In my community we begin every morning with prayer and reflection. When it is my week to lead prayer, I like to use some of the writings of St. Jean-Baptiste de La Salle (from his Cantiques Spirituels, originally in French) for us to reflect upon. Each time, the same two stanzas resonate with me:
“Divine Spirit, Spirit of Truth,
Illuminate us in our darkness,
That your love may help us practice
The truths that we will teach.
But it is not enough to simply believe
The truths that we will teach,
Holy Spirit, give us your grace,
And your love, to practice them.” *
One of the Lasallian Core Principles we focus on at school, quality education, has been a frequent point of reflection for me in my time here. A quality education is, first and foremost, a human education. For that reason, it’s not something to be taken lightly. That is where the “practice” comes in. I see the practice of “the truths that we teach” as the constant acknowledgement of the uniqueness of each student and their inherent value and worth.
The kind of passion and zeal that De La Salle calls us to strive for, this “illumination,” is what I strive to look for every day in my service at DeLaSalle High School here in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I serve in the Learning Center, a department that lends academic support to students with learning disorders and other challenges in and out of the classroom. I work with students to provide accommodations in testing, homework and other needs as they arise. What I love most about working at DeLaSalle is that teachers and staff communicate and collaborate when a student has a unique set of challenges and work together to best support them. At a time when education can feel rigid, aloof and overly bureaucratic, it is refreshing to be part of a community that truly values the student and their personhood as much as it does their learning. This is where the forging of connections becomes so important.
This comes in many forms. There’s the student who has maybe had a rough time in math that day but whose eyes light up whenever I ask him about the video games he’s currently interested in. Or the students who love to pick my brain about jazz or college basketball (*Go Gaels*) or how it could possibly be 60 degrees during winter in my native California. And even the students that really appreciate a simple “good morning” in the halls. To truly help students, they need to feel that come what may, there will always be someone who cares about them just as much as their academics.
*De La Salle, St. Jean-Baptiste. Œuvres complètes de Saint Jean-Baptiste de La Salle. Études lasalliennes. Frères des Écoles Chrétiennes. 1993.
Max Conrad is a first-year volunteer serving at DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis, Minnesota, as learning support staff and testing coordinator. He is a 2019 graduate of Saint Mary’s College of California in Moraga, with a major in anthropology and politics.