My name is Christopher Potter–22 years old from Arlington, Massachusetts–and I am a proud member of the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Team serving at Beech Street Elementary School. Last week, I had the opportunity to watch “Waiting for Superman” with many of my fellow corps members, a film that puts a finger on why some public schools in our nation become dropout factories.
The film explores how some public schools fail to provide students with an adequate education, and how affected families have little recourse. In such schools, underperforming teachers are difficult to fire and early tracking leaves many students unprepared for college. Many families attend lotteries to gain spots in nearby charter schools, but most are declined. The charter schools depicted in the film achieve great success in the same communities as failing public schools. I believe any child can learn and graduate successfully with the proper instruction.
Manchester’s schools are far from our nation’s worst, but even here City Year makes a tremendous positive impact. Four days a week, I have small group lessons with students who have fallen behind in reading or math. Since I arrived in August, I have learned the value of connecting with students individually with compassion and respect. I have found that many students lack hope or the love of learning, an ailment I fight with energetic morning greetings and role modeling. City Year taught me these things.
Based on what I see in the classroom and the stories I hear from my teammates, City Year accelerates learning. We also act as role models in the community, by doing things like picking up litter or using crosswalks. I hope to give my students an understanding of civic duty and pride along with a love of learning. If I’m successful, my 23 students will accrue great social capital and pass those qualities on to their children and grandchildren. With a pipeline to graduation forming all across the country, I can imagine American cities where crime is replaced by innovation and litter with art.
I believe the outrage “Waiting for Superman” provokes is legitimate. However, City Year has trained and supported me to start helping students meet their potential in Manchester schools. Fifty two corps members in forty three classrooms serve with me here, and City Year is in 24 cities across America. All of us are serving to make better happen.