By Elize Manoukian, Senior AmeriCorps member serving with City Year Washington, D.C.
Although this year has been full of transitions, the biggest adjustment from my first year as an AmeriCorps member to this year as a Senior AmeriCorps member has been no longer serving in a classroom. Serving as a Team Leader, I am focused on making sure that the AmeriCorps members on my team have a positive classroom experience. I liaise between the school and my team, trying to connect each with the resources and support needed to put our students first. While I have built many special relationships with the students at D.C. Scholars Stanton Elementary School where I currently serve, I miss the intense bond I’ve shared with the students who I served last year at Amidon-Bowen Elementary School.
After starting the year in a new school and on a new team, I was nervous to go back and visit my students. Although it had only been the change of a season, I felt like I had missed so many important updates in their lives. Like a good friend who you have been meaning to call but haven’t, the longer you are away, the harder it can be to return.
It turns out, love and mutual respect have a long shelf life. Even though my fourth graders are tall, cool fifth graders now, they welcomed me back with hugs and a million questions about the students I work with now.
"Do they make slime over there? Do they have a basketball team?" One student said, "Ms. Elize, I bet you're over there solving everyone else's problems." This assertion made me laugh out loud. I never solved anyone’s problems; I just turned a mirror to my students, so they could see how capable and magical they are.
As an AmeriCorps member, the classroom you share with your partner teacher is a small but dynamic world in and of itself, where aspects of the real world play out into existence. Every person who plays a part, past or present, carries that world with them. Some days, the weight of this world may feel heavy, but there is a sense of calm and joy that comes with recognizing it exactly as it is. What I have observed is that the classroom, like the world outside of it, is not a fixed, unchanging place. With our students, we can make it different, and we can make it ours. While I may not have a classroom of my own, I keep my experience from last year in mind to create the world I wish to see.
Elize Manoukian serves on the Stanton Elementary School team. To read more stories about what it’s like to serve for City Year Washington, D.C., you can find them here on their blog.