January 23rd, 2017: Prayer & Spirit

Click here to read more about our immersion trip and our first experiences in the classrooms of De La Salle Blackfeet School...
12:34PM: First Impressions
Today is the day. The reason why the twelve of us had traveled to the other side of the country finally arrived. We all woke up and hustled and bustled to get in showers, eat breakfast, and make lunches. I think I speak for all of us when I say that we were all anxious to get to the school and meet the kids. It snowed about 3 inches overnight so a couple kids were on shovel duty this morning. Once we arrived at De Lasalle Blackfeet School around 7:30, we were greeted by two huge "res dogs" as the locals call them. For some reason, both were drawn to Sam just like all the other "res dogs" that we've met over the past few days. At about 7:50, the kids started so arrive in the gym. Just like any other elementary/middle school, there were the active kids (who played basketball) and the quieter kids who stood around the gym. We, as a group, did our best to make a good first impression. We knew, going in to today, that a good first impression was key to a successful week. After the prayer, pledge, and morning announcements, each member of our group introduced ourselves to the entire student body. Then, we dispersed into our specific classrooms. My partner, Kyle, and I had the privilege of working with the 6th grade, a group of kids with varying personalities. Throughout the day, we helped the kids on tests and assignments, and assisted the teachers with whatever they needed. I had the opportunity to work individually with a couple of students on tests and assignments, including Dominique on her social studies test, Shandon and Josiah on their math assignments, and Colden on his social studies study guide. I gained a lot of satisfaction as I got to witness the kids learning the material, and learning it well. I felt like the kids have a tough time learning in the classroom due to the constant distractions, so it was nice to work with them one-on-one and see them learn. I believe that the kids' personalities reflected on what their home life was like. After the school day, the kids had a scheduled "enrichment period," which is basically an organized recess where the students had the opportunity to learn about the Blackfeet language, to play Dungeons and Dragons (a strategic game), to learn survival skills, or to catch up on mixed work. Personally, I think that, overall, this day couldn't have been more successful for our immersion group. I can't wait to go into school tomorrow and work more with the students of the De LaSalle Blackfeet School. ~Zack

4:30PM: The Heavyweight Belt
As of Saturday, we have implemented a new system of recognition of achievement for each day. We, at the bunkhouse, are in possession of the revered Intercontinental Heavyweight Wrestling Champion belt (a kids toy belt that Mr. Parisi picked up at target the night before we left for Montana). This is the ultimate prize awarded to a different person each night who has gone above and beyond in some way that day. Saturday, Ben Papa was awarded the belt for his role of taking care of the small things while moving in. Sunday, however, I was given the belt for my spectacular buffalo/sunset painting on my drum, as well as taking the initiative on connecting with the LaSallian Volunteers at dinner. Tonight, Mr. Parisi and I awarded Sam and Jake the belt for their leadership in the classrooms at De LaSalle Blackfeet. I enjoyed wearing my belt with pride. - Jack

5:00PM: Zeal
It's only been a day, but I feel like I've been a part of the de La Salle Blackfeet school for a whole year.  The kids were so receptive and welcoming that I felt like I was returning more so than arriving.  I was immediately challenged to a game of one - on - one in the gym with Jerden, asked for help in the classroom by Koda, and dragged to an enrichment activity with Jodee.  While the day was exhausting, the enthusiasm and zeal displayed by the kids made it better.  Throughout the day, I noticed some subtle yet significant aspects of the school.  The care and concern of the adults in the building was very inspirational. The teachers had varying backgrounds and interests and yet they were each totally invested in their students.  This love and investment was very refreshing.  I'm very excited to work with these students throughout the week.  ~Malcolm 

10:00PM: The Teachers
My experience today in the classroom was something I've never before experienced. When the day started, it was very noticeable to see how out of control some of the kids acted, but also how patient the teachers were at the same time. As the classes went on, I especially saw how much attention the teachers paid to each student and how they reacted to all of them in different ways. While reflecting, I made the connection that I really saw God's spirit in these teachers. In the way that God does not give up on us and continually intervenes in our lives, these teachers continue to believe in the hope of the students and give them the support they need to reach their potential. This is what St. John Baptist de La Salle envisioned when he brought the first brothers into his home and taught them how to be teachers.  Every student has a different personality and this special attention makes it easier for them to feel special and have the confidence to be who they are. The Lasallian volunteers that we shared dinner with tonight all said that it is the kids that make them love working on this reservation the most.  This love for their students struck me because now I know that they strive to see the children grow and be who God truly created them to be. ~Sam
11:15PM: All is Quiet on the Western Front
It is 11:15PM and the bunkhouse is dark and quiet. The guys have gone to bed and only the sound of the heater kicking on and off can be heard. Looking out the windows on this clear night, there are thousands of stars-- making "big sky country" a pretty suitable name. I have been really impressed with this group of guys. They are funny, but also faithful and deep and well-intentioned and caring and genuine. They want so much to be moved by something and to be changed and grow closer to the Blackfeet and to one another. I have never seen some of them so tired though, as they were tonight, after just one day in the classrooms. I laughed to myself as they talked tonight during our reflections about all the things we, as teachers, talk about in the faculty room every day back at CHC. "I can't believe the students don't listen!  I am only trying to help them!" one of the guys said.  "It is so frustrating that these students can't see that this will make them better!" another guy commented. "Why do they want my attention one minute and then the next they're so difficult?" someone said. I just laughed to myself and tried to help them to understand that these are the questions their CHC teachers ask every day as well. It is neat to see them make connections to how lucky they are to have teachers who care so much about them. It is also neat to see them appreciate their families more too-- because they met a lot of students today who have very difficult home lives. I think there is truly something special that happens out here on the reservation with our guys because of the incredible work being done by the staff, faculty, and administration at de LaSalle Blackfeet. I am glad to be back on this adventure with these ten guys. I am also grateful to Mr. Bobak who jumped into the trip on Friday morning when Mr. Ortiz was unable to travel with us. It takes a special guy (and a loving fiancee) to run home at 11AM and pack a bag for a week and travel across the country on 2 hours notice. Lots of cool memories and things happening this week at Blackfeet! Stay tuned for snow shoeing adventure tomorrow and more fun in the classrooms at DLSBS! ~Mr. Parisi