At Citizen Schools, no role is more essential to the success of our students than that of the AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow. Citizen Schools National Teaching Fellows create extraordinary enrichment and academic support experiences for underserved students across our nation. On a daily basis, Fellows deepen connections between schools and parents, help to develop social-emotional skills through mentoring and coaching students, and facilitate hands-on learning opportunities through our apprenticeships.
Barbara is a Teaching Fellow at Renaissance School of the Arts in Harlem.
Why did you decide to become an AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow?
I decided to be an AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow because I genuinely love children. I wanted to learn from the students and well as my teaching and assisting the CT's during the apprenticeship. I remember teachers checking me and making sure I was on a path of success and that is what I want to contribute as well. It's funny because I still remember some of the analogies and life lessons that my elementary teachers taught me.
What has been one of the most transformative moments of your service?
I remember my first day while shadowing one of the other TF's thinking these kids hate me already and probably think I'm outdated in what's trending. I am glad to say they don't hate me...nor am I outdated about everything they are trending (lol). The most transforming moments of being in service are witnessing the students enjoying what they've learned through their apprenticeship and even if they give push-back and are resistant at times, they are still able to tell you what they learned without them intentionally knowing it. Most of the students shined and were opinionated as well as their participation. If you give students the opportunity to have roles in a classroom (i.e. be helpers, collecting and handing out technology) they are anticipating wanting to do that role in the following week. Keeping their attention at times was challenging but, they were exposed to real world skills that would help them be the best. I also had to learn the language, yes there is a different jargon for TF's, I didn't know what IEP meant for students along with a few other terminologies.
How has service changed you and your perspective of the world?
I didn't have the same opportunities growing up and I definitely believe that every child has the quality to grow and excel in life even when adversities are present. We work with limited resources and still are able to produce a positive outlook. We take what we have and hit the ground running. I feel like the students today (at RSA and other campus sites) definitely have taken away that TF's do care and support them in the most positive way possible because life can be hard. They are young and upcoming adults who are just trying to balance life and the situations that come along. Reinforcing the students that hard work in school, learning professional skills, and still maintaining that savvy street smart/common sense will be set the path of success but, it will not always be easy. Being realistic and letting the students know that there will be challenges in life and the decisions that you make will weigh on the outcome. My recent statements have been "as you get older you don't get fewer responsibilities". They are the successors of the future and their generation and it's up to them but, I would hope that I've guided my students to the best of my capabilities. I am extremely grateful to have such a diverse team at RSA and being able to connect with them about any ideas, comments, questions or concerns that I have.
Plans for post-fellowship?
I just want to continue to do what gives me drive and what I love. I want to continue to give children the opportunity to be successors by giving them the tools that they need in life and for the students to realize the good and learn from the bad.