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

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Present Moment

Kiddos were off the wall today - finally got them to calm down, but holy cow...

I am very glad I had taken the time to read this short article from God in All Things this morning before going to school. It helped keep my day in perspective.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Another Weekend Has Come and Gone...

Head colds sure hit hard...and somehow they always hit on the weekend.

It figures.

But at least it made me take time to relax - heck, I couldn't even think straight. So, I spent my Saturday watching college football and a movie (not that ND was anything special in their game).

Not bad.

And today, therefore, was one spent lesson planning (after a run and coffee with my sister, of course). I love the challenge of it, but I often struggle with coming up with that one big take-away (when there are SO many standards) and then coming up with a set of activities that are both diverse in learning styles and short enough for my students' attention spans.

We'll see how this week goes. (I'm taking the 8th grade to Adoration on Friday, so please say some extra prayers that they are open to meeting Jesus in the Eucharist in a new way.)

Only one volleyball game this week - woo hoo! I'm sure my time with them will be the highlight of my Monday.

Have a great week everyone! Full speed ahead.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Trinity is Squeaky Clean

Over the past couple of days, I posed the Aquafresh Challenge (I give full credit to my roommate for originally introducing me to the idea!) to my 7th and 8th grade students to introduce the concept of the Trinity. Yes, at these grade levels, they know what the Trinity is and who the three persons of the Trinity are, but we went a little deeper.

However, using the Aquafresh allowed me to have a little fun with them first...

Considering both classes had just completed lessons on group work through our Second Step program, I posed the challenge as a test of teamwork. The students focused on their little squeeze of toothpaste, analyzed a plan of action, and desperately tried to separate the colors.

"It's impossible!" came one 7th grader's cry.

"Yes," I said. "I did give you an impossible task. Why would I do that?"

Students sat stumped for a few moments.

"What if I told you it had to do with God...all three parts of it?" (By this time, I guess you could say I was practically feeding them the answer.)

"Oh! Oh! The Trinity!"

"Yes," I nodded. "Elaborate, please..."

"Well, just like God is three in one, there are three colors that can't be separated in the toothpaste."

Activity worked like an intro activity charm once again. Amen to that!

Both classes did various activities with the Trinity throughout the class period, including a couple of videos as well as a "Pass the Trinity Symbol" activity, where each group of students received one Trinity symbol at a time. (Symbols included the Trinity Shield, Old Testament Trinity Painting, Shamrock, Trinity Knot, water in three forms, and a Venn Diagram with symbols of sorts.) Students sketched a picture of the image in front of them, and they then worked together to determine the strengths and weaknesses of each symbol and listed these in a table. Then, a few minutes later, it was time to "pass the symbol." In doing this, the activity kept moving and the students kept mostly engaged. (It helped to move around the room to monitor and pose questions if I felt students were getting off-task or needed to challenge themselves a little more.)

In 7th grade, their "ticket" out the door was meeting the challenge of designing and explaining an original symbol for the Trinity. Some of the ones they came up with were pretty good, especially in light of the fact that they showed they understood the idea of three separate ___ in one ___. 7th grade never ceases to impress me.

I must say, I learn more and more about my faith every day, especially since I've been showing my students quite a few Fr. Robert Barron snippets from Catholicism and other short interviews. I also must say that I am challenged each and every day to think outside of the box for lesson plans and activities - sitting still (at least for the 8th grade) is just not an option.

And I think I can confidently say that the students now have a little deeper grasp of the Trinity as the central mystery of our Catholic faith.


These Value emails are just what I need to start off the morning.

Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

If Chairs Could Talk...

Anybody sitting there...?

Have you ever thought how many people sit in any given seat on any given day or week or (even) year? on the bus? on a plane? in the doctor's office? in the classroom?

I have found myself thinking about this more often than I probably should - but it's just so fascinating. Life passes by so fast, and many people walk in and out of our lives...

Today, while at Eucharistic Minister training at school, our pastor mentioned a story that made me think on these things yet again. He explained how he was asked to bless an Italian restaurant and its workers before it opened for business. During the blessing, he reflected on how many things and life events would happen at the tables under that roof - someone would get engaged, someone would say "I'm sorry," someone would be celebrating a birthday...Wow. What wonderful thoughts!

Each seat holds so many stories. 

What stories are the seats we occupy telling? What about the chairs of our students?

Are we listening? 

Are we remembering?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Moments of "Friendship"

Saturday was a day spent completely school work-free! I had the opportunity to head to the MSU/ND game in South Bend - what a gorgeous day and cheers for an ND victory (even though it wasn't pretty)!

Marisa and I made it to 3 tailgates and saw quite a few friends. The weather was mostly cloudy with only hints of sunlight during the day, but the temperature was perfect. Hello Fall!

While at the ACE tailgate, we got to talking with Doc Doyle (one of our favorite ACE professors/directors), and he really helped me find a renewed sense of purpose at the school where I am currently teaching: I was explaining how I teach a very privileged population and that sometimes I feel that I should be working for children and families who have more of a monetary need. However, Doc pointed out that the students whom I am teaching are very much in need of that spiritual direction away from the stuff & things they usually find happiness in. In other words, my calling right now is to help move these kids away from stuff of this world to faith in the next. It's not an easy task, but when put in this light, Doc really helped me find peace with where I am. (I really needed that!)

After the ACE tailgate, Marisa and I took a quick stop for prayer at the Grotto, and we then took a walk around one of the lakes. Just lovely...

A view of the dome across the lake - check out those clouds!
Our seats were amazing - great for seeing the game at both ends of the field and great for the band's halftime show too!

Our seats were right about on the 40 yard line in the bottom section - sweet!

The ND Band

Yes, all of these elements added up to make the day just "perfect." However, my favorite part of the day actually occurred in the bathroom...

A small girl (probably about 7 years old) was having a very hard time washing her hands at the sink. So, I leaned over and pushed down on the faucet so she could clean her hands, saying, "Let me help you." Afterwards, she thanked me, got some paper towels, and went back outside. Upon leaving the bathroom, she smiled and waved at me, so, of course, I smiled and waved back. I turned to Marisa and said, "I think I made a new friend."

In reflecting on that moment, I realized what a small action and what little effort it took to make a "friend" yesterday. And it got me to thinking, how many times during each day do we have opportunities to do such simple actions for others? How many "friends" are we taking the small moments to make? How many "friends" are we passing by?

What will you do today to make a "friend?"

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

My Wednesday (in words and pictures)

The days get all jumbled together, but here are some things that happened today at each grade level:

8th Grade
We started class with an interesting twist on the Our Father. And then we broke it down (in small groups).

Here is what they came up with... (Please ignore the stabbing...)

Put them together, and there you have the Our Father. Hmm..."I never really thought about it before," they said. Well...now they have.

7th Grade
After spending last night reading the students' exit slips on how to be saints, I decided that the slips were much too great to pass on an opportunity to hang them up. So, for bellwork, I had the students decorate, cut, & color their individual pieces. They ranged from simple paragraphs to recipes to even a poem!

Check them out here - hooray for a decorated door!:

6th Grade
While I don't have pictures to show you from this group, we had a pretty neat class today. The students played a variation on the Fruit of the Spirit game - we upped the difficulty, though, by having the students read off definitions or scenarios for the Fruit and students moving if they had the Fruit that was described.

Best quote in the middle of the game - after standing up, the student realized "I don't have faith!!"(and sat back down), but, quite frankly, that just sounded funny, so we all had a good laugh about it.

And yes, they have pretty much memorized the Fruit of the Spirit song - see yesterday's post. They were singing it up and down the hallway - it kind of made the 8th graders agitated. (It was kind of awesome.)

4th Grade Volleyball
And we can't forget the volleyball game! After practicing with only 4 students (and after getting lost and calling my mom because I got turned around on the way to the game), we played with a total of 5 girls (against their 6 + subs)...and we won! I would have been proud of them if they hadn't because, honestly, they played their little hearts out, made their serves, and had a few decent volleys. And, above all, they were pretty much smiling the whole time. Go forth (4th), dolphins! I'm loving it. 

It's hard to believe today was a Wednesday...I usually don't have quite so much fun on this day of the week...

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Get Your Fruit Here!

Sixth grade spent time learning about the Fruit of the Spirit today. Their ticket out of class was to write a prayer to the Holy Spirit (or God) to ask for help with the Fruit which they most need to work on in their lives.

Here are some of the prayers the students posted as they left:

"Dear God, Please help me with peace and not to fight with my brother. Amen."

"Dear God, Please help me be more meek when I get complimented. Amen."

And then some got a little more sincere and thoughtful:

"Oh Lord, thank you for all you do. During these times, please help me stay patient. I love playing and hanging out with my friends, but sometimes I get ahead of myself. Thank you. Amen."

"Dear Holy Spirit, Please help me to work on being meek. I am shy and gentle, but I need to work on directing attention toward you. You have given me so much; you need recognition. Amen."

Most days, I love my job for simple reasons like getting to spend time reading responses like these. (I should also include the 7th graders responses about how to be a Saint, but that would take too long because almost all 20 of those are worth posting, so I will spare you.)

Have a great night!

*BONUS - WARNING --> Only watch the video below if you are prepared to have it stuck in your head for the rest of the day.

Don't say I didn't warn you...

Monday, September 16, 2013

An Honest Response

I have the best (the BEST) family and friends ever.

I sent an email asking one main question - "Why do you go to Mass?" - in the hopes that these honest, real responses will provide a ground for discussion with my students tomorrow. (Heck, it may even make some consider weekend Mass more than they do now.)

And check out the responses I got! (Don't worry, they are anonymous.) I am overwhelmed!

(The right column is suggestions for how to make it real & meaningful to the students. If you have any comments or suggestions, please leave them below.)

Honestly, I am blessed beyond words. I love being around people of such strong faith and conviction.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Experiencing God by Simply Being...

Contemplation - prayer in which we experience God's presence within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than consciousness itself (from http://www.centeringprayer.com/)

Whether it's been on purpose or not, I have found myself in this type of prayer quite often lately. (I do think the cooler "fall" weather has something to do with it because I've been able to spend more time outside without dripping with sweat.) I don't actively think of anything (which is actually harder done than said), but, instead, I simply experience the moment - the sunshine, the breeze, the smiles on people's faces...

It's so peaceful.

And I know God is there.

Some of my students have said that contemplation is their favorite type of prayer that they've learned in class because they get to just rest and sit in silence/peace.

In the midst of their busy days, who can blame them?

In the midst of our busy days, maybe we could give it a try...

"Be still and know that I am God." (Ps. 46:10)

Thursday, September 12, 2013


I spent today in a conference on executive functioning...but I'm not going to blog about that 7 hour experience tonight.

Instead, I want to focus on a less than one minute interaction that made all the difference in my day. It went something like this...

Me (seeing an ACE grad/prior faculty member after school who was subbing - she's in the process of kicking cancer's butt, by the way): "I just wanted to come over and say hi. (Hug) I'm supposed to tell you that Sarah (ACE supervisor) wants you to know you're in her prayers."

Christine: "Thank you. That's so sweet. And I need to tell you something. Today, in religion class, the students were naming people who have inspired them in the faith. One student (whom she named) said that you were that inspiration for her and that she's so excited she will get to have you for religion for 3 more years now that you're in middle school."

And yes, that brief interaction, really got me thinking - there are days when I feel less than 100% and that I can't possibly be reaching every student. (And I know many others feel that way too.) But, as evidenced here, we are reaching these kids, one day, one moment (or series of moments) at a time.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

One LONG Day...

Talk about hump day with a lot of oomph - man, it took a lot to get over it...but, after a 14+ hour day at school, I made it home.

We started off with Mass first thing this morning, which was lovely but also a little stressful because I have to make sure the students go up at the right time, coordinate the Eucharistic Ministers, check in with Fr. Larry, etc. As we left Mass, Fr. Larry had us all walk back to school by way of the fire department (located right next to the school) to say thank you for all of their service, as today we remembered all those involved in the events of 9/11. I think it's one of those small gestures that the kids will remember for a long time.

Classes went pretty well - 8th grade was up in the computer lab working on a project, and in 7th grade we learned about surrendering to God through prayer just like Mary did. I taught them the signs to the Our Father and a short Marian hymn over the past two days...it was pretty awesome. And then my 6th grade classes both took a test - which I am in the process of grading. (Note to self, next time include less short answer and more multiple choice. Ha ha.)

Right after school I was off and running to volleyball practice with my fourth grade girls. I think they were still excited by their win on Monday because they were a little bit silly. But we practiced bumping and serving quite a bit in preparation for our next game in a week. Woo hoo!

Grabbed a quick bite to eat before making final preparations for Curriculum Night (which, ultimately, is the reason I was at school until 8:45), and those were worth it because the event went over well. It was nice to be speaking to parents with whom I was already acquainted because I had taught a lot of their children in fourth grade. Apparently I am my father's daughter, as I got a few laughs during my presentation. (Well, technically, I gave 6 presentations, as the parents rotated to each teacher following their child's schedule, so I got pretty good by the end.)

And now I think it's time for bed. Two more days till the weekend...two days which I actually won't be spending in the classroom. It's sure making for an interesting week...

Have a good one!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Classroom & Volleyball

I needed to have a good afternoon with my fourth grade volleyball girls...because today in the classroom left much to be desired.

Mondays are rough, coming off the weekend and all. And I felt prepared...but things just didn't go right, from the SMARTBoard sound not working to the computer going slow (and not allowing me to show videos) to a few other minor things that seemed to add up. We got through it, but it wasn't pretty.

Volleyball, on the other hand, was quite fun. We had practice first, mostly practicing serving and bumping. And then we played - and won! - our first game of the season. The parents have been super supportive so far, and the girls have great attitudes. It is truly a pleasure to be their coach.

So, as far as the classroom goes...here's hoping for a better day tomorrow. :)

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Weekend Moments

It's hard to believe the weekend's just about over - it was a good one, but it was far too short (in my humble opinion). Granted, I spent a good bit of time in a car (to and from E Lansing) and sitting in a stadium (for the USF/MSU football game), but it was all pretty fun and worthwhile...

In East Lansing, I had the opportunity to see one of my ACE housemates who is still in school at MSU, and I also had the chance to visit with two other ACE classmates just chilling in one's apartment and sipping sangria. It was a (needed) relaxing evening. As much as I enjoy time to myself I equally enjoy time with friends.

As for the football game itself...well, it left much to be desired. I didn't expect the Bulls to win - and they didn't - but I did expect both teams to play better. It was a pretty sloppy game! It was also the second week in a row at which we had to protect ourselves from the rain without umbrellas or rain jackets. At least it was overcast...so no sunburn!

Here are some pictures from the game:

USF Bulls @ MSU Spartan Stadium, East Lansing

Spartan Stadium Jumbotron

Special Halftime Show with MSU Alumni Band

Marisa, her co-worker, and I are already booked (hotel-wise, not ticket-wise) for an MSU basketball weekend in January, which I am beyond excited about! Can't wait for Spartan basketball!

Today, Marisa and I went for a run, and then I went to her school's annual Reventon! celebration (to be read as "Mass followed by socializing and delicious Mexican food"). The rest of my day consisted of grocery shopping, bellwork scoring, lesson planning, sub plan organizing, etc...typical...

I am pretty excited for the week, though, I am a bit wary of teaching the Gifts and Fruit of the Holy Spirit to the 8th grade, as it is easy to get confused with the differences of each one within the set. Here goes nothing...

I hope you have a lovely week, whatever it brings. (Mine starts with my girls' first volleyball game tomorrow night - let's go dolphins!)

And remember...

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


Nearly a year ago, I read Grandad's Prayers of the Earth with my fourth graders. And today, I read it with my seventh graders.

Same story. Same meditation. Same results.

(Thank you Loyola Press.)

I honestly didn't know how seventh graders would handle their teacher reading aloud to them - they're 12 and 13 after all and could think of such an event as being below them. But, if you know me at all, I would say all children need to be read to - at least through eighth grade - so I was willing to take the chance that it might blow up in my face.

I'm sure glad it didn't.

Don't we all, once in awhile, like to be treated like kids again? When it's such a good story (as this one was), don't we enjoy being read to?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


While running on the Lakefront Trail, I found myself about 20 yards behind a girl running about the same speed as I was. I didn't know who she was, but let me tell you, she kept me going - as long as I stayed the same distance behind, I knew I was keeping my pace about the same. She had no clue I was following her...but that doesn't matter. She kept me going anyways.

Allow me to make a connection, then...Throughout our lives, we all have those people who keep us going - some know it, some don't. And, at some point(s), knowingly or unknowingly, you will be that person for someone(s) else.

So, keeping that in mind...what are you doing to keep yourself going? What picks you up and energizes you when you'd rather sit this one out?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

And our middle school religion classroom rules are...

Yep, those pretty much sum it all up.

Lessons from a Football Saturday

Leave it to my brain to wander to deeper musings while Notre Dame's home opener for the 2013 football season is going on right before my eyes...

Here are a few "lessons" learned from Saturday:

1) Never trust the weatherman. 80 and partly cloudy/sunny does not equal 80 and partly cloudy/sunny. I even told my roommate that she would not need a rain jacket for the day...oops. Guess who's not living that one down...

2) Always wear sunscreen (and bring your sunglasses), even when it's raining and overcast because, inevitably, the sun will come out. (And then you might get burned...though, luckily, that didn't happen this time around.) And then, it will be beautiful!

3) One person's cheering really makes no difference when taken in isolation. Face it, the players on the field can't hear what you're saying. However, taken as a whole, the crowd makes all the difference. If the crowd's dead, the players are dead, as evidenced by the second quarter. (ND (and the fans) better pick it up for the Big House game next weekend...)

4) Life is short...eat dessert...especially when it's from Ritter's. (Always a good life decision, right Marisa?)

5) Remember to always dress the part and act like a native/local. You'll fit right in...and if you know the cheers, you'll have more fun. It's okay to ask someone to explain the "rules"/"codes" of the stands, so ask. Better to know the reasoning/story behind the tradition than to do it mindlessly. (Maybe this is just a personal preference, but I like to know the story before I partake in the ritual.) There is quite a lot of history at Notre Dame...

6) When given the opportunity to attend Mass, even after a long, hard day of cheering and football, go! The ACE Mass did not disappoint this weekend - it was filled with singing and joyful hearts, as well as a brief to-the-point homily by Fr. Nuzzi. Even though we were all tired, Mass encouraged us to reach deeper and encounter Christ in the Eucharist. What a great end to the day!

7) Pizza is probably one of man's greatest inventions of all time, right up there with the microwave and play-doh. Nothing tastes better than a piping hot pizza with all the toppings after not having eaten for hours. And pizza with friends? Even better.

Ok, so my mind wandered a lot yesterday - and, admittedly, there were times when my mind (and heart) weren't fully in the game (not that it wasn't a good one!), but all-in-all, it was a good decision to go to the game and a worthwhile trip. Yay South Bend!

Until November, Notre Dame...