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, July 31, 2013

Learning and Love

Here are two thoughts I've come across via email this week that I want to share:

If only my students would remember this...
Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.
-Abigail Adams (1744-1818)

And Mother Teresa's never cease to offer simple truths...
"It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start."
-Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Happy Wednesday!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Freudian Slip...?

It happened. I knew it would slip some time, and this afternoon it finally did.

I teach fourth grade.

Wait a second, that's not right anymore. It's so ingrained in my head that when someone asks me what grade I teach, the natural response is fourth.

But I teach middle school now.

Gosh, that's so strange to say. I feel that after 5 years I will always be a 4th grade teacher.

The closer I get to the start of school, the harder it is for me to say/admit my move up to those lovely teenage years. But I truly am excited, it's just not natural yet.

Ask me this time next year, and I'll probably answer with a sigh and with definite signs of gray hairs that I do, in fact, teach middle school.

Here goes nothing...

Friday, July 26, 2013

Hearts on Fire

What are you looking for?
How will you spend your life?
What is your soul's desire?
What sets you on fire, 
and gladdens your heart?... (c)

Thus begins Steve Warner's (ND Folk Choir) powerful & beautiful new song written for the celebration of ACE's 20th year of its Service Through Teaching program. The Folk Choir debuted this piece during Preparation of the Gifts at Missioning Mass this morning - and I was on the verge of tears. Its message rings incredibly true with the mission of ACE, with our call as teachers and leaders in the faith to bring young people to God through loving actions in our classrooms & schools. It was absolutely wonderful.

And I just can't say enough about my experience this summer - I know you are probably getting tired of me talking about it - but it renewed my spirit and rekindled that fire for teaching I had when I entered ACE five years ago.

Fr. Sean really helped to send us off at the Grotto service Thursday night - he spoke of his sixth grade teacher's retirement and how he had been able to go back for her celebration and speak on behalf his classmates. He said that he was convinced he was the teacher's favorite, and he said this in front of everyone, but then everyone else (including his twin sister) started claiming that each was the favorite instead. And, they were all right. It was true, Fr. Sean had said, because she made each of them feel like he/she was in fact the favorite. He then challenged us to do the same in the classroom - to treat each child as though he/she is our favorite (even though we know they won't all be our favorites - some are definitely more challenging than others), and I just thought that was such a neat perspective to have. What a great challenge to give.

And so, as summer comes to a close (after some family vacation, of course), I find myself asking, how will this year be different? Aside from the fact that my students will be older and I will be teaching different content, what will I do differently as a teacher to better & more consistently show the love of Christ to my students?

Monday, July 22, 2013


I promise not to be too long tonight in my reflection, as it is past my bedtime. (ACE talent show was tonight...and, let me tell ya, there was plenty of talent...On second thought, I'll hold off on that till another night.) But I did want to put to paper (er, um, cyberspace?) a few collected thoughts from Sunday night:

Fr. Joe + ND Folk Choir + last 9 p.m. summer Sunday Mass at the Basilica = AWESOME

The Gospel was the one we hear often - and, yes, the one that is often used at vacation Bible school (at least at ours) - of the two sisters, Martha and Mary. As Fr. Joe pointed out, Martha is the one from whom Jesus is benefiting (having his feet washed and his meal prepared), yet she is the one who is somewhat scolded by Jesus. But Fr. Joe was quick to point out that it wasn't that what Martha was doing was bad - instead, it was good. Jesus said that Mary had chosen the "better" (not good) part by listening to and contemplating Jesus' words. And Fr. Joe went on to say that we can think of this whole Gospel in the context of "good, better, best," thus implying that there was a "best" part, which, he said, would be akin to a combination of the actions of both Martha and Mary - a balance between active and contemplative lifestyles.

I think Fr. Joe nailed it right on the head - that's how I have felt being here at Notre Dame, and I think that balance is largely what makes ND so, for lack of a better term, "magical." It's on this campus where God's presence is so tangible, but where, also, I can be active - both physically and mentally. The "best" in this case being the contemplative (Mass & prayer) with the active (running, grading, helping with classes, curriculum-planning, etc.).


And maybe that's also why I felt such a deep connection and draw to Arizona when I lived there for 3 years - that same sense of being so in touch with God (mostly through nature and opportunities for prayer/thought on my lengthy work commutes) because I was in such a healthy physical and mental state.



So now, the challenge becomes how will I choose the "best" in Chicago? What can I do to insure that balance of contemplation and action?

What will you choose to do?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Good to be Free!

Having recently finished commenting on 11 unit plans, teacher tests, & performance assessments with rubrics, I have to admit that this is pretty much how I feel right now - I'm done! (Well, I think I may have one set left - one student had an extension...)

Getting done took a little longer than I had originally anticipated...but that was all my fault. I took about 4 hours out of my afternoon yesterday to spend with a friend from Chicago and then a couple of my ACE housemates in town for a short visit. That was time well-spent, and I don't regret that break one bit...

Together, we re-lived the ACE summer dream - eating lunch (my 2nd of the day, though I didn't eat much) at the dining hall, playing co-tour guide in the ACE building, popping in at the student center (and, while there, running into a family from my Church back home in FL - small world!), and just walking around campus.

And through it all, a plastic pigeon (painted as a bald eagle with an American flag) hung from Julia's purse. Knowing Julia and her husband, this did not surprise me in the least.

Here's "Pidge" candidly in the DH with us - can you spot him?

Apparently the pigeon is their mascot as they make their way across the country - he's a great avenue into random conversations, and he provides plenty of amusement. (It was fun to see how many places and activities we could take pictures of "Pidge" in/doing.) They're chronicling Pidge's adventures on Instagram, but I haven't figured out how to find them yet...But don't worry, I will. Going to miss these kids when they head to China for a two year teaching opportunity in just a few short weeks...

Never a dull moment with these guys, let me tell ya -

photo from Julia's wedding last summer of me and my two housemates who I saw yesterday at ND

Less than one week left of ACE summer - time really has flown by. I'm excited for school to start back up in a few weeks, but I also still have plenty to prepare before I head back to the classroom. My goal through these final weeks of summer is to strike a healthy balance between relaxing and preparing for school.

I'll let you know how that goes...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Learn to Let It Go

After spending who knows how long trying to retrieve an unknown (well, technically I can't remember it) email account to no avail, I was past my wit's end. I wanted to log in so that I could continue creating a blog of religion resources for my school - the only version of the blog I can see is the cached version.

Well, I've tried all I can, and I just can't get into my account. (If you have any suggestions, please feel free to comment below.)

I honestly was ready to pull my hair out...but then, at Mass, Fr. Joe shared a message with us that rang loud and clear - LET GO. It's okay and we're going to fail at things - that's life. It's not the end of the world. (And if Fr. Joe's homily wasn't a good enough reminder of that, people's intentions at Mass sure put my small worry in perspective.)

Bottom line = I can start over - I don't want to, but I can. (And it will probably take less time and be more productive than sitting at my computer trying every possible screen name to get my password reset anyway. Let's just count that first website as practice, shall we?)

It's time to, in the words of Zac Brown Band, learn to let it go.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

On Holy Ground

I was on my way back from the second year ACE teacher poster projects (Day 2), and I was by myself, so I decided to stop by the Grotto. I was one of the only people there, and it was so peaceful. As I knelt there praying, it felt so sacred. It was holy ground.

Hail Mary, full of grace...
When I'm at the Grotto, I feel Mary's presence in a special way.

The Lord is with thee...
And I know that she hears my prayers and intercedes on my behalf.

Blessed are thou among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
It just feels right praying, talking to Mary.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Maybe it's extra special because I've seen Mary in such a special way (thanks to my Salesian high school and ACE school (and many in-between) experiences) over the years, and I have been taught how and why to pray to her. At the Grotto, it's like she's right there with me - it's hard to put to words. But she is very real, very present.

Today I offered prayers of thanks for my time here at ND. It has been exactly what I needed. I enjoy LOVE working with the first and second year ACE teachers - their eagerness to learn and try new things in the classroom as well as their struggles to get all their Bloom's verbs to match correctly. (It's so refreshing to work with open-minded, faith-filled adults!) I know I keep saying this, but I am so truly grateful - almost as grateful as the first year ACE elementary class who we are coaching on their units. :)

Added bonus for hump day = a few favorite inspirations from the week:

Monday, July 15, 2013


In honor of the ACE 19 class presenting their posters this Tuesday and Wednesday here on campus (woo hoo!), I would like to do a throw-back (even though it's not #tbt) to the parody poem that poster projects inspired me to create that Monday night only four short years ago...

Twas the night before posters
Miss Kelly M Foyle (ACE 15 Phoenix)
from July 13, 2009

Twas the night before posters
and all through the hall 
all the ACErs were scrambling - 
felt they'd hit a brick wall. 

Empty posterboards sat 
staring them in the face, 
while some tried to remember 
why they'd even joined ACE. 

Citing standards and lit 
caused stress hard to handle. 
ACErs sent up prayers, 
at the grotto, lit candles. 

Then came screaming, frustrations, 
heck, some even cried, 
but they soon asked themselves, 
"Really, would Clark eat us alive?" 

So the stress eased a wee bit 
as the sun started to dawn, 
"Sleep's overrated," 
ACErs joked with a yawn. 

Now, some posters were finished, 
others, eh, not so much, 
some ACErs sighed with relief 
adding their final touch. 

But the important thing was 
at the end of the day 
each ACEr would finish 
in his/her own special way. 

And at posters that evening 
they would answer each question 
professors would throw 
even near their direction. 

And after it all 
with their drinks and their beers, 
they'd celebrate heartily, 
"Everybody in, cheers!"

Sunday, July 14, 2013


It's coming...the "ACE (Alliance for Catholic Education) 20 year celebration/I LOVE CATHOLIC SCHOOLS/I forget the real (long) name" Bus is coming...

And it just may be coming to a city near you.

How will you know it?

Well, first of all, let me assure you, that there is lots of excitement buzzing, and it all kind of kicked off this weekend with an ACE regional Advocates Forum here at Notre Dame - the event provided a think tank (of sorts) for ideas, logistics, advertising, partnerships, and more. Regional leaders got revved up and are ready to get events organized from their ends - more info will be forthcoming. :)

Second of all, you will know the bus in all of its shrink-wrapped glory - as you can see below, names of Catholic schools all around the United States are written across its sides & doors:

Why a bus tour? Some have argued that it seems frivolous or has no point. But it's stirring up excitement and gathering support through local (& national) TV ads, politicians, schools, programs, and more - and it's all because of the need to spread the good news that our country needs Catholic education more than ever. (Plus, we're also celebrating 20 years of the ACE Service Through Teaching program - pretty impressive, I must add.)

So, when the bus comes to your city, be sure you jump on it and celebrate all the wonderful things Catholic schools in your area (and nationwide) are doing #forthekids!

P.S. This short video segment (starts at 1:18) also talks about ACE and all we're doing - check it out!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Mission Accepted...and Accomplished

At Mass last evening, I happened to look up during Communion, and who should I see but the superintendent of Catholic Schools in our Archdiocese.

Immediate decided mission = track her down after Mass (in the most NOT creepy sense), introduce myself and the ACErs, and enjoy a little bit of conversation

Mission Accepted.

"Thanks be to God" - Closing Hymn - Brief chat with someone I had recognized from Phoenix

And then it was time to grab my sister and start our mission.

(ACE sure helped us out by hosting their weekly post-Mass get-together - everyone in one place!)

Yes, we had to wait for five or so minutes - it's hard to know when the most appropriate/non-awkward time for "interrupting" a person's conversation is while not wanting to wait for 2 more hours as others "interrupt" before you - but it was worth our wait. Sr. Mary Paul was bursting with joy, smiling from ear to ear, and just, apparently, thrilled with life and all ACE is doing in Chicago and around the country. (It would be safe to say that she was even happier than a camel on Wednesday.)

And her enthusiasm and energy was catching - pretty soon we were smiling from ear to ear too. And we got her to meet 3 of the 4 Chicago ACErs for next year. (I still can't get over how supportive and enthusiastic she is about ACE!)

Next year's gonna be great.

Mission accomplished.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Rain is a good thing...but I very much dislike wearing wet shoes. (Especially when they are new wet shoes.)

That is all...

Monday, July 8, 2013

Not Quite "Just Right"

Yes, this quotation seems about right - never can get it "just right," can we?

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Michigan Summers

While not in Michigan for the entire summer (or even more than 2 consecutive weeks), I got a taste of it this weekend when I celebrated the Fourth of July (long) weekend with my family. We packed quite a lot of visiting into these past 3.5 days...and it was awesome. (do-dee-do-dee-do)

Even though my grandpa's (now my parents') house is physically (or in the process of becoming so) different from how I remember it as a kid, the memories and emotions remain constant...

It's a place where people gather and enjoy each other's company. 
It's a place where neighbors (and friends of neighbors) are always welcome.
It's where (in the summer months) the grill is usually on and the door is open.
It's where old movies are shown at any time of the day...or night,
And where the clacking of pool balls can always be heard through the air vents.
It's a place cozily tucked beneath the shady trees in the front yard,
Where, if you look hard enough, you can still see the above-ground pool in the back.
It's a place where you know "we'll leave the light on for you."
It's a place I am lucky enough to call home.

I am excited to head back to Michigan once the summer here at Notre Dame wraps up. It will be good to be "home."

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Passing It On...

Doing what the email says and passing it on:

Hope you're having a great weekend!