The Challenge of the Year

 To preface this post, let me say that last week two of the ten team members at PS 206/112 left our organization. Though their reasons for leaving were personal and outside of City Year, it has made me think about the program we are running and the toll it takes on the individual. I'll share with you a little of this by focusing on myself.

This program is not for everyone. That is made clear to us from the very beginning, actually, to prepare us and also to bolster us - I believe that I am not alone in wanting to do things even more when I believe that those things are difficult and not always achievable. However, it was not until I gained the perspective of the day to day work of City Year that I understood how real the difficulty of retention could be.

A normal day begins at 7:45. We go into morning greetings for two schools, come back to talk as a team and then we're off to the races. Bringing Books to Life, Shared Reading, Great Leaps, all programs that run every day in addition to lunch support, dismissal support, and the beast that is City Year After School. That is what my team does every day. My day usually includes gauntlets of meetings, check-ins, and paperwork. Both schedules are taxing, and on the earliest of days we leave at 6:00. Most night we finish at 8:00.

Then back to do it the next day - and boy is that next day beginning to get hard. It's difficult to think about the work you are doing every day, the impact it is having, because the short term benefits of our work are small - a smile, an acknowledgement, the look of understanding when a child learns a new concept. It's hard to look ahead and know that every small step from here to June is one that will take us miles. Those steps are tough.

That's why this program isn't for everyone: ability to see perspective. I can't see it every day, but I don't have a choice - being a Team Leader, quitting isn't an option and anyway it's not one that I want. What I do like, though, are the moments of respite when my team takes over an issue and solves it without my having to say a word. I love moments when I can see the wheels turning without me, because it means I've done my job to put those wheels together. 

By the end of the year I'll know I've done my part if I can leave this organization having made it stronger, but most importantly, without it having any trouble continuing without me.