written by Jared Stancombe, corps member serving on the Carefirst Blue Cross Blue Shield team at Kramer Middle School
City Year has been one of the most influential experiences related to my development as a leader. My experience serving at Kramer Middle School in Washington, DC taught me many lessons. Here are a few of the most salient:
Always Stay Positive
According to the Harvard Business Review, staying positive even during the worst of times is a learned trait. There are times this year where I have been cynical and found some of my work extremely frustrating, but I look to my left and my right to my fellow corps members, and I realize that we are all in this together. Keeping positive and showing positivity spreads among those you work with. A service year is not easy, and as a corps member, I feel I owe it to my team member to help them keep going. In the end, service is about a cause greater than yourself. Remembering this fact helps me to stay positive and support my teammates.
Decide, Do Not React
When I first started serving in my school, I reacted to everything. I did not want anything to slide. Discipline is something that I value, and initially, I thought a lack of discipline meant a lack of control. But by constantly reacting to my students, I became frustrated that I could not make any observable changes in the short term, and many of my students did not turn to me for support.
However, by keeping calm and deciding how I should approach certain situations, I have gained the trust and respect of my students. Rather than trying to gain control, I try to gain respect and trust, which is far more valuable. By deciding how to approach a situation, you show your professionalism and your ability to keep cool. By making this change within myself, I have been able to cause changes in my students’ attendance, behavior, and course performance.
Lead with Humility
I have learned this year that as a leader and role model acting from a position of superiority will cause you to lose the respect of those you serve–and those you lead. For this reason, it is important to remember to lead with humility in our service. In my service I have seen that reaching out, listening, and understanding, have helped me make sustainable gains that could evolve into significant personal growth for myself and my students. Now, when I struggle my students, I remind myself that I am here for them, and to remain patient. When I accomplish this, my students know I care; something they may not always experience.
We Do Not Decide When to Lead By Example
Coming to City Year after working with the US Marine Corps, I believe strongly in the idea of “leadership by example.” I feel that those times when you think no one is looking are the ones that matter the most. You do not know who is looking to you, and who you may impact and inspire without knowing it. Service is constant, this is why it is so powerful.
Want to become a corps member like Jared? Or learn more about how City Year Washington, DC develops young people into young leaders? Click Here for more information about our work in Washington and at our 22 other sites.