Here are some pieces of advice from fellow AmeriCorps members currently serving with City Year Rhode Island. No matter what branch of AmeriCorps you are serving with, these tips will help guide you through the good times and the challenging times that you will surely face during your service year.
Here are some reflections from Amy Waddell, proudly serving as the After School Coordinator at Pleasant View Elementary School (PVES):
“Service will be your life. Working fifty hours a week with children will be exhausting and at times you will be frustrated, you will feel as though your not making a difference, you will mess up, and yet through it all, regardless of what they may say, the kids will love you. This has probably been one of the hardest and most emotionally taxing years of my life, yet I have woken up every morning with an incredibly strong sense of purpose. Try not to get bogged down with data reporting. The time you spend with the kids will be the most influential and memorable.”
Here are some pointers from Rachel Labrecque, proudly serving as the Behavior Coordinator at PVES:
“1. Plan out your personal days! Go to work unless you are really sick or have a Dr.’s appt/interview. Even then…plan accordingly!
2. Pick your battles! Don’t take yourself, your students, or your job too seriously all the time…make time to have fun!
3. Be sure to budget your time! Don’t get so caught up with the data entry.
4. Be with your kids and engage in quality conversations with them! It’s easy to get piled down with paperwork, but try your best to go outside of your office and just be with the students.
5. Reflection exercises are what you make them!
6. Be yourself!
7. Stay and get to know the city you are serving in! You only get 10 months with your fellow corps members…make them count!
8. Know when you need time for yourself. This job is all about serving others, and we can forget ourselves sometimes! Make time for you!
9. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the AmeriCorps networks, services, people, etc. if you need help/support.
10. Hear out your kids! This job takes a lot of patience and it’s easy to lose your patience with your kids. Try to breathe and understand where they are coming from!”
Here is some direction from Stephane, proudly serving as the Community Engagement Coordinator at PVES:
“Keep an open mind and never lose sight of why we are serving. We should always be focused on the kids regardless of any other obstacles we may be facing at our schools.”
Here is advice from Hilda, proudly serving as the Attendance Coordinator at PVES:
“The most important thing to do is to make strong relationships. I know everything there is to know about the school’s secretary’s mother’s nursing home. Because of the extremely personal connection we created, we work extremely well together.”
Here are some final thoughts from Kush, proudly serving as the Math Coordinator at PVES:
“Through the experiences I’ve had in and out of service, I have learned many things about this work and things to keep in mind when giving a year with City Year. I have learned that it is very important to separate your personal life and your work life. If you begin to bring the stressors and emotions related to work difficulties home, then you will find it difficult to gain a fresh perspective and go into school the next day ready to do your best.
It has been important for me to remind myself frequently what grounds me and what keeps me going through difficult times and keeps my flame of idealism burning. It’s always helpful to remind yourself of why you serve and put on the red jacket everyday. Don’t forget that everything you do in the school is important and you are impacting students’ lives in some way every day.
It is very important to make the most of your personal time. With working 50-hour weeks, it may seem like there is very little time to do anything else. Take some time to travel around the city that you serve in, make friends in and out of the corps, keep up with your old hobbies, and possibly find new hobbies! In the beginning of the year, I felt very drained and like the service year was very long. With graduation approaching, I am discovering that the year passes by before you know it. Remember to serve with passion, keep yourself grounded, be proud of what you’re doing, and have fun!”
In all, there are going to be challenging days when you may not be sure of what or who to focus on, but as we like to say in City Year, “This is Hard, Be Strong.” Just remember to stay grounded, use your resources wisely, serve yourself so that you can serve others, and make each day count!
Thank you to the TriMix Foundation serving at Pleasant View Elementary School for contributing this month’s post.