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What do AmeriCorps members do? Build relationships to help students succeed

city year americorps member sitting with two students doing work as they sit at a large table outside in the school courtyard

Since my first day of service in the third grade classroom at SAC-Rosa Parks K-8 School, I was able to witness how relationship building is embedded in the City Year AmeriCorps members’ daily role.  From the start, I knew that in order to be successful, I needed to develop positive relationships with my teammates, students, partner teacher and families of students.

Knowing that I would be working with the same students every day, I quickly learned I had to build their trust in order for them to feel comfortable working with me. Without cultivating a positive relationship with my students, I would have felt like I was simply there and not engaged. Simple gestures such as saying hello and greeting students as they arrived at school were the initial steps in cultivating these relationships. This allowed me to connect with my students and made them feel comfortable talking to me.

From this point, my students were increasingly willing to listen to me in our tutoring sessions and open up about areas where they were struggling both inside and outside of the classroom.  For example, one of my students expressed he did not particularly like school, so I asked him what his interests were. He said he really enjoyed drawing and painting, and then I asked him what he had been drawing and painting lately. This conversation allowed him to open up to me and view school in a new way. I told him that, in drawing and painting, a lot of math is used to determine measurements and angles of designs. This seemed to register with him and made him more engaged in his school work because he saw how it related to his interests.

All year, I have been working extremely closely with my partner teacher in her third grade classroom. Our ability to effectively work together has helped me be successful in my role. At the start of the year, I made a genuine effort to get to know her and learn her work style. I paid close attention to her classroom routine and norms, and then adapted those into my daily service. We have reached a point now where I am able to anticipate her next steps and prepare for what is next, and she is very grateful for my support and attentiveness. This allows me to feel valued in my role in her classroom. Nearly every day after school, my partner teacher and I meet to discuss which students are behind and need behavior support, and we develop strategies for these students. My teacher highly values my input and observations, and I am confident that my relationship building with her is a major contribution to that.

My relationship with my teammates continues to play an instrumental role in my service experience. Between organizing and planning events to working with our students, my teammates and I rely on each other every day.  For example, if I am having trouble getting through to a student, there is always a teammate there to step in and help. When solving problems, everyone has something different to add and brings their own unique perspective. Our ability to work well as a team is a true testament to our team building activities and time spent together during the beginning of service. This allowed us to get to know each other and establish our foundation as a team. In addition, we are able to lean on each other during difficult days. There is always someone there to understand what you are going through and put a smile on your face.  I truly feel as though we are one big family.

In this past year, I have also forged relationships with my students’ families and parents. Between student conferences and various school events, I have had the opportunity to speak to the parents and families of my students. I am always very honest in communicating how their children are doing and areas where they need to improve. I like to provide parents and families with specific examples of lessons they are doing well in and lessons where they need additional support so we can build off of our conversations each time we see talk.

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