Jeff’s adventures in City Year

First year corps member Jeff Arnold shares what his City Year experience has been like thus far.

Corps Member Jeff Arnold serves on the Applied Materials Team at Lee Mathson Middle School.

My service has been overall an incredibly positive experience. For the most part, I enjoy waking up in the morning and going to work, but it would be a lie to say it is always easy. Lazy weeks that accompanied my life as an undergraduate are no more; I guess this is why people don’t want to grow up. However, the work I do offers enough benefit to make it all worthwhile.

I have started doing one on one tutoring with students, and while first this made me nervous, it is now the most pleasant part of my day. I get see students far below grade level slowly crawl back into contention with their peers across the nation.

And while it is frustrating knowing that the system has failed them, there is nothing as amazing as seeing a child learn; and the one on one tutoring we do allows us to see it unfold directly before our eyes. This is a sensation that cannot be replaced by all the late night pizza runs from college.

Fractions though are my worst enemy; I struggled with them as a kid, and now I struggle to explain the concept to my students. I have tried everything that I know, and while it seems simple to me, fifth graders view it differently. Sometimes I wish that there was a magical device that allowed me to transplant my knowledge into the minds of my students, but there is no such invention. (I blame science for this; they are really letting me down.) I pray for the day we move on to decimals.

My afterschool class is going well. We are each assigned to a grade for our homework centers, and these become the grades we often associate ourselves with. I have been assigned to the fifth grade class at the middle school, a unique situation because they are only there out of necessity. Their school, San Antonio Elementary, is being renovated, and as a result its fifth grade class is dwelling in the tumultuous environment of a middle school.

The Applied Materials Team at Lee Mathson Middle School posing together on Opening Day.

It would be a chaotic environment at any middle school across the country, and Mathson’s issue with gang activity only adds to the problem. I often feel like a mother hen attempting to protect my kids from the pressures they face at an unnecessarily young age.

Life outside of work is good. I wish I had more time, but I don’t have much to complain about. The people in the Corps with me are always exiting to hang out with, and the people I live with keep things interesting and fun.

Ultimately, I’m ready for the holiday break. My woes are nothing that some good food, great time with family and a lot of rest can’t fix. I’m excited to come back in 2011 rejuvenated and ready to continue providing excellent service for the students at Mathson.

Jeff Arnold, Corps Member CYSJ

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