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Growing up, out of all the things I wanted to be when I grew up, a teacher was not one of them. I never had a fondness for working with children, and although I had a number of excellent teachers growing up, they never quite inspired me to pursue a career in education. Even my own father, who has worked with young people his whole life, first as a social worker working with students in high-need schools, then as an attendance officer in a Kenosha high school, did not inspire me to work with students. So, it comes to a surprise that I now find myself serving in a high school, with students I enjoy spending my time with. Now in my fifth month of service, I notice now more than ever, how much my dad has influenced the work I’m currently doing.

At the beginning of my service year, I came home after a day of service and filled my dad in on all I learned and experienced that day. We would discuss the joys (and struggles) of working in a public school and navigating the field of education in the high school setting. He would mention some of the practices in place at his school and tips that he has learned throughout the years. His job has always centered around attendance, so he has a lot of insight into the barriers that may prevent students from coming to school. 

My dad would explain how he utilized resources inside and outside the school to help him motivate students to come to class. These resources involved collaborating with extracurriculars, teachers and departments and local organizations, to work on solutions to help his students. He learned that it may simply be the time of day the student has a class or the fact that they’re so far behind, that they do not have the motivation to come to school. My dad would reach out to the local business community to gather incentives to give to students to encourage them to come to school or improve their grades in a class. Each time we spoke, he would reiterate to me the fact that despite all the politics of the school, the students were always the main priority and it took the collective effort of the school and the community to help students succeed.

I have taken my dad’s advice about collaborating with others and making students the main priority. I remember it when I meet with my partner teacher, our freshman academy, and even my fellow team members. We figure out what is working and what is not in regard to our students, and we collaborate to come up with a strategy to help them.  We even collaborated with the community to gain incentives for our attendance Third Friday event, and demonstrated this City Year value as a team.

It’s hard to listen to all the advice that your parents give you, and I still roll my eyes every once in a while, but some of what they say does have weight to it. I thank my dad for living up to the value of “students first, collaboration always,” for it inspires me in the work I do every day as a Student Success Coach with City Year.

Article written by Petar Djordjevic, City Year Milwaukee Student Success Coach on the Bay View High School Team

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