All the education classes in the world could not have prepared me for being a first year teacher at a small Catholic school on a rural reservation in northern Montana. At De La Salle Blackfeet, our students face an overwhelming and heartbreaking number of challenges in their home lives and in the Browning community. Often those challenges outside of school create obstacles in the classroom as well. These difficulties, and a lack of resources to address many of them, can make for some exhausting, frustrating days as a teacher. Although we are short on resources and long on challenges, the striking thing about our school is the tremendous amount of faith and love that persists in the students and staff of De La Salle Blackfeet.
After an exceptionally rough day in the classroom, it can be very difficult to come back the following day with an open heart and an open mind, ready to try again. Each morning at assembly, De La Salle Blackfeet begins the day together in prayer. The teachers lead with the following:
Lord, You are my patience, my strength, my light, my counsel. You make docile the hearts of the students entrusted to me. Abandon me not to myself for even one moment. For my own guidance and that of my pupils, give me the spirit of wisdom and understanding, counsel and fortitude, knowledge and piety, the spirit of a holy fear of You, and a burning zeal for your glory. I unite my efforts with those of Jesus Christ, and I ask the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, and St. John Baptist de La Salle to help me in the performance of my duties. Amen.
Praying out loud every morning for the virtues needed to be an effective teacher, with my students sitting right in front of me, is a powerful experience. Even when I am exhausted or crabby, on the mornings when I can’t quite bring myself to let go of the previous day’s offenses, or on the days when the words initially feel more forced than genuine, I can feel the Holy Spirit moving within my heart as I recite the prayer. Invoking the assistance of the Holy Family, as well as St. John Baptist de La Salle, reminds me that I’m not alone and fills me with a sense of peace. The prayer brings a sense of resolve to embrace the new day, to let go of the one before, and to endeavor to teach better and to love better.
Kelly Schreiber is a 1st year LV serving at De La Salle Blackfeet in Browning, Montana and is a 2013 graduate of Lewis University.