Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Day in the Life at Turner Elementary

By Isabel Huston, Corps Member on the CSX Team serving at Turner Elementary

For the CSX Team proudly serving at Turner Elementary school, a day in our lives is like a series of sprints that adds up to the length of a marathon.

The day starts at 8:15 when we circle in our room to check in and get ready for the day. After we make sure that everyone is ready for a powerful day of service, we open our team dictionary to a random page and select our word of the day to break on. So, at about 8:20, if you were in the hallway on the second floor of our school, you might here a loud and inspired chant along the lines of, “CYDC, POWERFUL!” followed by a flood of red jackets as the team heads downstairs to power greet.

At 8:30, our eight team members line the steps leading to the front doors of the school and welcome students to school. Second graders hide their faces in their jackets and fifth graders pull their hoods over their heads (all to hide smiles, I assure you) as we sing and dance, welcoming them to school.

Then begins the school day. Corps members head to their classrooms to help their teachers distribute students’ breakfast. Then it is time to begin pulling our small groups. Each team member works with at least one group of K-3rd graders on a literacy intervention. Despite the ominous sound of the word “intervention,” what we really do is play games with our small groups, making learning fun. And, at the end of our half hour together, the students return to their classes, smiles on their faces and a little bit more knowledge in their heads.

The CSX Team serving at Turner Elementary School
For the rest of the day it is an endless cacophony of “Miss Isabel, I need help,” “Mr. Tom, could you help me with this worksheet?” “Miss Lindsay, what is this word?” Until, after the ringing of the bell we return to our room and take a deep breath, before heading to after-school.

Our after-school program is the sprint to the finish. First, we spend an hour with our students helping them to complete their homework. Then, it is my personal favorite time of the day, snack time! And, finally, for the last 45 minutes of the day, the Turner team takes over the after-school programming, running super fun enrichment clubs until that final announcement is heard over the intercom, “Would all aftercare groups please escort students to the lobby?” And so, reluctantly we return our students to their parents, return to the City Year room, and break for the day (CYDC, POWERFUL!).

Finally, red jackets in hand, we troop up 15th street to the Congress Heights metro station, headed to collapse horizontally on our beds—all so that we can come back and do it again the next day!

A day in the life of a Corps Member sounds exhausting. So, what exactly keeps us coming back? To return to the marathon metaphor, it is probably that same sense of accomplishment, that endorphin high, that a runner feels after having pushed him- or herself over a 26.2 mile long course. At the end of the day, no matter how harrowing things have been, I am always able to look back and smile. Unlike any other experience I have had in my life so far, serving with City Year makes me feel like I am doing good and purposeful work, and that makes every minute of every day worthwhile. And as a Corps Member, I get to see the results of my efforts every day when I see my students read with fluency and enthusiasm in the morning, speak about what it means to be a leader at lunch, and blaze through math problems in the afternoon. 

There may not be anything quite as challenging as a day in the life of a Corps Member, but there is definitely nothing quite as inspiring. So, just as those crazy running addicts register for marathon upon marathon, we get up every morning, excited and ready for another POWERFUL day of service.

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