By Noel Hincha – When I was young and impressionable, I wanted to be a teacher. I liked the idea of being a role model and an innovator to progress the education system. Well, I liked the romance of being an ESL – English as a second language – teacher: to travel the world and engage in cultures. Then, I volunteered for two weeks at a school my senior year of high school. Teaching was more than the ideals I had, for it was a calling, and I was not called.
“Vocare” in Latin means “to call.” The service-experience-program was implemented into my high school’s schedule and fulfilled the mission of service and a Catholic education – at least, of learning to be a decent human being. 173 excited, relatively privileged girls ventured out into the world to serve the “poor and vulnerable,” the unprivileged: those who considered the latest iPhone and memorizing a Starbucks order the least of their worries.
I was placed at Journey House, then relocated to their partnering school: Albert E. Kagel Elementary School. I spent two weeks with K-4 children, one section bilingual and the other monolingual. It was two weeks of perpetual smiles and laughter with a side of fatigue; of running after kids who didn’t want to play at their designated stations and wandered off; of opening chocolate milk for those with the dexterity of plywood and eating MPS school lunches; of channeling both my inner child and inner mother; of having to keep a straight face while the boys called each other “butt heads.”
So, what did I learn – theologically, professionally, educationally? Theologically? I learned I’m still not comfortable calling or labeling others “poor and vulnerable” because in the end, the most privileged are actually the poorest of spirit and most vulnerable to unhappiness – wallowing in materialism, consumerism. Professionally? I learned I’m not cut out to be a teacher because it truly is a calling; it’s a profession relying on those with specific characteristics: patience, organization, discipline, passion. Educationally? MPS, statistically, is not the forefront of education, but it’s not the fault of teachers who still maintain a sparkle in their eyes after all the years.