By: Laree Foster
The Carl and Leslee Guardino Summer Leadership Academy gave corps members like myself the opportunity to practice instruction techniques and develop behavior management skills first-hand while also receiving individualized feedback from experienced City Year staff coaches. On the first day, one of my students walked into the classroom with a scowl as she said “I do not want to be here”, an attitude I was not expecting after my experiences back home as a summer camp coordinator. My subconscious response was that she would not be able to benefit from help because she did not want to receive it, and thus my motivation to work with this particular student started to slump.
The schedule at The Carl and Leslee Guardino Summer Leadership Academy was structured in such a way that we were able to train for half of the day and co-lead a class of students for the other half of the day. Every day during training we learned a new specific teaching strategy from Doug Lemov’s book, Teach Like A Champion, which we were then able to test-run the same day and debrief about with our coaches after the students went home. We also debriefed with our co-instruction groups about general observations of the day and what could be improved upon the following day. In one particular conversation, we collectively decided that we needed to change our attitude and approach towards the student who made it clear that she was not there by choice. We needed to start thinking about this student as someone with enormous potential who needed to be noticed for proper behavior, not just given attention for outbursts. The next day, things started to click. We used techniques that we were learning during our training portion of the day to address the issues. We started to figure out how to communicate effectively with her and how to use choices and rewards to promote on-task behavior, and before long we noticed improvement.
The other corps members in my group and I learned the important lesson to always believe a student can improve, even if it takes re-evaluating, collaborating, and introducing something new. I am confident that the lessons I learned from working directly with students and the opportunities to put new knowledge into practice at Summer Leadership Academy will be invaluable to my year as a corps member.