Today's blog comes from Liz Smits who served as an AmeriCorps Member on the Acosta team at Jean Ribault High School in the 2016-2017 school year. Liz shares her advice for incoming City Year Jacksonville AmeriCorps Members.
- Buy comfortable and supportive black shoes: Whether you are chasing down children that are skipping class, running around the school to support your teacher, or racing around the classroom trying to help your students, you will be on your feet A LOT. It is worth investing in a good pair of shoes. Your body will thank you by the end of the year.
- Apply for food stamps early: Living on the stipend is hard. However, it's doable and there ways to make it much easier and food stamps are one of them. The application is fairly easy and it’s definitely worth it, it can save you up to $200 dollars a month.
- Utilize the beach: Another tip to saving cash is by going to the beach! It can be hard to find an inexpensive way to spend your weekend, but the beach will always be free and will never get old. Just make sure to pack your sunscreen!
- Remember that sleep is important: This job can be physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting. Ten-hour days are long, but a good nights sleep can make it more bearable. While a 9:00pm bedtime may feel lame, it will make this job a lot easier.
- Remember that kids are kids: Whether you are working with third graders or ninth graders, kids are still kids. They are unpredictable, dramatic, and goofy. One day they will treat you like their best friend and the next day they may “hate” you. Don’t take anything too personally. It’s all a learning process and part of their development as young people.
- Your partner teacher relationship is important: The majority of every day will be spent in a classroom with your teacher, so be sure to foster the relationship. Whether you end up becoming very close or if you have differences in your perspectives or personalities, you are both there for the same reason: the students.
- Keep an open mind: The City Year community is special and you may never again be surrounded by such a group of diverse people in your life. Everyone comes from a different area of the country, has different backgrounds, and mindsets. It may be easy to make quick judgments, but I encourage you to keep an open mind and learn to embrace one another's differences. We all lead in our own way and have a lot to learn from each other.
- Take it day by day: If you’re anything like me, you are about to start your year determined to inspire and change the life of your students. Just remember, change is a slow process. Months may go by and you’ll feel like you haven’t made a difference at all, but I urge you to take time to celebrate the small victories. By the end of the year, you’ll realize the change you really did make.
- Make time for yourself: It is easy to become consumed by being a City Year AmeriCorps Member, it's more than a job. You will be constantly supporting your students, teammates, and teacher, so much so that you may forget about yourself. However, it’s important to make sure you are happy and healthy. The workweek is 50 hours, but maintaining a well-balanced life is essential, not only for your sanity, but taking care of yourself allows you to be the most effective AmeriCorps Member you can be.
- City Year is just 1 year: There will likely be a moment (or several moments) when you feel like this year is dragging on forever, when it feels too long and impossible to finish. However, as it begins to come to an end you will realize how quickly it went by. Make the most out of your time with your students, cherish the memories with your teammates, and leave the year knowing you gave all that you could give!