Middle School: Stepping Outside of My Comfort Zone

By Michaela KinlockCity Year AmeriCorps member serving on the Summit Partners Team at the Harbor Pilot Middle School.

As my year of service begins to wind down, I am struck by the (unsurprising) notion of how much I have grown to care about my students. Every day brings some sort of success, new joke, or other connection. June is here, and a new City Year team will fill my boots at the Harbor next year, so I am striving to make each and every day with my students count. As I reflect on the year thus far, I realize how far I have come since the Summit Partners team entered the Harbor in September.

Before the start of my City Year, I had mostly worked with very young elementary school children. I thought middle schoolers were moody and angst-ridden and frankly, kind of scary; I admired the kind of patience and resilience it must take to get through to students at such a seemingly volatile age.

During my last semester of college, when a professor of mine learned that I was serving with City Year after graduation, he told me he thought I’d be successful working with middle school students—I thought he was crazy. However, as the start date approached, I thought more about his advice and realized that there was no better time for me to step outside my comfort zone and try to connect with a new age group of students. I realized that serving in a middle school would allow me to broaden my horizons, as well as provide a positive and consistent role model for students going through a sometimes difficult age.

Though I struggled making connections with my students toward the start of the school year, in the end I am so grateful that I took my professor’s advice. Every day my students surprise me with insightful comments and make me laugh out loud with their humor and wit. I am enormously proud of their accomplishments and how much they have grown not only as students, but as emerging young adults.

At age twelve, I couldn’t wait to be done with middle school. Ten years later, I don’t want to leave. I appreciate the wonderful students at the Harbor Pilot Middle School for opening my eyes and showing me that middle schoolers really aren’t so scary after all.

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