Well, the spring semester is finally upon us and this, being Regis Jesuit High School (Denver, CO), means a lot of things. Service projects are in full swing, spring sports begin in a month, our annual LARK fundraiser is only two months away, and pretty soon seniors will be walking across the stage having earned their high school diplomas… See what I did there? At a school like Regis Jesuit, we sometimes look too far forward to the next great thing in our calendars. We forget about the other dozens of activities that keep our students on campus from the crack of dawn to the late evening every day.
When making the decision to volunteer teach and mentor with Alum Service Corps, I had a few options as part of the process, but Regis Jesuit stood out to me. It wasn’t just the fact that it included Denver (with its awesome city life and the many breathtaking mountains nearby), although this definitely was a plus on my list. It was the co-divisional nature of the school that interested me, with its great accomplishments in both academics and sports that excited me, and its amazing service program, which made me eventually say “yes.” What I saw on the school website and what I discussed with administrators when interviewing came to fruition as, within a couple months, I was busy helping coordinate service projects for juniors and seniors in both divisions, teaching sophomore boys history, and being an after school presence for those who needed a little bit more academic help.
The first semester of being a first-year teacher presented its challenges and successes, many of which resulted from the mindset I came in with. I came in with the goal of having a lasting impact on students during my short, one year stint as a Jesuit educator. This proved to give me a lot of frustration. I needed to shift my focus. Instead of desiring to be loved, I needed to love. Instead of being a teacher who is not forgotten, I want, this semester, to be a teacher who never forgets.
I never want to forget the small successes of every day and be a present presence in this school. What does this mean – to be a ‘present presence’? I want to be a teacher who engages with my students more than just every other day in class. I want to be a “sub,” as the students say, who does more than just give students their assignments. I want to be more than the guy who emails people to do their service hours but actually engages with them in service with and for others.
Here are some of the things I am focusing on this semester and I invite you to participate in them too. I think anyone could benefit from these goals:
- Attend school events – After a long day or an exhausting week, the last thing I want to do is drive back to school to watch a sporting event or listen to an arts performance, but being a part of the Regis Jesuit High School community means going beyond your own self-interest and cheering for and participating with the whole Regis Jesuit community and not just those who work in the same areas we do. By doing this, I hope to feel more connected to the whole Regis Jesuit community.
- Say thank you – I have learned this semester that Regis Jesuit students are very good at being thankful and showing the love that has been shown to them. I sometimes take for granted the blessings Regis Jesuit have given me this year, so I want to show that I really am grateful, even if it just means saying thank you more often.
- Participate in the Examen – Something I take for granted most days, the Examen is five minutes of silence and reflection in a crazy, work-packed day. I usually use it as an excuse for a nap, but I want to start participating in the Examen, even if it means choosing just one question to reflect upon during the five minutes.
- Put my electronics down – This is something I have to tell my students about every five minutes … seriously. For me, this usually means I am typing away on my computer or turning to my phone when I have a break. I want to put the electronics down and walk the hallways to engage with students instead of hiding in my office. I want to be forming real relationships, instead of reading up on the latest gossip on Twitter.
This semester, I am focusing on my desire to be present. Present to my students, present to my colleagues, and present to all the wonderful things that happen in our Regis Jesuit community, each and every day.