Between the running around between my classes, the thinking-heavy work I accumulate in Calculus, Chemistry, and French, and the social stress that comes from being in a new environment away from home, I’ve been looking for little respites and breaks in the normal cycle. During the beginning of the year, I sought out an extracurricular that would be morally fulfilling, one where my work felt worthwhile and where I could learn more about myself and refine a skill set of mine.
I looked into Service Advocacy, knowing the service aspect would be impactful to others, and would allow me to connect with new people and develop empathy skills. I also wanted to branch outside my comfort zone. TeamFAME, the afterschool program run by the International Tennis Hall of Fame, ended up being the perfect opportunity for me on all of these levels. Younger kids aren’t my favorite to work with, but I also thought it’d be really sweet to connect with them, and I could also learn more about myself in a different environment that involves a different skill set than at university.
Most of the days at TeamFAME are structured the same: One group or grade of students go play tennis while the other one does academic work, they switch off forty-five minutes later. After both groups of students have done both tennis and homework, they eat dinner together before being taken back home. So far I’ve found the tennis part of the day to be fun regardless of how rowdy the kids are that day, because it’s something that I can learn along with them. I haven’t played tennis before this, so I’m able to see where they are coming from if they have difficulties. I’m also able to pick it up faster, so I can be of better help giving them tips for how to play. I’m still not perfect or even knowledgeable at how to play, but the mutual learning curve, especially with the younger students, is helpful towards understanding and bonding with them.
Helping the students with their academic work has been an interesting experience, both for better or worse. Since the subject material comes fairly easy to me, I don’t expect much difficulty with teaching it most of the time, but recently I’ve had an issue helping some students with the concepts of area and decimals. Looking back, it’s smug of me to assume that how I understand certain subjects will be how everyone else understands them, thus the go-to method of explanation for some topics simply won’t work. I’ve had to admit to students a couple of times that I don’t really know how to explain things to them, which does make me feel guilty, but I think having that humility has been helpful towards my personal growth, and it pushed me to consider alternative methods of teaching.
If I had to pick one part of this service site that has been the most rewarding, it would be the little moments I have with the students each day. It never really occurred to me how much my just being there and interacting with them could have an impact on their lives until they showed me they liked my being there. While I’ve volunteered, I’ve been given student artworks, goodie bags, and tugged into a tennis warm-up activity, as if I’m part of their team with them. Volunteering here isn’t always easy, but it’s certainly fulfilling to watch the kids enjoy themselves and grow in little ways each day.