I have come to fall in love with teaching in Catholic schools. What are YOU in love with?...

"Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything." - Pedro Arrupe

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ready to sing along to Christmas songs?

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...but I just can't seem to get in the mood for holiday music...yet.

With classic favorites like Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" and just about any rendition of "Silent Night," as well as newer songs like "Mary, Did You Know?" and "The Chipmunk Song", what's not love about such Christmas cheer? I seriously don't know what's going on with me.

Grinch-like? I sure hope not (and honestly do not think so). It's probably because we still have 2.5 weeks until winter break at school. Hmm...

I'm sure hoping that tomorrow (being December 1st and all) will finally allow me to get in gear.

In fact, I am loading my iPod with all the good ol' Christmas-y songs as I type this.

Are you in the mood for Christmas music? Is "A Christmas Waltz" or "We Three Kings" music to your ears tonight?

Perhaps a little "I'll Be Home for Christmas" (The song starts at about 1:49 in the clip below)-->



Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Busy Retreat-ing

Welcome to the 4th and 5th grade Advent Retreat 2011: "Prepare Your House. Prepare Your Heart."

How did we go about doing this?

Well, we built houses...sort of:

(Apparently, they were quite tasty!)

We "erased" our sins by celebrating the sacrament of Reconciliation...

sacrament of reconciliation coloring page of Jesus and Children(kids) download religious photos and Mother Mary images for free

We made St. Nicholas stockings and stuffed them with affirmations for classmates...

We made Advent wreaths...of sorts:

Making promises in the following specific areas -->
1- Prayer   2- Doing Things for Others   3- Show Love   4- Giving

I have to admit that the retreat was a good set of exercises for me too - it gave me a chance to just slow down. (I even had the opportunity to sit (in peace!) in Church for about 30 minutes as the students took turns at Reconciliation.)

Slowly, but surely, we are preparing for Christmas...

"Every year we celebrate the holy season of Advent, O God. Every year we pray those beautiful prayers of longing and waiting, and sing those lovely songs of hope and promise."
- Karl Rahner

Happy Advent. Let this season of preparation find a special home in our hearts!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Preparing Our Hearts

Did you know that Advent is the longest amount of time it can ever be? That's right - four full, glorious (pink-and-purple-filled) weeks until Christmas coming right at you.

So, here's the million dollar question:
What are you doing this year to prepare your heart and home for Jesus' coming at Christmas?

Not sure what plan of action to take? Here are a few resources (that I have found helpful) you might want to check out:

- Interactive Advent Retreat (through Loyola Press)
- Daily Advent Calendar for Adults (includes readings for the day, short Scripture passage, and reflections)
- Praying Advent (compiled through efforts of Creighton University)
- Pray-as-you-go (daily Advent-themed prayer review of the day for your iPod or computer)

Of course, there are others out there too. Do you have any favorite ways to help you prepare?

This last video is just for fun - but it's message rings true:

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Another Hundred People

Airports have always fascinated me, and that's not really because of the planes; although, granted, those are pretty incredible.

No, it's because of so many people - where is everyone going?

Well, clearly, today people are traveling home after the Thanksgiving holiday.

But every day?

And, in the midst of all those people, isn't it crazy not to usually even recognize one person you know? And, isn't it easy, in the midst of all the craziness, to get swept up into the whole "me" mentality - vying for space in the Starbucks line or nipping at the security officer who made you go through the screening machine (heaven forbid) twice.

It all reminds me of a song my dad introduced me to awhile back from the musical Company - it's called "Another Hundred People".

And thus begins the song:
"Another hundred people just got off of the train
And came up through the ground,
While another hundred people just got off of the bus
And are looking around
At another hundred people who got off of the plane
And are looking at us
Who got off of the train
And the plane and the bus
Maybe yesterday.
It's a city of strangers..."

So many people. So much commuting and traveling. So much  rush, rush, rush.

A song such as this makes me kind of wish I could slow down to just watch everyone else moving through life at break-neck speed in every direction - it would likely be highly amusing.

Do you ever feel the urge to just STOP and take it all in? Go ahead - I dare you.

(Just promise you won't stand there pointing and laughing.)

Online Advent Experience

Online Advent Experience
(Click on the picture above)

from the website:
"This Advent, join Loyola Press for a special online Advent experience. Following a traditional Advent calendar format, the experience invites you to slow down this season and discover the quiet moments of Advent hope. Each day of Advent, you’ll be directed to a reflection, media link, or activity to inspire you. Bloggers Vinita Hampton Wright, Joe Paprocki, Paul Brian Campbell, SJ, Jim Manney, and others share resources to nurture your spirituality at this busy time of year.
Check back each day during Advent, starting November 27, 2011, for that day’s post."

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Day of Giving Thanks!

Turkey apples, a family (and now classroom!) tradition
Christmas and birthdays are all well and good. Fourth of July might even be right up there. But give me Thanksgiving over all of them.

Yep, it's my favorite holiday - maybe it's the mix of fall and football, food and fun. There's so much tradition (including the annual Turkey Trot and turkey apples (pictured above)) and so much for which to be thankful. Even holiday music is now permissable (and even desirable) - let the countdown to Christmas begin!


a day to slow down
to spend time with family
to enjoy the traditional turkey and (of course) pumpkin pie
and to give thanks to God for the blessings in our lives.

Wishing you and yours a very happy and thanks-filled day!

Don't forget to leave some leftovers for tomorrow...

Monday, November 21, 2011

For What Are You Most Thankful?

What incredible people I have in my life - I posed a simple (although, according to some, not so simple) question: For what are you most thankful? to which I received over 50 email replies with responses ranging from family and friends to God's grace to each new day.

I compiled all of these responses and put them into a Wordle: http://www.wordle.net/show/wrdl/4455942/For_what_are_you_most_thankful%3F

The reason I took on this project was to serve as an example for my students - during their technology period on Tuesday, they will be making their own Wordles with responses they collected today from their classmates in response to Thanksgiving-related questions. Now, some of these questions were more along the serious side (like mine), but other questions focused on "What is your favorite Thanksgiving food?", etc. I can honestly say I am looking forward to the final results we'll have in the classroom tomorrow...

As for me, I am currently most thankful for the Salvation Army volunteer at the grocery store who called my attention to the fact that my CTA bus/subway pass had fallen out of my pocket in the parking lot...but that wouldn't quite fit in the Wordle.

As we enter into this time of Thanksgiving (and then preparation for Christmas), I urge you to take some time and think about it - for what are you most thankful?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Waiting Patiently

"Waiting patiently is not like waiting for the bus to come, the rain to stop, or the sun to rise.  It is an active waiting in which we live the present moment to the full in order to find there the signs of the One we are waiting for."

Isn't it so classic? - Lord, give me patience...right now.

It is hard to be patient - ask any fourth grader, and he/she will tell you that it's near impossible - from waiting to be called to line up for lunch to waiting to begin a test/quiz in front of them, they have the darnedest time.

And, sometimes, I have to admit that I do too.

Yet, in today's reflection, it points out that God calls us to wait patiently but actively. That means we actually have to get up and out and going. It means we need to be present to what is right before us - at that precise moment, nothing should be more important than that which is right there!

It's a call to focus. It's a call to presence. It's a call to openness. It's a call to life worth living.

Patience is, indeed, a virtue...Is it yours?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Doing Something Right

Every once in awhile, it's good to hear that parents (and even the principal) think you're doing something right.

When students are eager to get to school in the morning...
When students feel challenged at a level that's not too hard but, rather, just right...
When students open up and feel safe to take risks...
When students make a personal connection to their peers and their teachers...

During parent/teacher conferences, my co-teacher and I felt validated. It's not often we get a pat on the back. And it's not that we need one, but today we saw that all of the effort and care we have put towards planning, preparation, and lesson delivery during these past few months really hit home for the students, and they (and their parents) feel successful. There is room for improvement, of course, but most everyone has made a great start.

Our classroom has become a place of warmth and welcome. Our students want to learn for the sake of learning (even over and above to score well on a test). And I feel so blessed to be with these 19 students and my co-teacher. I am learning so much every day.

And the most important lesson I am learning? Take the time to build the community - when the trust is there, the learning will come...naturally.

Corny but true -->

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Random moments from a day in the life...because they're just too darn cute not to share:

During math (pointing to the textbook) - 
Student: "Look, Ms. Foyle. It's competition. The rabbits are competing for the carrots just like we learned in science."

During read aloud (while I was in the back of the classroom and my co-teacher was reading) -
Student: "Ms. Foyle -"
Me: "Pretend I'm not here."
Student: "Can I leave a message?"
Me: "No." (laughing in my head)

At the end of the day (in realizing he would not be at school again until after Thanksgiving) -
Student: "Bye Ms. Foyle. I'm going to miss you because I won't see you for a long time." (Hug)

Oh, it's the little moments. Good times, cute kids.
Yes, even in light of the long hours and different obstacles that come my way, I love my job.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Data, yes...but look further

Data and numbers just don't paint the whole picture.

In light of standard-based report cards and quantifying every question, etc., it is so important that we don't lose sight of this fact. It's true that some of the information on those report cards are going to come from our day-to-day interactions with the students. Maybe it won't be in the grade book. Does that mean it shouldn't be counted as reliable or given as much weight? I think not...

We see the students every day - in their ups and their downs, their goods and their bads, their sick-shouldn't-have-come-to-school days and their top-of-the-world days. The picture is constantly being painted. Report cards should reflect more than just snapshots.

Sometimes, it's true, the data cannot be quantified or recorded. But it needs to be trusted. That data need to have a say.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Monday Mornin', Y'all

The room was dark when she first entered. As the lights illuminated, she turned to face the empty board. It stared back at her. Schedule, morning message, directions for settling into the morning's routine all needed to be written on that board - and it wasn't going to happen magically. (Darn it.) 

She was moving slower than usual. (Maybe she should have topped off her coffee this morning.) The copies were sitting on the machine - she had left them there accidentally over the weekend. Apparently her brain wasn't functioning too well - after all, she had been the one to remind her colleagues of jeans day, and then she had proceeded to forget to wear jeans herself.

Call it crazy. Call it being up too early in the morning. Call it what you want.

But no matter what you call it, there's no escaping that it's just another manic Monday...

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Where were you at 11:11 on 11-11-11?

So, what did you do at 11:11 on 11-11-11?...

May or may not have had a dance party in celebration of the greatest number ever. (Yes, I'm partial because it was my volleyball and soccer number.) We were in math, working in two small groups. My group started silently dancing and jumping around in the back of the classroom to see if the other group noticed - it took them a little while, but pretty soon everyone was up and dancing around for the remainder of that minute, complete with countdown to 11:12 as we neared the final seconds of this historic event.

Best. Math. Class. Ever.

Later in the day, I also told the students that we could celebrate at 12:11, 1:11, etc. They looked at me puzzled. When I asked them why this would be perfectly legitimate, a few of the students got excited when they realized it was because of the different time zones. Well, as luck would have it, when 2:11 rolled around, we celebrated (again) - this time, though, it was for 11:11 in the Alaskan time zone.

It's quite funny how excited (well, more like dramatic) the students acted during our celebration. But hey, it was a good way to let out the sillies. And, you have to admit, we all get those from time to time.

"Growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional."
-- Tom Wargo

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Like a child

"Are we going out to recess?" nearly every child in my class asked as we prepared for lunch.
"Looks dry enough to me."
"But it's so cold!" they whined.
35 degrees is cold? Heck, I'm the one from Florida experiencing my first Midwest winter. This weather is nothing compared to what lies ahead this winter...right?
"Grab your coats and your lunch boxes. We'll definitely be going outside," I told them.

...And, wouldn't you know it, when they all got outside and had the chance to run around, they forgot about complaining. The cold wind whipping at their faces was refreshing and invigorating. They were actually screaming with delight because they swore they were seeing snow. (Now, I was out there with them, and I definitely didn't see it.) They could not contain their excitement - it is clear they are earnestly looking forward to the first snowfall of the season. And, I have to admit, I am too.

I guess some things always are and always will be exciting, like the first snow. Some things truly are better when viewed from eager eyes like a child's.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Pray Constantly

We've been studying the Lord's Prayer in religion class recently, and today's lesson focused on how we are called to pray constantly.

How is that possible? Man, were the students' heads spinning on that one!

And we had a pretty solid discussion  on the topic with suggestions such as setting aside times to pray in the morning and evening, treating everyone like we would treat Jesus, doing things to honor and thank God, etc. One student even said that our whole lives are a prayer because God watches everything we do. (Wow)

For me, I know it's impossible to go from praying intermittently throughout the day to "praying constantly," but I've decided to try by doing a few steps at a time:

1 - When I first wake up in the morning, I recently set my cell phone alarm to ring with the phrase "Thank God today" printed across the screen - Just a quick reminder for starting the day off right.
2 - During breakfast, I try to meditate on the daily Gospel and reflection sent via Pray.ND.edu. (I get it delivered straight to my inbox - what a wonderful thing!)
3 - When I drive to school, I like to pray the Rosary or be in silence. Sometimes, though, this isn't possible, depending on if I am giving my roommate a ride or not. But if I can do it a few days a week, that's improvement.
4 - At the transition of each class, I want to remember to send up a little prayer to God to ask for patience, help, or even thank Him for how the last class period went. (And we also pray as a school at the beginning of the day, and we pray as a class before lunch and dismissal.)
5 - Evening prayer needs to become a more consistent part of each day. (I have to admit I sometimes become lazy with that.)

And the list needs to go on...but I find that trying to change/add/modify too much at once isn't feasible. I'd rather start small and do well with those and then build from there.

Are you ready to make prayer more constant in your life?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

In the middle of the pouring rain

How does it go...when it rains it pours?

Ok, so literally we have been having quite a bit of rain over the past two days - I guess the colder weather's coming - but that's not really what I'm referring to here.

This week is crazy - and it just seems that everything is happening at once. Quite honestly, I feel like if I stand still even for a few seconds I'll get run over... Report cards are to be turned in tomorrow, and we also have a faculty meeting and an open house these following two days for which we are required to be present. Also, (but by my own choosing) I have aftercare duty on Friday. (Oh, and it's my roommate's birthday tomorrow.)

Gotta love weeks like this.

I sure hope you're not in the middle of such a week. But, if you are, remember to come up for air from time to time. (I have to admit, I took a break tonight and caught up on "Castle" - that was a good choice.)

The rainbow's sure to follow, so I'm going to give myself a kick in the pants for motivation and push through. Sunday is going to be such a good day to rest...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Love That Sharon Creech

Being an avid reader since before I can remember, many books have crossed my path - some have come by my own choosing and others have been shared with me by teachers, friends, and family.

One of my all-time favorite authors is Sharon Creech. Ever since being introduced to "Walk Two Moons" by my 6th grade teacher (who, coincidentally, is also one of my all-time favorites) during a read-aloud, I was hooked. Since then, over the course of middle school, high school, college, and into the present, I have accumulated and read all of her books. I am even subscribed to her blog: Words We Say

Well, imagine my utmost surprise and delight in learning that Sharon Creech would be in Chicago this past Saturday for a book signing after a stage adaptation performance of her novel, "Walk Two Moons." I figured this out on Friday morning (right before I left for school), and I had tickets to the event for me and my sister by that very afternoon. I was not about to miss out. (I even included it in our classroom's weekly newsletter if by some chance one of my kiddos could go too.)

That was such a good life choice. The show was incredible (just like the book) - it had the audience laughing and crying, cheering for the main character (Sal) the whole way. The show was followed by a talk-back by the cast, Sharon Creech, and the person who adapted the book for the stage. Then, everyone was ushered downstairs for an ice cream social and the book signing.

Luckily, Marisa and I got to the front of the line, and we were able to get a few books signed. My favorite is the one Sharon Creech did for "Love That Dog" (see below):

And what really blew me away was how humble and down to earth Sharon Creech was. She even took time to let us take our picture with her (even though it is a bit fuzzy):

Love that book. Love that play. And LOVE that Sharon Creech.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Don't want this day to end

It's 11 o'clock on a Thursday night. I have no idea why I'm still awake...but I do know that I'm probably going to be dragging tomorrow. Yikes.

Maybe I'm not ready to call it quits for today yet - after all, it really was a great day -->

Pure Poetry - Our students hosted our first annual Chocolate House, where they each recited a poem they memorized and presented their own poetry portfolios. Students and parents alike lit up - what a blessing to share such a special occasion with families and friends. (And all of the chocolate-themed treats were yummy too!) The event reminded me how much parents are eager to be a part of their children's classroom lives - we, as teachers, need to remind them that the door is always open.

Service with a Smile - This evening, I was blessed with the opportunity to spend some time with other volunteers at a local food pantry. At first, I helped take names and direct people to the people with whom they needed to speak, but, towards the end of the evening, I helped out behind the counter by passing out items from the rice and beans division. Most everyone I met was very grateful, and I enjoyed talking to them as they came through the line. (And afterwards, my sister and I went out for dinner right across the street - and it was delicious.) I very much hope to make it back for another evening of service soon.

So, yes, I'm still sitting here. It makes me wonder how much sugar is in one of those Starbucks hot chocolates and a couple of chocolate chip cookies...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Saints Among Us

Today is a day to celebrate all saints - but not necessarily just those who are formally recognized in the Church.

As Fr. Pat pointed out at Mass this morning, this means that there are saints that have lived and who currently live among us who are saints as well. I am blessed to say that I could name quite a few.

Saints are the people in our lives who recognize the need to spread God's love to others and then act on that need. You know them as the people who provide that extra smile or hug when needed, the people who keep us grounded and focused on what really matters. They are the people that take time to really connect with others, and, amazingly, they are the ones who always seem to have enough time to get everything done well and in meaningful ways. 

These people walk among us and sit beside us every day.

Take some time and reflect tonight:

Who are the saints in your life that you are celebrating today?
What are things you can do to be more like saints to those whom you meet each day?

Here's a little meditation music for you - quite appropriate for today's feast, if you ask me. (And, I have to admit, it totally made my morning when they sang this at Mass!):

When the Saints Go Marching In (Louis Armstrong)