Blessings: Reflection on life During and After Lalanne

Introduction by Jacinta Mergler, Director of Lalanne

"Lalanne is in the midst of celebrating its 15th year of service to Catholic schools!  To date, over 153 young men and women have begun their teaching careers through Lalanne, inspired by a spirit of service in their hearts and a desire to share their faith.  They understood that the first few years of teaching would be difficult and they welcomed the extra mentoring and support that Lalanne offers, especially living in community with other first- and second-year teachers.

Alyssa Fligge, a recent Lalanne graduate, reflects on her experience in the program.  Alyssa continues to teach high school English in Indianapolis, IN at Cardinal Ritter High School where she completed her service teaching."

"Blessings: Reflection on Life During and After Lalanne"
By: Alyssa Fligge

image of alyssaIf someone would have told me in college that I would be living in Indianapolis, teaching AP English (among other advanced courses) at a Catholic school, and already have a Master’s degree, I would not have believed them. If I had been told that living in community with fellow teachers would lead to lifelong friends and a stronger faith in God, I would have needed proof. I have, indeed, been blessed with these opportunities through the Lalanne program, and I would not be the woman, Christian, teacher, or colleague I am today without such an opportunity.  I feel incredibly grateful for my life during and after Lalanne.

On a cursory evaluation, I can confirm that my time in the Lalanne program provided two of the tangible outcomes it promised: two years of teaching experience in an under resourced Catholic school and a Master’s degree from the University of Dayton. However, I feel that I can speak for my fellow Lalanne-ers as well as myself in saying that teachers leave the program with more than merely academic and professional merits. My time in the program delivered many more opportunities than I initially realized. Among these are: the chance to study at and explore a new college campus; memories from two sets of household roommates; the excitement and mystery of discovering a new city (for me, it was Indianapolis, but also visits to the cities of other Lalanne communities); the ability to gradually transition from college to independent adult life; and an array of resources for spiritual/faith development.

While community living surely posed its challenges—especially among busy first year teachers—it equipped me with interpersonal, problem-solving, and empathetic skills that make me a better colleague and teacher.  Scheduling prayer, dinner, and activities to include all roommates may not be a relevant concern after community life, but it taught me the importance of flexibility, spontaneity, and time to foster relationships. I find that my post-Lalanne-self is more willing than other teachers to attend colleagues’ and students’ school events. I also find that I am more keenly invested in my relationships with colleagues given that I now understand the fruitful benefits of reciprocal professional comradery and collaboration. Instead of zipping straight home after a long day at school, I may take some time to stop in a neighboring teacher’s room to check in and chat; or, I might linger at the gym to catch a few minutes of a game in progress because I find these small experiences to be crucial, thanks to my community-focused perspective. Similarly, instead of minimalizing or overlooking the concerns of a different subject/grade-level teacher in meetings because they are not directly relevant to mine, I am reminded of the daily struggles and joys my community members face; thus, I choose to listen and offer understanding, remembering that no matter if someone is a kindergarten, history, theology, math, or English teacher, their experiences, struggles, and voice are valuable.

image of lalanne logoLike several of the teachers in my cohort, I elected to remain at my current school following the two year Lalanne commitment. I chose to stay because I do not feel that my work at this school is yet finished, that I still have so much to contribute while improving my teaching skills. I am eager to continue applying learned practices in my classroom, and I am not ready to start over at a new school having invested so much of myself here. Also, my school community and remaining Lalanne community members are my family and friends in this city.

Nearly everyone claims that “your first years of teaching are tough; they’re about survival.” While this is very much the reality for many new teachers, it does not adequately represent the first years of someone who has been through Lalanne. Yes, I struggled to make it through the overwhelming workload of my first years teaching. Yes, I had to learn a brand new city while getting my feet on the ground with teaching.  Yes, I spent an abundant amount of time at school, the community home, and various Starbucks locations. But, I definitively believe that my community members and the greater Lalanne support system ensured my success during the past two years as well as my anticipation for a future in teaching. Thankfully, I was not alone during any step of this journey, and that has made all the difference.