- after people die, who is left?
- the living?
- let's all just go home, class is over
White men developing theories based on other white men.
she’s the hippest intern.
Traditionally, in American society, it is the members of oppressed, objectified groups who are expected to stretch out and bridge the gap between the actualities of our lives and the consciousness of our oppressor. In other words, it is the responsibility of the oppressed to teach the oppressors their mistakes. I am responsible for educating teachers who dismiss my children’s culture in school. Black and Third World people are expected to educate white people as to our humanity. Women are expected to educate men. Lesbians and gay men are expected to educate the heterosexual world. The oppressors maintain their position and evade responsibility for their own actions. There is a constant drain of energy which might be better used in devising realistic scenarios for altering the present and constructing the future.
Back in May, while sitting in one of the plenaries at CY Summit, I wrote many things down on the first page of my new City Year “Notes on Idealism” notebook. One of the things that I wrote down at the bottom of the page was “How City Year made me love long socks: or my transformation time with City Year”. So basically, I’ve had the intentions of writing this essay since May. Now it is almost September. I’m glad that I’ve had more time to reflect, but I know that the same idea rings true. Now that I’ve been out of CY for about three months, I’m wondering if a better title would be: “How City Year made me love tucking in my shirt” instead of the original, as over the summer I really enjoyed having my shirt tucked in, but that’s not the point. So here is the point: City Year made me love tucking in my shirt, wearing long socks, uniforms, boots, waking up early, and ME.
I started CY unsure of what I was getting myself into. Literally- I don’t think I really understood the job description or what I would be doing. But, less than 12 hours after officially moving to Philadelphia, I walked to the Hall of Flags in a post-camp haze that was coupled with exhaustion, and embarked on a journey that I did not know would change my life. I remember on that first day being surprised at my tolerance of some things that I would normally hate. I think being surprised at myself is a good theme that went along with my year.
The theme of my City Years was probably dealing with more than I ever thought I could. City Year taught me about resiliency and strength. Entering that school on the first day was super scary, but honestly it ended up being the greatest thing that ever happened in my life. The students in homeroom 408 and their teacher profoundly impacted my life. Those 20 some-odd individuals showed me what it really looks like to be strong, resilient, and brave. They showed me what a functional classroom looked like-even in an underfunded urban environment. There are two quotes that really describe my City Year experience, especially that first year; “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” –Gandhi and “If I have seen further than others it has been by standing on the shoulders of giants.” –Sir Isaac Newton. (The second one is also a City Year founding story!) The students are, and forever will be, my giants and now, so are the corps members.
Working on a team with people so different from me also taught me a lot. My corps year team was really hard. The people, the organization of it, everything. We lost four people, gained three, just a constant hot mess state. But it showed me patience, it helped me learn to remain clam, learn how to work with others, lead others, and manage my stress and anxiety.
My second year also helped me grow as a person- and its probably taken longer for me to realize how. It continued to help me learn patience, remaining calm, working with others, leading others, and managing my stress. It also helped me learn time management, working with a co, working with a boss, being myself, and being confident with my decisions. I would never say that my City Years were easy. They were likely the most challenging, chaotic, and stressful 22 months of my life. They were also the most rewarding- challenging also in a good way, and have helped me grow in ways I never imagined.
My students taught me about really being brave, strong, and resilient. These were lessons I myself had to learn. To say I found myself is to say that I found the Sarah Elizabeth “Sherms” Sherman that always existed inside, but that struggled to find her way out. Helping others gave me perspective and a feeling of fulfillment and self-worth that I had never had before. I don’t think I can remember a time when I was as happy as I have been the past year and a half. Happiness is an indescribable feeling, and to some, something they’ve never lived without. But, after many years of drifting in and out of a fog of depression, I’ve never felt happier, and after dealing with anxiety for my whole life, it has lessened a great deal.
While I could tell that I was different, I had no idea if others had noticed. It was also very hard for me to be put into words what had changed. “There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.” –Nelson Mandela While camp definitely changes from year to year, going back to camp was the best indicator of how I’ve changed. I approached the summer differently and I had perspective. I wanted to be the best Unit Leader possible, and I would like to think I did a pretty good job. And unlike past years, things felt manageable and not like the end of the world. When I freaked out it was mainly related to moving to Boston the day camp ended. I knew how to work with people and to remain calm and problem solve in any situation. I continually strived for excellence. (Thanks, CY) And I just always tried to remember how I got there and what got me through. City Year has taught me positivity and idealism that has never existed before in my life and that helped me a lot at camp.
The final piece in this would be to get better at sharing my City Year story. About the people I’ve worked with: students, teachers, administrators, other corps members, staff, and more. About what I’ve seen, about what I’ve learned, about what I’ve taught, about a culture I’ve gained. It’s hard to sum up my feelings about City Year into a well-constructed, comprehensible group of words. 22 months of life are what you make them. I learned, grew, made the best memories, and friends. It was greater than I could have imagined. So thank you, City Year, for everything. For giving me so much that I fear I will never be able to give back that fully. And of course, for making me love long socks and tucking in my shirt.
its been awhile. and now i am writing from an entirely different city.
i had the most fantastic summer i could have ever imagined. and then i picked up and moved my life to boston. i meant to write one last blog about what city year meant to me and did for me, but the summertime got so crazy it never happened. i am going to try to do that soon.
i feel very very lucky to be where i am (literally and figuratively) and surrounded by the people i am.
thank you. im excited to see what happens to this blog during this new journey.
As we lead into our national Summer Academy, we are going to share the top 5 reasons why our staff and senior corps should be really excited to attend!
#2 = Connecting to City Year Culture
As senior corps and staff, you are charged with being the “Keepers of Culture” at your local site. Whether you’re a veteran member of the organization or just starting out, you will learn about a variety of power tools and culture pieces that you will carry with you throughout your year of service.
#makebetterhappen Tweets of the week - 6.3.13 - 6.7.13
Thank you to all of the corps members who participated in the #makebetterhappen campaign this year! We are so inspired by you!
ive been waiting all year for this….and then i forgot to proofread and there’s such large grammar mistake :(
i think this the best way to describe my cy experience. thanks for the most inspiring 22 months of my life. i will never forget them. thanks for the people, for the students, for the places. i would not be who i am today without this experience.
my students and the incoming cms will forever be the giants whose shoulders i stand on.