By Kelly Martin, senior corps member
Last year, one of my third grade students brought in Stellaluna by Janell Cannon. As soon as I saw the smiling bat on the cover, I was overcome with nostalgia; I fondly remembered the story that captured my curiosity and taught me about fruit bats, while simultaneously making me laugh. The incident reminded me of the lasting power a book can have on a child. The messages in these stories are timeless. As we begin the school year and our service year, I encourage you to remember the wisdom of classic children’s literature.
Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
In this story, a family of ducks decides to live in the Boston Public Garden, and quickly become a part of the community in which they live. To corps members who are new to the Boston area, I recommend exploring the diverse neighborhoods of Boston. But remember this: in order to truly make a difference over the next 10 months you need to serve with the community, not just in the community.
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
Unlike the main character in this classic Dr. Suess story, serve each day with an open mind. You will face innumerable challenges and new experiences; you will most likely find that the new things you try are the things from which you will learn the most. If you’re not feeling challenged and uncomfortable at times, than you’re probably not learning and growing enough. From public speaking to eating green eggs and ham—be willing to tackle challenges and try new things with an open mind and positive attitude.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst
This book teaches children—and adults—that everyone can have bad days. However, the most useful thing I’ve learned in City Year is the impact of shifting my frame of mind when dealing with bad days and daily challenges. Every time a seemingly negative situation arises, practice looking at this “problem” as an opportunity to grow. Woke up with gum in your hair like Alexander? This is an opportunity to try a chic new haircut, or even donate your hair and teach your students about service to a cause greater than self.
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
They say that the first thing you’ll lose during your corps year is sleep. While being committed to your students and your service is important, sleep, in addition to other forms of self care, is a necessity. If you aren’t taking care of your physical, mental, and emotional self, there is no way that you can effectively mentor and tutor students. Even if you have to say goodnight to all the objects in your room—find a way to make sleep a priority.
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
As we follow Bilbo Baggins through his adventures, we see him face many perils, but one of the greatest challenges he must overcome is his own self doubt. Just like Bilbo, you were chosen to be on this adventure. There will surely be difficult times ahead for you; when faced with great adversity, reflect on your purpose. Others saw your potential and sometimes all it takes is a little self confidence to realize it yourself. Don’t restrict your talents by questioning your capabilities; believe in yourself, take initiative, and be the change you want to see.
A year of service is incredibly challenging, and there will be times when your experience feels far from a perfect story book or fairy tale. However, you have the power and tools to write a tale that is both interesting and meaningful. I am proud and excited to serve with the 2013-2014 corps. Welcome to City Year Boston!
About the author:
Kelly Martin is a 2013-2014 senior corps member serving on the Bain & Company team at the Hennigan Elementary School in Jamaica Plain.