My Shiny Teeth and Me

My Shiny Teeth and MeMeet me in St. Louis, Louis. Meet me at the fair. —Judy Garland

During my first year of service, whenever anyone discovered I was from California, I would be asked the inevitable question: “How did you end up here? In Saint Louis?” I would usually mumble something like “Because I got a job” and let that be all. However, upon starting my second year that answer no longer seemed wholly appropriate. The question had now shifted from “Why did you come here” to “Why did you come back?”

This is a song for the lonely; can you hear me tonight? —Cher

Coming back I found myself more challenged than I had imagined. I had lived here for a whole year and yet after a few months away I had forgotten about the humidity, cicadas, [this doesn’t fit with the humidity and the cicadas – it’s too positive] and how pleasant everyone was all of the time. I had heard from almost unanimous sources the second year was supposedly easier than the first year. But why was everything so much harder now? So, we come back to the initial question, why did I come back?

It’s all coming back to me now. —Celine Dion

My answer came on the first day of school. I realized why I came back to Saint Louis. I came back for the joy I felt when working with the students. I was Saint Cecilia’s first volunteer to ever do a second year. So I don’t think my students fully believed me when I told them I would be returning. The smiles on their faces when they saw me back on the first day were priceless. On the third day of school a second grader thanked me for “teaching her ‘something’––and for having shiny teeth.” I smiled so big those very shiny teeth showed and replied, “you are welcome.”

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. —Kelly Clarkson

Beginning last year, I felt as though I had been torn from my home; I was rootless and floundering. It took me at least six months to feel like I knew what I was doing on a daily basis. Starting my second year I realized, without even knowing it, I had in fact rooted myself in the culture of Saint Cecilia’s School and found a support network within the staff. Beginning this year, I had a semblance of know-how which a year ago would have seemed crazy to me. The students were as excited to work with me another year as I was excited to work with them. I was able to hit the ground running.

I knew their names, I knew their interests, and I knew classroom dynamics. I knew which students liked to talk about One Direction, about Lego dinosaurs, and how to strategize surviving an impending zombie apocalypse. I realized that in many ways the second year actually has been easier. Sure, there are increased responsibilities and I am expected to do more. However, now that I have discovered what I am good at, I am able to be a more effective educator. No more long division for Mr. Farley and much more writing help.

But just because it burns, doesn’t mean you’re gonna die. You’ve gotta get up and try try try. —P!nk

I learned after a year of teaching that perspective is everything. You can have a terrible day where no one learned anything, or you can have a learning day for yourself where you learn what techniques not to use. Each day can, potentially, be the worst day of your life if you let it. However, when I learned what battles to fight and what arguments to let settle, I became a much happier and effective educator.

And in the end:

Just dance, it’ll be ok. —Lady Gaga

Zach Farley ’13

Farley is a second-year Lasallian Volunteer serving at St. Cecilia’s School and Academy in St. Louis, Mo.

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