Monthly Archives: April 2013

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Shanae Farrell: Flip the Script

This month is poetry month, and I thought a great way to start would be through what I like to call, “flipping the script”. Flipping the script means changing something you know into something bigger than what it is. What better way to do so than with poetry. Poetry allows you to compare and contrast, to use the abstract to discuss something simple. The best part about poetry is that there is no right or wrong. It is your opinion and your voice. Your interpretation is what matters most. Below is my poem of my experience of being a Lasallian Volunteer. I hope that you can reflect and see the bigger picture in it.

What I find most influential is that Lasallian Volunteers dedicate a year to give to others, and to reflect on what we have learned. My experience has been learning to accept. I have to allow myself to see things through my students’ eyes instead of my own. Think for a second. Isn’t that how God treats us as well? He accepts us as we are. I hope that through my poem you see how we are called to be teachers just as God teaches us.

An English Teacher’s Gospel

I prepped, planned,
and knew you by name
before you entered my classroom.
You ignored me,
barely said hello to me,
afraid to ask to use the restroom
And yet, I left the door open for you.
 
Slowly, I taught
grading by effort
not by your efficiency,
turning in crumpled homework,
missing your test days,
and I waited patiently
because I saw the good in you.
 
I remember the first day
you asked for me.
What joy it gave me.
You started with short phrases
that grew to complete sentences
to paragraphs that formed your story,
and I saw the potential in you.
 
I was ready for the days
when you didn’t get your way;
no work and all play,
disrupting the learning process
unaware and impatient
about the path you paved,
and I saw the weakness in you.
 
And sometimes I pushed.
I tested you.
Placed you on higher levels
and you threw your paper away
thinking that you were
unwilling and unable
and I saw the fear in you.
 
Although I was frustrated, angry,
when you didn’t understand,
I forgave you when you did wrong;
ready to start over,
correcting misspelled words, erasing commas,
as long as you listened and followed along
because I saw the heart in you.
 
The year’s lesson is almost over.
The introductory is done,
but more words need to be written
and I watch from a distance,
helping when needed.
I see your smile, esteem, and confidence.
I see the growth in you.
 
I had prepped, I had planned
knowing that your dreams and success
is happiness shared by me and you.
As you add pages and chapters
without fear or doubt
of your story coming true,
I know that just as you see me,
I see God in you too.
 

Now what happens when we become the students? And God our teacher? If you are open to it, replace the words “I” with “God” or “Him” and the words “you” with “I” or “me”. Instead of an English paper, replace the metaphors with words like prayer, kind words, and actions. See what moves you. I hope that my poem will help you to see how important it is to flip the script. Maybe your poem will become more like this…

An English Teacher’s Gospel

God prepped, planned,
and knew me by name
before I entered His presence.
I ignored Him,
barely said hello to Him,
afraid to ask for His assistance
And yet, He left the door open for me.
 
Slowly, God taught
grading by effort
not by my efficiency,
turning in crumpled offerings,
missing His test days,
and God waited patiently
because He saw the good in me.
 
God remembers the first day
I asked for Him.
What joy it gave Him.
I started with short prayers
that grew to complete prayers
to conversations I shared with Him,
and He saw the potential in me.
 
God was ready for the days
when I didn’t get my way;
no work and all play,
disrupting my learning process
unaware and impatient
about the path God paved,
and God saw the weakness in me.
 
And sometimes God pushed.
God tested me.
Placed me on higher levels
and I threw my path away
thinking that I was
unwilling and unable
and God saw the fear in me.
 
Although God was frustrated, angry,
when I didn’t understand,
God forgave me when I did wrong;
ready to start over,
correcting my ways, erasing faults,
as long as I listened and followed along
because God saw the heart in me.
 
The year’s lesson is almost over.
The beginning has just begun,
but more prayers need to be written
and God watches from a distance,
helping when needed.
God sees my smile, esteem, and confidence.
God sees the growth in me.
 
God had prepped, God had planned
knowing that my dreams and success
is happiness shared by God and me.
As I add pathways and experiences
without fear or doubt
of my spiritual story,
God knows that just as I see Him,
He sees God in me too.

 

Shanae Farrell, 12-14, John XXIII Educational Center, Racine, WI

 

By |April 29th, 2013|Categories: blog|Comments Off on Shanae Farrell: Flip the Script

Jackie Liberty: Meaningful Change

This week is National Volunteer Week! Created in 1974 by President George H.W. Bush and currently sponsored by the Points of Light Foundation, National Volunteer Week serves to remind us of the “impact and power of volunteerism and service.” Points of Light’s motto is “We put people at the center of change.” During National Volunteer Week, they do this by awarding individuals and groups who have effected meaningful change through their volunteer efforts.

What exactly is meaningful change? As far as I can tell from the list of honorees, meaningful change is sweeping change. Among those honored are such towering historical figures as Susan B. Anthony, Cesar Chavez, and Frederick Douglas.

When we reflect on the past, I think it is a very good thing to remember the grand accomplishments of others; but we must be aware that someone’s work can only be deemed “grand” after the fact. While someone’s work isn’t complete, it’s impossible to tell how widespread or lasting its impact will be. However, this is not to say that service may only be deemed “meaningful” after it is complete. While we may get discouraged from time to time by an apparent lack of progress in our work, we can be confident that we are making meaningful changes – in those we serve and in ourselves.

At La Salle Academy, my service doesn’t seem to bring about much change, and any change that does occur certainly isn’t sweeping. This year, I have been running an after school homework club for freshman on academic probation. Day after day, and week after week, the same thing seems to happen: the students don’t want to be there, they forget what homework they have, try to say that they don’t have homework at all, and fail to realize that even if all their homework is done, they can always study for something. After first semester ended, I had a moment of joy when I found out all the students I had been helping after school, only four remained on academic probation. This joy was quickly crushed when I realized that I now had eleven more students, to make a total of sixteen freshman on academic probation. Given these results, I don’t think I’ve done much to improve the La Salle student body in general, but I know I’ve had an impact on particular students. Even the four students who haven’t managed to get their grades up from the beginning of the year are slowly changing for the better. Any change for the better is meaningful.

Jackie Liberty, 12-14, La Salle Academy, New York, NY.

By |April 22nd, 2013|Categories: blog, news + events|Comments Off on Jackie Liberty: Meaningful Change

Rachel Swartz: Miss Swartz Has Seen God

During community prayer recently, we were asked the question, “Where do you see God in your life?” Being kind of quiet about my religion, I did not really spring up to share my answer. But to be honest, the first thought that came to mind was, ‘in my students.’ I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. There is a reason I am teaching these specific 9th graders this year, there’s a reason I’m working at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Minneapolis of all places, and there’s a reason I’m a Lasallian Volunteer. In everything, God has a reason to put you there. And I think my reason was to be teaching them…

The students we serve at Cristo Rey are from low income backgrounds and face significant challenges in and outside of school. A majority of students come to us below grade level, and our school is designed with a rigorous academic schedule in order to shrink that learning gap and prepare them for college. At first, I had to get used to the school’s unique grading system and various policies such as high trust and positive behavior support. We believe in open communication with students about both their behavior and academic habits, having a conversation with him/her to learn what is really going on. The school has helped shape me into a thoughtful and patient educator, who works with students to ensure their success in life.

When I say my students amaze me, I truly mean it with every ounce of my being. My students are amazing. In getting to know them, I have just been blown away by their stories. During my first few months of teaching alone, three students personally told me that their parent was just deported, while others shared various struggles from bullying to parent alcoholism to deaths in the family either in their writing or in a conversation with me. And yet, they come to school every day with a smile on their face and the urgency to learn. In class they get fired up when discussing social justice issues, demanding equality for all and asking complex questions sometimes a textbook cannot even answer. They show sympathy for those suffering or treated unfairly, and brainstorm solutions to solve worldly problems (sometimes better resolutions than today’s finest politicians, I might add). While during the school day they come running to me with a funny story, or a quick compliment for me, or the silly question, always eager to share more of themselves. The drive they have for success coupled with their coping skills for difficult situations at just fourteen truly astounds me. That, to me, is God’s manifestation.

I think the most important thing I’ve learned teaching at Cristo Rey is the importance of the bond a teacher creates with her students, that trust factor. I cannot believe students have felt so comfortable with me to share personal issues, and I never ever imagined my students to be so sweet. If I ever tell the students I will be absent for an LV retreat they scream in unison, “Nooooo, Ms. Swartz!!! Don’t leave us!” It cracks me up, but I guess it goes to show how attached we are to each other. I have tried to create a space where students feel comfortable with me and try to focus on the positives in life, no matter what is going on outside of school. I want my class to be a safe and friendly environment for them. As a student once said, “I love having your class at the end of the day because I always leave school happy.”

My mom says being a good Catholic doesn’t necessarily mean you have to pray every day or go to mass once a week, but live out what Jesus taught us. She believes that I am doing his work through my service year as an LV. I often go around telling people that being a volunteer at Cristo Rey is my “dream job.” I never thought I could be this happy and love my job this much! I am thankful every day, and I know it’s God’s doing. I never thought my students could teach me so much about gratitude or positivity or resilience. These kids have opened my eyes; I see God.

Rachel Swartz, 12-13, Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, Minneapolis, MN

By |April 15th, 2013|Categories: blog|1 Comment

A Day in the Life of a Lasallian Volunteer: Angela Toomer

 

Angela Toomer is currently serving her 2nd year as Lasallian Volunteer at Tides Family Services in Pawtucket, RI. A native of Little Rock, Arkansas, Angela pursued a degree in English at Christian Brothers University. 

When I first moved to Pawtucket, Rhode Island to work as a caseworker at Tides
Family Services, I thought I’d never put down my GPS. My job requires me to visit clients’ families in their homes, which means navigate the winding, crooked one-ways of Pawtucket, Central Falls, and East Providence, three tiny New England towns. These towns used to be vibrant, prosperous contributors to the textile industry during the Industrial Revolution, but the cities fell on hard times when the industry moved to the South, where prices were cheaper. Poverty has put palpable stress on most of my families, and as a caseworker, I attempt to lift at least a small part of the burden.

Pawtucket, RI

The agency I work with, Tides, works to preserve families, which means keeping kids out of group homes and training schools (aka juvenile correction facilities). After seven months of working at Tides, one of my proudest accomplishments is finally putting down the GPS and feeling at home in a place where I speak half as fast as its residents. And, of course, the accumulation of tiny moments: improbable peace in the middle of chaos, laughter in struggle, and honesty and trust in my co-workers when we realize we all go through our days together.

My day begins with rundown, which is when the members of my three-person team and my supervisor meet to update each other on the previous night and morning. Was the client in school? Were there any crises? How are X client and mom getting along? Rundown is a good time to celebrate our clients’ progress, or brainstorm ways to help our families. Following rundown, I may go to a school meeting or truancy court to advocate for a client. At Tides, no two days are identical, and we respond to clients’ needs as they come up. Caseworkers also take clients out in the community for recreational activities.

On a home visit with Woiwor, one of my clients.

The meat of my day is visiting my clients’ homes. On any given day, I’ll visit clients and their families in eight to twelve homes in three different towns. Sometimes, a client or parent shares good news; other times, they need to vent about something that happened that day. Before I walk into a home, especially if the family and client are high-risk, I take a moment in my car to close my eyes and get some good vibes going. A trick I stole from a Christian Brother: using the Lasallian prayer, “Let us remember we are in the holy presence of God” before going inside so I can collect myself and walk in with a fresh outlook.

My community cleaning up after Blizzard Nemo

After a few hours of home visits, I head home to my community for dinner with the on-call phone in hand. Trackers are on-call to clients and families 24-7 for crises. So, unless my night involves picking up the on-call phone and possibly going to a client’s home to de-escalate a crisis, my workday is over. Dinner and prayer wraps up my day, and maybe an episode of Glee or a batch of chocolate chip cookies with my community.

The Lasallian Volunteers program of the De La Salle Christian Brothers provides dedicated, well-trained Volunteers for one or more years of service to schools and agencies of the Brothers whose Mission is to serve the poor. Acting out of faith, rooted in the Gospel, and sharing community with the Brothers and other Lasallians, the Volunteers empower the poor by personalized service primarily through education. To learn more about their program, click here

This article was originally featured on April 8th, 2013 on Catholic Volunteer Network’s “What’s Your RESPONSE?”. http://catholicvolunteernetwork.blogspot.com/2013/04/a-day-in-life-of-lasallian-volunteer.html

By |April 9th, 2013|Categories: blog|Comments Off on A Day in the Life of a Lasallian Volunteer: Angela Toomer

April 2013: Kristen Crone

Service Site: St. Cecilia’s School and Academy St Louis, MO

University: Christian Brothers University- Memphis, TN

What do you do? At St. Cecilia’s I do many, many things. My technical position is “Resource Teacher and Teacher’s Aide for PreK- 8th Grades,” which includes anything from taking a student out of the classroom so they have a quiet, non-distracting place to work on an assignment, to creating spelling units for middle school.  I also do other things around the school too, such as co-teach 7th grade typing and 6-8th grades Speech enrichment classes.  I monitor Accelerated Reading program, spelling, and study halls for 6-8th grade.  Some of the fun additions to what I do is coaching the 6-8th volleyball team and 6-8th Girls on the Run team.

Why did you choose to become a Lasallian Volunteer?  Have your hopes about the Program been realized?
My plan in college had been to finish my undergraduate degree, continue straight through for my masters degree, and then (hopefully) find a job teaching in an elementary school in the Catholic School System in Memphis. While in my junior year at Christian Brothers University a few of the brothers started telling me about the Lasallian Volunteer program. They told me that they thought I would make a good LV, and the more I heard about the program, the more I wanted in. Now I think that this is the place I was meant to be.

It is such a blessing to be in a program with a network of other 1st/2nd year teachers around the country. It’s comforting to know that we are in similar situations and can support each other in our service and in our community lives, Not to mention the network of brothers with experience and wisdom to share from many years of doing these same things.  I have learned more than I could have dreamed of about teaching, living in community and interacting with different people, lifestyles, and cultures.

What is the most important “thing,” that you think your students need from you?  What do you do to try to provide this?
I think the most important “thing” I do for my students is just to be present and to be willing to push them to be better.  A lot of my students have the tendency to give up, or to try and get someone to give them the answers when things start to get hard.  I like to find new ways of explaining to them how they can figure out a solution to their problems.  I don’t allow my students to say things like “I don’t get this,” “I just won’t do this,” or “I’ll never be able to do this.”  I push them to learn how to ask the right question so that they can start to learn to solve their own problems, but also when it’s the right time to ask for help.

Which of the core values (Faith, Community, Service) are most important to you?  Why?

Service is the most important value of the three for me, probably because I find the other two (faith and community) through service.  Since joining the program, I have been able to serve in many different communities, at school, at home, in our neighborhood, and even groups that come through for short periods of time to serve in my neighborhood.  I have been able to share my faith journey with the different people I meet and grow in my own personal faith.

How would you like to continue your involvement with the Lasallian family after your time with the Lasallian Volunteers? 
I have been so blessed ever since I entered the “LV world.”  I have met some amazing people from students, to brothers, to my fellow LVs. I entered this program not knowing where it would take me.  I’ve had the opportunity to travel from one coast to the other, and many places in between.  I have shared experiences with some amazing people. Most recently, I have been fortunate enough to have been awarded the LV Scholar scholarship at Christian Brothers University, so that I can get a Master of Arts in Teaching and continue the work that I have started while being a Lasallian Volunteer.

By |April 1st, 2013|Categories: lv of the month, news + events|Comments Off on April 2013: Kristen Crone