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

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Going to the dictionary

According to dictionary.com...

Discipline (n) - Behavior in accord with rules of conduct; behavior and order maintained by training and control

Disciple (n) - A follower of Christ

Coincidence that these 2 words vary in spelling only slightly from each other? Think again. As we discussed today in fourth grade, it takes a lot of discipline to be a disciple of Jesus. 

Yes, it's tough work, and it's not for the slight of heart. But Jesus calls us to be his disciples. The question becomes, are we disciplined to take on such a role?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Peace of my mind

Gym or trail?

Really, is there even a contest?

Seriously, take a look:

This is why I ran outside today - we hit 50 degrees, and it was so beautiful!

Now, doesn't that beat the TVs at the gym?

And, quite honestly, after such a hectic afternoon, a peaceful jog was just what the doctor ordered. (And you really can't get that at the gym either.)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

How do you spell home?

'Cause they say home is where your heart is set in stone 
where you go when you’re alone 
Is where you go to rest your bones 
It’s not just where you lay your head 
It's not just where you make your bed
As long as we’re together, does it matter where we go? 

I've thought a lot about home recently, actually. 

In fact, there have been a number of places I have called home so far in my lifetime -->

Florida, where I spent my childhood, adolescence, and college years (and where I now return to on vacations)...
Michigan, where I enjoyed many carefree summers at my grandparents' house...
Arizona, where I began my teaching career...
Notre Dame, where I spent three incredible, faith-filled summers (and now football games)...

And, now, I find myself in my latest home. It's one home that I feel I kind of eased into slowly - testing the waters, not sure if I was ready to embody my neighborhood and school right away. Looking back at this summer, it all felt so new and so surreal. I think I must have spent at least the first couple of weeks (if not the first couple of months) trying to figure out if I made the right choice for my new home and trying to figure out why I had moved away.

Even today, in the midst of Catholic Schools' Week Mass, I had my doubts of calling this place home. But then, I saw the students and their families (and even received a few hugs from the students and from fellow faculty), and I had that feeling of realizing that I am home.

With God beside me, I see myself in the context of the above song: "As long as we're together, does it matter where we go? Home."

Friday, January 27, 2012

Let it begin...

Catholic Schools' Week kicked off tonight at school with a great turnout for pizza and intramural basketball. We all remarked how overwhelmed we were by all of the families who came - what great spirit!

Next week we have all sorts of fun activities lined up, including Mass, Open House, book fair, a multicultural musical performance, and more.

At school, we pray in a special way for all Catholic schools at this time, and we are thankful for our Catholic education.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Read, Read, Read

Signs that reading has truly taken over your life:

1- When a Scholastic book order arrives, you cannot help but thank the person who told you the box was in the office, and you find yourself so excited about all of the new books for the classroom library...and this is in light of the fact that you just spent most of your bimonthly salary on those very books...

2- Anticipation is inevitable for new updates on blogs like The Nonfiction Detectives, Book Peep Wonders, Teach With Picture Books, A Year of Reading, etc. (And sometimes you proceed directly to the public library website or BarnesandNoble.com to attain a copy of whatever book(s) is(are) suggested.)

3- You are registered - and your calendar is already marked (and a sub secured) - for a multi-day reading conference in May. You might even be just a tad excited for the additional institute held pre-conference on a Sunday.

4- Free time is spent leisure reading children's and adolescent novels, using the excuse that you need to keep up with your students. (Admittedly, those books are very entertaining.)

Oh, well, let's face it. When I say "you," I really mean me. And, yes, all of the above are true - and they have happened recently.

This makes me wonder...Are there support groups for this kind of addiction?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Out of Time

No time to write tonight - I have a book to finish. The 39 Clues has me hooked, and it is taking our class by storm during read aloud.

Don't you love it when that happens?

The collection of student copies (for reading along during read aloud) keeps growing!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Part of the Plan?

Is it in God's plan for people to die at certain times or in certain ways?

You know, it's kind of funny - I spent most of my Saturday at a training where this kind of question was addressed due to the situation we might find ourselves in as ministers of care (see previous posts for more details about this ministry).

However, this question came from students today as we discussed our latest chapter in Family Life. And, I'll admit, I didn't have the words to give a definitive answer. Some people say that God brings struggles into our lives to teach us something. Some people say that God doesn't make evil things happen to people - that such things are a result of the absence of God.

What do I say? My jury's still out on that one. I can't pretend I know how God works or why certain things happen to certain people.

As a priest on Saturday pointed out, we seem the most concerned with justice or fairness with death (or tough life issues) when it comes down to us and the loved ones in our lives. But the reality is that people suffer around the world in so many different ways every single day. Suffering and death seem to be a natural part of life. Yet, no matter how we slice it, this isn't an easy idea to swallow.

Maybe we'll never understand it - at least, maybe not in this life. But what we can do is to hope in God's redeeming grace and to realize that His plan for each of us (in the meantime) is to draw others and ourselves closer to Him.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Essential Importance of Self-Control

Apparently, every year our school's faculty has a different book about educational policies, teaching practices, latest research in certain areas, etc. to read and discuss.

Well, our faculty book for the year is Nurture Shock by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman, and this week's chapter proved an intriguing topic: "Can Self-Control Be Taught?"

Before I give my two cents, what do you think? (Seriously, take a moment and just think about it.)

As a teacher, one can certainly hope that self-control can, indeed, be taught. And recent studies suggest that maybe it can. But what I found even more interesting out of this chapter and an article from ND magazine was that the two top predictors for success in life are intelligence and...

wait for it...

wait for it...

are you ready?...


How did we not realize this sooner?

And, what I would really like to know (but the chapter did not address it) is whether or not there is an age when it's too late to effectively teach self-control? (Honestly - when the students get to fourth grade without self-control, is it too late? Gosh, I sure hope not. And, I mean, while we're being honest, there are some adults who I would like to teach this to - Am I a horrible person for thinking this?)

In an age where technology and culture presses on us all to move more quickly and tap into technology at all times of the day and night (via wireless internet, Smart phones, and more!), self-control and patience seem to be life skills and qualities that are fading fast.

The next time you have to wait for something, I encourage and challenge you to think about the situation in a different light - Don't think about how you're disappointed not to get what you want instantly; instead, think about how you are lucky (in this day and age) to be in the position to get what you need or want so relatively easily.

What's a few extra minutes anyway? Again we find that patience is a virtue.

As you go through your day, remember to let self-control be your guide.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Letting Go of What Could Have Been

On the news this morning came a story about a dad and his son - his son with autism.

It was a short piece, but it was very powerful. One thing the father said really stuck with me: "What I learned was that I had to let go of the son that I wanted so that I could love the son I had."

And that's a message we could all do well to remember - sometimes things don't happen the way we want or even expect them to. But we can't just stand there, holding on to what could or should have been. We need to focus on what we have and learn how to embrace it. These things, events, and people are gifts to us - maybe they're just packaged differently. And they can teach us some incredible lessons.

So tonight I find myself reflecting on some questions:

Am I holding on to any "could have beens" that are keeping me from the things or people I do have currently in my life?
If so, am I ready to let go so that I might love greater those people and things I have in my life now?

How about you? Are you ready to let go to prepare more room to love?

(By the way, you can see/read the ABC news story here.)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Empty...in the best sense

In emptying ourselves, we make room to be filled again.

This mindset kept manifesting itself through the speakers and table conversations I had the opportunity to be a part of today during a training for the Ministry of Care program I recently joined.

We delved so quickly into very personal and deep topics, but it did not feel strange or uncomfortable - I felt like I could share straight from my heart with these complete strangers. (And, obviously, we weren't complete strangers at the end of the day.)

It was a grace-filled day - and one that will be repeated (but with different topics) next weekend. I felt so blessed to be surrounded by so many others who are simply looking for a way to serve and/or give back because of what has been given to them. What a beautiful ministry!

Empty me, O Lord. And fill me with your grace. Amen.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

It's the End of the Day - Quick! Go Crazy!

Sometimes it feels like no matter what activity is planned for the end of the day, it has just as much chance of going well as someone might have success in dodging raindrops during a thunderstorm.

In other words, it's not much of a success rate.

Students are squirrely (probably from being indoors all day, including recess time), and attention spans are on their last legs. Aside from having a Special last period - God bless Tuesdays and Fridays! - there are not a lot of options. Even independent reading time and/or read aloud sometimes result in absolute failure. Station work or projects? Eh, they're hit or miss.

What are teachers to do?

Guess we all better just take a deep breath, say a quick prayer, exercise that patience, and realize that sometimes you just gotta roll with the punches.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Holding a Treasure

A brief conversation this afternoon following reading class went something like this:

Student: Ms. Foyle, Maniac Magee is my favorite book ever.
Me: Are you sure? You're only on Chapter 11.
Student: How did you know that?
Me: I saw you reading it when you were supposed to be putting it away.
Student: Oh. (sheepish grin)
Me: I thought you all might enjoy it. It's been a hit before with some of my other students.

It's so exciting to guide young students to books that they enjoy and that make them think. And it's super to watch students gobble up the same novels year after year. When that happens, you know you are holding a treasure.

What makes a book touch the heart (and/or mind) in such a way?

Sometimes it's the characters - ones that, in some way, remind us of characteristics and desires we see in ourselves...
Maybe it's the plot - one in which we are pulling for the character, as he/she battles inward and outward foes toward the final goal...
Perhaps it's just the right timing - it is a book with a message that we needed to hear at that specific time.

Whatever it is, when you find yourself lost in such a book, don't forget it. Remember, you're holding a treasure - and, remember, now it's your turn to pass it on.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

It's a Sign

I started an after-school sign language club with visions of 30+ students in it that would be similar to the one I had out in Arizona.

Somehow 30 became 3 this year. But who's counting. In fact, I vividly recall often speaking to my students last year that I would rather have only 5 students that really wanted to be there rather than 30 who were there to goof around. 

Looks like I got my wish.

Honestly, I was a little disappointed at first. But I have enjoyed the first two classes very much. The three girls (two first graders and one second grader) are so darn cute. 

We've done quite a lot so far...

the manual alphabet and numbers (through 20),

the "Happy Birthday" song,

"Silent Night" (even though Christmas season is over),

"All You Works of God" and "Create in Me",

and other random signs.

And, as long as they show up and want to learn, then I promise to show up and want to teach. 

(Although, next year I made a contingency - we'll probably only have the club if we can get at least 5 students. That's fair, right?)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Run the Race

One of the best things about staying in touch with others in the ACE program?

Why, participating in an annual tradition of raising money for Catholic schools by running a race, of course!

And when that race so happens to be in Louisiana, then it's even more appealing to get on a plane and make that happen...which it did.

Group shot after the race
If you look closely, you might just see a few multi-colored tutus. Don't worry, your eyes aren't playing tricks on you. My relay team actually wore them, and they were quite a hit.

Let me tell you, though - Had I been asked to wear a tutu a few years ago, my answer would have been a definite "no." But when approached to do it for this race, I thought, "Why the heck not?" Sure it raised comments with sarcasm like "nice tutu", but it also garnered smiles and shouts like "love the spirit!" (And you better believe that next year there are certainly going to be more costumes in Baton Rouge.)

sporting my tutu
It was really fun - tutu and all. We came. We ate. We ran. We had an all-out great time.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Let it Snow

As the snow fell from the sky, I felt just like a kid. I couldn't take my eyes away - it fascinated me. It was so beautiful...so magical...so purely white.

(Granted, I've only really ever lived in Florida and Arizona, so living up north now is a pretty big deal.)

Part of me wished we could take the students outside and make snow angels or have snowball fights...instead of reviewing for Social Studies or finishing research papers. But, alas, it was too slippery to even go outside for recess.

And, oh, how I wished I had worn my boots to school - slip-ons just don't cut it in the snow. My socks got soaked as I made my way to the car (which was covered in snow by the end of the day). I realized I have to work on my car-brushing-off skills for the upcoming winter months - I am such an amateur.

As I was getting into the car, my co-teacher decided to have an impromptu snowball fight, so I threw some back (naturally). I guess I need to work on my snowball-making and -throwing skills too.

But what a good laugh we had - and I needed a laugh. It feels so good to laugh.

Driving home, I found myself wishing for a snow day. It's unlikely...but I can dream. :)

It feels good to dream too...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Right Now

I'd like to direct your attention to a rather good read tonight -->

It was published in the most recent edition of Notre Dame Magazine, and I feel it speaks volumes about the culture that we, as a society, have created.

(It also made me think twice about multitasking and patience.)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

“Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.”
- Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965)

In taking just a moment to let the words of this quote sink in, I realized how true it is. We can say a whole lot of things, give tons of directives, or make a lot of promises - but what good are these words without actions to back them up?

This quote made me think back to this past Saturday when I was at the hospital. Jack, the minister of care I was shadowing, kept talking about how the ministry program coordinator doesn't just tell everyone where to go (words) - she gets out there (action) and works in one of the toughest places, the psychiatric ward. Jack was clearly impressed by her actions because he knows her heart is in the right place, and he can trust her to help direct his part of the ministry too.

And in the classroom, am I not called to do the same? How can I expect students to do something (and to do it successfully) if I haven't done it first for myself? How can I teach about being a follower of Christ if I'm not living out such practices in my own? 

(Just me?)

But seriously, aren't we all (in whatever line of work we're in) supposed to get in there and get our hands dirty? Haven't we all had that boss or supervisor who stands out because he/she did the work right alongside us?

(You know exactly what I'm talking about, don't you?)

Bottom line - When it comes down to it, words don't influence people; actions do. So, be a doer - and be a model for others. As Ben Franklin said, "Well done is better than well said."

(For more quotes about action, click here. There's some good ones...)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Until the Sunrise

Sunrise, sunset -
Another day has drifted by...
Except this one flew instead -
Right out of my hands

Reds and pinks painted the sky
As I looked out the 3rd floor window at school -
Downtown was just waking up,
But I had been up for awhile...

Before I could blink
We were already at lunch
Science and Social Studies stations
And then, POOF,
The school bell rang
And it was time to go home.

Progress reports to submit,
Plans for tomorrow to adjust -
Never a dull moment,
Even after the students go home...
But finally we got to leave too -
Thank goodness the drive was smooth.

Off and running at the gym was next -
I am convinced that's the only way
I stay up to date with the news.
And it keeps my mind occupied,
As I'd rather be elsewhere than on a treadmill

A simple dinner and snacks
Were easily prepared when I got back.
And a shower to clean up was good too.
I almost forgot the BCS Championship on TV -
New Orleans looks beautiful all lit up.

And now the dilemma presents itself -
To bed early so that tomorrow I may feel rested?
Or to stay up and watch a favorite TV show
(or the National Championship)?

Hmm...Choices, choices...
Sleep sounds so good...
My mind is already dreaming -
I think I've made my decision.

And so, good night, 
And sleep well...
Until the sunrise.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Relatively Speaking

It's all relative - at least I believe that to be so when speaking about certain things. Take the weather for example. Today I believe we nearly topped out at 50 degrees - a downright rather warm day. However, rewind to this time last year in Phoenix and that very same 50 degrees would have been bloody cold.

Maybe it's the way I'm dressed...

Regardless, it's all in perspective of and preparation for what surrounds us at any given present moment. Something that makes us excited one day may depress us the next one. Students (or co-workers) we spend our days with might be acting a little squirrel-y, but maybe that's more okay than not if there's a full moon out at night. In the "running world," 5 miles may seem like one or it may seem like a marathon - all depending, of course, on how training has been up until the present.

Preparation matters. Perspective counts. It's all relative.

So, let's try to remember that.

(Oh, and heads up -  it's a full moon on Monday, in case you were wondering...)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Whatsoever you do...

After a string of late nights (one due to a friend's visit but the others due to sheer stupidity) this past week, the last thing that I wanted to hear was my alarm clock going off at 7 this morning.

But it did. And I got up. I had somewhere to be...

Back in December, I had seen postings in some of the local Church bulletins and young adult listserv emails about a Minister of Care program - its purpose is to visit and give the Eucharist to people in the hospital or at different facilities in the downtown area. I had met with the director of the program before Christmas break, and she had set up a date (today) for me to shadow one of the "veteran" ministers.

When I got to the hospital, I was greeted by Jack (a gentleman in his late 60s, I'd guess) who warmly shook my hand and then proceeded to show me "the most important place in the building" - the cafeteria. Over a cup of coffee, Jack told me a little about himself, and I did likewise. (Although, I have to admit, he is quite a talker, so I did more of the listening.) He has been doing the ministry at that hospital for about three years.

Then, it was time to learn the ropes. He showed me how to check in, prepare the blessed hosts, and figure out what rooms to visit. (Today we were only assigned to 2 floors.)

On our "rounds," we met people of varying illnesses and attitudes. Most patients were optimistic, and they were enthusiastic to receive the body of Christ. I mainly observed as Jack did the prayers and gave the Eucharist. Even though he told me to "do as I say not as I do", I realized that he is well-suited for the ministry and I could learn a lot.

After introducing ourselves to the woman in the last room, she spoke to us about a priest who would be coming to visit at some point this weekend. When she said his name, it didn't take me long to realize that she was talking about the pastor of the Church associated with the school where I teach. It turns out she is the grandmother of one of the students in the other fourth grade classroom at the school. What a small world! She remarked that she couldn't wait to tell her granddaughter about how she had seen me at the hospital.

Overall, it was quite a good experience and one which I believe I would like to pursue. I will probably never see any of the patients I visited today again (except maybe the grandma of the student at my school), but it was a blessing to interact with them today.

It's true that it ended up taking about 3 hours of my morning (including travel time), but those were 3 hours well spent.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Time for a break

Take a break.

Sometimes, it's as simple as that.

When we're all wrapped up in an activity and the feelings of a moment, maybe it's time to take a step away before we do or say something we shouldn't. (Think the latest Snickers commercials.)

I'll be the first to admit I need to remember this small piece of advice, especially in the classroom. There are days when it is so easy to be frustrated by students' chit-chatting, indifference, trips to la-la land, or repeated inability to get a problem (even when the answer is staring them right in the face). And, at these times, I'm positive my blood pressure rises right alongside my agitation and lack of patience.

Am I going to say or do something I'll regret? Probably...but that will be less likely if I step back and try again later with a new perspective or refreshed attitude (and maybe even some divine inspiration).

See - it's not a bad thing to take a break. In fact, it is something I think we should all try to do a little more often.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Before I even got out of bed, I realized I had already woken up on the wrong side of it - I was cranky, and I hit the snooze button 3 times. It was not looking up to be a very good day.

But how fast things change. Despite the cold weather (OK, I confess I wore my long johns today) and rather rough start to the morning, we had a most cheerful (and busy!) day inside:

The students were hard at work on some independent reading of short stories to kick off our realistic fiction literature circle unit...

My religion group had a rather deep conversation about Jesus' death on the cross and the forgiveness of our sins...

We learned about estimating a range for 2x2-digit numbers...

Students applied new Powerpoint knowledge to create a slideshow about products, prices, and the economy...

Taking turns, students conferenced with us about their saint projects (which are nearly complete!). They also nicely took turns on the classroom computers, as they typed their fiction writing stories...

And, to cap it all off, I left work at 4:30 today - it was still light outside! The gym wasn't too crowded, and I feel like I accomplished a few school- (and not school-) related things when I got home.

I like days that take a 180 towards the better.

Pretty darn good.

Yes indeed.

Monday, January 2, 2012

This Year...

This year, I resolve to...

Don't you just love it when the answer is just staring you in the face? 

Sounds like a pretty good resolution, doesn't it? 

Have you thought about those resolutions yet?...

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Cheers to the New Year

The bell will ring tomorrow morning at 7:35. But I highly doubt that my mind will be ready to be back at school. I'll wager that the students won't be quite ready either.

2011 was a very memorable one for me, filled with plenty of ups and downs. It's good to spend some time thinking back over the year, so I hope you've taken time to do likewise.

January 2, 2012 - how did you get here so fast? Does this mean I actually have to make those resolutions now? (The list could go on forever - I mean, there's a lot I need to work on.) But I guess I do need to get on that - baby steps. Yep.

Cheers to the years behind us and to the ones that lie ahead. I wish you and your loved ones all the best in 2012. I don't know about you, but I'm ready to see what 2012 holds in store...