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, March 30, 2013

More Gr8 Reads

*NERD ALERT!* One of the greatest things I LOVE about vacation is the number of quality books I get to catch up on amid the grading, Pinterest-surfing, running, visiting, and relaxing.

This Easter break has been no different. These are the two children's books I thoroughly enjoyed over my first two days of break:

1) The One and Only Ivan --> I sat down this afternoon after a nice brunch with my family with the intention of reading only a few pages of this book. As I turned the final page about two hours later, I realized just how captivating the story is. (Only after I had finished the book did I discover the novel is based on a true story.) It is uniquely told through the eyes of the "ape at exit 8" with a wonderful cast of characters, rounded out by two sweet elephants, a young girl who befriends the animals, and Bob the mutt. This book might seriously be my class's next read aloud - after we finish Wonder, that is.

Do yourself a favor and watch the book trailer on the website. And then, go ahead and get a copy - rent, borrow, buy... And then, set aside about 2 hours worth of time, sit back, and enjoy.

2) Hold Fast --> After the author Blue Balliett came to our school for a visit with the kiddos, I went to Barnes & Noble online and ordered this one, her latest book. It (like her other books) is set in Chicago, and it actually delves into the issue of homelessness (especially for families and children) while providing a most intriguing mystery. Blue Balliett always employs these great mathematical puzzlers and riddles that are solved by characters (and the reader) along the way. (I honestly think I liked this book more than Chasing Vermeer.) I'll be passing this book along to my co-workers and then our students too. It may provide a great segue into discussing the real problem of homelessness in our city, and maybe the students can start thinking of a part they may (one day...or now) be able to play.

Well, I do think I've exhausted the children's books I brought with me. Next up, I have How Children Succeed and The Good Pope: John XXIII and Vatican II - The Making of a Saint and the Re-Making of the Church. I also have about 15+ books to choose from on my Nook. But first, I think I'll need to do some scoring of student mystery book assessments and Social Studies assessment booklets...


And, of course, tomorrow being EASTER (!!!), I think I will honor the day of rest and celebrate Jesus' Resurrection with my family. Hope you have a blessed Easter too.

(By the way, this is an interesting post about Popes Francis and Benedict: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/theanchoress/2013/03/27/the-quiet-menace-fixating-on-francis-missing-the-point/)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Humbling Ourselves Before the Lord

"God wants us to humble ourselves, not to degrade us, but so that he can exalt us. To be humble is to recognize the truth that God is the source of our existence, our sustenance, and our dignity. This faithful recognition opens us to the revelation that God is a God of love..."
from The Magnificat Year of Faith Companion

In my (humble) opinion, I believe that being a teacher is one of the most humbling careers someone could have. Each day, we draw from our own experiences, faults, and failings so students may, in turn, learn from us and the things we have done. It is humbling, also, that students daily find many mistakes, from typos on an outline handout to lines in front of test answers that don't need ones to completely messing up the schedule.

But, as the reflection reminds us, God doesn't want to degrade us - nor does he want us to think less of ourselves. Humility is thinking of ourselves less so that we may think of God (and his creation) more.

It makes me think of this C.S. Lewis quote (that I end up sharing with just about everyone, especially in retreat or small faith-sharing group settings):

Now, let us turn our eyes toward the Father and to Jesus Christ, who sacrificed Himself to save us, as we prepare to enter this most Holy Triduum and Jesus' Resurrection at Easter...


Two more days. For kids and teachers alike, you might as well tell us we have 2 weeks - that's what it feels like.

And I (for the most part) like school.

But the kiddos need a break from each other. (And they probably need a break from all the testing and projects we've been having them do this week.)

What's going to be the trick for me? Well, today I am going to focus on the Tenebrae service I will be attending at Church tonight. I believe knowing I will spend an evening of meditation, contemplation, music, readings, darkness, and light (all woven together in a beautiful and simple celebration) will help me keep my center today.

And what about tomorrow? Well, tomorrow I am heading home...after school of course.

Here we go...

Monday, March 25, 2013

Three Trees for Easter

It was my mistake - I thought we had already read it this year.

As it turns out, The Three Trees is perfect for the Easter season. And it also happened to fit pretty nicely into our Writers' Workshop lesson for today. So...we called an audible, and we took time to read, predict, and let the message of the story sink in. (Once one student suggested the third tree was being cut into beams to make a cross, the predictions for the other trees' futures just poured out.)

If you are unfamiliar with the Tale of the Three Trees or if you would just enjoy reading it again, you can find an online version here. (Personally, I recommend the picture book version.)

Phew! Glad we got that book in before the break. To think about how someone crafted such an incredibly beautiful story as a testament to our faith is truly inspiring.

Read it and pass it on. And remember, God answers our prayers oftentimes in ways we did not expect.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday has been one of the most meaningful Masses of the year for me since I was younger. In trying to explain this to others, I am not always able to articulate my sentiments, but I try anyways...

For one thing, it is familiar to us - the story of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, the waving of palms, the Last Supper, and Jesus' death on the cross is one we've heard our whole lives. But it doesn't get old. In fact, it grows more beautiful and meaningful with each passing year, as a fuller realization of Jesus' unconditional, sacrificial love becomes more apparent.

In addition, it requires congregational participation. We are the ones crying out "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" I don't know about you, but that's pretty powerful. It reminds me of a retreat I went on in high school, where, after we participated in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we physically nailed our sins to a large cross. Through this action, it was made clear that Jesus died to save us from all of our sins - those sins which nailed Jesus to the cross.

It is also true that we get palm branches, which I always try to fold into a cross -->

There are other reasons too why Palm Sunday is such a special day in our faith, but I am not going to go into those here. But it is a day which I look forward too with great anticipation because it means, ultimately, that Easter is less than one week away. And that is truly a cause for celebration...

Thursday, March 21, 2013

When you got a good thing going on...

Don't let it end, right?

This is exactly why my Living the Eucharist Thursday night faith-sharing group has decided to keep meeting (on a less frequent basis) - and I couldn't be more excited about this opportunity. I was discussing with one of the other women before our meeting started about how we really did get a solid group of people together - everyone was so open, vulnerable, knowledgeable, and honest. Our meetings have been refreshing and hope-giving, a real highlight to my weeks of Lent. Tonight, I truly felt myself filled with gratitude for my group members.

And the idea of keeping our group going serves as a reminder that my Lenten promises and actions do not need to end as this season comes to a close. In fact, as my students were reminded at their retreat this morning, we should all look for ways to keep our Lenten promises going throughout the year to help us continue to grow closer to God.

God is good...all the time...


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Peace in the Busyness

I probably spent close to 2 hours in the car this evening en route to visit with a family with whom I was friends in Arizona. (It's a long story, but it'd been awhile since I'd seen them...and they had my Girl Scout cookies.)

It actually brought me back to the good old Arizona days, where it was just me, my car, the radio (sometimes), and my thoughts.

And it's amazing what thoughts some quiet alone time can bring.

With so much coming at us each day by the internet and society (and our jobs, friends, etc.), it is refreshing to take a step away and just breathe. Yes, traffic wasn't the best - I ran into a few rough spots. But I found myself not minding at all because, in the busyness, I found peace.

Tomorrow, my students have the opportunity to share in the silent, "desert-like" Lenten experience as they do a half-day retreat in the morning. I hope that they take this time seriously and prayerfully, understanding that the quiet is okay - in the quiet, God speaks to us.

Please keep them in your prayers!

Monday, March 18, 2013

How's your journey been?

from The Magnificat Lenten Companion:

"We are now near the end of Lent. How has the journey been? Our Lent can be out of focus if we have only spent time on our sins, failures, and judgments of others. Perhaps this is the Lent to let go of the harsh judgments we place on ourselves. Lent is not about how bad we are, but how good God is. The sooner we realize the difference, the sooner we may come to peace."

This seems like a question my pastor at Church would pose - How's your journey been?

How's it been? Hmm... Well, here goes nothing...

Easter is now less than two weeks away
And questions are flooding my mind -
Have I grown in the ways that I work and I pray?
To those I meet, have I always been kind?

My heart's growing full over these days of Lent,
But there's still lots of work I've to do - 
I should use this time now in my heart to repent -
God, forgive me the sins I accrue.

I know there's still time to make change in my life,
Those to help me grow close to God here.
So I do not despair my mistakes and my strife
For with Him we have nothing to fear.

Yes, maybe I've broken a promise or two
And perhaps I've not given my all.
But to dwell on the past I no longer must do -
God lifts me up each time I fall.

Easter grows nearer with each passing day
And answers begin to be clear...
It's slow work to grow in the ways that we pray,
But we do grow with each passing year.

So, how's your Lenten journey been...?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

May you enjoy a beautiful St. Patrick's Day and celebrate whatever wee bit o' Irish ye are!

This cake was meant for Marisa and me on our birthday, but since Marisa was sick, our St. Patrick's Day party's host, Molly, stepped in - the cake was delicious AND green (inside and out). What a great celebration!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Human Touch & Well Wishes

"I'll never let go," one student said as she wrapped her arms around me and stayed hugging me for about 30 seconds. "Happy Birthday," she kept repeating every few seconds.

Students in the lunchroom kept breaking into choruses of "Happy Birthday Ms. Foyle" and making sure they gave me at least 3 or 4 hugs just within the recess and lunch period.

(My birthday is not until tomorrow, but we have parent/teacher conferences, so I guess my students wanted to make sure the wishes last through my actual day.)

While I was rather embarrassed at how much (and how loudly) they kept singing and hugging, there is something to be said for human touch - those hugs were an amazing lift to my spirits.

To receive such affection from so many young people in our school without really doing much to deserve their love gave me just a tiny glimpse into how incredible God's unconditional and unending love for each of us truly is. And His healing and loving touch is all around us. All the time.


Pi Day

Happy Pi (or in some cases, "pie") Day!

Here's some math humor to brighten your day and get in the love of math spirit:


(I'll admit, it's been a long time since I've needed to calculate math using some of these formulas and such, so I don't quite understand all of the humor. Nevertheless, the ones I do understand are hilarious.)

This one is my favorite (probably because it deals with the Ides of March):

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Only at a Catholic School...

At lunch, I offered someone a slice of pie (an early pi day present from a student), and in return I received news that white smoke had gone up from the Vatican.

Downstairs to my classroom I headed, where I quickly logged onto the latest news sources, hoping to see who had been elected.

But they hadn't announced it yet.

However, when I told my students that the new Pope had been chosen, they got pretty excited. (It's hard to get upset with them for getting a bit crazy over things related to the Church when they are supposed to be working on their essays quietly...) They wanted to know right away who the new Pope was, but they had to wait with the rest of the world.

At the end of the period, an announcement came on over the intercom telling us to turn on our SmartBoards and tune into St. Peter's Square on the local news.

Well, since we were already set to go to Art, we just headed upstairs and watched there instead. Instead of going about our planning period, my co-teacher and I stayed with the students and their Art teacher, and we listened to the speculation, stories, etc. that the news was sharing.

Some of the kids seemed pretty bored, but most were engaged in what was being said.

And then, it was announced - "Habemus Papam!" - and history was made: first Latin American pope, first Jesuit, first pope in a long time to take a new name...

Viva Pope Francis!

How blessed I felt today to be able to watch and celebrate this momentous occasion alongside my students.

Only at a Catholic school...

Monday, March 11, 2013

Music in the Air...

The power of music during transition...Seriously, why haven't I tried this before? It was like magic today - even without telling them, the students hustled (and, yes, danced) their ways to where they needed to be within the music's given time frame.

And I loved it.

Here's the site containing the tunes we jammed out/transitioned to: http://www.newmanagement.com/music/tvthemesongs.html#packupsong

(I personally wish the Andy Griffith one was longer. But, then again, my kiddos would likely just start whistling, so it's probably better this way.)

I'd like to attribute all of our "success" to the music, but it was likely its pairing with Class Dojo (which is free to sign up for and use, by the way) - the students are working hard to earn their points, which we have targeted for giving during mainly transitions.

Yes, it's mid-March and we are still trying to get these kiddos into shape.

Maybe we now have the "magic formula"...

Only time will tell.

Until then, sing and dance on, my friends.

And if you can't find the right music, try some of these songs on for size:
http://www.safeshare.tv/w/bXnEILLTad ("If You're A...")
http://www.safeshare.tv/w/HquBvstTsv (The Wobble Instructional Video)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HYWycl8vR5c (Ants in Your Pants)

Now, there's just one thing more...

The Papal Conclave begins voting tomorrow - what kind of Catholic educator would I be without giving you an inside scoop of some great websites/resources?

1) Pope Alarm ("When the smoke goes up, you'll know what's going down") - It's free to sign up, and you can get notified via text or email. (I signed up for both.)

2) An Illustrated Guide to the Conclave (Need I say more? Great infographic!)

3) Pope Activities and Lesson Plans (from The Religion Teacher - lots of variety)

Well, that should hold you for a bit...Now, we sit, pray, and wait until..."Habemus Papam!"

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Nothing For Granted

On Friday morning, my students started clapping for my co-teacher's substitute - this was largely due to the fact that he was the boys' 4th grade basketball coach and many of the students had been hoping to have him as a sub all year long. (As my mom says, Oh, to be a man in education.)

That was all well and good, but then I said to the students (in a somewhat joking manner), "You never clap for me" to which one student responded, "That's because you're always here."

Yes...I'm always here...Interesting...

And it got me thinking - Do we treat Jesus in the Eucharist the same way? Do we sometimes lose sight of how special receiving the Blessed Sacrament is in our lives that the awe and wonder surrounding Communion gets lost or lessened simply because He's there all the time?

I'm pretty sure I'm guilty of having done that more than a few times in my life. (I believe we often take for granted those people or things that surround us, oftentimes without even meaning to.) And that's definitely not something I'm proud of.

But the thing is, Jesus IS always there. He IS always with us. He IS always ready to welcome us back, sins and all.

It is because He is always with us that we should stand in awe of His presence as we receive the Eucharist.

He should never become something or someone that we take for granted.

***Getting in the spirit for Tuesday night's concert - woo hoo! - here's a song by Brendan James about taking nothing for granted...

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Sharpening The Ax

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree, 
and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.” 

- Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865); 16th U.S. President

Or, in the words of John Wooden, "Failing to prepare is preparing to fail."

Any way you slice it (or say it), the message rings loud and clear - without proper preparation of time, energy, and resources, you're practically guaranteeing you won't achieve your full potential. In addition, what I believe wise old Abe was trying to say is that preparation is just as important as the actual act we are doing.

Trust me, there have been plenty of times when I thought I could "fake it" - in the classroom, at my piano lesson...you name it. But the results just never were the same (and never of really high quality) unless I devoted those hours to planning, practice, and preparation. In my case, practice never made perfect...but it sure helped me out a lot!

And the same goes for our faith, too. I believe one of the priests at my parish in Arizona called it "pre-praying" (and likened it to "pre-gaming") - spending time alone with God in prayer before going to experience the Mass with the parish (or school) community. In making our hearts ready for God over the course of the week - which should, in all, add up to much more than the hour we spend at Mass on Sunday - we are "sharpening our axes" and readying ourselves (mentally, spiritually, and emotionally) for our weekly visit with Christ in the Eucharist.

As we continue on our Lenten journeys, it's important to ask ourselves, "How's my ax-sharpening going?"

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

How do you spell H-O-M-E?

Let me pose today's Living the Eucharist (Lenten Journey) question:

If home is future, and not only in the past, what home do you envision when your journey comes to an end? What memory or place says home to you most powerfully?

To be quite honest, I have been blessed to feel "at home" in many different places - my home where I grew up and where my parents still live (obviously), but also USF for college (especially the Catholic Student Union), Notre Dame (for the ACE program), Phoenix (where I did my ACE placement - especially my school), and now Chicago.

Although, I admit, Chicago took awhile.

But what makes these places home to me?

1- Home is the people, most definitely. It's having family and friends to share in the good (and hard) times. And it's about people who are genuinely there for you. Here in Chicago, I feel at home, especially around my fourth grade team, my friends from Church, and my sister & ACE friends. They are people I enjoy spending time with and who make me feel at home through their actions, kind words, and times that we share.

2- Home is where there is a strong sense of welcome and belonging. I feel this with my students every day. And I felt it in Arizona too. (That's why I think I maybe am really called to be a teacher.) And I feel it with my parish here in Chicago - from the young adult activities to the small groups I've participated in to the weekly volleyball - I feel included. And I feel loved.

3- Home is hard to leave. Most recently (well, it's been nearly 2 years now), I cried - no, more like sobbed - quite a bit when I had to say goodbye to my friends, students, and co-workers in Arizona. They had all become my family, my home away from home. And it was almost unbearable to leave. This makes me think of a quote I love that I came across awhile ago on Pinterest:

Yeah, home is kind of like that.

4- Home is where God's presence is evident. And let me tell you something - after days like today that are much needed respites from the craziness that this week had originally promised, how can I not find God's presence with me?

And when all of these add up, how can you help but feel that you are home...

Now, there's just one thing more...Along the lines of home, here are 2 songs that I find to be very poignant and beautiful. Enjoy...

Monday, March 4, 2013

A Little Fall of Snow...

It's nearly 11 p.m. on a Monday night...

But guess who has a SNOW DAY tomorrow! (First one EVER, to boot!)

To say I am excited is an understatement - this day is needed so much - this week is crazy busy and I need a chance to just breathe, relax, read, and prepare.

And I think I'll enjoy my snow day:

I've made up my mind.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Busy = Understatement...But...

Have you ever had one of those weeks in front of you when you open up your calendar and search desperately for white space (a.k.a. no meetings, activities, etc.)?

This upcoming week is one for me. Each night when the clock tolls 7, I will be at Church (or Church-related events). When I think about it, I do think it's a pretty good way to spend my time...but I do long for a little time to myself...which is definitely not happening this week...

It makes me think about something a friend talked about on retreat - we are human beings NOT doings. So, even though the busy-ness is kicking in, it's essential that I do not forget that. I believe there is still an opportunity to maintain the being within these activities on hand.

And in remembering the being, I believe I can answer yes to the following question:

Here comes the sun...here comes the week!

Friday, March 1, 2013


In light of my Thursday night Lenten small group at Church, I would like to repost something I wrote way back in August:

It's about planting seeds for a harvest we may not witness.

But, as my mom reminded me, sometimes we do get a glimpse at the seeds as they grow...

The mother of one of my students whom I taught in my third year out in Arizona (and who was in my afterschool sign language club) recently contacted me to let me know something special - her daughter was given the choice among different languages to study next year, including French, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, and ASL (American Sign Language). Guess what she chose...ASL. Hearing that really made my heart happy because I was (on a rare occasion) able to see that a small seed of desire to learn sign language in this young girl ended up growing into something she now wants to pursue on her own.

We often don't see how the seeds we are planting daily grow, but we can rest assured that they are growing.

And, to quote Oscar Romero (or whoever actually wrote the poem), "We are prophets of a future not our own."