by Beci Russell
Dear Mary Cora:
So, I have this student at my site that wants to learn how to play the kazoo. It just to happens that I’m classically trained in the complex melodies of kazooery. We both have time after class on Wednesday afternoons and I really want to offer to train him in this timeless art…but I’m just not sure if that’s okay. Am I allowed to hang out with my students after hours?
Well, there’s not an easy answer for this one. This is a bit of a use your noggin kind of question. Say an older lady that you serve needs someone to shovel her walkway. Is it okay to stop by and help a diva out? Sure. But if your Golden Girl wants you to do her grocery shopping every Sunday…well, that’s a little different. You want to be thinking of age, location and the general rules of your site.
If you serve populations of youth, then your answer is better to be safe than sorry. Things get tricky when dealing with youth, people with disabilities and the elderly since those are considered “vulnerable populations”. That’s not to say that these are hard-fast rules, but err on the cautious side. And remember that there are some activities you should always avoid with students, regardless of age (drinking, dating, etc.).
Those old rules of real estate (location, location, location), apply here as well. It’s a good rule of thumb to stick to public places for any meetings. As many a scary story tells us, you might be asking for trouble when you venture to private residencies and some sites label that as a big no-no anyway. Go with your gut on the meeting places. Bright, populous coffee shop=good idea. Shady parking garage after dark=bad idea.
And before you begin planning, talk to your site supervisor. Some service sites may not have a problem with a tutor interacting with students after hours. Other sites might frown on it for multiple reasons.
Basically, this is a non-answer answer. If it makes you squeamish, just say no. (Duh, right?) Make sure that you’re not violating the rules of your individual site. And if all else fails: WWJD. What Would Julie Do? We have Julie and Mary Rose to answer these tough questions for us when it’s just too complicated for us to answer ourselves.
And be fair too. If one student wants to learn the kazoo, maybe others will want to learn as well. If you choose to do something like this (or say, a potluck) then open it to all the students so that no one is left out.
And remember, just because you’re with a student doesn’t mean you get to count hours!
Dear Mary Cora:
I’m conflicted and really need some advice. I recently met a wonderful fella at a service project. We clicked immediately and I gave him my digitz at the end of the project. We’ve been seeing each other a lot and it’s starting to get pretty serious (squee!!). Then what’s the problem, right? Well, he’s really into my AmeriGear. Like, freakishly so. He insists that I wear it whenever we’re together. He thinks it makes me way hotter, which is weird because I’m already really hot…
I’m torn, because I know I’m only supposed to wear my AmeriFlair when I’m serving, but my boo is really important to me too. What should I do? How can I get my service-loving man to like me for me, and not just for my AmeriClothes?
Anxiously awaiting your reply,
Well, it certainly seems like you found a guy that can share your interests. It’s important for all of us to have love and support during our year(s) of service. We serve long hours, deal with interesting *ahem*crazy*ahem* things, live on an extreme budget, and still try to have a bit of a normal social life. But your normal social life is on your own time… a.k.a. sans the panache of any AC symbols. He seems little starstruck or, dare I say, AmeriObsessed?
When we’re serving, it’s crucial that we adorn ourselves with AmeriFlair. We’re putting ourselves and the organization out there to be recognized as pillars of service. When you wear your AmeriCorps t-shirt to go putt-putt golfing you’re sending the wrong message. I would be the last to deny someone a hole-in-one on the windmill hole, but that’s not what we mean by ‘Getting Things Done’. Besides, think of all the elevator speeches you’d have to do at the movies! Yeesh!
It’s fab that your guy is so into service, but did you explain to your PooBear that we cannot wear our AmeriGear when we’re not serving? Because if you did, then it appears that he doesn’t fully respect your position. No amount of service projects can make up for him disrespecting you or the rules of service. Plus, it sounds like this might be a bit of an unhealthy fixation, if you pick up what I’m throwing down…
But remember: it’s the service, not the symbol. We are committed to our service, but that little AC isn’t the only way to recognize and define us. Don’t let him hang on as an AmeriGroupie. I’m sure you look AmeriChic with or without your official gear. Bottom line? Leave the AmeriFlair for when you serve, or leave the dude in the dust.