Life of a Fellow: Jenn

Jennifer (call her Jenn) comes to 12+ after graduating from Bryn Mawr College with a degree in English. Outside of Penn Treaty, where she serves as a Fellow, you can find Jenn at Bikram yoga or at home with her four lovable cats.  Widely talented, Jenn can do it all from whipping up the perfect baked goods to breathing fire. As a Fellow, Jenn brings her set of talents to her students, showing vulnerability and celebrating successes.

When the new class of Fellows was in training, we heard a lot about how hard the year ahead would be. We had conversations about the ways our students struggle, and how it can be so difficult to listen without being able to solve every problem. We heard, over and over, that the best parts of the year would involve building relationships and celebrating successes.

I thought I was prepared, but I still went into Penn Treaty ready to be humbled. I’m glad that’s the way I started, because every day I’ve discovered new and different things that I’m not actually great at. I’m a terrible dancer, for one, and the students are not shy about making sure I know that I’m embarrassing them.

The first time a student asked me for help with math homework, early in the year, I looked at it for five minutes and then said, “You know what? I’m going to grab Frank- he’s done this more recently, and I don’t want to tell you the wrong way to do it! But find me as soon as you have homework in any other class.”

It worked out, and my dignity was unharmed. I’m not sure if the student caught on that I had no idea what the problem was asking, but I know that he got the help he needed once I turned him toward Frank.

Most days are filled with a combination of those small failures and (way more fun!) celebrations of success. This week, like every other since September, has felt like every day was a month-long marathon adventure. We took the PLUS Leaders to Temple University, I helped a student read an essay riddled with giant words that he had never seen, and one of my senior advisees got her first college acceptance letters. I’ve played (and lost) more games of chess than I can count, and I got positive feedback from a crop of freshmen who I really thought would never warm up to us.

Of all the things I wasn’t prepared for, I think the feeling of pride for my students is the most overwhelming. I am overcome, every day, with the sense that I am being changed by the way they trust me, the way they confide in me, the way they have decided that I’m a person worthy of their time. I am unsure about what I did to deserve an entire school filled with such amazing people, but I am working as hard as I can to make them proud.