Brendan Corcoran

Site: San Miguel School – Tulsa, Oklahoma

College: St. Mary’s University of Minnesota

What do you do?

I teach science to 6th, 7th, and 8th graders at San Miguel Tulsa. I also help with our after school activities including boy’s volleyball and study hall.

Why did you choose to become a Lasallian Volunteer? Have your hopes about the Program been realized?

I graduated from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota in May 2007. There, many Lasallians introduced me to the most wonderful experiences. At St. Mary’s, I was fortunate enough to receive an education that reached far beyond the classroom. Education is one of my passions, and I am aware education runs much deeper than being a teacher in front of a classroom of students. People learn in different ways, and it is such a wonderful feeling to be in a community of educators who truly care about education and are not afraid to try something unique that will help each individual grow. I became a Lasallian Volunteer because the mission is so simple; in a nutshell: to provide quality education to those most in need.

In the past several years, there has been one constant in my life. It is that every year I find myself growing. Lasallian Volunteers, though I’ve only been with the program for two months, has satisfied many of my hopes. Not only have I found myself growing personally in my spirituality and experiences but I have also seen the program lift up many others.

What is the most challenging obstacle that your students/clients/guests face? How do your school/agency and your own outreach try to empower them to overcome this obstacle?

My students face tough situations in every facet of their lives and in different intensities. When some of my students talk to me I hear things I could have never guessed about: the troubles they have had at home, in school, or growing up. With other students, these issues can be much more apparent. San Miguel provides consistency for them. It is something for them to hold on to that will respect them, offer them help, and invite them to participate on a regular basis. When entering Lasallian Volunteers, I was told we should be much like older siblings to our students, able to relate with them, yet hold them to high expectations. I think San Miguel students, whether they notice it or not, look to our school for support and seek out help from those at San Miguel who they can trust. I try to be one of those consistent forces. I think they need someone who will speak to them in a straightforward manner showing them that they are worthy of a quality education and they are expected to be responsible. They have the power and potential to do absolutely anything whether they believe it or not.

Have you noticed any signs of success in your work? What are they?

I have a student who loves to parrot the phrase, “I don’t know.” I would say for 95% of the questions I offer, his rote response is those three words. Our most recent exam included 15 matching questions. When I came to see how he was doing, every question except one had the response “Idk” written in the blank. The one question he did answer was correct. After a brief lecture on how he was indeed intelligent and able to use his brain, and how not even attempting to answer questions was unacceptable in my classroom, I sat down next to him and read through the remaining 14 matching questions with him. The first 10 I asked him to try, he responded with “I don’t know…mitochondria?” Perfect. “I don’t know… ribosome?” Yes, write it down. This trend continued. He replied to each of my questions correctly on the first try. Success comes in the smallest of steps. My students often succeed, but after feeling good for about 3 seconds, they turn around and say, “But that will only happen once, and I’ll fail the next time around.”

Many of my students need only to have confidence in their own abilities. I cannot monitor my successes as a teacher very accurately, but I can see that perhaps my main objective is only to help my students see their potential. This “D-student” got a B on his exam. And it was entirely HIS success, though my pleasure in witnessing it made it feel much like my own. It is the small yet significant successes of my students in their work that I enjoy observing.

What would you say to one of your students/mothers/clients/guests who came to you discouraged about a particularly troubling problem?

Many of my students come from situations in which they experience much more stress and insecurity than anyone should feel, especially at their age. Some feel they must fill vacant responsibilities in their lives, mend broken trust, or prove themselves to the people closest to them. It is difficult to witness how those anxieties of teenage life that everyone goes through are sometimes compounded by unfortunate circumstances. I must say that despite this, my kids are wonderful. When they express their troubles, I think they need only an ear to listen, to understand, to be unassuming, and to give them time. It seems like sometimes I find myself impatient or without time to give them proper answers. I try to remind myself daily that I must listen first and give what I am able. A smile, compassion, some encouraging words or advise can go a long way in someone’s life who doesn’t have the luxury of continuous support. I think my students appreciate when we at San Miguel listen to them and affirm their emotions. More than anything they will learn in my science class, those discouraged students need to know they are important and extremely capable.

What might you say to your Principal/Supervisor/who appeared negative about the recent behavior of the person just above who had recently confided in you?

I would simply try to give perspective. Nobody can be perfect all the time, and we are not helping anything by casting judgments in the meantime. Period.

What would you say to a friend from home who questioned why you chose to live with the Brothers?

The idea of living with the Brothers should not leave people uneasy or nervous. To those who have not met any of the Brothers, I can understand how it might be a bizarre setup. Just like anyone, however, they are wonderful, experienced people with a wealth of knowledge, advice, stories, and humor. I wasn’t certain how living in a community of Brothers would be, but my experience in Tulsa has been wonderful, in large part, because of them. I immediately felt comfortable and at home with Brothers Chris and Richard. They are much like my family, giving me support when I need it and sarcasm when I deserve it. I think it could be tough to understand the Brothers if you do not understand the Lasallian mission. They care about their cause, and it is quite humbling to realize how much there is to learn from them.

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