whole heart and a smile on my face.
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