Finding a Consistent Community Through Mentoring

By Samantha Drivas

This school year marks my fourth volunteering with Boston Partners in Education. For all four years, I’ve been lucky enough to volunteer in the same classroom with the same teacher, Amanda Murphy. In fact, working with Amanda has been the most consistent factor of my life here in Boston.

During the time we’ve worked together, I’ve lived in four different apartments, moved out of the city, held three different jobs, and gotten a puppy. Circumstances around my mentoring haven’t grow stale over the past four years either. The Eliot School has seen three different buildings in the past four years. I’ve mentored during Friday mornings at the library, during lunchtime, and even early Monday mornings. The kids I’ve worked with have ranged from bilingual groups of Spanish speakers to the same single student each week.

Given all these fluctuations, I wouldn’t have been able to stay with the same class had it not been for Amanda’s flexibility and appreciation. She’s completely understanding of a last minute reschedule due to an unexpected work conflict and is the first to encourage me not to trek across the city in the middle of a snowstorm. After four years, a level of respect and understanding has grown between the two of us that makes our work together a true partnership.

Although mentors are there to help the class, they do present additional work for the teacher who needs to make sure that there’s material ready to work on with participating students and a functional workspace. Yet, even when things get hectic with holidays and vacations, Amanda always manages to make the time I’m spending in her classroom each week meaningful and impactful by ensuring I have what I need to make that hour count.

Another wonderful aspect of staying in the same classroom and school over four years is getting to see the kids I’ve mentored grow. My first year with Amanda and Boston Partners in Education was in a second grade classroom where I worked in-depth with students struggling with English as a second language, particularly in regards to Math. The second year, Amanda had a third grade classroom, which meant that I had the pleasure of working with some of the same kids for two years in a row, amplifying the impact of my weekly mentoring. In fact, I saw one of the kids I worked with previously in the hall just last Monday. Seeing his face light up and hearing him exclaim “Miss Samantha!” is one of those moments that makes every snowstorm trek and scramble to catch up in the office worth it.

Although I’m normally assigned certain students to work with, there are still opportunities to interact with the other members of the classroom during our weekly sessions. I’ve had sisters in two different classes over the past years, met parents during autobiography presentations and truly been able to embrace the Eliot community.

From the front desk staff that greets me with a smile (or echoes my groan at another frigid Monday morning here in Boston) to the kids putting away their lunches and coats in their lockers in the hall, mentoring has not only allowed me to make an impact on this community, but allowed this community to make an impact on me. In a city that can sometimes feel unfriendly, I know I’m always welcome inside the doors of the Eliot School. I’m forever grateful for the experiences these four years have given me, for the Eliot School, for the kids I’ve worked with over the past four years, and especially for Amanda Murphy, teacher extraordinaire.

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