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Teamwork Tips from Alumni Instructors

Dame Sakho Yes 15 Senegal Had A Group Picture With His Fellows Mentors

By Dame Sakho (YES 2014-2015, Senegal, hosted by PAX in Dewar, OK) with Ghizlane Akourim (YES 2015-2016, Morocco, hosted by FLAG in Indianapolis, IN)

Some teams do big things together. They achieve goals, give each other positive feedback and support, strive to improve, and most importantly, enjoy what they do. These kinds of teams seem to have some kind of superpower – as if they were born to work side by side, meant to fulfill a mission together.  

Life is full of opportunities to grow our leadership and teamwork skills. One of the most important opportunities for us was our participation on the YES program. Being youth ambassadors for our countries and being part of an American host family was empowering.

But our adventure did not end there! Several years after our exchange experience, we had the immense honor of being selected to serve as 2018 DC Orientation (DCO) Alumni Instructors to help prepare the next generation of YES students to have a wonderful year. This year, we were invited back for a second year to Washington, DC, to serve as senior alumni instructors throughout the August arrivals season.

Wondering what it’s like to be a DCO Alumni Instructor? Here’s a quick summary of what a normal DCO week looks like:

Preparation and staff meetings, picking students up from the airport, registering them, doing room checks at night, waking the students to where they need to go in the morning, making sure they respect the schedule.

Monitoring, monitoring, monitoring.

Teaching sessions, giving advice and feedback, helping our colleagues.

Monitoring, monitoring, monitoring.

Making sure the students eat well, feel well, and sleep well.

Monitoring, monitoring, monitoring.

Taking care of logistics and taking the students back to the airport as they depart for their host communities.

Over five DC Orientation weeks, we welcomed more than 500 students from nearly 30 countries. Our groups were diverse, full of potential, and overflowing with positive energy. Even with such great students to motivate us, we had to work hard to be the best team we could be. Below are our top tips and tricks that we use to work so well together.

Get to Know One Another. Bonding with the group is the first step of teamwork. Get to know each other, listen to one another, and keep an open mind towards others’ perspectives and ideas.  

Set Expectations. Every group member comes with his/her own expectations. However, there are expectations that the whole group should have in common and agree on in order to reach their goal. Keep in mind that initial expectations might change as the group’s ideas of achievement change.

Communicate. If you’ve been through a YES DCO, you’re familiar with TOP HAT (Talk. Obey. Participate. Help. Affection. Trust). The first T stands for talking and expressing ourselves in a polite and direct way. Team members must share what they think and need in a constructive way so that other team members can help them.

Seek Wisdom; Ask for Advice. The members of your team are resources and fountains of information. Listen to your team members’ ideas and thoughts and respect their opinions. Your team members may have previous experience or achievements related to your group’s goal.

Use Feedback to Move Forward. We did great this week! Now, how can we do better? We might not see the whole picture individually, but when we consider the perspectives of our entire team, it will help us move forward.

Have Fun! Be sure to enjoy the process. Socialize, check on each other, and care about your teammates. As YES DCO alumni instructors, we spend a lot of time together outside of work hours; we play games and do activities. We know that we have each other’s backs.

Prioritize “Me Time.” We all need time to take care of ourselves. Everyone is different; you may need a few minutes, several hours, or even half a day. Having some alone time allows us to better understand ourselves, be aware of our needs, and celebrate our achievements.

To all the current exchange students in the U.S. and to all alumni: we hope you get involved in a community effort or project that allows you to be the best version of yourself, keep improving, and feel fulfilled. And remember: although alone you go faster, together we go further. 

Whatever you choose to do, remember: YOU GOT THIS! 

Dame Sakho Taking Picture With The Senegal Exchange Students Team
Dame poses with exchange students from Senegal

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