Monthly Archives: April 2014

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Ron Jovi Ramirez: What Are Teachers Without Their Students?

Ron Jovi Ramirez, 13-14, La Salle Academy, New York, NY

Ron Jovi Ramirez, 13-14, La Salle Academy, New York, NY

“A teacher affects eternity, he can never tell where his influence stops” ~ Henry Adams

I started reading Tuesdays With Morrie and the previous quote stood out to me due to the work that many of us are called to for the year. For those who haven’t read this book, it is a touching and endearing tale about Mitch Albom, the author, and the Tuesdays he spent for months with his old college professor who had limited time left on this earth. It is a fantastic read that offers many life lessons, but this blog entry is not meant to be a book review. It is meant to explore how teachers truly affect for an eternity and not just the years that they teach the same students. I came to see this when I started to help teach the AP Calculus class at La Salle Academy this year. The class only consists of 10 students, which makes it easy to give each student that individualized attention they may need. As I stand up in the front of the room going over each section, I try to make sure that the students fully understand each part of the process before moving on. There are times when I have to come up with different analogies to explain the concept of taking integrals and finding the volume. Each time I make a new analogy I think back to the one teacher that first taught me everything I knew about calculus.

This brings me back to my high school days as I sat in the front row while Mr. Schmitz taught us and helped us to prepare for the AP Exam. He had to cover certain concepts over and over again just to make sure we fully understood it all. Sometimes it would take the whole period to go over just one problem, but he never gave up on the class. I think of this as I now teach the class everyday and see how even when we graduate as students and go on to adulthood, teachers truly stay with us. We rely on what they have taught us not just in the classroom but also other lessons such as patience and ingenuity that may not be listed in the course syllabus. These lessons have truly helped me to be a great teacher to the class this year and influence them as much as teachers in my past have done for me.

Through teaching this year, I have also come to the realization that is it not only the teachers that can affect eternity in a teacher-student association. I have come to see that even though this is a limited opportunity for me, the students I interact with will always affect me throughout my life even if I don’t plan on continuing in the teaching field. I have had the pleasure of helping students in after-school activities along with in the classroom, and they have helped me to grow as an educator. Talking to past and current Lasallian Volunteers about their experience always leads to stories about their students and how they may have done something funny that day or how they accomplished a goal they set for the year. It is uplifting to hear this from many because this is why many of us have to decided to join this giving program. I know that my experience here will help me in the future when interacting with students. New students come in every year. Some of our favorite ones leave, but what does stay with us is the lessons we learn every year. Ultimately, it is not just the teachers that affect eternity, but the students affect us too even if it may seem that we are their main source for help and guidance.

Ron Jovi Ramirez is a first year LV serving at La Salle Academy in New York, New York and a 2013 graduate of Lewis University.

By |April 28th, 2014|Categories: blog, news + events|Comments Off on Ron Jovi Ramirez: What Are Teachers Without Their Students?

Kelly Schreiber: Praying Through the Challenges

Katie Christensen (left) and Kelly Schreiber (right), 13-14

Katie Christensen (left) and Kelly Schreiber (right), 13-14

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.

By |April 15th, 2014|Categories: blog, news + events|Comments Off on Kelly Schreiber: Praying Through the Challenges

Evan Saunders: One long Unforgettable Day

Evan Saunders, 13-14, San Miguel Tulsa, OK

Evan Saunders, 13-14, San Miguel Tulsa, OK

Days at San Miguel Tulsa Middle School can be long, but that goes without saying because the San Miguel system utilizes the extended school day in order to better educate our students. From 8:15-4:30 our students are in the classroom working hard to be “San Miguel Scholars” and our teachers work even longer. Working this hard is a vocation, a passion, and something we would not dare change. This feeling comes from our love of our students, their families, the community, and Latino culture.

The longest day of the year occurs towards the end of the first semester. San Miguel, along with Saint Francis Catholic Church and the rest of the community, organizes and executes the evening celebration of Las Posadas on December 19th. In Latin culture Las Posadas is a nine-day celebration of the coming of Jesus Christ’s birth. The nine-day celebration represents the nine months of Mary’s pregnancy.

Before coming to Tulsa I had never heard of the Las Posadas celebration, now I was a part of the team tasked to plan the Church’s evening celebration of it on December 19th. After weeks of planning, it was time for the big evening. After school the teachers, families, and community members began to set tables, decorations, and cook the food (the most important part in my opinion).

The evening began a 7:00 pm Mass said in Spanish, which was a very different experience for me. After the Mass, everyone received a candle inside a paper lampshade. Then, the entire congregation began to walk from door to door (being turned down repeatedly) to symbolize Joseph and Mary’s journey to find a room to give birth to baby Jesus. Finally, the congregation reached the final door, the church’s activity center, and began to sing. It is at this time we are allowed to enter and celebrate the birth of Jesus.

The night continued in the activity center with food and music. It was a joyous night full of celebration, family, and the worship of God. Having the opportunity to connect with my students and their family on a spiritual level is something that I have cherished ever sense. Forming these types of relationships with others is one of the reasons I decided to become a Lasallian Volunteer, and it may be the greatest benefit of all because even though my day did not end until eleven at night, the night ended far too soon.

Evan Saunders is a 1st year LV serving at San Miguel in Tulsa, Oklahoma and is a 2013 graduate of Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota.

By |April 7th, 2014|Categories: blog, news + events|Comments Off on Evan Saunders: One long Unforgettable Day

April 2014: Jake Haagenson

jake2

Jake with a student at recess

Service Site: The De La Salle School, Freeport, NY

College: Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota

What do you do?

I teach 7th grade religion, 5th grade reading, and I facilitate our foreign language program.

Give an example of a time when you knew you were making a difference.

While a Lasallian Volunteer, there have been times that I have found it difficult to identify exactly where I have made a difference. In reflecting on my discouragement, I started to realize that it is easy to misunderstand service as a transaction completed by two clearly defined roles: a person of privilege offering service, and a person in need receiving service. This perception is often accompanied by the expectation that service will progress as a series of good deeds that must culminate with a dramatic change in the life of the needy, and strong sense of vindication in the person serving. This image of service understands the person serving to have the tools to fix the person in need. However, I’m beginning to think that service does not produce a linear progress in one and satisfaction in the other, but instead is a human relationship that highlights strengths and weaknesses in both. This has been my experience with Robert, a sixth grader who lost his mother at the age of seven.

Robert has difficulty with self-esteem and is sometimes disruptive in class. One morning he was told to leave his social studies class, and I was asked to talk with him about what was wrong. I felt helpless as he sat at my desk, and I tried to think of a way to fix his problem. Eventually, I apologized saying that I couldn’t imagine experiencing his loss and tried to express sympathy. After we talked for a while Robert returned to class and–I found out later–wrote a letter to his social studies teacher explaining his appreciation for our conversation. Hearing this, I felt a sense of gratification and presumed that I had made a lasting difference. So, I was discouraged when, a week later, Robert was again disruptive and self-critical. I’ve learned that setbacks cannot be understood as a negation of meaningful moment but must be understood as part of Robert’s struggle and development. Though Robert’s problems are ongoing and require help beyond what I can offer, our conversation has opened up a relationship in which he feels he can share his struggles with someone who cares about him. As the faculty at The De La Salle School works to get Robert appropriate help, we can offer a caring presence that he can trust and rely on to work through his pain. Instead of viewing service as a exchange where one person offers a clear solution to fix another, it can be helpful to communicate to that person that you are willing to struggle through the ups and downs, making a commitment towards a solution together. Though struggling with someone to find answers does not offer the satisfaction of definite progress, it can make a difference in the person’s life.

jake1Was there a moment where you felt accepted by your students?

One of our current eighth graders, Jay, is exceptionally bright, excelling among his peers in national standardized testing and showing a precocious intellectual curiosity not only in the classroom, but towards the world around him. However, because he is bright, Jay’s aptitude often exceeds the rigor of his classes. Rather than seeking out personal challenges in his first three years at The De La Salle School, Jay had developed lackadaisical study habits, which were compounded by a difficult displacement resulting from Hurricane Sandy, and the developing awareness of what it means to grow up without a father. Jay was vocal about his preference to get by rather than improve. This year the teachers at The De LaSalle School have made a priority to encourage Jay to adopt a stronger sense of personal motivation, emphasizing his long term potential as a student. As the year has gone on, I have spent time each morning before school talking with Jay about our shared interest in reading, which has opened a channel of discussion regarding his future as a student and the optimal use of his skills. At the encouragement of his teachers, Jay took the entrance exam to Regis, a premier New York City Catholic high school that offers gratuitous tuition for students who can merit admission. Jay tested into the next round of candidacy and our faculty communicated the importance of this opportunity to Jay, preparing him with practice interviews, writing letters of recommendation, and reaching out to contacts at Regis. I continued to try to show Jay that this opportunity afforded him with a goal that both he and the people who cared about him wanted to attain. As the weeks followed, Jay began to put more effort into his work and involve himself in extracurricular activities. On the day that Jay was accepted to Regis, he came to school, obviously proud of an academic accomplishment that he had achieved by hard work, and told me that I was one of the first people he wanted to tell about his success.

jake3What have you discovered about poverty from your work?

My time serving at a school that depends entirely on the generosity of benefactors rather than tuition has given me a proximity to poverty that my privileged upbringing and education had not. However, rather than elucidating the cause or even a single definition of poverty, my time at De LaSalle has imparted a sense of the complexity of poverty and its iterations. Still, in trying to be sensitive to the challenge of poverty in our community, I have become very aware of two things. First, that poverty is an impediment with which I did not have to contend during my own education, and second, that poverty is something that is beyond our students’ control, but is a serious threat to their academic progress. By being mindful that the advantages that were commonplace in my childhood are frequently unavailable to our students, I can modify my approach to teaching to accommodate limitations that are outside of our students control and try to supply them with the skills necessary to succeed at higher levels of education.

What would you say to a friend from home who questioned why you choice to live with the Brothers?

If you are interested in learning about and participating in the education of the underprivileged, living in a Christian Brothers community can offer a unique experience of a home life that is intentionally supportive of your ministry and is populated by educators with years of experience and commensurate wisdom regarding education. So, even though living as a part of a group of men who are not your relatives, but are drawn together by a religious commitment of service, is admittedly peculiar, it is this peculiarity that is one of the greatest benefits of the Lasallian Volunteer experience. My work is affirmed and supported by those I live with, and I often turn to them for advice regarding my personal development and my development as an educator.

By |April 1st, 2014|Categories: lv of the month, news + events|6 Comments