Serving with City Year Columbus Before and During COVID-19
Like everyone else, my life changed drastically when the pandemic hit. Last March, I was serving with City Year Columbus at Mifflin High School. I still remember that last day before lock down started, there was a somber feeling in the air and a lot of questions floating around. There were so many sentences starting with “what if”. What if the quarantine lasts longer than three weeks? What if we never return? I remember a team member of mine saying, “I don’t think we will return at all this year” and I reassured her that of course that would not happen, there was no reason for her to be feeling that way. We laughed about my response later. I went from seeing my students every day to interacting with a few a week, which was the hardest adjustment of the job to make.
At the end of the school year last year, I had already committed to serving another year with City Year as a Team Lead. I knew, more than ever, that this would require me to be the embodiment of the founding story, “Water”. The end of last year tested my flexibility and patience, but as I looked forward to the coming school year, with no hope of returning back to school insight, I knew I had to find a way to work from home that would help me be the best that I could be. I took everything I learned from the previous school year and used it as a way to teach my Founding Story Group during BTA and my current school team how to best succeed in a virtual setting. I stressed the importance of finding ways to stay engaged throughout the day, the importance of self-care outside of the work day, and never forgetting to have fun. Embracing the challenge of being virtual and using it as a way to think creatively and approach new situations with an open mind is the embodiment of being like water.
The team I have been serving with this year have shown me that they can be like water no matter the situation that we throw at them. They serve with compassion and grace and take every challenge in stride, finding new ways to be creative and make the material they are learning accessible to all of their students. This year, we have had to think creatively about how to build relationships with students and make our presence in the classroom known. The AmeriCorps members at Mifflin have worked with their partner teachers to carve out time for them to lead a Question of the Day or a Social-Emotional Lesson weekly. Since the first semester, we have lead lunch clubs of varying topics with the hope of getting to know more students and their interests. We offer daily tutoring on Zoom, where students can drop in whenever they have questions about their school work. Though it took a few tries to get students coming to lunch clubs and tutoring, now we have a pretty consistent group of students coming to both. I also created a team Instagram and Google Site as a way to post more about our team and share resources for students and their parents. This year, we are really trying to provide students with as many resources as we can and plenty of opportunities to interact with us.
This year has been hard, there is no denying that, but it has also shown the team that we can persevere through any frustration or challenge that comes our way. For me, I just remind myself that this is a growing opportunity and I focus on the time I get with my students and my team.
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