AmeriCorps National Teaching Fellows are the lifeblood of Citizen Schools. The fellowship position is one that evokes pride in service and carries the organizational Red Thread directly to the students we serve. The tremendous effort that Teaching Fellows expend is paramount in both building and nurturing relationships with students, parents, first-shift faculty and volunteer Citizen Teachers and leads to outstanding results for our students and school partners. The impact of Citizen Schools mission and model cannot be felt without the service of our AmeriCorps National Teaching Fellows. Twice a month we will highlight a Teaching Fellows' service experience in posts titled "TF Spotlight." In this new monthly post you will get to read about the impact our service members are having across the network. We hope you enjoy our first spotlight which highlights California TF Giulia Basile!
Why did you decide to become an AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow? I chose to be an AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow because I wanted insight into the classroom experience before committing to a career in education. I also wanted to use my Spanish in a meaningful way. My hope was to learn and help as much possible without doing any greenhorn harm.
What has been one of the most transformative moments of your service?
Throughout college I played on the Ultimate Frisbee team, and so last spring I latched onto the opportunity to teach an Ultimate Frisbee apprenticeship. I was struck by the San Jose Ultimate Community’s willingness to help with this endeavor. Sayako and Radhika, our two primary volunteer teachers, drove an hour to coach each week, and members of the San Jose Spiders professional team came to practice at no cost, also giving us free tickets to attend their opening game. The students adored the class. One student’s singular birthday present was a frisbee; two students wrote English papers about how learning to play was their greatest accomplishment of 2014. The apprenticeship changed the school culture; suddenly there were Frisbees flying around at lunch and dismissal. On a Saturday morning at 7:00 AM at the end of the semester I watched twenty students voluntarily come out to play at a local tournament. They played four gritty, spirited games in their Citizen School jerseys that day, cheered on by a sideline full of parents and teachers toting sliced oranges and sunscreen. It was the ultimate community effort - I was so proud.
How has service changed you and/or your perspective of the world?
I am much more aware of the privileges and extravagances in my life, and my brain goes quickly to my students who admit they can’t afford Halloween costumes, let alone a home computer or summer camp. This service work has illuminated for me the severity of inequality in education that stems from poverty. I knew it wasn’t fair before; now the injustice is personal and palpable. I feel responsible and committed to do my part for the long haul. I am also more acutely aware of the impact that stellar teachers have on their students; I am in awe of the effort and honed skill required to teach a class of sometimes forty students at a time. Master teachers are Master People of the humblest sort, and when these teachers work as part of a collaborative cohort, they are an utter force for good. Then there are the students. Curious, resilient beyond belief, with a deep desire to trust and perform and impress, even if they often bury those desires out of fear. Thanks to my students I’ve become tougher, smarter, more inspired, and extremely attached to this school.