This summer the Pearson Foundation launched a website showcasing a collection of personal reflections from education leaders devoted to improving the fortunes of others through learning called, Five Things I’ve Learned. We were intrigued by the concept and asked our Executive Director, Pamela Civins to share via our blog five things she’s learned throughout her career.
1) It takes a village
In my role at Boston Partners in Education as the ED and a volunteer, I see the challenges that Boston Public Schools teachers face. Each year the budget gets tighter and most teachers are on their own in the classroom. They welcome and appreciate volunteers from the community. An extra pair of hands and set of eyes is very helpful!
2) A little attention goes a long way
When you’re a kid, it makes a difference when an adult, other than your parents, spends time with you. This person can bring a wider perspective of the world. When I was in middle school I was very close to a second cousin who I thought was really cool. She was in her 20’s and had moved away from her family, ending up near my own. She spent time with me during a time when I was in transition, having just moved to a new area of the U.S. with my family. It was nice to receive her encouragement and to see her venturing away from her family to discover herself. Why should we have to figure things out on our own when there is someone who is ready and willing to be there to answer questions and be a cheerleader?
Professionally, I’ve had people who have paid a little extra attention to me, providing me with encouragement and constructive feedback. They’ve given me the opportunity to take chances. They’ve shown confidence in my abilities which has helped me strengthen my abilities. A little extra attention goes a long way for adults too.
3) Everyone has potential to succeed – dream big and make it happen
This is something I always believed was true. Stories like the following only further validate my belief:
About four years ago, I received a call from a recent graduate from Suffolk University, Kelli Spoor. Four years prior she graduated from South Boston High School. She shared with me that she was applying to law school and it was because in her junior year of high school she met someone who changed her life.
A Boston Partners in Education volunteer from the Attorney General’s office, Catherine McClure, visited her class for a mock trial. Kelli was given the role of prosecutor. She was nervous but excited. She told me, “The experience changed my life. I honestly do not know where I would be today if I hadn’t had the opportunity to meet Catherine. The confidence I gained from her feedback motivated me to get where I am today.”
4) Giving back has benefits
Service is something that’s important to do as US citizens. I really believe that volunteerism as become part of our culture, and rightly so. We have so much. And those who give often benefit as much or more as those who receive.
One of the reasons I volunteer in Dorchester is because it’s where I live and I want to get to know my community better. People think there are “good” areas and “bad” areas of the neighborhood. I prefer the Holland School because it’s in an area that I wouldn’t get to regularly. Young students in this part of Dorchester are growing and learning, just like children everywhere. They have additional challenges to face, including the fact that many are new to the U.S. and are learning to speak English, as well as gang-related violence that exists on streets near the school and where they live. Many of us cannot comprehend these issues since we have never had to face them in our own lives.
Volunteering provides all of us an opportunity to explore new places and new situations, plus I’ve met amazing individuals over the years. It’s a win-win situation for all involved – those giving and those receiving.
5) You never know the true impact you have on a student and you may not know for many years
You’re giving your time now, but you don’t know what effect it’s going to have on someone later in life.
In my twenties, I was a paid tutor to a young girl in San Francisco. She was new to the country and was learning English. She recently found me on Facebook to tell me that she always remembered the time spent with me and the help I gave her. She went on to become an ESL teacher in both the U.S. and South Korea. I didn’t know it would make such a huge impact on her life and that she would remember me 25 years later.
This experience shaped my life too for years to come! The next year I joined the U.S. Peace Corps and began my career in education.