Not too long ago, I was catching up with a friend from home who said to me: “You know, I have to say, it is so cool that you’re actually teaching social studies to middle schoolers. I heard you talk about that for so long and it’s crazy and inspiring that you’re actually doing it now.”
Humbled by his comment, it has prompted me to reflect on everything that has led up to this moment. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when I became interested in teaching and drawn to service, but it certainly has been a long time coming. When I chose to attend Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, I had no idea that it was a Lasallian school, nor what that meant. I knew that it had an excellent education program and felt that it was a place where I could continue to participate in service and ministry-related activities. During my time at SMUMN, not only did I obtain a degree in social studies secondary education, I realized that the Lasallian mission was something I wanted to continue to pursue. Every day, my work is grounded in the phrase “see the child in front of you,” which was often repeated to us in education courses.
With that being said, I am pleased to say that my experience as a first-year Lasallian Volunteer serving at San Miguel School in Washington D.C. has been nothing short of a valuable one. As many of my fellow LVs have shared, this year has obviously been much different than we could have ever imagined. There is simply no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us all in various ways. I cannot express to you how many times I have told my students that I would much rather be in the classroom with them than have to teach online, especially as a first-year teacher. It is hard.
Although I’ve had a lot of experience working with children both in and out of the school setting before, this is now the real deal. I am officially a teacher, entirely responsible for daily lesson planning, grading, behavior management, running parent-teacher conferences, etc. Sometimes it honestly feels like I never stop working. There have been many moments where I have felt frustrated, lost and everything in between. However, at the end of the day, it is always my students who keep me going. I’m honestly not biased when I say that they are the best. Despite the global pandemic and numerous other challenges that we both face, my students and I have still manage to learn, grow, laugh and persevere together. Whether it’s two-hour video calls outside of class or communicating solely through memes, they never fail to surprise me.
I celebrated my birthday a few weeks ago, and on that day my sixth-grade social studies class had a quiz to be completed asynchronously. However, since the students are expected to follow the daily schedule, I still join our class Google Meets link in case anyone has questions during the period. For whatever reason, it is typical for little to no students to show up. So you can imagine how confused I was when suddenly half of the sixth-grade had logged on to our class link. I kept saying that they didn’t need to be there unless they had questions and even told them to leave if that was the case. Little did I know, my students were throwing me a virtual surprise party that they had planned all on their own! They sang “Happy Birthday,” and it was seriously the cutest thing ever; a memory that I will cherish forever.
Needless to say, working with middle schoolers has always been something I imagined myself doing, and now that I am, I am incredibly grateful for the experience, even if it is in a virtual/hybrid setting.
Kamila (Mila) Kuchta is a first-year LV serving at San Miguel School in Washington, DC. She is a 2020 graduate of Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota with a degree in social studies secondary education.