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

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Now Presenting...Our Trip in 18 Pictures

Independence Hall - think "1776"

We made it...with only 10 minutes to spare!

Walking off into the sunset with my Phoenix housemates (3 of whom were at the DE wedding)

Jumping photo - good times...

spending time with my Phoenix ladies

first dance of the bride and groom

sister, sister

Those who never stop for cut-outs are not cut out for fun :)

a "capitol" day!

in case I ever become president...

inside the Luray Caverns

"Dream Lake" - where the reflection from the water makes it seem like there is an underground city

in front of the signs with Francisco

Looking on as the sculpture people climb off into the distance

Primanti Bros - yep, that's how all the sandwiches come
Look at those massive sandwiches...oh, and we ate nearly all of them...

With the Pitt Panther - who, for the record, is definitely not as fearsome as good ol' Rocky the Bull

With my friend, Marissa, from study abroad at Cambridge University

Friday, June 29, 2012

If I Only Took a Trip...Oh wait, I did...

(Think "If I Only Had a Brain" as your tune, and keep repeating it over and over...and over and over...)

In a world that passes too fast,
Where the future soon is the past –
Why don’t we take our time?...
Use some days to just visit –
Not too much to ask, now is it?
Oh, it could be so sublime…

[(spoken) Well, that’s just what Marisa and I did. Allow me to elaborate…]

First in Cleveland, then to Philly
(A place loaded with history),
And then off to Delaware
For a wedding of some ACE friends
With some laughs, some beers, and dancin’
All-around good times to share.

Now that was not the end –
There’s so much more, my friend.
Baltimore was our next destination stop
Down by the bay, we sat and talked.

We almost didn’t make it
To D.C. for our next bit –
But our mom saved the day!
We parked at Union Station,
Learned some cool facts of our nation,
And again were on our way.

We had dinner with long-time friends,
Filled the night with conversations,
And then really hit the hay.
In the morning, it was “goodbyes”-
How true it is - the time flies
When you enjoy the day.

With my Phoenix housemate,
We explored caverns and ate.
There were stalagmites and stalactites galore –
Around each corner, there were more!

In Pittsburgh, there was no doubt that
We’d begun to feel a bit fat
After Primanti Bros. subs.
With the fries and slaw on ‘em
It was really hard to bite ‘em,
But we ate most of our grub.

Our friend was a great tour guide,
But she had class until 9,
So we were on our own.
We opted to walk around
Up the streets and later back down
Till too tired we had grown.

To Ohio we came last,
And there we had a blast
With a friend from school abroad in the UK.
We dined and chatted – what a day!

To Michigan we’ve made it
After our week full of visits.
(I’d take no other way.)
It was worth every minute
(Minus some frustrating tidbits) –
We deserve a big HOORAY!

[Well, I have thoroughly exhausted my creative juices for the evening. I hope this provides a brief glance into our week of travels – there really was no other way to share, unless I went into extreme detail – and, let’s face it, that was not about to happen, as it would have been painful for both you and me.

The internet is being rather slow and difficult, so I will add the pictures later.

Good night!]

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Get Moving...for Catholic Education

Over the years, if I've learned one thing about ACE, it's this: They just never stop - there's always work to do in service for Catholic schools.

This past weekend, I was blessed with the opportunity to attend ACE's annual Parental Choice Symposium, which, for the first time was co-hosted in Milwaukee and Tampa. I honestly didn't know what I was getting myself into - which, let's face it, is really nothing new, considering my history of decision-making and choices - but I am so glad I went. Just being around "experts" (such as Howard Fuller) and semi-"experts" in the field of parental choice was enough to make my head spin (in a good way).

(The food was good too.)

I found it particularly of interest to learn more about these programs, considering how ignorant I was spending time in 2 states (FL and AZ) that have tax credit programs. (If I'd known then what I know now...) I honestly can't relay it all here - first of all, it was a LOT of info, and second of all, I probably couldn't do it justice - but as the road towards parental choice continues (especially here in IL), I'll continue to update as I learn more and get more involved.

In Florida, the organization "Step Up for Students" hosted 2 days of school choice/ed policy "boot camp" to fill us in on what's been working in Florida. There were so many acronyms, tax credit rules, committees, graphs, and more that I'm still sorting them all out. But the bottom line seems to be that FL has it set up for success - what can we take from their model and state laws to replicate (well, at least model after, considering how different states have different laws and taxes) in other states. And, even though FL is doing an amazing job - there really is no denying that - there is still more to be done. Students and schools and parents are still not aware of the needs-based scholarships available to them...and that has to change.

Add it all up, and you find that these tax credit and (in some states) voucher programs are saving the state money and helping to fill empty seats in Catholic schools.

Are you familiar with parental choice? I'm still learning too. Here are just a few resources I plan to explore - Check them out -->

Step Up for Students
The Friedman Foundation
ACE Advocates Parental Choice Symposium info

To wrap up, let's talk a little numbers, shall we?...

There were 9 (that's about 1/3 of our contingency) of us from the Chicago area - just for the record, that's not a coincidence. It's the start of a conversation, a plan to get the ball rolling right here in Illinois. We're talking grassroots efforts right here...and it's both exciting and intimidating. It's something to fight for...

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Growing in Faith

At a new parishioner meeting last night, us newbies were asked a few questions, including

What does it mean to "belong" to this parish?
What are the privileges of membership? What are the responsibilities?
How do I fit in?
What can I give? What do I get?
How can I grow as a person and as a member of this community?

As I was thinking over these questions to discuss with the group, a realization started to hit me - I've actively chosen my parish home. This is where (in addition to my school community) I will have opportunities to grow in both my knowledge and living out of my faith. I have a chance to get involved and become an active (rather than passive) member of a faith community. Going to Church now has more of a purpose and more of a feeling of belonging - things which I took for granted growing up in my parish back home.

It's far from automatic, I know. Trust me, I'm a firm believer in "you only get out what you put in" - so I'm ready to start putting.

And, as for the questions mentioned above - we talked about them, but I still have some thinking on them to do as well.

Oh, and for my dear regular (or even somewhat regular) blog-following friends, I likely won't have access to much internet over the next couple of weeks - off to a symposium and then a NE road trip to include a wedding, sightseeing, and visits with friends. Summer's officially here!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Too late

As I was sorting through some things that were slowly collecting on my bedroom floor, I came across a card one of my students gave me last Friday. I suppose I didn't originally read its store-bought message very closely, but I read it again today, and it struck me as funny.

Here's what it said:

"You did such a great job teaching that I didn't even realize I was learning...until it was too late."

Now, I realize that this message was worded by the card company, but I honestly think that, at times, some of our students were having so much fun that they didn't think they were learning anything. We laughed, moved around, and played games - and those things helped them learn.

Got 'em!

Monday, June 11, 2012

How did Wiscon sin, boys?

It all began in third grade - a dream that was never fulfilled...until this weekend.

That's right. Nearly 20 years later, I visited Madison, Wisconsin - the capital city on which I did my State Report in Mrs. Bridge's class. (For so many years I felt jilted because we visited the capital city of Michigan on which my sister reported - even though I LOVED the Spartans, I resented Lansing.)

And it was worth it - not only because I learned new things about the capital itself (for example, did you know that Madison's capitol dome is the only granite one in the US?), but also because I got the chance to spend time with a dear friend from college and my sister.

You could say we ate our way around Madison. Highlights included (but were not limited to) a State Street (and Square) stroll, WI cheese curds (fresh/squeaky AND deep fried), WI brewery samples, chat time on "the terrace," brunch at a local establishment, frozen custard, and a look inside the capitol building. Such fun!

The Terrace - outside U of WI student union


inside the state capitol building

WI's replica of the Liberty Bell - FUN FACT = every state has one!

Our beer samples

refreshing and good...

Don't worry - I didn't try all of them...

Admittedly, it was difficult to return to school today - we didn't have the students or anything, but sometimes in-service and meetings across grade levels can take it out of you. Only 3 more days until summer really starts...

Woo hoo!!!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Still learning...

My co-teacher and I showed the slideshow to the kiddos this morning, and that's when the tears started coming for both of us. The students were so confused because neither of us is leaving so why were we crying?

I don't know what it is - but every year (without fail!), it happens. There's something about having been with one group of kids each step of their learning experience for a year - and there's something remarkable about tracing just how much they've grown.

Some memories are (literally) sweet - like our Poetry Chocolate House...
Some memories are sad - such as when a student leaves the class...
Some memories make us laugh and others make us sit back in wonder...

It's amazing, really, when you think about it, just how much these children absorb day in and day out. And, what I've found, is that they learn the most not when I'm speaking but when I'm acting...

They see patience (or, at times, lack of it), and they see how much I LOVE to read. They notice when I do something kind for someone or even stoop down to pick up a piece of trash or tie a shoelace. They notice when I smile and when I laugh. They see that sign language is something very special to me, and that when it's time for prayer I am 100% in the "zone." These are things they see me do - they don't just hear me talk about them. And then, they realize, these things are authentic and have meaning, and maybe they think they should try them too.

I've learned so much this year - while the transition from AZ was, indeed, a tough one, this new school community welcomed me with open arms. I've had incredible opportunities to learn from my fourth grade team and to teach in a very rigorous and demanding environment. I know I'm a better teacher because of it all.

flowers from a few students :)

I'm excited for next fall - that's certain...but I think I'll enjoy a little summer first...

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Makin' Memories...

In keeping with my theme of memories, one of my favorites has to be back around Valentine's Day when we had some parents come in to lead us in a few projects.

Amid the organized chaos, I wasn't quite paying attention to what I was doing, and my coteacher soon discovered I had been brushing off my cocoa-covered hands on the back pockets of my pants. Oops. Man, did we laugh about that one, and good old Lynne wanted to make sure we documented the event as well. Oh, it happened.

In the classroom, we've been looking back this week as well. Today we did an alpha boxes activity, where we had the students independently come up with the "ABCs of 4th Grade" - and did they come up with some gems! Students even remembered the turkey apples we made for Thanksgiving and the different books we did for read alouds. (It always floors me what students remember!) Such good times...

And as we have been cleaning and remembering this week, it's hard not to start tearing up. I just put together a video slideshow with pictures and music from the entire year, and I honestly don't think I can show this on Friday without crying. (Gosh darn it - that happens every year! And I'm not even going anywhere this time!) How far these kiddos have come - and as much as I'm ready for summer, I'm not ready to give these students up yet.

Yet, there is so much to look forward to in the coming year as well - with one year under our belt, the fourth grade teaching team is remaining intact, and we'll be even more on the ball. And, while the upcoming class looks like they'll be a little challenging (and pretty much a handful), they're also a great group of kids. And, let's face it, next fall will be here before we know it...

Monday, June 4, 2012

Remember when...

Where were you on 11-11-11? Well, that was one Math class I won't likely ever forget. Any time I get the chance to sneak in a "celebration," I have at it. Why not add some additional fun where you can, right?

In other (present-day) classroom news, we're quickly packing up shop. Posters and pictures have been taken down, bulletin boards have been stripped, and most materials have been taken home. The room looks so bare - both students and other teachers alike have commented on our room's current state. It's sad. :( But it also makes us excited that we'll have a jumpstart on cleaning for next week. Woo hoo!

And in yet other (semi-related to classroom) news, my co-teacher was so sweet this morning - she brought me a bottle of wine and some lovely Dove chocolate caramels, saying she "owed me one" by finishing out grades and most report card stuff when she took a personal day for her son's graduation festivities. It really wasn't too bad, but hey, I'll accept! :) The only problem is I left the gift at school, so I can't enjoy the wine just yet. Maybe tomorrow...

3.5 more days...Summer, I can taste you!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

We've Reached The Final Countdown

4 more days of school to go...and don't forget to tack on the little bit that we will have of Friday, as it will still require getting up before the sun, sharing Mass, and passing out report cards. It's almost time to say goodbye to another school year - and what a good one it was too.

My plan for the week (as far as this blog goes) is to "relive" a few classic and wonderful (or wonderfully wacky!) moments from the year - I sure hope I blogged about them the first time around...

(These are in no particular order, by the way. It just happens to be how I'm remembering some of the events.)

#1 - What's a Whizzpop?

So, for starters on this whole journey of remembering, I'd like to go back to September, when the students were still fresh off of summer break and everything was still new and exciting. It was at that time we began our first literature circle/book club with Roald Dahl's The BFG. Filled with fantastical giants, stories, and sheer adventure, the students really dove right in. You might say we had a whizzpoppin' good time. (And, for awhile, students always got a chuckle whenever someone else mentioned whizzpoppin'.)

Oh, memories...light the corners of my mind...

I think I have a pretty good idea what my #2 is...but that'll have to wait until tomorrow...

Friday, June 1, 2012

Nearing Summer...

Today I felt like a lean, mean, grading machine. (I had help, of course, from the wonderful sub - my co-teacher took a personal day for her son's high school graduation - but it was still a lot! In fact, it took me until the final student left aftercare to finish the essays.) Whoever thought it was a good idea to try to squeeze in a few final assessments the last 2 days of school was clearly not thinking straight.

Oh wait...that was partially me.

(Note to self for next year - get those assessments in earlier!)

But all the grades are in, so now it's a matter of final analysis for the report cards.

Needless to say, Monday is going to be a long day/evening in order to get them all finished and off to the principal for final approval. After all, we've still got the comments to tackle.

But there's light at the end of the tunnel - next week brings the final one for the school year, and it's filled with field day, movie afternoon, "step-up" visits, student council elections, and likely more. I don't know how much "learning" time we'll have, but we are going to attempt to at least tackle conversion of fractions to decimals as well as a few other things. (Oh yes, and there will be massive cleaning going on - both for students and for ourselves...)

This year flew by so fast - and the summer's going to fly by even faster. Better brace myself for that...