We can never forget the year 2020. It was very unexpected, and what lay ahead that year was incredibly challenging for the entire world. During this time, I applied for AmeriCorps City Year. I had thought about the educational field for a while, specifically music education. I thought joining City Year would give me some good experience. You hear about City Year from a distance and how they help kids stay on track for college, but they don’t tell you how incredibly difficult it is. Let me give you a little background as to what AmeriCorps Members do within City Year. They tell you that you’re going to be sent to a school and told which school a mere few days before you have to start. You really only know it’s going to be in the bad area of town where your help is needed most. The staff trains you on Zoom or Microsoft teams, but normally it should have all been in person. Due to the pandemic, they didn’t even know what we were up against, with the loss of learning these children endured. It was all gray area. Here is what we did know though—that we would be there for academic support, monitoring, and tracking grades. We knew we’d be doing various tasks in an elementary, middle, or high school, working 180 hours or so a month, earning $641.00 every two weeks. We would be guiding kids toward better classroom behavior and encouraging them to come to school more often. Here is what they did not tell us; this is what they hid from us—these kids truly did not care about school, at least in my experience. I was working with third grade coming into class with a huge smile on my face every day, even behind my mask. They looked up to me and enjoyed my presence. The downfall is they had no respect for me. I helped them learn how to read, as many of them did not know how or were not very good at it. It wasn’t their fault, mostly that of previous teachers and lack of parent involvement. They wouldn’t really try to learn, no matter how many games and activities were planned. If you weren’t there hovering over them, they would get absolutely nothing done. They would constantly fight with each other, using foul language and threatening each other. The mental health staff would disregard it and tell me not to worry. I was worried that these children, never given any consequences, would not make it in the real world. City Year could only do so much when the education system had already failed these students. The pandemic really affected these kids’ learning abilities and, therefore, caused a lack of motivation. Imagine being eight or nine years old and having already given up on school. For most of these students, that was the case. It was awful, it was mentally draining, and probably the worst job experience of my life.
Hindsight 2020 Copyright © 2021 by Dominique Dare is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.