On my way to watch my students’ final wrestling match of the season, I glanced up and noticed the red-orange hue adorning the sky. There’s something unmistakably poetic about watching the sun dip beneath the horizon, finally taking its slumber after a day of hard work. Similarly, after eleven months of challenging service in the classroom, my fellow City Year AmeriCorps members and I, will be taking a well deserved rest.
Approaching the sunset fills me with both, excitement and terror. Like anyone else, I need and crave rest, but what will I do without my students? Together, we’ve wrestled with ideas and challenging learning concepts in an effort to grow stronger and wiser. I remember Molly’s* tears last semester when she thought she would never understand adding fractions. In spite of her insecurity, she put in the hours and eventually, mastered the concept. Her hard work and perseverance filled my heart with pride. I remember back in October, when Jasmine* shook in fear as she delivered her speech on the world’s need for feminism at her first speech and debate tournament. Now it’s April and in addition to being the youngest member of the team, she has proved to be the most dedicated competitor, making it all the way to regionals! I will cherish these tender moments for the rest of my life.
I’ve learned a lot of important lessons this year. Working with students to help them identify and work through their fear, frustration, and disillusionment in learning in order to empower them with curiosity is no easy task; it is a process that will not start or end with me. To each student, I am merely a stroke of color contributing to the rich, complex tapestry that is their lives. Still, like the Serenity Prayer mandates, I must do my very best. "God grant me the serenity to accept what I cannot change, the courage to change what I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." I read and reread this passage when one of my favorite students, Anna*, failed her Algebra state exam by just three points last semester. Indeed, on the tough days when challenges outweigh the triumphs and enthusiasm wears thin, poetry and literature reminds me of how vitally important it is to maintain perspective.
As the year comes to a close, I see my role with my students evolving. I aim to use the experiences and insights that serving as an AmeriCorps member has given me to become a stronger advocate for my students by working on the public policy side, focused on education reform. Sadly, this means I must inevitably say goodbye to them. I find comfort, though, in knowing that they can find strength in their own stories, dreams and anguish. They may not entirely understand the significance of the sunset now, but they will in the coming days, months and years. I can only hope that when it finally comes from them to stand proudly on stage during graduation, they face what follows, not in fear, but with courage and curiosity.