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Three important lessons my students taught me

City Year Milwaukee, Rufus King International Middle School team

About a year ago, I made the decision to serve with City Year. After graduating from college, I chose to leave Ohio and move seven hours from home. Coming to Milwaukee was really scary and intimidating. I had a lot to learn, not only with my adult life but with my students and service. I spent most of the year wondering if they were understanding what I was teaching them, only to later reflect that they taught me so much.   

Lesson 1: Adapt to what you are given. 

The biggest lesson my students taught me this year was how to adapt to what you are given. There were easy days and there were challenging days for my students and I. When there were challenging days, I realized that math wasnt the most important thing. Being there for my students and helping them sort out whatever was going on, would take precedent over complimentary and supplementary angles. Those could wait until tomorrow. 

Lesson 2: Everyone learns in different ways.  

When I was in seventh grade, I was very shy. The idea of asking an adult what they were doing was so scary for me. Even if the way they were doing something didnt make sense to me, I went along with it. My students asked questions about everything I did. They taught me that sometimes my way doesnt work for everyone. This may seem like the same as being adaptable, but itreally about thinking of what is best for the way my students learn, rather than how I feel I teach best. Almost all of my students would prefer to play a math game over practicing problems that were easy to write into a session plan. Creating fun, new math games from scratch was not always easy, but it was so worth it.  

Lesson 3: Always have an open heart and show grace.  

In all honesty, the best lesson my students taught me was how to have an open heart and grace for each and every person— no matter what. They showed me that a rough day wouldnt last forever. At first, I would always be amazed that they could just let go of a bad day so easily, but I realized it’s because they are incredible people. My students are all so strong and resilient and overcome any adversity, because they have such big hearts. They know that bad days dont last. Having that daily reminder of leading my own life with an open heart and with grace was something that helped me through every situation this past year.  

I am so heartbroken that because of Covid-19 my year was cut short with my students. I think about them constantly and hope they are doing okay. Im so thankful for most of my time spent with them, how much joy they gave me and how much they inspire me to do my best. Whoever is lucky enough to have them in a classroom next year will quickly get to know how remarkable they are.

Check out our Instagram page to learn more about our impact in Milwaukee, and see a glimpse into what service looks like for our AmeriCorps members.

City Year Milwaukee AmeriCorps member

About the author: Michaela Hensley proudly serves as a City Year Milwaukee AmeriCorps member at Rufus King International Middle School. She is a proud alumna of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. When asked why she serves with City Year, Michaela said, I serve to be a positive role model for students everywhere, to make an impact in my students even if it is small and to advocate for equitable education.

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