Service Site: De La Salle Middle School, St. Louis MO
University: St. Mary’s College of CA
What do you do?
I am the Science teacher for levels 2-5, I teach PE to all grades, Art on Thursdays, and I teach swimming to the whole school (girls for 6 weeks, then boys for 6 weeks)
What is the most important “thing,” do you think, that your students need from you? What do you do to try to provide this?
The most important thing that my students need from me is the knowledge that I will listen to them whenever they need to talk. It is very easy to fall into the trap of being short with a student because of being busy or stressed out, but when a student is brushed off as a result of that, it sends the message that they are a nuisance and unimportant which is detrimental to their self-image. I try and counteract that feeling of unimportance in my students by asking them about themselves, listening to the stories that they tell in class, even if it is only vaguely tied to what we might be learning about that day, and letting them teach me things. There is a great pride that radiates on their faces when they are treated as an intelligent human being with a wealth of knowledge to bring to the table. I cannot help but smile when I get to be a part of a moment like that; it is so life giving and has the ability to emotionally change the course of my day.
What is the most challenging obstacle that your students face? How do your school and your own outreach try to empower them to overcome this obstacle?
The most challenging obstacle that my students face is the amount of emotional baggage that they bring with them to school. It is hard enough to be a 11 to 14 year old, but when you have so many other things swimming around in your mind, listening to a teacher tell you about poetry or Punnett Squares can very easily fall to the wayside, no matter how hard that student may be trying to focus. As a school, the staff and faculty at De La Salle Middle School try and do our best to be levelheaded when interacting with the students. We always take into account what a student may be experiencing whenever we are with them; this may take the form of having a student work at a desk outside of the classroom if they are in need of quiet and are struggling when placed with their entire class. When I am teaching I try to be as considerate and accommodating as I can be, so that I am able to create an atmosphere of calm and safety.
Have you noticed any signs of success in your work? What are they?
I think that success is important and especially to have the feeling that you are making a difference. In the type of work that I do in my ministry I get to see success every day, however I have come to a different definition of the word success. Success to me is having a student come to school every day on time, having a student keep their hands to themselves for an entire class period, or being able to do work in class even if they do not want to. I have also had also had large successes this year as well; in my 8th grade science class we have been studying force and motion, so for a project I had them make a car powered entirely by balloon with wheels that they crafted themselves. The project was taken so seriously; wheel making became a highly coveted skill along with the ability to find cardboard that was then used as the body of many cars. Once the cars were made, drag racing them was the only thought on the entire class’s mind. For those students whose cars were able to roll the required 2 meters feelings of success and accomplishment were in abundance, they were treated like gods for the rest of Science class.
Why would you recommend the LV program to a college senior considering volunteering?
I would highly recommend the Lasallian Volunteers program to college seniors who are considering applying. Through this program I have come to be the best version of myself that I never knew I could be. I have greatly developed my prayer and spiritual life so much so that I am currently involved in the RCIA process, and my two fellow LVs Carolyn Morison and Desiree Lopez are my sponsors. This program places you in schools and ministries across the United States where you are tasked with teaching students or engaging clients on a daily basis, but what you do not expect is how much those people will change your life; they will challenge you and stretch you and have you feeling crazy, but you are going to want to wake up every morning so that you can do it all over again.