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Throughout the year, my team and I have learned many valuable lessons and advice from our students!  Everyday, they contine to make an impact on us and we are grateful for everything they will continue to teach us in the year ahead! Here are 5 of those lessons! 

1. Find joy in everything you do.

There’s no confusion around the importance of the work we do and it can be easy to get swept up in giving respect to the seriousness of our service. As a Team Leader, I was nervous about what service would look like for me not getting to be with students all day, every day, because it’s also not a secret that we do it all for them. I was lucky enough to get to support a fourth-grade classroom for the first few months of service and the innocence and genuine joy my students brought me every time I saw them had the power to turn around my darkest days. They remind me not to take everything so serious, especially not taking myself too seriously. Getting a hug from my students and having the chance to talk to them about their day is a reminder that there are joys in everything we do.  

Morgan Sass, Co-Team Leader on the Julia A. Uihlein Team at Alexander Mitchell Integrated Arts School 

2. Know when it’s time to work, and when it’s time to play.

As we get older, it seems to feel harder and harder to find that perfect work-life balance. When you’re young, often most of your time is spent playing outdoors, with friends, and without a care in the world. As an adult, work can unintentionally creep in and consume your time, even when you’re not at the office. Serving in an eighth-grade classroom has caused me to reflect on my own time in middle school. It was a time when I felt like I understood the balance between work and play better than I had before (and if I’m being honest, even better than I do now). While I recognize the need for a balance between the two more fully than when I was thirteen, I struggle to actually put it into practice. I see my students also understanding that balance, whether they are aware of it or not. They know when to buckle down and study, and when to take a break and play for a while. They are helping me rediscover my own work-life balance and inspiring me to make room to play a bit more. 

Olivia Rockwood, Student Success Coach on the Julia A. Uihlein Team at Alexander Mitchell Integrated Arts School 

3. Be real about what you’re feeling.

One of my students and I were walking around the blacktop last winter at recess time. It was especially crowded. 

“Do you prefer to be by yourself, or around other people?” I asked him. 

He paused. “I don’t know. Because I like to be by myself but then sometimes I get bored. And I like being around other people but then sometimes I get shy.” 

He says succinctly what I’ve felt, too. He says it clearly and honestly and thoughtfully without even trying. He speaks authentically. 

Eliza Scholl, Student Success Coach on the Julia A. Uihlein Team at Alexander Mitchell Integrated Arts School 

4. Every experience you have is an opportunity to gain knowledge and perspective.

Going right out of high school to do my year of service with seventh and eighth graders, I have learned that I do not know everything there is to support young people. I had thought I had seen what it was to be that age and be able to respond to it because I was the nearest peer I could be. When I started my service, though shocked, I took on every conversation with every student as another perspective I was able to learn from. One of my students, *Niya and I were able to connect throughout my service year. Although she had her rough days in class, we were able to sit down and talk through her emotions, she was able to teach me more about the actions her (and her peers) and give me her perspective (of confusion and irritation) versus what I had believed was a lack of respect. Our young people have so much knowledge and every opportunity I had, I made sure to have those interactions and learn more from them by learning about them.  

Sadie Woods,  Co-Team Leader on the Julia A. Uihlein Team at Alexander Mitchell Integrated Arts School 

5. They believe in me, so let me believe in them.  

When a scholar knows you believe in them, they feel powerful, unstoppable, and on top of the world. They know nothing can defeat them and know they have you in their corner. But what amazes me is that they remind their other classmates that they believe in them. At the beginning of my service year, I was very excited. I was ready to support my third graders, ready to protect them, but most importantly, I was ready to be in their corner. Every day, I physically move myself around the classroom so my students feel supported by me. I take six different groups a day to “our” back table and we work on math. One day, one of my students was struggling with her work. Another student, Angel,* went up to her and whispered, “Don’t worry, I believe in you, just like our teachers believe in us.” In that moment I knew my students had the capability to spread positivity. Every day they keep surprising me and keep pushing to reach their full potential. I couldn’t be any more proud to be serving in room 113. 

*Names changed to protect privacy of students

Article written by Fernie Torres, Student Success Coach on the Julia A. Uihlein Team at Alexander Mitchell Integrated Arts School 

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