Monthly Archives: December 2015


Heather Marsh: Building Relationships


Heather Marsh 15-16, San Miguel School, Tulsa, OK

One of the things I worried about most beginning my year at San Miguel was how I was going to build relationships with my students. After ten days of orientation where we were drilled on things like well-advertised side hugs and the short attention spans of middle schoolers (one minute per year of age), I was overwhelmed. I wasn’t sure I could handle not smiling until Christmas, and while I understood “You are not their friend”, I still wanted my students to like me. This highlighted the growing anxiety of “what if they don’t?” Could I handle that possibility? What if I wasn’t cut out for it and the year descended into some kind of war with my students? The thoughts plagued me as we went into our beginning of the year staff meetings and discussed our policies on Love and Logic, behavior logs, and in school suspensions. As a first year teacher with limited experience, I was terrified.

To say that these fears were put to rest would be asking for a miracle. The first few weeks came with lack of cooperation, awkward conversations, and far too many and too personal questions from my students. As a young teacher worried about how I was going to define myself as some kind of authority, I struggled with these questions and instead chose deliberately not to answer many of them. In addition, the students who remembered past LVs were quick to throw out their opinions on whether or not I matched up to my predecessors; more often than not, I didn’t. For those who hadn’t had experience with LVs before, I was compared to any number of the experienced educators I had the privilege of being on staff with, often meeting the same falling short of expectation. While I didn’t give up hope, I was beginning to think I might not be one of those teachers who managed to both maintain a good classroom and have good, fun relationships with their students. I sure of one thing, and that was that I didn’t top any of my students’ list of favorite teachers.

Then volleyball happened. Just a week before practices were supposed to start and two weeks before the season, I was approached with helping to coach the newly forming girls’ volleyball team at our school. While I knew nothing about volleyball or coaching it, I jumped into the experience and prepared myself for the long haul of being part of a team that didn’t have a net the first two weeks of practice. Among these challenges, however, I found myself getting to spend more time with my students in a non-academic setting. The four or five students who stayed each day after school before games became a family of sorts as we gathered in my classroom after school, ate pizza, and listened to music.

It was in these moments that a transformation began to happen. Now, instead of trying to strike up awkward conversations in the cafeteria line while I served lunch, I had students coming up to me each day to ask if we had practice, if they had a ride to the game that night, and if I remembered Mr. Chavez dancing to Maroon 5. Somewhere over the course of volleyball season, I found myself worrying less about how to make my students like me and instead began enjoying more the moments of connection as they came naturally. Even while it was impossible to completely give up those fears, it became easier to face those moments where they were tested because of the positive moments elsewhere.

Volleyball became a valuable experience in that it helped me learn how to relate with my students in a way that let relationships naturally progress. The students wanted to get to know us because by opening up to them we could show them that we were in this for more than just a stepping-stone to the next thing. I learned that there is an important distinction between not over-sharing and keeping yourself closed off from your students, and that as teachers it is important to navigate that distinction or you risk alienating your students and putting up a wall between yourself and them.

Where my insistence on not giving information for fear of them taking that as wanting to be their ‘friend’ had created a disconnect, I am now learning that sometimes those shared experiences can provide a valuable link between teacher and student. Yes, it is okay to admit to listening to certain kinds of music if it means using it to get pumped before volleyball games, and it might just be valuable to use a shared knowledge of the Percy Jackson series to provide a stepping stone for understanding the full humanity and full divinity of Jesus Christ. Without being willing to share and give of myself, these moments and connections never would have happened.

As I try to figure out a way to close this blog post, all I can think back on is the half an hour it took to be able to leave San Miguel when my fellow LV and I were heading out for Christmas break on Friday. With a constant flow of students stopping you to tell you goodbye, that they were going to miss you, or that “two weeks is a really long time, Ms. Marsh” the outpouring of love was tangible even beyond the hugs. I think the common biblical adage “Do not be afraid” is something I should have paid more attention to. I came in afraid of how I would connect, and as I move forward in this year I realize the more you hold onto those fears, the greater chance you have of missing out on something truly special. The kids at San Miguel are indeed something truly special, and I look forward to having five more months to get to know them even better.

Heather Marsh is a 1st year LV serving at San Miguel School in Tulsa, Oklahoma and is a 2014 graduate of Saint Mary’s College of California.

By |December 28th, 2015|Categories: blog, news + events|Comments Off on Heather Marsh: Building Relationships

Martin Chavez: Victorious

San Miguel School, Tulsa, OK

San Miguel School, Tulsa, OK

Athletics can be both magical and educational. They instill confidence while teaching teamwork and personal responsibility. As a Lasallian Volunteer, coaching became my mechanism to bond with students and their families. I serve as a teacher, math tutor, breakfast server, and girls volleyball coach. Thus far, coaching has been challenging, but the most rewarding responsibility.

San Miguel is remarkably unique and inspiring when compared to most middle schools. The school calendar extends longer then public schools and the daily hours reflect an adult workweek. As a result, our students and faculty are exhausted by the day’s conclusion. This was a prime factor for the absence of athletics. Yet, our students are not only intelligent they also possess tremendous grit. Our “San Miguel Scholars” have to quickly mature because of their living arrangements. Some students work and help raise their siblings. Even though the school day is long, our students are capable and willing to join a team. Therefore, I was determined to help revive athletics.

Resurrecting an athletic program is time consuming and presents unforeseen obstacles. It’s easy to recognize and dwell upon unexpected events. The solution for success is to concentrate on the positive. Originally, my fellow LV and I were the assistant coaches. Our duties were to include advertising for the sport, providing transportation, and assisting the head coach. However, we were both promoted to head coach minutes before the first practice. Simultaneously, we learned the program needed poles, balls, kneepads, and other related equipment. Dwelling on the challenges would result in failure. Instead, focusing on the positive revealed that our team had the intangibles that money cannot afford. We have the support and faith of faculty, Christian Brothers, and students. Fortunately, an anonymous donor donated the equipment we needed. The girls were full of zeal, unyielding commitment, and eager to learn the game. Suddenly, this realization metamorphosed my fears into an explosion of possibilities.

As a result of the metamorphosis, being a coach became larger than I. My responsibilities were not limited to washing jerseys and providing transportation, but developed into a deeper obligation. Outside of school, many students are familiar with people not following through on their commitments. This would lower their self-esteem and leave goals unaccomplished. Since fall break was approaching, the girls would assume games and practices would cease during the week. Taking a rest period was tempting because it would soothe the stress from creating lesson plans, grading, and other rigors. However, I did not want to break that commitment. I wanted to impart the importance of persistence and following through on promises. Our founder, St. John Baptist de La Salle said, “preach by example, and practice before the eyes of the young what you wish them to accept”. The best way to teach these lessons was to model by example. Instead of stopping, we continued hosting practices and travelling to the games. I did not realize the wonders that would result because of this decision.

Martin Chavez 15-16, San Migue School, Tulsa, OK

Martin Chavez 15-16, San Miguel School, Tulsa, OK

Suddenly, the sport began to soar by uniting the team and school. Our girls would practice with greater intensity and confidence. In games, they would serve one handed and be able to volley longer. More importantly, they were having fun and congratulating each other despite losing. In the beginning of the season, some families would stand near the gym doors and silently watch the games. As the season progressed, more of their relatives, teachers, and friends would support them at the matches. Suddenly, the stands would erupt in applause and cheers when our girls took the court. I affectionately nicknamed our supporters “The Armada” because our fans would fill the home and visitor stands. Volleyball was becoming an activity their families and friends could take pride in.

My final lesson was differentiating between winning and victory. Despite training hard, our team lost many games. The girls used to believe there are two outcomes in a game: winning and losing. This was my opportunity to introduce the third option: victory. First, I differentiated between winning and victory. I told them that winning is gauged by looking at the numbers on a scoreboard and being obsessed with personal statistics. A team is not comprised of numbers or individual honors, rather it is defined by its members. Thus, victory is more holistic. One must view the entire journey of accomplishing the goal in order to assess victory. At the season’s beginning, assembling a volleyball team was a fantasy. Instead our girls made it a reality by dedicating themselves after school and during weekends. Our girls never forgot that homework had precedence over athletics. This would motivate them to work harder and be more engaged in the classroom. Being a student-athlete reinforced the importance of attaining a quality education.

Even though the season ended, our girls continue to dream about the next season. The volleyball season was magical and created moments of laughter that will survive a lifetime. The girls remind me of the time, “Mr. Chavez was dancing to Maroon 5”, “pre-game meals” and the evolution of their talents. I am grateful for their faith in me as a coach and am proud of their accomplishments. I am proud that they recognize their unlimited potential and believe in themselves. More importantly, it was my honor to help them realize and accept that they are victorious.

Martin Chavez is a 1st year LV serving at San Miguel School in Tulsa, Oklahoma and is a 2014 graduate of Saint Mary’s College of California.

By |December 9th, 2015|Categories: blog, news + events|Comments Off on Martin Chavez: Victorious

Brother Dylan Perry Honored at Christian Brothers University Gala

Dylan_Perry-193x300Brother Dylan Perry, associate director of the Lasallian Volunteers (LVs), was honored with the Distinguished Young Alumnus award during Christian Brothers University’s (CBU) fourth annual Bell Tower Gala on Saturday, November 14, 2015, at the Hilton Memphis. The gala was started as a means to pay tribute to the history of Lasallian education in Memphis.

Brother Dylan has served as associate director of Lasallian Volunteers since 2013 and is responsible for the well-being and formation of nearly 50 LVs each year who serve in Lasallian ministries around the country.

Perry earned his bachelor’s degree at CBU in Religion and Philosophy with minors in Peace Studies and Global Studies. While at CBU he served as a Senator for Student Government, helped start the Community Garden on campus, and interned with GrowMemphis at the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center. After graduation from CBU, he served as a Lasallian Vounteer at West Catholic High School in Philadelphia.

Perry earned a Master of Public Service from the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service in 2013. As part of his studies he worked with Little Rock Urban Farming to create the Southern Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, Soil for Life (in Cape Town, South Africa), and with the Arkansas Governor’s No Kid Hungry Campaign.

Read more about the gala here >

By |December 1st, 2015|Categories: news + events|Comments Off on Brother Dylan Perry Honored at Christian Brothers University Gala

December 2015: Julia Turner

Ministry: The San Miguel School of Providence

College: Saint Mary’s College of California

What do you do? I work in the Graduate Support Department at San Miguel. We do tracking and outreach to our Graduates who need extra support. Our department runs an Academic Resource Center two days a week for all graduates. We work with high school aged graduates, college aged graduates, and beyond.

Julia with fellow LV, Tom Darnowski serving at The San Miguel School of Providence

Julia with fellow LV, Tom Darnowski serving at The San Miguel School of Providence

Why did you choose to become a Lasallian Volunteer? I chose to become a volunteer because I knew that I wanted to make a difference in the world. I’ve always wanted to help people. I feel extremely fortunate to have the life that God has given me and I’ve always wanted to give back. I know there is injustice in this world and there are many people who do not have the same opportunities that I do. I want to make sure that regardless of a person’s race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, that everyone gets a fair chance in this world. Every single person in this world deserves equal opportunities; unfortunately that is not the case. I know I can’t change the world completely but I know I can make a difference. I know I am making a difference by working at The San Miguel School. This program has provided me an opportunity to help people in need. I’m very fortunate that this program exists because it’s given me the chance to make a difference, and that’s all I’ve ever wanted.

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

Julia with members of her community

Julia with members of her community

Each of the three core values are extremely important in their own right. They are all intertwined and you cannot really have one without the other. Each of the core values is very important to me. When I think of the core value of faith I think about my own relationship with God. There have been times during my service where I have needed support and I have found that going to God/church has been helpful. The value of faith is also part of community. As a community we pray together multiple times a week. This is an essential part of community because you get to learn so much more about each other. We get to see what kind of faith background our other community members have, and we get to learn from them. Our community is very helpful and welcoming when it comes to faith, because it is very welcoming to people with all different kinds of backgrounds. We are all able to pray in our own way and share how we believe in God. I think this is a very important factor that contributes to the core values of faith and community. Part of what makes our community so special is our ability to have good and productive prayers. The core value of community is so important to me because it has allowed me to create very strong relationships with the people that I live with. Having dinner together gives us an opportunity to talk about who we are and also allows a support group for us to talk to one another about our days. The first year LVs are able to bounce our problems off the second year LVs and seek advice when necessary. Going out on community events and experiencing things as a community is very important to me. Our community loves to be together and loves to laugh and I think that this fact has made my transition very easy. I think it has helped me a lot.

By |December 1st, 2015|Categories: lv of the month, news + events|Comments Off on December 2015: Julia Turner