MLK Day of Service

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In celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. and his dedication to service, City Year Seattle/King County hosted our MLK Day of service at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Southeast Seattle.

On this national holiday, there weren’t any students in sight as I walked through the doors of the elementary school at 7:30am. Immediately, I was pulled aside to assist in some last minute touches before all 200 volunteers arrived. There were a few mural outlines that needed to be done, but as I walked through halls, I saw how much work had already gone into making the school much more vibrant and lively. After making sure things were set, I walked into the school cafeteria where there was a sea of red jackets ready to serve.

More outside volunteers started to arrive and I could only imagine how overwhelming we looked in our red jackets. With this in mind, I went around to some of these unfamiliar faces to ease any apprehensions they might have had in working alongside our already close-knit team of 89.

It wasn’t until someone mentioned “powergreeting” that I decided to stop my mingling and head outside to welcome our guests and volunteers with some high energy and cheeriness. Our powergreeting was filled with so much laughter, goofy dancing, and spirit that you couldn’t walk past us without smiling ear to ear! We even powergreeted Mayor Ed Murray!

From there, it was all fun with volunteers painting murals throughout the halls, mulching outside of the school, and City Year corps members facilitating various social justice workshops. The mural painting was most definitely my favorite part because they were representative of the school community and the cultures that make up the school population. I even found a Laos flag and HAD to take a photo with it! It was so great to see our community come together and take the time to create a new look and feel to reflect how great the school was. With the finished product, I was excited to see how the students would react to their “new school” the very next day.

“Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

 

Lately, I’ve been thinking…

What does it mean to be a good leader?

Looking at the value of Level Five Leadership in the Idealist Handbook,

Level Five Leaders practice great humility: they are modest, they learn from and listen to others, they give credit to others for success and take personal responsibility when things do not go as planned.

At the same time, they operate with intense professional will: they take bold action, set ambitious goals, make courageous decisions, and persevere through the long, challenging process of achieving great things. Humility, will, boldness, courage, perseverance: these are the qualities of Level Five Leadership.

Thinking about what it means to be a good leader is important to me because as a Team Leader, I want to make sure that I am coaching my team in the most efficient and genuine way. As I reflect on my leadership, I can say that I’ve been learning from and listening to to others. With this, I’ve adapted several things to fit my team and how they function. I appreciate them and praise them for the many successes they experience. One area where I feel I can grow is the boldness and courage. How can I use what I’ve learned to have the courage to be bold and become a better Team Leader? If I ultimately want to coach my team with good intentions then why should I fear being bold and courageous in my decision-making and mentoring? In the end, it is the humility, will, boldness, courage, and perseverance that will nurture the growth within my team and also within myself.

November Reflection

November was a month that felt like there was a lot, but at the same time, there was less chaos. Not saying that there wasn’t any chaos – just less. During the chaos and even during the calm, expressing gratitude is what kept my spirits high and mind focused and clear.

Leading the staff appreciation was heart-warming as I saw hugs and facial expressions that were filled with joyful emotions. They were guided by prompting cards to appreciate their fellow colleagues. After writing a “thank you,” they personally handed the note to the person they were appreciating. It was great. There were even a few staff members who came up to me and thanked me for the appreciation activity. Even though the staff are hard at work every day and can pass by one another mindlessly, they can find something to appreciate about one another when they take the time to think about it.

November 22nd marked a year since I started my gratitude journal. I write in it every day and started it because I wanted to really set the tone for my day in a positive and mindful way. So I started writing down the following structure and filling it out:

Date:

Today I am grateful for:

1.

2.

3.

What would make today great:

Today I am glad I:

I did this every morning in hopes that I can start a day off right by thinking about three things I was grateful for, one intention I wanted to set for the day to make it great, and one self-affirmation I could list to boost my confidence in making sure the day was great.

Taking the time to be grateful for the people and things in our life can really shift your day and ultimately your life, no matter how crazy it can get.

Gettin’ Crafty!

The principal is very fond of the fact that I enjoy making visuals and so when she asked if I could work on the huge bulletin board in the main hallway, of course I said yes.

“I was thinking something like The Starry Night, but it doesn’t have to look exactly like it of course. Are you sure it’s not asking too much?”

“Oh no, I’d love to do it,” I answered as I realized that I’ve never created anything remotely close to Vincent Van Gogh before. The challenge was super exciting to me and so I got started on it the very next morning at 8:30am and was finished with the background around 11:30am. I had lunch and then stuck the title on with some help from a fellow corps member since 5 ft. Nhoell is only vertically capable of so much.

As I was working on this, there was not a single passing person that didn’t have anything to say about it. It was surprising in the most wonderful way. Staff members asked if I did art like this outside of work and were surprised when I said no. They told me that my art makes the students happy and that it makes a huge difference for the feel of the school. It was nice to have the staff pass by several times throughout the process and each time giving a genuine expression of impression.

It was great receiving such positive feedback from others and at the same time, I was really impressed by myself. As someone who doesn’t practice this sort of art during my free time, as it was coming together, I was honestly surprised by the result. I enjoy creating visuals for others for the look and feel of a space and so when it comes to taking the time to create these visuals, I don’t find it to be tedious and draining. If anything, it’s fulfilling and joyful!

The bulletin board is going to bordered by stars that showcase what hopes and dreams parents have for their children and also the hopes and dreams that students have for themselves!

PITW #98

All People – Especially Young People – Need the Same Ten Things.

  1. Meaning
  2. Adventure
  3. Community
  4. Power
  5. Respect
  6. Structure
  7. Challenge
  8. Opportunity
  9. Joy
  10. Love

I share this PITW as I approach fall break and it’s a great time to relax, but I feel like it’s also a good time to reflect on my life and think about these 10 things. How are they going for me right now? Is there something that’s been missing? Are there people who can help provide any of these things? Which of these is most important to me?

 

Showing Some Love

I love showing my appreciation for others. It gives me joy and I love the joy that it gives others. One of my prominent love languages is words of affirmation and so I love giving and receiving personalized appreciations and words.

As a Team Leader, I set a goal to appreciate the whole staff before winter break. With this, I put my latest hobby to some use and created some messages. These little messages will be passed out at our next staff meeting. The staff will have a chance to pick one or two and write a customized explanation of the appreciation to their colleagues. They can use the ones I’ve created or write up their own with blank sheets that will be out on the tables as well.

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I did this with the hope that this will give an opportunity for our school community to slow down to show our gratitude for one another. With feelings from the election, parent-teacher conferences, and it just being that busy time of the year, kind words and positivity are in much need!

PITW #49

DON’T FORGET TO HAVE FUN

Last Friday, we ended the school week with a PTA event, Fall Fest!

It was an event that I honestly wasn’t 100% looking forward to. A dark Friday night, right after service for 2 and a half hours? All I was looking forward to was my bed. I also wasn’t sure what my role looked like for support in the event, so the mystery behind that contributed to my reluctance.

Although only 4-5 corps members were needed for the event, I annoyed a few other teammates to stay as well because misery loves company, right?

Long story, short – It was a splendid night! I ended up leading an activity called Pumpkin Hunting. Pretty much ya get a tiny, edible pumpkin, hide it under a ton of whipped topping, and have student find it using only their mouths.

I was forgetting how great it is to see students outside of school hours. I feel like everyone is so much more relaxed and open! Leading the activity gave me so much joy! There were students who came back multiple times to either smash their faces in the whipped topping or to eat more of the whipped topping. It was fun for the students, but I joined in twice and made it even more fun. Because who doesn’t like when an adult has their face covered in whipped topping?

This was a huge reminder for me to always have fun to build community and relationships.

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A little bit of fun builds community and makes the group more productive over the long run. When your plans are almost done, go back over them and do a “fun” check – especially for retreats and long meetings. If there is no fun time there, go back and put some in.

October Reflection

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Oh what a month October was. They should call it…O(verwhelming)ctober…?

So many things were happening one right after another.

Looking back at it all now, I can let out a sigh of relief.

The bright side of tough periods of time is that you learn from it and improve yourself!

The toughest part of the month were moments where I felt overwhelmed and these feelings controlled my thoughts about the support I was receiving and wasn’t receiving.

After having a conversation about that with colleagues and my Program Manager and reflecting more on what I could’ve done differently, a common theme was reappearing.

That theme is me not asking for that support. It seems pretty simple, right? If you need support, you just ask for it. Well, for some people, especially myself, it’s not that simple. It’s easier said than done.

I had to think more about why the act of asking for help is not so simple and I think I got down to the root of it.

In the context of work, I think I hold back on asking for support because:

  1. I don’t want to seem weak.
  2. I don’t want to hurt someone else’s feelings.

I think by asking for support, it may seem like I’m weak and that I’m not capable of completing a task or handling work that I’ve been held responsible for. With this, I’ve truly tested my limits and discovered my extreme challenge zones. I’ve seen how far I can push myself in saying “yes” to several things and offering to do things in order for them to be done a certain way. This has caused me to not be my best self. Instead of doing these things, I need to truly know my work capacity. What can I handle right now? I need to know who I can delegate tasks to and trust that it can be done in a way that is just as good as I would’ve done, if not, better. Asking for support won’t make me seem weak. If anything, it will show strength. It will show that I am advocating for myself and for what I care enough about to ask for support with.

I think by asking for support, it may seem like I’m offending the work of someone else. I’m thinking someone else may feel like I am not appreciating the support they may feel like they are already providing me. I don’t want to seem like I don’t value the support I’m already receiving. What I need to start thinking is that they don’t know anything unless you let them know. Let them know that I appreciate them and the support they are providing and hope that they can continue to provide support in an additional way. As long as I am coming from a good place and have positive intentions, I should not feel bad about asking for support in any way.

A lot of what may stand and has stood in my way is just my mind and what thoughts I feed it. Asking for support can and will show strength and compassion. That’s what I need to keep in mind.

Too Cool for School?

Today I was texting a teammate from last year who I served with on the same school team. We both worked with the same 3rd grade students with her supporting in Math and myself, supporting in English Language Arts.

 

She had just visited our school from last year and sent me this message:

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After taking one guess, being wrong, and giving up, she then told me the name of the student. I was both surprised and not surprised. He was a student on my focus list. So I tutored and mentored him, meeting with him twice a week in a small group. He was in my homeroom class. We also interacted at lunch and recess. He was the kid who thought he was “too cool for school” and especially too cool for a City Year. Every morning, I would jokingly force a high-five with him. It was always a game to see how embarrassing I could be as his City Year.

 

There were moments, almost every day, where he told me he didn’t need help and that he understood the lesson, but when I would check in with him later, his work didn’t match his claim. Eventually, toward the end of the year, his walls were coming down and he wasn’t all about being right. I would catch him at recess being a total goofball with his dance moves and giant buck-toothed grin. He would raise his hand to ask a question and when I prompted him to give a little more to his answer, he did – after a little sigh and smirk. He always wanted to be the first one done and I remember always telling him, “Let’s see your best answer. You don’t have to rush. You’ve got plenty of time.”

 

With all of that being said, this student wasn’t the easiest to work with, but I knew he was capable of more than what he was delivering and what others may have limited him to because of his “cool guy” attitude. I don’t think I treated him in a special manner. I think I just made sure to hold him to high expectations just like I tried to with every student. I’m sure if I would’ve asked him last year,”DO YOU WANT ME TO COME VISIT YOU NEXT YEAR??”

 

The “cool kid” would’ve answered: Nope!

 

The 3rd grade goofball, deep inside, would’ve answered: YEAH!!