Building a Space of Belonging Virtually
Read an update on how City Year has supported with Social Emotional Learning this service year.
When I started my service year back in July there were many aspects of City Year that I felt some uncertainty about. I had no idea what to expect from working remotely this year and having to meet all of my coworkers over a virtual platform like Zoom. I was also very unsure of what my experience in the virtual classroom would be like. I had little experience other than online college courses where much was done independently. I never had to worry about building connections or trust with young folks through a screen or even began to think of how I could do so.
However, despite many doubts, with the support of staff at City Year and my fellow AmeriCorps members, I found many ways to create a sense of belonging in our virtual classroom and build meaningful relationships with my sixth graders this service year at Roosevelt Middle School of the Arts.
I was able to do so using a very engaging activity that I learned through City Year; it is called Three Wishes. It is a very simple activity where students are prompted to share three wishes that they have without any limitations. It could be wishes they have for themselves personally, for the world at large, or anything really. I led this activity virtually by using a Padlet, a platform where students can post virtual sticky-notes. The first time I led this activity I was unsure of how enthusiastic my students would be to participate or share. I was surprised to see how eager my students were to share more about themselves with each other and with myself.
Just doing one simple activity opened so many doors for how I could connect with my students. By learning more about their wishes for themselves and the world I could make notes of my student’s interests and follow up with them days after leading this activity. And by doing so my students could see that I cared for them and about learning more about their individual interests and hobbies.
Although there have been many challenges this year for City Years, teachers, and students alike, this year has also offered unique opportunities for us all to problem solve and find a way to connect virtually and create relationships that we will never forget.
About the Author:
Ava Masias proudly serves as a First-Year AmeriCorps member on the Roosevelt Middle School of the Arts Team. Ava is a proud alum of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where she received a BFA in Musical Theatre. When asked why she serves, Ava said, “I serve because I believe in the potential and power of young people and because every student deserves to have someone in their corner. I serve because I understand that to generate genuine change, we must start by serving our communities in the hopes that we will make strides towards dismantling discriminatory institutions and policies that affect young folk’s educational experiences.”
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