What having no homeroom, but a sister to call home taught me: Michalena Mezzopera
Michalena Mezzopera is a theology teacher at Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin School in Chardon, Ohio. She is a participant in Generative Spirit’s Ministry Leadership Program. We invited Michalena to reflect on her experience in the program so far.
As a first-year teacher, nothing seems to crush your dreams more than being told you will not have your own classroom to teach in – in fact, you may even have to teach in a few different shared rooms. So much for my bean bag chairs and string lights. Working through this was perhaps more of a challenge than it was figuring out how to teach.
After months of sending the occasional student to another room to pick up the stack of papers I had forgotten when the bell rang and it was time to move, I looked back and realized I learned a lesson inspired by my sister companion in the Ministry Leadership Program.
My sister companion was not a stranger to me when I met her in late spring during our program orientation. I had seen her face – known her name – heard her voice – at some time before, but I couldn’t put my finger on the familiarity at first.
Unbeknownst to the Sisters of Charity Foundation coordinators, my sister companion, Sister Lisette, happened to be an old teacher of mine from early elementary school. As I embraced her, she did not look a day older than when I sat in her classroom at seven years old, and I was quickly reminded of the grace and peace her presence brought.
Spending time with her over this past year has allowed me to learn a few things about the world I tended to glance over in the past. Sister Lisette has reminded me that feeling out of place in the world, much like how it feels to not have your own classroom, is what allows us to grow. As we spent meals catching up over burgers from the café, and brewing coffee while brainstorming ideas in her kitchen, I noticed how much she remembered from my childhood, most of which I did not even recall. At the same time, I hung on every word she shared with me about her current involvements in tutoring children at a failing district and how emotionally difficult this work is for her.
Here I was, thinking about how I thought it was emotionally draining just to walk down the hall in a sea of teenagers who are taller than you while trying to get set up for your next class, while sister pointed out that nothing worth doing ever comes easy. What you find passion for is always going to call you in a thousand different directions. Focusing on leaving pieces of home on the people you meet, not just the places you walk, is what living the mission of the sisters is about.
This is when I realized that the work of the sisters is never truly over, that once you are a teacher you never forget your students, and that though your life experiences may allow your comfort zone to grow, pushing yourself outside of it, refusing to let yourself become too comfortable with the same space and scenery every day. That is where learning and life happens. Life does not happen in the four walls of a single classroom; it happens everywhere we step outside the box and into the expansion of living the mission.