By Joshua Ddamulira

My year as a corps member is coming to an end. I wonder that if I knew when I started nearly 10 months ago what I know now, if I would have made an even greater impact. For the incoming 2014-2015 class of corps members, my teammates and I compiled a list of advice that we think will help you out in the coming year.

1. Remember that your service isn’t about you

This is something I feel a lot of us forget from day to day. Remember that you are giving a year of service.  As corps members, we are mentors, role models and tutors. We give constantly. Keep the big picture in mind. Our work is reversing the dropout crisis. Receiving joy and appreciation will come if your service is done right.

2. Don’t allow your environment to affect your productivity

Sometimes the workplace can be chaotic and not conducive to impacting our kids for the better. This advice will probably make better sense once you enter your school. Nonetheless, I am blessed to have teammates that can run amazing small groups and 1-on-1s in spite of their environment. Their productivity is inspiring and contagious especially when it is easy to fall into the trap of succumbing to that environment.

3. Acceptance

As you know, you will be serving at a school with about a dozen corps members who come from all different backgrounds. In order to be a productive and impactful team, it is important to accept everyone for who they are. Sometimes when we ask for help or favors, we expect others to respond the way we would. But once you understand that everyone operates differently and brings uniqueness to the table, the year will be easier because your team’s strengths will compensate for weaknesses.

4. Be solution-oriented

When things don’t go according to plan, the easiest thing to do is complain, moan and groan which will only delay impact you can have on your school as well as bringing the team’s morale down. But attacking problems and being solution-oriented only benefits your team, school and the kids. Be a leader and create a solutions-based culture on your team.

5. Q-tip

So this is an acronym that we have at City Year that stands for: quit taking it personally. Sometimes you won’t hear gratitude for the work that you do. Sometime you will only hear about the things that you need to do. Nonetheless, don’t take it personally. Keep the big picture in mind.

6. Create a culture of gratitude

To follow up the Q-Tip, it is important to appreciate your teammates as well as staff and teachers. It can be written or verbal appreciation. A culture of gratitude inspires and encourages everyone impacted to persevere and continue to #makebetterhappen.

7. Find joy in unexpected places

Always be on the lookout for joy during your corps year, because these moments get you through the day. It can be something as simple as a hug from a student or thank you note from a staff member. Just remember that these little things can bring you so much joy!

8. Start every day with a smile

Always find something to smile or laugh about every day. This is my secret medicine. Whether it is inside jokes that I have with my team or certain students that I am playful with, this is probably my most important piece of advice for the incoming corps members.

Joshua Ddamulira, author, is a corps member serving on the Walmart Team at Burrville Elementary School.

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