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

Friday, August 30, 2013

Faith Like a Child

In asking my 6th graders why they pray, I was floored by their answers. In going around the room and reading one line they had each written about what the Lord helps them with, I couldn't help but smile.

Talk about the faith of a child.

It makes me wonder what happens to most of us as we grow older - Where does that faith go? What does our faith become? Why does doubt creep in?

Faith is much more than just emotions and feelings - it's rooted in truth.

So, for many of us (myself included) the question becomes, how do we get that child-like faith back?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

What do you see...?

What do you see? How does this picture make you feel?

It started out as a simple bellwork question...and I was astounded by the students' responses.

Unlike most days, the bellwork was the same for all of my classes today. And yet, each class found something different or had some variation of insight.

Hands down, it was my favorite part of each class today...

Monday, August 26, 2013


Best quote of the day:

Student A: "Is she (math teacher) Catholic?"
Student B (without missing a beat): "No, she's Irish."

Guess that student doesn't believe in Notre Dame...


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Coming along...

Okay, the first two days of each of my prayer units for 6, 7, and 8th grades are done. I worked on one grade level per day, so I was able to spread out the work and still enjoy my weekend, which I filled with a long-ish run, Ministry of Care, grocery shopping, friend visits & karaoke, and an ACE Mass. (All in all, it was a packed yet restful weekend.)

Here's how they're shaping up so far - Remember, it's just the first 2 days (Wed & Thurs of this week)...

Click here for Grade 6
Click here for Grade 7
Click here for Grade 8

We only have a four day week coming up due to PD (professional development) on Friday, so I'm crossing my fingers and praying that we'll make it through.

And, if all else fails, I can think of this adorable picture I came across on Pinterest:

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Back to School - Survey Says...

My students completed a survey during the first part of class today. As you can see, it's pretty open-ended, so I wasn't sure what kinds of responses I'd get.

Here were some of my favorites:

Who is the person you most respect?
   - God
   - Abraham Lincoln
   - my parents
   - Fr. Pat

What is something you are afraid of?
   - suspension over heights
   - a torturous death
   - bugs
   - spiders
   - doing bad in school

What is your favorite prayer?
   - the meal prayer
   - The Hail Mary (in Spanish)

What is one thing about the Catholic faith that most confuses you?
   - how God just made people
   - I am confused about heaven - what it looks like and if I'll see anyone I know
   - the Catholic family tree
   - how everything was made
   - why God doesn't talk to us using words
   - how Jesus and God are the same, yet Jesus is God's son
   - that Mary never had original sin - did she ever sin?
   - nothing really confuses me that much

What is one thing about the Catholic faith that most excites you?
   - That we can pray to God for hope
   - Tasting the body and blood of Christ
   - Mass
   - the promise of heaven
   - that I can be forgiven and protected by God
   - when we die we will see God

What is one of the MOST important things you want me to know about you?
   - I am awesome.
   - I pay attention in class.
   - I make mistakes because I'm not perfect.
   - I like to learn.

What is one thing you expect of me as your teacher?
   - I expect you to have a little fun
   - To teach me great things
   - That you can have fun when we do during class
   - That you are inspiring and a good role model
   - very understanding and fun!!!
   - no pop quizzes (please)
   - to not give a lot of homework
   - to be awesome and to give me good grades
   - to help me succeed in religion
   - Just do what you do :)

I really only spent a whole class period with both six grades today. I saw 7th grade for about 10 minutes after advisory - we were putting together binders as a homeroom - and I didn't even get a chance to see the 8th grade, except during lunch.

But I think the kids are ready to be back from summer break, and I think they are ready to learn.

And, I must say, I very much appreciate the opportunities I have built in throughout the day to breathe, reflect, and prepare. (It's so much different from last year in that respect - I don't feel the constant go, go, go!)

Only one more day till the weekend - That's probably a good thing...

Monday, August 19, 2013

Small, Thoughtful Gifts

Never underestimate the smallest acts of kindness - they can really brighten a day:

1- I sent an email to parents of 4th graders on my volleyball team, and I introduced myself as the middle school religion teacher. One parent (whose son I had in 4th grade) wrote back, "You are not just the religion teacher, you are the BOMB!" - Well, that sure made me smile.

2- I received an order in the mail, and when I opened it, I found two small items included as a simple "thank you" for being their first customer. Lovely!

3- My mom sent a good luck card, prayer, stamps, and Target gift card in the mail. :)

I sure hope I was able to bring a smile in some small way to someone's face today. Did you?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Another Beginning...Hold On Tight...

The beginning is always the hardest. I have to remember that.

A new skill...
A new book with new characters...
A new running goal & related training (e.g. 5K, marathon, half marathon, etc.)...

A new school year...

It's difficult to know quite where to start, especially in starting to develop unit plans for my middle school religion classes. I am SO excited for this school year, don't get me wrong, but I'm still only starting to wrap my head around so many things, including the content material.

But I have to keep perspective. The beginning is always the hardest, this is true. But what is also true is this: "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." (Lao Tzu)

It's time to hold on tight - this rollercoaster ride is about to kick into full gear.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Classroom Photos

Here are a few pictures from my up and coming classroom, but that's all I have for ya tonight...

Doorway into our classroom 

We Need Saints (with quote from JPII), bathroom sign-out, and (inherited) cross

Prayer corner

Focusing on the Saints this year...

Objectives/HW board - Dr. Moreno would be so proud...

Current Events (ongoing project) about our faith

My bookshelf - lots of resources here!

My desk - it will become slowly more cluttered, I am sure

Student birthdays to be added around the RWE quote above

quotes about time surrounding the clock

Prayer Grotto - student names on candles + post-its with intentions throughout the trimester

if questions remain at the end of class - or if I need a quick formative assessment

Bibles & religious books

other books - so, clearly I am still a reading teacher at heart...

Monday, August 12, 2013

The House That Built Me

Even though it's been a pain in the butt for my dad to fix up his parents' house since my grandpa died, I think I understand why he wants to keep it. If you listen to Miranda Lambert's The House That Built Me, the realization might hit you too - memories are hidden in every nook and cranny of that house. And even though some things about it look a little (or even a lot) different now, it doesn't take away the times we've shared together there. And since my dad is a pretty nostalgic guy (which is probably why I usually am the same way), the house is something he isn't quite ready to give up. (And for that I am grateful.)

(Note: If that song hits you any way close to how it hits me, make sure you have a tissue box handy.)

Sometimes it takes a place to make you realize how very special certain people have been (and continue to be) in your life. And one such place for me is my grandparents' house because, in many ways and for many summers, it did build me.

And so, allow me to ask you to reflect on this - Has there been a place that's built you?

I "stole" the following pictures from my sister/grandpa - I know they won't mind...

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The 2-Way

This week I was reminded that there are always two ways to look at something...

(really bad) traffic -
     Choice A = This sucks and it shouldn't take over 6 hours to get home
     Choice B = Traffic's bad, but I can't control it...plus, I am coming off a family vacation, which not all people get to enjoy, so I'm pretty lucky.

loud pounding while getting a new roof installed -
     Choice A = My head hurts SO much, I just can't take the high-pitched noise
     Choice B = I have a roof over my head and a place to call home

lack of internet access -
     Choice A = How on earth can it take this long to get into Gmail?
     Choice B = I don't need to be piddling around on the internet - spending time with a good book or with my family is time better spent

Choice B looks like the better thought each time - less stress, more optimism...

The glass if half full, my friends. Cheers to the week ahead!

Friday, August 9, 2013

School Supplies

There have been multiple trips to Target...and the Dollar Tree...and places with big clothing sales...

All in the name of teaching.

As the piles in this house get larger, I have to wonder if I really need all this "stuff" or if I am just erring on the side of caution because it will cause me less headaches later on in the year if I am prepared at the start. (Hopefully waste will be at minimum.)

And then there's the loading of the car here, the unloading (to avoid items melting) in Chicago, and then the reloading to bring the items to school, followed by the unloading from my car to the classroom, and finally to the unpacking of bags and boxes to organize my room.

Oh dear...

Teachers are back in session at my school in less than one week...Summer, oh where have you gone?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

A Tale Most Masterfully Told

It's that time - I just finished a book I need to add to my Book List 4 Life - it's called The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult. I knew nothing about this book when I started reading it – I simply preordered it because it was an author I thoroughly enjoyed. As it turns out, that was all I needed to know.

Though over 400 pages, it took me less than three days to devour it. And it wasn’t in a rushed way – in fact, it’s one of those books you sit down with and then look up from one or two hours later without realizing how much time has passed. In addition, it’s a book that completely sucks you in, making any outside sources of noise or distraction disappear…completely.

It's one of those books that compels you to read it and yet makes you want to look away at the same time due to descriptions that leave nothing to the imagination as well as conflicting emotions all woven beautifully together to tell a fictional story of complex family (and romantic) relationships, hope of redemption, and stories of the Holocaust kept hidden for many years. There is also a story written by one of the characters in the book that acts as a parallel (or, perhaps, allegory?) to the lives of the characters. (It is also quite graphic – be forewarned.) And, in true Jodi Picoult fashion, the novel ends with a twist that makes you want to flip back and reread (at least parts of) the story.

And, though ultimately this is a tale of redemption, it is also a story of self-discovery and acceptance. (There are so many different levels on which the reader can connect to this book!)

Here are some of my favorite quotations from the novel:

"Love isn't the only word that fails. Hate does, too. War. And hope. Oh, yes, hope. So, you see, this is why I never told my story. If you lived through it, you already know there are no words that will ever come close to describing it. And if you didn't, you will never understand."

"When a freedom is taken away from you, I suppose, you recognize it as a privilege, not a right."

"You can believe, for example, that a dead-end job is a career. You can blame your ugliness for keeping people at bay, when in reality you're crippled by the thought of letting another person close enough to potentially scar you even more deeply. You can tell yourself that it's safer to love someone who will never really love you back, because you can't lose someone you never had."

"But sometimes, in order to win, you have to make sacrifices."

"Having a family means you are never alone."

"If you end your story, it's a static work of art, a finite circle. But if you don't, it belongs to anyone's imagination. It stays alive forever."

Whoever thinks you can't learn much from fiction needs to read this book - the "accounts" of both an officer and a survivor from Auschwitz are told with such gut-wrenching detail that though these things did not happen word for word to these people, you realize that similar horrific treatment happened to those involved in this part of history. If you are remotely interested in learning more about the Holocaust, I encourage you to give this book a try - it is a masterpiece!

I could go on and on, but this is truly a story you need to discover for yourself...besides, I could never do it justice. Sometimes, words just can't convey exactly what you want to say...

Friday, August 2, 2013

And The Summer Wind...

It's hard to believe there are less than three weeks until my school is filled with students (hopefully ones who are eager to learn). Summer has, for the most part, flown by, and now it's nearly over.

I keep thinking I'm ready to start teaching middle school...and maybe I am. But then the doubt creeps in too. Not the kind of doubt that makes me think I am not capable but rather the doubt that I'm better suited elsewhere - you know, like teaching 10 year-olds...like what I've been doing for the past 5 years. Let's face it, though - if I didn't try another grade level, how would I know if (ultimately) teaching 4th grade is where I am meant to be?

It looks like this year I'll be in pursuit of that answer...

All right, enough about that tonight. In the spirit of Audrey Hepburn (since my family happens to be watching Charade - if you haven't seen it, stop reading this right now and rent it/get it on demand), I give you a collage of pictures/quotes I came across tonight on Pinterest:

Gotta love Audrey Hepburn...

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Hmm, Random, I know...

Tell me what you'd do
If on this day you could speak
Only in haiku...

Random, yes I am
But nothing else is coming.
My brain is empty...