A Virtual Service Update with CYLA!
Our City Year LA AmeriCorps members have officially been in virtual classrooms, helping our students maneuver remote learning for over two months! In order to better understand how our corps members have been transitioning into the virtual service space, we sat down with our team at Bethune Middle School to chat all things virtual service, including how they think the semester is going, where they feel they are making the biggest impact, and what a typical day in the life of a City Year LA AmeriCorps member looks like.
James Gibbs, who is serving a second year, walked us through what a day of service looks like for our teams in the virtual world, “We have First Circle 8:30 a.m., where we go through some announcements and plan out all the stuff that we have to get done as a collective. At 9 a.m. we all go our separate ways to our virtual classrooms with our partner teachers and will stay there until about 2:15 p.m. The experience inside the classroom, however, varies for each ACM depending on what class they are helping with. Throughout the day, we also have homeroom classes where we get to just hang out with the students, play games, help them with homework, etc. Once our workday is over, we reconvene at our team’s Final Circle to unwind and share how our day went, which I feel is a great way to end the day.”
AmeriCorps member Melanie Corral shared an experience she had in the classroom that played a pivotal role in how far she has come in terms of building relationships with her students. “The first time I felt helpful in the classroom, was one day at the very beginning of the school year, when my partner teacher was having some technical difficulties,” she recalled. “It was very hard to hear her and the students were all confused, so I took it upon myself to step in as the messenger and write in the chat everything that I could understand her saying. It was such a defining moment because it felt like after that the students were able to trust me more and come to me when they had questions. Them seeing that I was there to help when even the worst technical issues were happening, it meant a lot to them.”
The Zoom chat is also proving to be one of the most valuable tools for our corps members, as Melanie went on to add. “A lot of the service and impact comes down to the Zoom chat, because a lot of students don’t really want to unmute or turn their cameras on, but they do feel comfortable sharing in the chat. So at least we have the chat to answer any questions they have or help them one-on-one when the student it embarrassed to share out loud. That way they can just private message us with questions without pressure from the larger group and we can just work together from there.”
For our corps member Victoria Camarena, the “best days” are the ones where they can lead breakout rooms to help students on a more personal level. “With breakout rooms there is so much more for you to do, because students are more likely to ask questions and participate in those small group spaces. Breakout rooms also give you the opportunity to gage what students are struggling with so you can figure out how to help them one-on-one. Those are the best days when you have that opportunity.”
By far the small wins that happen in the classroom are what motivates our AmeriCorps members and shows them just how important the impact they are making in the classroom is. As corps member Sophia Cadena explained, “I know that sometimes even in homeroom when we are all just talking and having fun and playing games together, it’s the conversations we have with students that are really important. Students don’t get the same social interaction they used to, so whenever they are open and honest with you about how they are feeling, you can really feel the impact you are making. Being there for students right now even just as a friend is what stands out to me and motivates me.”
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