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

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Almost July...Almost...

Hard to believe it's practically July...but it's true.

Summer, where are you going so fast?

July is definitely a month of celebrations and full-time summer swing. In the midst of all the fun, I'm going to be following Ignatian Spirituality in their "31 Days with Saint Ignatius" in preparation for St. Ignatius's feast day on July 31st.

Are you interested in learning more about Ignatian spirituality and the Jesuits? Join me over at their website (by clicking the picture/link below - it will open right in this window) starting on Monday. This looks like something easily adaptable to making into a daily habit this month...

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Teacher Mode...even though it's Summer...

Spent the afternoon decorating my INB* model, planning an organization lesson using The Important Book, and making foldable models for next week's writing class for 2nd year ACE teachers.

*INB = Interactive NoteBook

And I LOVED it. #nerdalert

Don't worry - my sister and I also spent the afternoon store-hopping among Kohl's, Whole Foods, and Hobby Lobby - all stores = successful ventures.

Hope your Saturday was simply grand!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Opportunities Abounding

What a day - I tell you, even if all I got out of this Notre Dame gig was seeing so many familiar faces and eating at the dining hall, I would be satisfied. 

But it doesn't stop there - I am blessed with SO many opportunities. (And I am LOVING it.)

Take today, for example - the ACE students in the class for which my sister and I are T.A.s for had two incredible educators as guest speakers - one who addressed teaching about social studies and the other about science. And we got to sit in too. And, honestly, I learned things today that I hadn't even thought of or used in my five years of teaching. (My brain was already trying to figure out how I could either modify the ideas to fit/teach Religion content or how I could share the things I learned with my previous co-teacher so that she might implement some of them next year.)

Maybe it's just the learner in me, but I just can't get enough.

P.S. This video (by the Irish Rovers) was posted by a friend on Facebook today, and it made me smile, so I thought I would pass it along even though it has nothing whatsoever to do with . I must confess, I've always wondered about that...hmm...

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Not Quite

These past few days I feel like I'm living in the movie, "Singing in the Rain"...except I'm not all that excited it's raining - quite the opposite, I am rather perturbed by the consistent downpour and thunderstorm at both the morning time when my sister and I would like to run and at the time we need to head over to campus for Mass.

Nicky Flash. (Right, Marisa?)

As you can probably guess, neither the running nor the Mass-going has happened this week. D*** weather.

However, as in true storm fashion, there is always a silver lining - Instead of getting up early to run, I slept in. Instead of attending Mass, I finished the book Hoot. (I was pleasantly surprised to find out the book takes place in Florida...but we'll leave my book ramblings to another post.)

Gosh, that was random. My sincere apologies. Perhaps I better hang up my hat for tonight before things start getting ever random-er...

Read This!

I'm telling everyone I know - if you are an educator (or if you are interested in a round-up of quality articles on a DAILY basis), visit this website: Catholic School Chronicle Daily.

That's all I have to say this morning. Really.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

We Did It!

In the words of my sister: "It was oppressively hot, but we finished."

It wasn't pretty as we came upon mile 10 of the Chicago Women's Half Marathon this morning. So, when I had a hard time taking deep breaths and had to walk, Marisa stayed right with me. Because of all that walking, we didn't make our goal time, but I'm actually okay with that. There are some things in life you can't control - and the weather conditions during a race is one of them. It was a fun day - and no one can take that away from us. :)

Saturday, June 22, 2013

More About Archdiocesan Campaign!

More about To Teach Who Christ Is campaign! -->

$350 million campaign will strengthen schools, religious education 
“Not only is it the future of our Catholic community, it’s also an alternative to the public school system,” Perry said. “If you believe in school choice, if you believe in alternatives for families, you must get behind this campaign.”

FAQs about the Campaign
"The Catholic school system of the Archdiocese of Chicago is essential to the health and vitality of the Catholic Church and the Chicago area community. Catholic schools give young people a firm foundation for life by providing them with both strong academics and the fundamentals of their faith. Catholic schools also perform a profoundly important civic function by grounding students, both Catholic and those from other faith traditions, in the virtues that produce responsible members of society."

Friday, June 21, 2013

Outside of the Comfort Zone

“Be fearless. Have the courage to take risks. Go where there are no guarantees. Get out of your comfort zone even if it means being uncomfortable. The road less traveled is sometimes fraught with barricades bumps and uncharted terrain. But it is on that road where your character is truly tested. And have the courage to accept that you’re not perfect nothing is and no one is — and that’s OK.” 
- Katie Couric (born 1957); American journalist

Love this quote - it was today's Value email.

And it makes me think of something...wait for it...I pinned on Pinterest awhile ago. (I bet you were able to guess that, right?)

As a teacher, I try to push myself outside of my comfort zone, my limits, every day. And I try (sometimes to no avail) to do the same with my students. What happens sometimes, though, is that students are so seeped in this notion of needing to get the "right" answer that they forgo the opportunity to dig a little deeper or try something new. 

Taking risks? Ha! What a concept? What would happen if they got it "wrong?"

Um, well, it'd be "wrong"...? Or, gee, maybe we could all learn from it.

This makes me think of one particular instance in my classroom this year - it was technically with a student in the other fourth grade class, but since I consider all the 4th graders mine anyways, I'll call her one of my fourth graders. :) We were in literature circles (for Tuck Everlasting), and for each meeting, a student prepared how the group would run - who would share summaries, what questions would be asked, what aspects of the chapter/characters would be discussed, what activity we would do to enrich our learning...You get the idea. 

So, it was one particular student's turn to lead, and after doing the usual chapter discussion summaries and any questions students had written/answered, the student invited each of the other students to draw a picture of the character that she assigned to them. Thinking that we needed to push this particular activity a little further, I prompted the group leader with a couple of harmless (at least, that's what I thought) questions: "Once they've all finished drawing, what are you going to have them do? How will this help our learning?"

Student's face falls. Tears start coming. Student walks outside our classroom and into the hallway.

Great. How could that have possibly set her off? I was trying to get her to push them a little further. What is going on??

And so, taking a deep breath, I stuck my head outside of the classroom door too.

Apparently, the student was upset because she felt like she could never "get it right" - that there was always something "wrong" for her to fix or make better and that "nobody else had to do that."

Needless to say, with one foot in the classroom (while students continued to work on their pictures) and one foot in the hallway, I talked her through her emotions and eventually (5 minutes later) got her to come back into the room and lead the rest of the discussion.

But it baffled me that such a small request to push her (and the other students') thinking set this student off so easily. Has my school's culture come to this idea of being 100% right 100% of the time? Goodness, I hope not.

As I move into a middle school teaching role next year, I realize that working past this 100% thing with the students may get even harder. (And what makes it even more difficult is the realization that I was one of those kids in school - I always had to get the A, and if I couldn't, then I didn't want to try - it would be like setting myself up for failure. It's only now that I realize how screwed up that way of thinking is.)

With all this in mind, I need to arm myself with strategies for use in the classroom. I need to work extra hard to make sure students know and truly believe that mistakes are okay - we can (and will) learn from them.

So, what do you say to taking chances? Have you found yourself outside of your own comfort zone lately?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Hodgepodge-iness of it all

Today was a hodgepodge of activities, including, but not limited to, running, napping, "teaching," visiting, dining, and reading.

It sounds like a lot, but trust me, it was a pretty relaxed schedule. It was probably too relaxed - I need to get going on those middle school curriculum maps.

One thing religion-related that I did manage to get done was a rough draft of a list of Saints we will focus on each month as a school community this upcoming school year. In that respect, I did learn a few new feast days and months this morning. We'll be hitting the mostly well-known ones this year, such as Francis of Assisi, John Bosco, Frances Xavier Cabrini, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Joseph, Mary, and a couple others. Maybe in future years I will be able to suggest more of the lesser known saints. (Or, we can just keep focusing on all the ones in October - seriously, how can there be so many great ones in one month?)

I suppose I should just start tomorrow with 6th grade and go from there - let's see how much I can organize and get done...

Mass is in a little bit - looks like it's about that time to get my daily dose of God.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Real Fathers

"It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father." 
- Pope John XXIII

I love this quotation because it speaks volumes. (Plus, it's attributed to Pope John XXIII who was a pretty cool guy.) If we take time to really think about what Pope John XXIII was trying to say, it doesn't take long to realize the emphasis he has put on fathers being present and strong role models - it's something that, sadly, our world doesn't see enough.

I am so blessed to have such a real (and wonderful!) father in my life - he has shown me and my sister countless times over the years how to work hard, how to take time for family, how to make sacrifices, how to spend time doing the things you love, how to laugh at yourself, how to think out side the box, and how to be a strong model of faith. Over the years I probably never said it enough - Thank you, Dad. I love you. 

(And, Dad, I hope you get a chance to play and watch some golf today...You'll be happy to know Marisa and I watched some of the U.S. Open yesterday - good stuff.)

Happy Fathers' Day to all you dads out there. As you go about your day-to-day, remember the wise words of Pope John XXIII...

P.S. Check out this article on St. Joseph (the ultimate role model of a father) from America Magazine.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Pin Away

So many great pictures I've found on Pinterest lately...Here are a few:

...And there are many more.

Can you tell it's summer for me yet? Way too much time on my hands...hmm...better turn to that curriculum map soon...

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Hard Times...(A Student Rationale)

Here's an excerpt from a student's thank you note:

"...And I'm sorry for every headache I've caused, every time you wished I was part of the other class. But, like I said, the hard times make us stronger. That's probably why I have such big biceps."

Had to chuckle at that one.

But, if this statement is true, I can't help but wonder why I don't have larger biceps...

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

(Borrowed) Wednesday Wisdom

"I would like to become tolerant without overlooking anything, persecute no one even when all people persecute me; become better without noticing it; become sadder, but enjoy living; become more serene, be happy in others; belong to no one, grow in everyone; love the best, comfort the worst; not even hate myself anymore." 
- Elias Canetti

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Never Work a Day in Your Life

This student poster is now the background on my phone - it serves as a reminder of viewing teaching as a vocation, not a job. It is something I truly love; therefore, I'm not really working, am I?

I am so grateful to have had my group of 21 4th graders this past year - we've had our ups and downs, but we made it. And today, they were so generous with their notes and gifts of gratitude.

Here are some of my favorites:

- In an acrostic poem, one student wrote for O (in Miss Foyle), "obliviously fun" - I think she meant obviously, but I can see how oblivious might work too.
- One student gave me a cactus, which reminded me of my time in Arizona. (And it also made me quite excited because I will be less likely to kill that kind of plant!)
- I received a few delicious treats, including peanut butter/chocolate kiss drop cookies, sour gummy bears, and non-pareils (like snowdrops I buy at the movie theater but better because they are Ghiradelli).

I feel so blessed to be able to get up each morning and spend my day doing something I enjoy so much with such lovely co-workers and students.

I'm loving it!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Good Morning

After hitting the snooze button on my alarm for the umpteenth time this morning, I sat up in bed and prayed these three simple phrases:

 I love you.
I need you.
I thank you.

And then I briefly repeated each phrase one at a time, and I followed each one with a specific qualifier that seemed suited to my day. (So, as you can imagine, most of the "qualifiers" today had to do with the end of the school year.)

The group of phrases is straightforward, simple, and short. This is definitely a new habit I am going to work hard to keep.

Happy Monday...

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Time's Up...Almost

The time is drawing ever nearer - now the countdown for students stands at 2.5 days till summer break ...a little more for teachers.

Yesterday was a lot of fun - my sister came to visit my classroom and, in doing so, turned a few heads. The kiddos were still asking about her today.

Today, students full out asked me if I am teaching middle school religion next year. (Word sure travels fast at our school.) To my affirmative response, I received two very different student responses:

Student A: "Wow, you'll be perfect for that."
Student B: "Did you even teach us religion last year? I don't remember."

I think (or, at least, I hope) Student B was being silly.

The reality is starting to hit. It's strange but true that I am looking at the middle schoolers differently now. And for the fifth graders - it's going to be take 2. (I've never looped before.)

Since the students now know, I've started making my pile of books and materials to move upstairs at the end of the year. One student - bless her heart - thought I had to put everything in my car and take it home for the summer. (Thanks goodness we don't have to do that! I imagine that would be a big deterrent to buying and stocking up on books for the classroom!)

It's amazing, though, how much I have accumulated for the fourth/middle elementary level over the past 5 years - so many books, resource materials, stuffed animals, books on CD, etc. I promised my co-teacher to leave most of my materials behind (and I am), so I know they'll be well-read and put to good use next year. I am, however, taking some student novels and other things, as well as all of my religious books in order to start a small "loaning library" for the teachers at school. Plans/Hopes are small, but we'll see how it can grow.

Yes, it's not long until the end of school now. Let's end this year right!

In other Catholic School-related news - this time on the Archdiocesan level - found out about the new strategic plan, To Teach Who Christ Is. Excited to learn more about this initiative and how Catholic education will benefit!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Thought for Tuesday

"A humble person is one who, like the humble Mary, says, ‘The Powerful One has done great things in me.’ Each of us has an individual greatness. God would not be our author if we were something worthless."

 - Archbishop Oscar Romero, Servant of God (1917-1980), Martyr

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Monday, June 3, 2013

All I had was nothing...

Ever have those times when the thoughts aren't flowing?

I mean, seriously, I got nothing.

And it seems that as summer approaches I should have something to offer - some wise piece of advice or some funny story, perhaps?

And yet, I don't.

Maybe a 13 hour school day does that to people...or at least to me...and another one tomorrow ain't making the week look too good either.

Oh well, here goes nothing... Not long now until summer break!

Keeping that chin up - after all...