Lessons learned while serving virtually during a global pandemic
Doing a year of virtual service during a global pandemic came with many challenges for City Year Milwaukee AmeriCorps members but it also came with many moments of joy and connection. Read on to learn more about the lessons AmeriCorps members Anna Morgan and Mateo Vargas-Nuñez learned during their year of service.
My name is Anna Morgan, currently serving as an AmeriCorps member at Rufus King International Middle School. If someone told me while signing up for City Year that we would be virtual a majority of the year, I probably wouldn’t have done it. Even though this year wasn’t anything I expected and presented many challenges my way, I am glad I am here and did a year of service during a global pandemic.
Serving virtually brought up many challenges especially working over a computer with my students. For instance, many students chose to not have their cameras on and often struggled to complete their schoolwork. Before going to an in-person hybrid schedule I didn’t know what most of my students looked like. There are also many distractions at home that are unavoidable in this situation. Even though supporting students virtually was challenging, I learned that we just have to take it day by day, and if I can even inspire or help one student, then my job is done.
When I first started working in schools virtually, I was shocked. I learned a lot about the inequities present in the education system and reflected on my own education and the privileges I have.
City Year’s work in schools is important because we strive to create equity within our school system in hope that students in Milwaukee Public Schools will get an equitable education.
The students I get to work with every day are smart and brilliant in so many ways. And they should have equal access to resources to help them succeed. That is why I joined City Year. I want to give my students support and hope that they can strive for anything in life and their dreams can come true. Despite the challenges they faced this school year, I know they will achieve great things in their lifetimes.
When I signed up for City Year, I was not entirely sure what I was getting myself into. I knew that I would be serving students in Milwaukee, working in a classroom and becoming a part of the larger City Year/AmeriCorps community, but beyond that, my perspective was limited. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was clear that it would not be a normal year, so I was intrigued to learn about and experience the tailored plan. The most important skill I learned while serving virtually was adaptability.
I think it is fairly clear why I had to improve my adaptability, and I think it’s something most, if not all, AmeriCorps members had to learn. I have worked with kids and in classrooms many times so far in my life but never entirely online, so that whole transition was something I had to get used to. Directly before joining City Year, I worked in an in-person classroom, so going from seeing (half of) my students’ faces every day to a blank screen was a bit of a shock. I found that it was harder to grasp my students as individuals in an online environment, and I struggled with getting to know them and their personalities. I realized at a certain point that while it will never be quite the same as seeing them in real life, there are ways to form meaningful relationships in an entirely online setting.
Mateo Vargas-Nuñez is a first-year AmeriCorps member serving on the Rockwell Automation Team at Rogers Street Academy in a fourth-grade bilingual classroom. He is originally from Madison, Wisconsin.
Do you know a 17–25-year-old interested in doing a year of service with City Year Milwaukee? Encourage them to apply today.
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