2013-08-16

By Kamila Goldin

My teammates and I were seated in a circle in an empty classroom, debriefing after our day at Summer Leadership Academy (SLA). Our morning was spent in training sessions and our afternoon was spent working with students. Unfortunately, there were many discipline issues and it was a frustrating day.

Knowing this, one of our team leaders issued a challenge: "Tomorrow, why don't you separate the students who are prone to disobedience? Assign each student to a group, and enforce those groups all day." Our eyes widened--our students wouldn't like that! What if they mutinied? We were, however, open to making SLA  as rich of a learning experience as possible, and so we accepted the challenge. We used our observations about our students to determine groups and decided on a plan for implementation the next day.

The next morning we shared the new "optimized for learning" seating arrangement with our students. When they saw that we were committed to it, most students accepted the plan without much complaint. Lessons went more smoothly than they had all week.

During our debrief, our positive energy was palpable. We could tell that the exercise in classroom management had brought us all closer to being the most effective corps members we can be. Through SLA, students were able to give us real time feedback about how we were doing, rewarding us with smiles, hugs and secret handshakes when we did well and making our areas for improvement painfully obvious otherwise.

This week gave us a chance to try new skills and to experience firsthand many of the situations we have been learning about. Equipped with what we learned this week, corps members are more ready than ever to arrive at our flagship schools and provide service with excellence and enthusiasm!

Author Kamila Goldin is a corps member serving at Kelly Miller Middle School. 

Corps members have have been in full-time training since July 29. This year, City Year Washington, DC piloted Summer Leadership Academy (SLA). SLA engaged nearly 100 students in a week of learning to prepare them for the school year, and gave our corps members hands-on experience working with students before school begins on August 26.

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