By Eleanore MacLean, AmeriCorps member serving on the Bank of America team with Young Achievers Science and Math Pilot K-8 School
I forget that I’m not much younger than my Team Leader because Allison seems five years older and wiser than me. After four months on a team led by Allison and our Impact Manager, Kevin, I’ve seen some of what that City Year wisdom consists of:
1. Be organized. Allison manages the giant team calendar in our team space, color-coding each item and including everything from days off, to people visiting, to optional meetings, to lesson plan and data report due dates. Looking at the calendar during a special City Year lunch she earned, one of my students asked, a little alarmed, “What’s all that stuff on there? Do you have to do those things?”
Some days, I think about my to-do list and feel like that 3rd-grader. There are many moving pieces in any given day, let alone week, at City Year, but Allison models how to stay one step ahead of it all.
2. Focus and fun aren’t mutually exclusive. Allison is twitter famous and her email GIFs are on point. She made us snacks in the shape of Thanksgiving turkeys, and she made the job wheel description for “person-who-cleans-out-the-fridge-and-microwave” sound almost enjoyable. I’ve also never seen someone more excited to wear a City Year sweater vest in my life.
3. Sometimes less information is more. When faced with a new situation, I like to know as much information as I can ahead of time. City Year has challenged me to become more comfortable with knowing less up front and trusting not only that things will work out but also that I can rely on my team and leadership to help tackle unexpected challenges. Sometimes I still ask for more information knowing I probably won’t get it, especially in moments that seem high stakes. By my commute home, though, I can usually say to myself, “I’m glad that I didn’t know what [x,y,z] was going to be like beforehand.” There are 265 versions of this year’s corps member experience, none of them the ‘right’ one. Allison lets us figure out our own version with few preconceptions.
4. Know when to listen and when to talk. Great lead-by-example leaders seem to intuitively master this delicate balance. Allison seems to know exactly how long to let our team tackle a problem before giving advice, how much wait time to give us, and when we need to stop and listen. As a result, I have a lot of ownership over my service year experience. When the going gets though, Allison gives her full attention to patiently answering questions or talking through challenging situations.
Beginning with Senior Vice President and Dean Charlie Rose on our first day at Excel High School, I’ve been lucky to hear from inspiring City Year giants who seem nearly superhuman in what they’ve accomplished. Some days it feels like I’ve got awfully big shoes to fill. It’s reassuring to know that there’s someone looking out for me who, just last year, was in my place, maybe wondering how they would fill those same shoes, too.