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Reflections on a Year of National Service
Editor's Note: This is the third year that an AmeriCorps or VISTA member from the Federal Way AmeriCorps and VISTA Team has written a reflections column for Volunteer. Ellie Klein has written for Volunteer Today for this past year. She is off to teach in Spain, but will continue as a columnist for VT. Thanks for penetrating columns each month. We wish you well. These columns are a reflections of the impact that volunteering has on someone's life. Enjoy.
Federal Way AmeriCorps and VISTA Team. Established in 1995, the Federal Way AmeriCorps program works to strengthen the Federal Way community through academic tutoring and modeling an ethic of service.
AmeriCorps members in Federal Way serve full time in the Federal Way Public Schools. In addition to tutoring students and developing before and after school programs, members manage two community tutoring programs, implement civic engagement community projects and serve in area service projects. AmeriCorps members also recruit and train community volunteers. For more information on their programs http://www.fwps.org/dept/volunteer/acfw.html
WHY WE NEED VOLUNTEERS
When I was at an AmeriCorps conference in Yakima, Washington last November, I overheard one of my colleagues say, “I love my job, but wish there wasn’t a need for me.” At first, I nodded along, pretending to fully understand what he was saying. That next week I held onto his words. Months later and I am still contemplating what this meant for him and why it resonated with me.
One of the greatest gifts you can give someone is encouragement. When you are burned out and focused on your own tribulations, it is hard to lift other people up. My dad, a recently retired child psychologist, told me the other week that sometimes you have to put your own oxygen mask on before you can go about helping anyone else put on theirs. I was lucky this year. Raisied in a world full of possibilities, encouragement and support, my oxygen mask was already firmly in place. I surely had struggles this year, but none as bad as those of my students. I kept my frustrations, stresses and mood swings apart from my interactions with them. I know I am young, I know I am motivated and I know that part of the reason I was able to succeed, is because I knew this job was only temporary.
I am not a perfect AmeriCorps member and I would not be a perfect teacher, but I know well enough to keep my personal drama outside of the lives’ of my students. All teachers should have that same awareness. Just as a doctor should not be seeing patients if he or she is physically ill, a teacher should not be instructing students if he or she cannot handle the emotional pressure of the job. Working with students is hard. It can be lonely and lack support, and students will push and test their instructors at every turn. But, that is the nature of the field. Teachers should have protection, but not protection against their own failure. We are in a cutthroat economy and job market. You must have persistence, innovative ideas and drive to succeed in any field. If you are a bad teacher, if you cannot handle the stress of the job, if you do not like students or working with kids – get out, find another job, find another career. Our clients are our students. Our interests should be their best interests. Our priority should be their education, not our own job security. This all seems obvious, yet bad teachers continue to teach, and we allow them to stay there.
Corporation for National and Community Service
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