By Tyler Jones, City Year AmeriCorps member on the Wilson Elementary School Team supported by Dartmouth-Hitchcock and Wire Belt
Throughout our lives, we have many teachers. Some are formal educators, such as our schoolteachers and college professors. Others, like our families, teach us more about life and the world around us. As City Year AmeriCorps members, we fall somewhere in the middle - closer in age to students than some teachers, so a little more relatable, but still focused on fostering a love of learning and helping students reach their full potential.
Working in a school is like a process of mutual adoption. We enter into the warm folds of students and faculty, and they in turn are exposed to the idealism-laden culture of City Year. We help each other grow, and we hope that, by the end of our service, we have left a lasting impact.
That is where the plot thickens: as the school year kicks off and our service begins, the year of service for last year’s corps has freshly finished. For the third graders with whom we work, this year is the first time they will have a City Year in the classroom, and therefore they are coming in fresh, with no prior experience having a corps member year-round. On the other end of the spectrum, you have the fifth graders, who are now in their third year of having a corps member serve in their classes, so they have a lot of prior experiences to recall. This leads to a lot of comments along the lines of “Mr. So-and-so used to do this with us!” or “Ms. Corps Member would never have done that!”
This is hardly a new phenomenon. Students are constantly making remarks like, “Mrs. C taught this to us last year!” or, “My fourth grade teacher showed me a different way to do it!” But the important thing to keep in mind is that students aren’t making these comments to belittle their current teachers or City Years. Rather, they are simply remembering their past experiences and connecting back to the teachers and AmeriCorps members with whom they had a positive relationship. What may come across as a critique of you or your methods may be nothing more than an expression of fondness for their teachers and City Years of the past.
With about two months of school under our belts, we have finally begun to leave our marks on our students. They are beginning to point us out to their parents, saying, “That’s my City Year!” with proud grins on their faces. So if you’re feeling like your students don’t respect you or your way of doing things, don’t worry. Soon enough, you’ll be the one they can’t forget.