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, August 29, 2012

Survey Says

Fill in the blank (actual student responses - spelling corrected):

Good teachers...
- are nice and strict.
- Ms. F and Mrs. R
- are ones that are intelligent, helpful, first aid-trained, fun, and nice.
- always give you enough.
- are ones that are organized.

I wish teachers would give us...
- extra recess!!!!
- less homework.
- could check work super fast.
- candy if we do a good thing.
- the answers.
- more time to study.

What are your hobbies outside of school?
- Watching Sportscenter
- tennis, climbing, and taking care of my pets
- Fantasy Football and sports
- building Legos
- swimming, going on Instagram
- drawing, catch, and taking long walks

I LOVE student surveys - the kids are so candid. (It makes me wonder what I wrote/would have written when I was in fourth grade...)

The day itself, I felt, was better than yesterday. And Math was especially productive. We even had a little extra time to learn the "banana dance," a personal brain break favorite.

I even got to see my students from last year - albeit briefly - during lunch duty. (I was outside with my students while they were inside and vice verse.) A few came over and hugged me, and most at least said hi or waved frantically. I miss them a lot - they are a very special group of young people.

A very productive day, indeed. So, I'll be off in just a little bit to treat myself to some trivia with friends at a local establishment right up the street. Cheers!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Chatty...But Still Good.

How were my students today?

Mmm...let me think...


Eager...but chatty.

That was the shortest "honeymoon" period ever that I've experienced teaching. We better get on fixing this stat.

But let's not jump to conclusions. Still, I'd classify it as a good day.

One student (quite candidly and to his mother) stated, "This is the best start of a school year yet. I love fourth grade!"
Another student was amazed that her and my "Math About Me" totals. (I didn't include my age or student number.) I told her we were both like the 5-5-5 (letters in 1st, middle, & last names) deal from Domino's pizza.
Students worked eagerly and earnestly on their "draw near to God" pictures (photo to come soon - turned out SO good!).

Yes, it was a good day.

And as I look to tomorrow, I am reminded of the wise words of Ralph Waldo Emerson. He reminds us that we should have a positive attitude toward each day, believing it to be the best day of the year:

Write it on your heart 
that every day is the best day in the year. 
He is rich who owns the day, 
and no one owns the day 
who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety. 

 Finish every day and be done with it. 
You have done what you could. 
Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt crept in. 
Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day; 
begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit 
to be cumbered with your old nonsense. 

This new day is too dear, 
with its hopes and invitations, 
to waste a moment on the yesterdays.

If we can remember this, I think it'd be easier to keep everything in perspective, don't you?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Day 1 = Done!

First day of the 2012-2013 is in the books.

And I am exhausted.

How is it that there never seems to be as much time to accomplish tasks as you really need. I mean, who thought it would take more than 45 minutes to organize all student supplies?

Guess we'll pick up again tomorrow.

And we'll do some community-building too. I'm excited to learn about each student - they have so many interests and ideas! (I can already tell.)

This is going to be a good year.

And tomorrow is going to be a jam-packed full day. That's why I know that when the bell rings at 3:15 tomorrow, I'll be ready to go home.

Hold on...here we gooooooooooooooooooo!

Sunday, August 26, 2012


I feel like it's one of those times when I just need to breathe, think of the Sound of Music (see below), and believe that it's all going to be fine.

Because it is.

I've worked so hard for the start of this school year, and I have confidence that it will be a wonderful new school year in our 4th grade classroom.

It's time, yet again, to "teach like a champion."

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Asking For (& Receiving) More

As I was walking down the corridor from the elevators at the hospital this morning, I counted up the visits I had made during my Ministry of Care duties this morning. The count came to 4 (out of 11). It's not about quantity, I realize that, but it still left me feeling a bit helpless - there I was, serving in the capacity I had originally signed up for, but I felt like I could have done more.

As it turns out, I was meant to do more - with the help of one of the hospital pastoral ministers, I received an updated list (printed specifically for today) with additional patients to see. Even though at that point I had been pretty set on leaving, I decided to gather all of my Ministry of Care materials together and head back up to the 10th floor, from where I had just come.

And I'm really glad I went back. I only ended up spending time with one additional patient when I went back, but it was time that was clearly needed by the elderly woman and, as it turns out, me. While I was saying the prayers, I realized she was praying to herself in Spanish. When it came time to pray the Our Father, we said it in Spanish instead. After she received the Eucharist, she explained that her "version" of the Lord's Prayer was a little different because she grew up in Chile.

And so I asked her about Chile, talked a little about myself (and my friends who studied in Chile with ChACE), and listened about her family. She explained how she was lucky to even be alive today, as she almost had put herself to bed after having a stroke - she hadn't known what it was.

The time went by quickly - and I soon realized I had been there for nearly 30 minutes. As I prepared to leave, she told me that I should keep trying to learn Spanish, and she asked me to pray not for her but for her daughter - but I assured her I would pray for both of them.

I truly believe God heard my prayers this morning of my heart's desire to visit with and minister to more people; it wasn't just a coincidence.

I needed that reminder, God. Thank you.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Fitting Right In

Our puzzle piece-themed door

"Welcome to 4th Grade - You'll fit right in!"...provided we finish getting the room ready - yikes!

In the grand scheme of things, I guess we've done pretty well, as far as preparation goes. But before we open our door for Open House tomorrow, there are still a few things to be done, including (but not limited to) labeling, setting up 2 bulletin boards/wall areas, final cleaning, etc.

Might have had a few freak out moments today. (Most teachers have those, right? There's just not enough time to set up the classroom in the midst of meetings, planning, and professional development!)

But, after thinking about it for most of the afternoon, I think we're looking pretty good.

Heck, I even added leaves to our "poet-tree":

Looking pretty colorful for Fall, eh?

Tomorrow morning we meet the students. To say I'm excited would be an understatement.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Waking Up

I woke up in darkness
surrounded by silence -
oh where, 
where have I gone?

I woke to reality...

And then the song starts repeating:

I woke up in darkness
surrounded by silence -
oh where, 
where have I gone?

I woke to reality...

Finally, it ends, and I really have woken up in darkness and up to reality. My alarm has gone off, and it is time to roll out of bed.

What a great reminder to start the day, eh? I recently created and downloaded that ring/alarm tone using Matt Maher's song "Alive Again" (whose lyrics you (partially) see above - the rest can be found here) as a reminder to me that even from the second I wake up, I need to offer my day to God. I've also tried to remind myself of this by naming my wake-up alarm "Thank God Today" on my phone so that it appears each morning on the screen.

And so, that's how I begin. Thank you God. Please bless my day.

Then, it's up and at 'em. (Coffee in hand, of course.)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Be still and know

Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know.
Be still.

I forget what type/style of prayer this is, but, regardless, it is meditative and contemplative. And, when I pray it, I am at peace.

Tonight at Mass, Fr. Ken reminded us that we need to pause, be still, and be in communion with God - especially in the midst of the busy-ness of our lives.

As school starts, I definitely need to remember this. Life's going to get busy. Fast.

Gotta keep breathing...working...praying...

Be still.
Be still and know.
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know that I am God.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Seeds, Not Harvest

“Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant.” 
- Robert Louis Stevenson

How many times do we as teachers (or, I can only suppose, as parents) beat ourselves up and/or stress ourselves out over a day's outcomes? I know I'm guilty!

This quote (and ones like it - i.e. Oscar Romero) reminds us, however, that our focus need not be on the things we can concretely measure at the end of each day. Instead, it gently reminds us to focus on the bigger picture.

Success it’s not always what you see - what a great visual! (It actually reminds me of Oscar Romero: "We are prophets of a future not our own...")

The only (well, maybe it's not the only) problem here is that it's often easy to forget this. 

But, if you think about it, focusing on the bigger picture applies in many situations, not just in the classroom. For example, someone who is trying to lose weight cannot expect to shed pounds daily and immediately reach his/her ideal weight. Or, a person who signs up for a marathon cannot expect to run 26.2 miles without training - and it's unlikely that the person will get up to even 10 miles without repeatedly working to build a solid base distance. Someone who wants to be the CEO of a company will not be able to rise to the top immediately (unless, of course, you're starring in a musical)... 

Bottom line - It takes dedication, and it takes time to reach our goals. But if we're focused on only the immediate results, then it's likely we could be disheartened and lose motivation to maintain pursuit of our goals.

As the school year begins, I am going to challenge myself to remember the quote at the beginning of this post. My students are going to have tough days, and I am going to have challenging ones too. Not everything will be perfect - or even close to it. But one day isn't going to make or break my year. So, instead, I am going to look ahead, keeping in mind the "bigger picture," so that at the end of this school year I can reap the seeds that I've sown.

And I challenge you (in whatever capacity you serve) to do the same.

Friday, August 17, 2012

I miss you...I miss you not...

After only being back to school (and by school, I mean professional development - no students yet), I must say that there is quite a difference between the school year and the lazy days of summer. I know that sounds like I'm stating the obvious, and maybe I am, but there are things about the summer that I already miss while there are other aspects about the summer that I will gladly leave until the next one.

What I do (& will) miss -->
- Jogging in the morning in the sunlight without feeling rushed or exhausted
- Being able to read books for pleasure (I think I got up to 10 great reads!)
- Drinking my coffee at the dining room table rather than from my travel mug
- Sleeping in - even if only till 8 o'clock
- Spending time with my family in Michigan
- Road-tripping across the country

What I won't miss until next year* -->
- Having so much extra time some days that I have to mentally limit myself to time spent on Pinterest, Facebook, and NPR.org
(*Okay, so this one's a short "list" - if you can even call it that.)

What I'm looking forward to in the fall -->
- Watching college football
- Getting to know a brand new group of students
- Taking part in professional development opportunities
- Cooking (& eating) treats with pumpkin flavors (yum!)
- Running in cooler weather
- Celebrating the wedding of two of my former ACE housemates
- Working with my fourth grade teaching team

I could probably extend my list of what I'm looking forward to, but I think you get the idea. Here's looking forward to another school year!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord...

Today, the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of the Assumption of Mary, and for this I am very grateful. I absolutely love Marian feasts - after all, she is our mother too. And Mary's response to her cousin, Elizabeth, that is read in today's Gospel just tugs at my heart every time I hear it - such a beautiful prayer:

The Magnificat

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, 
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior 
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. 
From this day all generations will call me blessed: 
the Almighty has done great things for me, 
and holy is his Name. 

He has mercy on those who fear him 
in every generation. 
He has shown the strength of his arm, 
he has scattered the proud in their conceit. 

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, 
and has lifted up the lowly. 
He has filled the hungry with good things, 
and the rich he has sent away empty. 

He has come to the help of his servant Israel 
for he remembered his promise of mercy, 
the promise he made to our fathers, 
to Abraham and his children forever. 

(Lk 1:46-55)

This passage also reminds me of a song that I've heard in various Churches around the country. It takes its lyrics from this very Gospel:

1. My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, 
and my spirit exalts in God my Savior. 
For he has looked with mercy on my lowliness, 
and my name will be forever exalted. 
For the mighty God has done great things for me, 
and his mercy will reach from age to age. 

And holy, holy, 
holy is his name. 

2. He has mercy in ev’ry generation. 
He has revealed his power and his glory. 
He has cast down the mighty in their arrogance, 
and has lifted up the meek and the lowly. 
He has come to help his servant Israel; 
he remembers his promise to our fathers.

And holy, holy,
holy is his name.

What an incredibly beautiful model we have in Mary - so humble, so open, and so faithful. Let us celebrate our mother today and always.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Waiting to Hear...

My thoughts today have found their way back to a reflection from Henri Nouwen that I received in my inbox a couple of months ago. Having been a traveler for more or less the whole summer, I find it very appropriate:

Travelling With the Eyes of God 

Travelling - seeing new sights, hearing new music, and meeting new people - is exciting and exhilarating. But when we have no home to return to where someone will ask us, "How was your trip?" we might be less eager to go. Travelling is joyful when we travel with the eyes and ears of those who love us, who want to see our slides and hear our stories. 

This is what life is about. It is being sent on a trip by a loving God, who is waiting at home for our return and is eager to watch the slides we took and hear about the friends we made. When we travel with the eyes and ears of the God who sent us, we will see wonderful sights, hear wonderful sounds, meet wonderful people ... and be happy to return home.

I am so thankful to have family and friends who have both shared in my travels and/or eagerly anticipated pictures & stories from them. But this reflection stands out to me because it reminds me that, above all else, God is waiting to "hear about" our journeys too.

In truth, I saw many sights, celebrated many happy occasions, spent time with incredible friends and family, enjoyed much leisure/reading time, and took many pictures while traveling this summer. I've also posted about many of these travels on this very blog (links included on the bottom). So, thank you for being some of the "eyes and ears" waiting for me back home.

Previous (summer travel-related) blog links - in case you missed (or want to revisit) them:
ACE Parental Choice Symposium
If I Only Took a Trip Song/Poem
Road Trip Pictures
Weekend Trip to Seattle
Detroit Zoo Fun
Northern Michigan Family Excursion

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Calm Before the Storm

Two more days until the 2012-2013 school year begins. Well, we won't have students yet, but there will be plenty of meetings to attend, rooms to set up, lessons to plan...

It's certainly been nice these past few days to just relax - I've been mostly on my own, which has been a pretty good way for me to deal with stress because, let's face it, I can't handle a lot of people when I'm stressed. And it's not even that I'm stressed - I don't think I am...yet...but it's kind of like the calm before the storm, and for that, I like to be alone.

And that calm is something I want to have for this Monday and Tuesday too. In fact, my only definite plans are to take my car in for an oil change on Monday afternoon, to run with my sister on Tuesday morning, and to go to an ACE Advocates meeting Tuesday evening. Come to think of it, that's kind of nice to think about - it won't be like that once school starts up, and forget about quite a lot of "me" time when we actually get the students. But that has an appeal all its own - once those kids walk in the door, they're mine.

And that's pretty nice to think about too.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Only as a Teacher...

I came across the following reflection on teaching that I had written during my time in ACE. (I did take a few lines out, but mostly this remains in tact.) Some things never change...

Only as a teacher does one find time and derive pleasure from curling up with a good children's book for most of a weekend afternoon...  
Only as a teacher is it possible to get children so worked up about a crazy dance with singing and body movement (darn you banana dance!) that they ask about it all the while they should be focusing on something else... 
Only as a teacher is it possible to admire and be frustrated by a single child's actions at the same time... 
Only as a teacher is it likely to both long for summer with open arms and feel bittersweet about the ending of another year... 
Only as a teacher can one feel like a mom to so many children at once... 
Only as a teacher does one tie (and re-tie) so many shoelaces... 
Only as a teacher does one's actions truly speak millions of times louder than one's words (kids see everything!)... 
Only as a teacher is it routine to rise before the sun (even when it wakes up before 5:30!) and head home after the sun sets... 
Only as a teacher do corny humor and crazy read aloud voices/enthusiasm never get wasted... 

Yes, as as another year gets ready to begin, I am convinced that only a teacher can feel this way and experience these things... And this fourth grade teacher surely does.

(And I came across this "poster" on Pinterest - it sums up some truths about teaching as well - see below.)

POSTER: I'm So Much More Than Just A Teacher!

Friday, August 10, 2012

What's the Purpose?

As a self-contained 4th grade teacher, I often come across all kinds of acronyms, anchor charts, and visuals for teaching many subjects and materials.

Here are some examples:

There are acronyms for when to capitalize -

There are visuals for the water cycle -

Some choose to use charts for teaching reading strategies -

Then, there are acronyms for teaching purpose -

And what is purpose? As defined by dictionary.com, it is "the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc."

Well (and sorry for the rather rough transition, here), when I originally started blogging, first during ACE (through LiveJournal) and then post-ACE (through Blogger), my purpose was two-fold:

1) To reflect on my teaching experiences;
2) To reflect on my spirituality journey

As of late (and maybe I should just chalk it up to summer vacation), I seem to have wandered from these two things. And that's something I want to change so that I can refocus on the things that matter and the things that, when looking back on them, will bring smiles, tears, and laughter.

Now, that's not to say I'm not going to include some random/funny/crazy posts from time to time - sometimes the creativity just flows...and then there are those other times when it, well, doesn't...

So here goes nothing. Time to start again - new school year, new reflections.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

So Call Me Crazy

It's gotta be good to get back to school next week - obviously I have too much time on my hands, as evidenced below with my altered lyrics to "Call Me Maybe."

(After you read this, you might just want to call me crazy, but that's your call.)

Personally, I think it would be quite a hit with the libraries.

Here's a link to the original song (sung by Carly Rae Jepsen - but with the Olympic swimming team doing their own take) in case you need to get it in your head. Or you could probably just turn on the radio.

"At the Library"
(*Note - the first two stanzas include names of famous upper elementary book authors)

Jerry Spinelli's* all right
Kate DiCamillo's* in sight
for Rick Riordan* you'd fight
so don't get in the way

Creech, Cleary, Clements* and more -
Without books life's such a bore,
But all these you can't afford.
Is there some other way?

New books you're trackin';
Reading's fun and back "in,"
But your cash is lackin' -
What you gonna do now, baby?

Hey, if you want books,
I know it's crazy,
but now you should go
to the library.

And all the books you read,
you'll get there for FREE,
When you stop by the
local library.

Hey, if you want books,
I know it's crazy,
but now you should go
to the library.

And all of the book stores
will try to tempt thee,
but access is free
at the library.

So many books you can choose,
So tell me, how can you lose?
More books than you'll ever use,
it might just rock your world.

So stop resisting, give in.
Think of the treats you're missin'.
To not join would be a sin -
it's for all boys and girls.

New books you're trackin';
Reading's fun and back "in,"
But your cash is lackin' -
What you gonna do now, baby?

Repeat Chorus

Before local libraries
I missed 'em so bad
I missed 'em so bad
I missed 'em so so bad.

Before local libraries
I missed 'em so bad
And you should know that
I missed 'em so so bad.

Repeat Chorus

But access is free
at your library!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

We've reached the final countdown

Tomorrow marks the ONE WEEK COUNTDOWN until in-service begins. And the communication with my co-teaching 4th grade team has already started - in fact, we've decided to get a list going of the routines and organization ideas we implemented in the classroom last year, including room in our list for a description, evaluation, thoughts to keep or try again, and additional comments for each one.

We're facing the facts - Some of the things we did last year were great, and we shouldn't change them. But others left much to be desired and need to be changed.

I love the fact that we're starting now. And I really like the fact that we're able to be so honest about it all with each other.

And I know that no matter what, our focus is going to be on developing respect and relationships with our students - with those key pieces in place, the learning will follow. I have faith in that.

Monday, August 6, 2012

UPDATE - Addition to Book List for Life

25. The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman

Just finished (as in, on August 6, 2012) this one, which was (by far) my favorite of the summer. It's a fictional account of a newspaper based in Rome in a time when the written press is becoming somewhat obsolete. It weaves together the stories of many individuals somehow involved in the paper, from the foreign correspondent to the corrections editor to the publisher. It's very poignant, and it is rather funny at times. The cover is what caught my eye - and I'm sure glad it did. Read it!

See the original post here.

"Following" Audrey Hepburn

I stumbled across the following quote by Audrey Hepburn on Pinterest today:

And so, I was (naturally) inspired to find a few more (even though these can't all be credited to her for first speaking/writing them):

And, if Audrey Hepburn was on Pinterest, you'd be darn right that I'd "follow" her.

If you're interested, you can follow me on Pinterest by clicking here: Follow Me on Pinterest

Friday, August 3, 2012

Bring it back

If I could only use one word to describe my family's trip up north, what would it be? What word could sum it up so well that no other words would be necessary? Would that even be possible?

Relaxing? (For the most part, this is true...)

Peaceful? (Yes, but not always...)

Beautiful? (Absolutely, yet too simple/vague...)

Nostalgic? Hmm...I like the sound of that...so true, so true.

Ok, that's what I'm going with - Nostalgic. That's my one word. Reminiscent of summers past, favorite places & family traditions.

Oh, but there I go, breaking my own self-imposed rule, using more words to qualify my choice of one word. Oops.

Maybe I should just use some pictures to back myself up:

Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes (overlooking Lake Michigan)

Sunset at Betsie Point


downtown Mackinac Island
Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island

dinner on the island

ice cream & fudge at world-famous Ryba's - yum!

the ferry took us to and from Mackinac Island