Tuesday, September 30, 2008

St. Mary's

Working with children has been a passion of mine for a few years now, which is why I chose to do community service at St. Mary’s Catholic School. Since Loyola College and St. Mary’s have an educational partnership with each other, students at Loyola are given the opportunity to work side-by-side with St. Mary’s staff and students. We were offered several options to get involved with the school: the position of being a teacher’s assistant, math tutor, homework helper, or even to help out in the athletic club or book club. Since a goal of mine is to get to know the kids that I work with on a more personal level, I chose to be a homework helper for them every Thursday. Homework help is an after school activity which children sign up for in order to have a chance to complete their homework and learn proper studying skills; my job is to assist them in doing so. One of my personal goals over the course of working with the children is to get to know them not just as young students, but as people as well.
Last Thursday was my first day of working at the school. Once I arrived at my assigned homework table for the year, the kids had no problem saying hello to me and asking me for guidance on their homework right away. After a few minutes of working with them, I realized how friendly, energetic, and funny they are. They actually had me smiling and laughing for a good amount of time that I was with them. To my surprise, I was also able to talk to them like young adults for the most part. Of course there were several times when I had to remind them not to throw pencils at each other and to not get out of their chairs, but overall I thought they were a pleasure to be with on the first day. However, like most kids their age, staying on task is difficult for them to do. Initially, the students had trouble staying focused on doing their work, but once I cracked down and told them that they needed to get their work done, they listened to me with ease. While I was assisting them with their homework assignments, I also realized how bright and intelligent the kids are. When I did the Big Sister program back at home, I worked with kids that were about the same age as them. It seems to me that these students are actually more intelligent than the kids I worked with at home. I don’t think I’ll need to help them with their actual homework as much as their study habits over the time that I will be spending with them. I would definitely say the first day was a success. Already, I can tell that it’s going to be a fulfilling experience working with the children at St. Mary’s because the kids are very friendly and so full of life. Although it was only the first day of working with the children, I feel like I’m quickly getting to know their personalities and work habits, and hopefully my friendship with them only grows from this point onward.
Working in a partnership with St. Mary’s Catholic School strongly exemplifies one of Father Kolvenbach’s points on what the Jesuit Education is all about. As Father Kolvenbach states, “When the heart is touched by direct experience, the mind may be challenged to change.” Because the purpose of a Jesuit education is to educate the whole person intellectually, spiritually, morally, etc., participating in a social service like an educational partnership, is one of the things that can contribute to the well-roundedness of a person. When people get to know the world around them through a first-hand experience, it challenges them to look at life at a different perspective than they did before and it builds character within them. Community service enables people to reflect on what they believe is right and just in the world and encourages them to act on their beliefs. The Jesuit education strongly believes in reaching out and giving back to the community, which is why serving at St. Mary’s ties very nicely into the Jesuit values.

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