Experience Is the Best Teacher

By: Alison Bell, Team Leader at CMS Community School

Now in City Year for my second year, I’ve experienced and learned a lot. Honestly, the certificate I will get at graduation in June will be worth much more to me than the degree I got from five years of college. Don’t get me wrong — I loved college. If being a student could be a career, then I’d be all over that! I weirdly loved the boring, mundane college lectures; I loved 15 page research papers; I loved studying for tests; I loved … well, that’s really about the only thing that happened in my classes. And I still loved it. By the time I finished, I felt like a college graduate, who had been filled with enough knowledge to conquer the world.

I came to City Year last year ready to change the world. I mean, that is City Year’s motto: “give a year. change the world.” I had my bachelor’s degree in social work and enough personal experience to excel as a Corps member. Or so I thought. Within the first two weeks, I realized all of my background knowledge was just that — background knowledge. I had to finally put everything into practice. Suddenly, all of the theories I learned came to life and were no longer just theories but stories.

The high school I served in last year was unable to continue partnering with City Year this year. Not long ago, I was able to visit and see everyone that I missed. One student in particular, who I spent a lot of time with last year, said the following to me:

“When City Year wasn’t at my school again, I thought it wouldn’t be as good. But not having you guys there made me realize that I won’t always have someone there for me all the time. So I’m learning how to do things myself now.”

“She finally gets it!” I thought. I spent all of second semester last year trying to explain that to her and prepare her for what she has now learned through experience.

Over the past 14 months, experience has taught me a lot. I’ve learned how to listen, how to give presentations, how to facilitate discussions, how to plan, how to give and receive feedback, how to be a teammate, how to remain positive in the midst of adversity, how to teach a complex concept, how to communicate to a variety of people, and how to advocate for others.

Experience is the best teacher. No matter how many times someone can tell you something, no matter how many times you read about a topic, no matter how many years you spend studying a specific subject — sometimes experience is the best way to really learn something. I would not trade my experience with City Year for anything and I still have eight months to go with this inspiring group of people.

10.16.13 photo

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