My time as a second year Lasallian Volunteer (LV) has been distinctly marked with incredible relationships; relationships that range from the LV staff, my fellow LVs, and last but not least my students, who I love so dearly, at West Catholic Preparatory High School, located in University City, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Making the move from the Midwest District to the District of Eastern North America was (and still is) extremely exciting for me. The service opportunity made available to me was to teach sophomore U.S. government, while working directly with Lasallian Youth Club, among many other positions at West Catholic. I told myself that this was too good to be true. That somehow, landing a dream job in an incredible city was some sort of sick joke from Jolleen (director of the LV Program) that was going to be yanked out from underneath me at any second. Seeing as I’m still here in Philadelphia, I will make the best of it, just in case Jolleen is indeed playing some sort of sick and twisted joke on me.
My time in my government classroom has been practically indescribable. From genuine teaching moments, to one student busting out the dance move from the 2004 movie “You Got Served” after he answered a question correctly; needless to say, there has never been a dull moment. But perhaps never having dull moment in a government class from the teacher’s point of view and the student’s point of view looks a lot differently. No, scratch that, it absolutely looks differently. I find excitement in my classroom when a student asks a genuine question, when someone does all their work for the first time all year, when the student who almost never goes out of his way to ask for help finally does, and most importantly, I find excitement when a student walks out of my classroom saying something like: “Mr. G, you know I appreciate you, right?” Or, “You let us be ourselves and that means a lot. We don’t have to act like something we’re not when we’re around you.”
Whereas their excitement, I’m sure, lies in getting me to laugh at their ridiculous jokes or comments, not having homework on the weekend, or trying to get the whole class to have a sing off when there’s a minute left of class.
I have come to the conclusion that I’ve hit this point in my life where I’m finally keeping my head above water. I was drowning last year, for one reason or another. De La Salle Blackfeet School in Browning, Montana, was trial by error on a daily basis for me, and I came away with a countless amount of confidence after my time there. But what I’ve brought into my classroom this year is a new philosophy on education. My philosophy is this (for you veteran teachers, I’m sure you’ll laugh at this, since you’ve probably known this for quite some time now): Show your students that you care, draw a firm line between work and play, rarely raise your voice, and most of all show them respect at every opportunity. My students have pushed me to the edge a few times this year, but my respect for them has never faltered, and they recognize that. They recognize that I genuinely care for their well-being, they thrive off of not disappointing me, and they love being rewarded for their hard work. My students are incredible; they constantly inspire me and make me want to work harder for them each day. They show me they care, they (attempt) at drawing a line between work and play, they rarely raise their voice at me, and they show me respect at every opportunity. It pains me to be this cliché, truly, but they’ve taught me more this year than I can possibly quantify. My only hope is that I have returned the favor.
Kyle Garesche is a 2nd year LV serving at West Catholic Preparatory High School in Philadelphia, PA. Kyle graduated from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota in 2013.