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Five tips to start the school year strong

As you may be shifting into the start of the school year, you may be wondering: how can I start the school year strong as an AmeriCorps member? I served as an AmeriCorps member during the 2019-2020 school year at City Year Philadelphia. Here are five things I did to start the school year strong.

Establish a daily routine for yourself

Prior to being a City Year AmeriCorps member, I was a chaotic college student who rolled out of bed 15 minutes before class. I have always been a night owl, so an extensive morning routine is not appealing to me personally. To prepare for the school day, I prepared my coffee pot and packed my lunch before I went to bed. The most I had to do in the morning was click a button to brew coffee and prepare my choice of breakfast—a bagel with cream cheese. This easy grab and go routine helped ensure I had my morning essentials. Do whatever works for you to make sure you have a good start to the day.

If you live with roommates, especially other City Year corps members, it is important to establish living norms at the beginning of moving in. If your housing has limited bathrooms, be upfront about how long you typically spend in the bathroom. This can potentially help minimize bathroom traffic and keep your mornings on track.

City Year AmeriCorps team

Learn your commute before school starts

I have a great skill in getting lost easily. It was important for me to not only look up my commute route before the first day of school, but I also walked around my neighborhood to familiarize myself with where the bus stops were physically located. This is helpful because buses can reroute unexpectedly to other stops or signs can be easy to walk past. If several public transit options are available in your city, I recommend having two commute routes in case you miss the first option.

If driving is more common at your site, ask around if anyone is looking to join a carpool and confirm logistics a few days before school starts.

Get to know your school’s neighborhood

It is important to get to know your school’s neighborhood throughout the service year. City Year school teams are led by impact managers, individuals who support and coach AmeriCorps members throughout the school year and serve as a liaison between the school administrators and City Year site. My impact manager created a scavenger hunt around the neighborhood as a teambuilder, which helped us get familiarized with some of the shops, culture and history.

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Learn more about what City Year impact managers do.

You can also get to know a little bit more about your neighborhood by taking a stroll around the block. Get to know where the corner stores are for the days you forget to pack lunch.

Participate in the classroom during teacher-pairing week

You will have the opportunity to observe classrooms during the first few weeks of school. This observation period is meant to see which classrooms you’ll be a good fit for. While it is not expected for corps members to immediately jump in and be an expert in their role as student success coaches, try to take an active role in the class. Before class starts, ask the teacher what the lesson plan is for the day and how you could best support them.

During class be intentional with your observations and take this time to get to know some of the students. After classroom assignments are confirmed, you would have already established a great relationship with your partner teacher and students.

Know your “why”

A month of Basic Training Academy has prepared you for what you will be doing in the classroom, but do you know why you serve? Comedian Michael Jr. describes the importance of know your “why” because “When you know your ‘why’ then your ‘what’ becomes more impactful, because you’re working towards your purpose.” When you know your why, you can create a list of what you want to gain from your year of service and how you want to authentically show up for your students.

Ready to apply to City Year AmeriCorps and make a difference in the lives of your students?

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