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

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The usual (unusual) convo

There were so many moments yesterday when I wish I had a tape recorder (or whatever the modern equivalent is these days). The juxtaposition of conversations within the classroom and lunchroom can oftentimes not be any better.

Here's just one example -->

Student 1: "Ms. Foyle, how old will I be when I graduate from school if I become a pediatrician - the one who does the check-ups?"
Student 2: "What about if I want to be a heart surgeon, Ms. Foyle, how long?"
Me: "Well -"
Student 3 (running up from another table and holding a carrot to her forehead): "Look Ms. Foyle, I'm a unicorn!"

I guess it's fair to say that students have been extra wound up/excited this week due to all the additional activities to celebrate Catholic Schools' Week - and, I suppose, they should be excited. The games and dress down days are fun. Although, I hope that over time, they come to realize the true cause for celebration lies in the gift and blessings that Catholic Education brings to all those involved.

Monday, January 28, 2013

It started as a joke...

Rewind back to October of this school year...to a series of lunchroom conversations I had with two students about controlling the amount of candy corn a person could consume.

Quick back story --> One student had about 7 pieces of candy corn in her lunch each day for a number of days in a row. I commented that I couldn't possibly eat only 7, to which she said she did not pack her own lunch or she would have more too. I then proceeded to explain how I can't even buy candy corn because I eat it much too quickly, and I explained that this was definitely a dilemma. She and the other student perked up and decided we should build a machine of some kind to control the amount I could eat every day. Every so often, I have checked back in with them, saying, we should really build that...some day...

It was all meant as a joke, but these two girls took me seriously. They made a simple machine to dispense small amounts of candy - they couldn't find any candy corn at this time of year so they used Hershey kisses instead - and they shared it with the class today -->

"machine" in action

The fact that they took this project so "seriously" pretty much made my day. I love the creativity of these kiddos!

When the other students asked why they made it, I said (jokingly), "To keep Ms. Foyle from getting fat."

(That's a little joke.)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The more we rush about...

"The more we rush about, the less we do..."

Or so starts the song "Watch How You Go" (Keane).

And ain't it the truth? Rushing about makes it seem like we're getting somewhere. But, in reality, we're not truly moving towards a goal. Therefore, it's an illusion.

It's kind of like when you read a news article or book quickly to finish it within a certain amount of time or by a deadline. Yeah, you finished it...but what did you get out of it? (Truly?)

It's crazy just how much I keep trying to convey just this idea to our students each day - SLOW DOWN(!) It's oftentimes not worth going quickly because chances are you'll eventually have to do it again anyways.

So, don't get caught up in this illusion of rushing around gets things done and allows us to do more. If there is any truth to that, it is simply this - that rushing around gets things done more but at the cost of superficiality and incomplete understanding & appreciation.

Take your time. Enjoy the task and material. Make it worth your while.

And think of these lyrics kind of switched around instead:

"The less we rush about, the more we do..."

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Catholic Education

Happy (almost) Catholic Schools Week 2013! 

I could go on and on about Catholic schools right now, but I prefer to leave the message I want to convey up to the Pope -->

This is from Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the United States in 2008, but the message still rings true today:


"...Indeed, everything possible must be done, in cooperation with the wider community, to ensure that they are accessible to people of all social and economic strata. No child should be denied his or her right to an education in faith, which in turn nurtures the soul of a nation..."

Thursday, January 24, 2013


I was searching for one particular Thomas Merton quote ("My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going...") and came across another one instead:

“You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.” 

(It only takes a quote or two of his to really speak to my heart - I never feel like I know precisely what is happening or where I fit in the grand scheme of things! - if you feel the same, you may find more of his amazing quotes and insight by clicking here.)

The reason I've stumbled across Thomas Merton recently is that I've been reading My Life With the Saints by Fr. James Martin, SJ - it's for my parish's next Young Adult Book Club meeting. And stumble across him I am glad I did.

He's the saint who said, "For me, to be a saint means to be myself..." And, as Fr. Martin points out, Thomas Merton was a man who was always searching for something but unaware of what he was searching for. (Sounds familiar at times, right?) In his book, Fr. Martin also suggests that Merton has strong appeal because he is proof that someone so human (struggled with many worldly longings) could be so holy.

Reading that chapter has actually made me want to pull my copy of The Seven Storey Mountain (Thomas Merton's autobiography) off my shelf, as I bought it a few years ago at the recommendation of a friend. Both my friend and Fr. James Martin claim that the book changed their lives. I think I'm at the point now when it may have a profound effect on mine as well, especially since I find so much connection to and appreciation for his thoughts and words.

Guess I better start dusting off the cover...

Monday, January 21, 2013

Weekly Sunday Night Nourishment...And a "Bonus"

Over the past year, I have come to find Mass on Sunday nights to be a most wonderful experience. And when that Mass is the contemplative one complete with candles and meditative music held every third Sunday, then it's even better. Add in a thought-provoking homily by the pastor ("We have run out of wine...What does that have to do with me? (Everything.)" - I guess that I'll save the explanation of that for another time...), and you really can't beat it.

There was one song, in fact, that struck a chord with me so much that I ended up bringing the order of service home with me (and I know my sister did too) so that I may look it up again later.

And I did just that...

I honestly fell in love with this song...so much so that I purchased it in iTunes this morning. So beautiful in both lyrics and music. I even found a link to a video on YouTube to a church singing it, so that I may share it with you today. Please be sure to take time and enjoy it by clicking the video below.

Lyrics (& music) in PDF format may be found by clicking here.

Okay, that's enough gushing about this song from me for now. But I do pray that you allow the words and music to wash over you as you pray for God's loving care.


And here's that "bonus" mentioned in today's title of this post - it's a round-up of 3 brief articles and reflections I came across this morning. Consider them a starting (or continuing) point for reflection and thoughtful consideration this afternoon:
  • Colloquy in the Car (Ignatian Spirituality): A short reflection about the potential of finding wisdom and purpose by placing ourselves in God's presence on the ride home
  • Sign of God (America Magazine): A look into the life of Jesuit priest Fr. Joseph Bruce and how he faced the difficulties of growing up deaf but how he now uses sign language to celebrate Mass and the Catholic faith

Didn't know you'd find so much food for thought in one post now, did you?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Just a Thought...

'If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.' -African Proverb

I'm just posting this for thought tonight. 

A reflection will follow at a later time.

But for now, I just want it to marinate.

So true...oh, so true...

Thursday, January 17, 2013

It's a Page-Turner

Not your typical Thursday...but a book conference was certainly a good break from the usual hustle and bustle of the school day.

In fact, it was kind of refreshing...inspiring...

The conference didn't exactly deliver in content - our presenter did go over many children's books (picture books and novels), but she didn't really focus on how to use them in the classroom. We did, however, receive a very solid resource book, organized by author. I definitely plan on checking into that later.

The presenter, herself, was very knowledgeable about books - as well she should be due to her background in book editing & writing. And she was very passionate about books. So, of course, I got all excited about the books too, especially because we are already using so many of them in the classroom.

Today was a reminder for why I love reading and why I exude so much passion when I teach reading and talk about books. Books are treasures, and when students become readers and discover a favorite book, it brings me so much joy.

And, actually, my crazy reading tendencies and knowledge paid off today (and by paid off, I mean I won a book --> Children's Book-A-Day Almanac) in a book (first lines, last lines, and author titles) trivia contest. What do ya know about that...

On a related book note, one of the parents at my school in Arizona posted the following picture to my Facebook wall - it is appropriate and oh so true:

One more day until the weekend...Come on Friday!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Striving to be Better

I've done a lot of thinking lately about how I can be a better teacher. What are those qualities that all good teachers have? What are those qualities that I am striving to possess (and to possess on a more regular basis)?

Quite a bit of patience

An unquenchable thirst for learning

Humility...and then some more of it

Many leaps of faith 

Adaptability to ever-changing plans

A smile and a positive attitude...because that's sometimes all you've got left to give.

That's a good list to start striving for, right? We can add more later...baby steps...

Monday, January 14, 2013

Take Two

Right before the break, I feel like the students got a little out of hand - with call-outs, misuse of time, interruptions, and more. Coming back from the break, I wasn't about to let those behaviors continue. Something had to be done.

Sooooo, at our Community Circle meeting last Friday, we had the students brainstorm ideas of how to "fix" this problem, and they talked it out.

And it turned out like this -->

Today in our classroom, we introduced an updated version of our "Take 2" reflection time...and no one had to follow it yet!

We still have a long way to go until the end of the year, so this was an important part of our behavior management that we had to reevaluate. Yes, it took a few minutes out of our "teaching time," but I like to think of it as more of a time saver in the end.

Often, dealing with and managing kids' behaviors is the hardest part of teaching - give me lesson planning and, yes, even grading (gasp!) any day over interruptions and incessant chatter.

But as having a perfectly quiet classroom is not in my foreseeable future, I will have to settle for trying various management techniques (like the one we started today) instead. Reflection time (with a written component) should not be overlooked for use in the classroom. Just sayin'...

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Double Take on Grits

Student: "Ms. Foyle, what are grits?"
Me: "Grits are a breakfast dish in the South. They're kind of grainy and mushy, almost like a porridge. They have different flavors. My mom really likes them."
Student: (holding out Bridge to Terabithia) "Well, Ms. Foyle, then this doesn't make sense."
Me: "What doesn't?"
Student: "You tell me grits are like porridge, but here it says, '...And no one had more grit than he.' I don't get it."
Me: (realizing the double meaning) "Oh, well, grit(s) has more than one meaning. There are grits like porridge and then there is grit like determination."
Student: "Oh...that makes more sense now. I was really confused. Now I get it...Thanks."

How I love Literature Circles! It is during our discussions and prep time that such conversations come up.

Amazingly enough, this student did not just read over the term without thinking about it. She carefully turned it over in her head, finally coming to me for clarification. Cheers to that! I love when students are thinkers!

He definitely did not have more porridge than anyone else...

Oh children...

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


Breathe in...Breathe out...Breathe in...Breathe out...

Or, in the words of Mr. Miyagi in "The Next Karate Kid," "Sun is warm; grass is green."

Mr. Miyagi made it look so simple.
(He, obviously, was not teaching in a classroom with a bunch of 9 and 10 year-old students.)

I have to admit - there have been quite a few instances where students have really pushed my buttons over the past two days (more so today than yesterday), and it's taken everything in my power to remain (or at least appear to remain) calm and collected, without flying off the handle.

But I know that staying calm is essential. Rooting myself in a deeper patience and PRESENCE is a must.

St. Teresa of Avila knew a thing or two about this too (in her Nada Te Turbe prayer):

Let nothing disturb you, 
Let nothing distress you; 
While all things fade away, God is unchanging. 
Patience overcomes everything. 
With God in your heart, Nothing is lacking. 
God alone suffices.

For some reason, all of these thoughts make me think of The Beatles and their classic "Let It Be" - but maybe that's stretching things a little too far.

To prepare for tomorrow, I believe just what the doctor ordered would be sleep and prayer. I need to look ahead to tomorrow with eyes on the greater scheme of things.

Breathe in...Breathe out...Breathe in...Breathe out...

And, by all means, PRAY!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

We Three Kings/Magi/Wise Men/...

Today the Church celebrates the story of the Epiphany (for today's Readings, click here)...and you gotta love the three kings.

Another name for the three kings was "magi" or "wiseman." And I think my favorite encounter with someone else's understanding of this term was right before Christmas break, when, while my half of the class was doing The Gift of the Magi for Readers' Theater, a number of the students piped up and asked, "What's a magi?" After I explained about the multiple names, one of the girls chimed in, asking, "Ms. Foyle, can I go by 'wise-woman' instead?" (Of course, I said yes.)

Personally, I like to mention the three kings during many car trips or when someone tells me about their travels. When anyone says something along the lines of "We'll go back a different/another way," I respond, "like the wise men."

(Corny, I know...At least I think I'm funny.)

For a real laugh (well, you've probably seen this before), check out this video that was made a year or so ago: The Digital Story of the Nativity. It reminds me of the three kings. And of Christmas.

I do apologize for my thoughts bouncing all over the place tonight - I think I'm a little jittery for school starting back tomorrow and a lot jittery for the National Championship game (GO IRISH!) tomorrow night...I even baked for the occasion (see evidence below):

We Are ND

Let's go Irish! Beat 'Bama!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Then you go "Downton"...

Confession - Up until this Christmas break, I had not watched a single episode of PBS's Downton Abbey. (Gasp!) However, with all of my sporadic online Christmas shopping, I needed an item to put me over the free shipping limit one time at Barnes and Noble online. So, as it turns out, Downton Abbey Season 1 was on sale, and it sounded good to me.

When it arrived at my apartment, I quickly placed it in my "pack-for-home" pile, and within less than 48 hours after getting to Florida, my sister and I had watched the entire first season. Alas, I had not purchased Season 2...but we were not about to be beat. No. Instead, we "suffered" through the second season on VHS (we don't have DVR) tapes with poor tracking. (But it was worth it!)

And, just like that, I was caught up and ready for the start of Season 3. In fact, my family and I braved some terrible traffic (and rain, to boot) to attend a special preview of the first episode (of Season 3) at the Tampa Theatre tonight (because we obviously just couldn't wait until Sunday's premiere).

Pardon my 'British', but it was bloody good. And I hear tell (from sources whom will remain unnamed) that it just keeps getting better but it takes you on emotional rollercoaster. (Better brace ourselves.)

This show that is sweeping the country (well, in all fairness, it swept England first) has swept me up as well - I fully and whole-heartedly admit it. (I even pre-ordered Season 3. Yep, I sure did.)

But it's got me thinking...What makes a series (or a movie or book, for that matter) such a phenomenon? What makes a show a smash?

1. Complex Characters - In order for an audience to care, characters need to have depth. Each one needs a story, a moral code, things that make him/her tick. Downton Abbey certainly achieves that for every character, both upstairs and down. The audience roots for Anna and Mr. Bates, despises Thomas's motives, chuckles at Lady Grantham's jabs. Never is there a dull moment!

2. Complicated Love Story(ies) - Lady Mary and Matthew Crawley, Anna and Mr. Bates, Lady Sybil and Tom Branson...if you think about it, none of these relationships was realized easily. I love you. I hate you. I'm not allowed to love you. I'm not free to love you. I'm not supposed to tell you I love you. AAH! It's enough to make you crazy. Will they get together or won't they? Seriously, some new love angle comes up each episode, and, as someone heavily invested in the characters (see #1), how can you not be glued to the telly?


3. Quality Humor - Sometimes I feel the humor is so fast that we audience members react about 5 seconds too late, as it usually takes that lag of time for our brains to register what the characters just said. (Maybe British people are just more quick-witted. Or else they are used to the verbal thrust and parry. You can come to your own conclusions.) Maggie Smith (Lady Grantham, in the show) takes the cake, in my opinion; although, many of the others are not far behind. (Sometimes I think I end up laughing when Maggie Smith's character opens her mouth because I just expect some sort of dry humor to come out.)

4. Grand Costumes and Setting - Everything "upstairs" at Downton is fancy and lavish, to say the least. I can't imagine living among such finery or changing outfits three or four (or more) times a day. But it sure is fun to watch somebody else live in such a manner. I think that glimpse into the lives of the rich is something that usually grabs people's attention. (Otherwise, I honestly don't know how people's fascination with shows like Desperate Housewives could be reasonably explained.)

5. Both Predictable and Unpredictable Plot Twists - They had to kill off Lavinia. Cora had to lose the baby (who would have been the heir). Some things were totally "call-able." But other twists came out of nowhere. I think that balance of having a sense of what's going to happen at some times and at other times being completely blindsided is definitely a quality that can keep an audience coming back for more. As a viewer, it is nice to have a feeling that you know characters well enough to predict their actions or that you know the show well enough to think you are one step ahead of the writers. However, when things happen to slap you in the face, you are humbled by the show's creativity. Right-O.

There are likely other qualities/characteristics/call-them-what-you-wills that endear a story to audiences of all ages, but for now I will settle for these. (Feel free to agree or disagree, but I remain pretty convinced by these aspects.)

Lastly, if you are hooked on Downton Abbey (odds are you either are or will be), you can see if you are "Down with Downton" at NPR's quiz by clicking here