My name is Silvana Arevalo, and I am a Mercy Volunteer in Baltimore, MD, working…
The most life-giving aspect of my service is by far the students. It is fascinating to watch them progress in their understanding and develop their interests. I also enjoy creating lessons that best serve their needs and likes. I am humbled to learn from them every day and warmed by their friendship.
I see my fourth graders four days a week for Religion. They are adorable, intelligent, polite little cherubs who make me laugh every class. The fourth-grade Religion workbook can be a little dull and lack information, so to supplement, I have been implementing quite a bit of biblical studies into their curriculum. They have taken well to this new subject. I am so impressed with their improvement! The first day, they all struggled to find their way through the Bible, but now they get to the assigned story within seconds. They have also started to develop an interest in the Bible. Today, a few fourth-grade students informed me that they used their DEAR time (drop everything and read) to read the Bible. A few more said that they were planning on using DEAR time to read the Bible today as well.
My most exciting classes, however, are the middle school classes. I teach middle school Family Life. Honestly, Family Life is truly a lame class. I’m still not sure how to describe it; it’s kind of health class/Christian ethics and the workbook is outdated, corny, and boring. Ironically, this is my favorite class to teach. I have to be very creative. Each week, I take the theme from the workbook and create my own lesson plan. The overall theme I have centered my lessons around for this course is self-discovery. I try to make it a fun class during which they can de-stress.
To start each Family Life class, I have the seventh graders (the grade I currently teach) do some kind of mediation, whether it be a few questions to answer meditatively, or actually trying to quiet their thoughts and follow their breath. I asked one of my students yesterday if she enjoyed the mediation. Her response was humorous. She said that she basically mediates all day because she zones out in class. I laughed and asked her if she zones out in my class and her response was simple but touching. Thankfully, she does pay attention in my class; in fact, she actually likes my class! She said I make it fun and that I “actually get it.” After that class ended, one of the students started a conversation with me about music and continued the conversation while walking down the stairs with me. I was so happy that he actually wanted to talk to me and be my friend. My students make me happy; they make me feel like what I do means something. They have influenced me in so many ways.
I have always been interested in teaching, specifically at the college level. However, I am now thinking that I would love to spend more time teaching in a middle school/high school. One aspect that is particularly life-giving for me is the holistic nature of teaching middle school. Working with such young children, especially children at vulnerable and pivotal ages means doing more than just teaching the lessons. I feel like I have two main responsibilities as a teacher. First, my responsibility is academic, to provide them with reliable information and to develop their intelligence. The second is more personal, to build a safe environment; offer to listen and try to understand, and to be a friend to each student.
Julia Morisi: Baltimore