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, November 30, 2013


Eucharist...the source and summit of our Catholic faith...literally translated as "thanksgiving"...

What a beautiful word...what an incredible experience...

I agree with my school parish's pastor - Thanksgiving should be a holy day of obligation on the Church calendar. It's so important to stop in the midst of all the craziness (especially during the holidays) to give thanks for all we have.

And, as our pastor back at home in St. Pete pointed out, it's time to turn our thanksgiving into "thanks-doing" and show by our actions just how grateful we are and how much we have to share.

And maybe, when this happens, we might be able to bring the holiday season back to what it ought to be - a season of true joy and giving...

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Shirt of Flame

There is really only one reason I actually like plane rides, and that is to catch up on reading. I just finished this book --> http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12068862-shirt-of-flame

and I cannot say enough good things about it.

Read St. Therese's autobiography first, but then make sure you follow it up with this one.

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

A First Time for Everything...

Breathless and skidding to a stop in front of me on Monday morning was one of my 6th grade girls. Rolling up her pant leg, she exclaimed, "Guess what I did this weekend, Miss Foyle!"

I couldn't imagine.

"I shaved my legs for the first time! Well, we tried "waxing" with masking tape first, but that didn't work."

"Does your mom know?" I asked, smiling.

"Oh yeah, she helped me do it."

I couldn't help but chuckle.

And then, I thought about it. Yep, 6th grade at about this time in November was the first time I shaved too. It's funny how those memories stick out in your head. But I remember distinctly going to cotillion for a November square/country dance and having a classmate ask, "Did you shave your legs or are you wearing stockings?" to which I replied, "Both."

So many changes happen in middle school - these kiddos are only just beginning - but I see evidence of it every day, whether they realize it or not. They look (but don't usually act) so mature at times that you forget that deep down they are only 11 or 12...

And then, it makes perfect sense that they still love when their teacher shows them Bible cartoons... :)

Saturday, November 23, 2013


On my way home from the grocery store last night, I saw a man all bundled up and pulling a shopping cart with what looked like everything he owned in it.

And there I was, worried about getting home because I was tired from the day of conferences. (My goodness, did I feel like an a**hole.)

Lord, when I think of complaining, help me to remember how blessed I am to have a roof over my head, food to enjoy, and family/friends surrounding me. You are so good to me, and I have so much more than I ever realize. Help me to be mindful of your presence in my life, and help me to share my abundance with others in need. Amen.

Full & Pleasant Conference Day

Yesterday was quite a full day. While I didn't have all of my time slots booked back-to-back (except for lunch) like my co-worker who teaches math next door, my times were pretty full. (Most students got As and Bs in my class - I don't think many parents are worried, especially since my grades don't "count" to get into high school.)

I saw A LOT of parents.

And I was pleasantly surprised how receptive and positive they all were.

(Maybe it helped that I put mints out or had soft music playing...or maybe, at least, that helped me shift into a good mood. I think it also helped that I had plans of action to help bring any struggling students up to speed.)

There was even one conference I was especially dreading because I had heard the parents are usually on the attack. This time, however, they weren't. And the whole conversation was quite pleasant for 15 (instead of the scheduled 10) minutes.

At the end of the day, the middle school team met to debrief and start brainstorming for the future - we need some kind of stream-line process. Next year, due to an increase in student population in middle school, there is a potential for 100 conferences (and this year there was only going to be up to 75), so even the added mornings/afternoons on Thurs & Mon probably won't be enough. So, one co-worker suggested setting up in one space...kinda like speed dating. 5 minute rotations - hit each teacher and you're out in 25 (or so) minutes. I think that's a good idea to keep it moving... We'll see what the administration thinks...

Fall Conferences 2013 in the books! (Well, I have 2 more on Monday morning...)

For now, I've got that lesson planning (see previous post) to get to and some packing for Thanksgiving to do. The weather here took a turn towards extremely chilly (though it looks deceptively warm outside with that sun shining so bright!), so I'm not relishing the fact that I have to step out my door in a few minutes to head to MOC. (Later, my sister and I are going to brave the elements and go for a run...but that's just because we're crazy.)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Camel's Back...

The last thing any teacher wants at the end of a long day and on the eve of parent-teacher conferences is an email saying all lesson plans for the week after Thanksgiving break need to be turned into the office by Tuesday afternoon.

Talk about adding to the stress. Conferences (whether easy or with tension) are tough enough - and so time-consuming to prepare and execute. Ah!

Let's just say that the email/request was almost the straw that broke this camel's back. (As my sister and I concluded yesterday - Does the work ever end? Is it worth it to put up with all the parents and misbehaved students?...)

Well, once I let off some steam, I did find some consolation - since I teach Religion, at least we'll be learning about Advent. So, while I had to do a lot of background research on the topic of Church history (Apostolic Age to present) because I didn't have much of an idea of what happened during that time, I don't have to do quite so much to prepare myself to plan the lessons for this topic. And (thank goodness) I can use some of the same activities across grade levels.

We'll definitely be doing a Jesse Tree...

In the long run, I guess b****ing and moaning doesn't help that much. If anything, I need to remember to stay calm, buckle down, and get it done. After all, it will be better to have those lesson plans finished so I can enjoy Thanksgiving break.

Oh, and plan those 4 mini retreats for our campus too...

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


So much devastation in Illinois and Indiana in the wake of the weekend tornadoes...

It might make you think the survivors have nothing left, since their homes and most of what they own is destroyed...

But then, you turn on the news...and you hear some of their stories...

A man who found his Confirmation Bible, which he said he will keep as a reminder that he's blessed to be alive...

Many families saying how blessed they are because they are all together and still alive...

People who are grateful for the many volunteers who have come from neighboring cities and towns to lend a hand cleaning up the debris and sorting through the rubble...

And you think, wow. There's still so much hope in the world, even in the face of tragedy. There's still a place for God in all of the distress and loss.

We will rebuild, many said. They are the ones who know what's most important. They are the ones who are an example of faith and courage. They are our sign of hope.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Be Mary

No, I didn't type that title incorrectly. In the midst of the holiday onslaught that is taking over our culture, stores, Starbucks, and more, I'm talking about a different kind of merry/Mary.

Visiting...Mary (of "Martha and Mary" fame) had it right.

Over the past couple of days, I have done my share of visiting - dinner reunion with my ACE housemates, Ministry of Care, and 4th grade volleyball end of the season celebration. All of these were such a blessing...and all of them required one thing - being present to those around me. Sounds simple enough...but sometimes in our culture, that's hard to do...

The school day on Friday was, in and of itself, a good day. But it was my after school activities that motivated me that day. After stopping by Jewel -Osco to pick up some much needed cookie dough (a Phoenix house tradition), I met up with one of my ACE housemates whom I had not seen in just over a year. We went for a nice run together and had a chance to catch up on quite a bit. The weather was perfect, the pace was just right...loved it. Afterwards, dressed in our sweaty apparel, we met up with 3 of our other ACE housemates for an at-home crockpot dinner of Italian beef (another Phoenix house staple). While at the dinner table, we took the opportunity to Skype with our housemate & her husband who are currently teaching in China. (Hail, hail, the gang's all here!) After that evening, I can safely say that some things never change - it was so good to be with all of them and to share in a simple, home-cooked meal.

Saturday morning came quickly, and I found myself at the bedside of a few patients at the hospital. While I didn't spend too much time in each room, I did find a sense of deep peace resting in God's presence as I brought holy Communion to those people. I didn't say much...I didn't have to. My presence was enough to let them know the Church community is praying for and thinking of them. Their presence was enough to let me know that God works through many people and through simple means/actions.

Just after noon, I made my way to the house of one of my volleyball players. All 6 girls and some of their parents (and siblings) came out to celebrate the season and to spend time together. I had such a great balance between talking with the parents and spending time with the girls. I was there for nearly 3 hours, but the time flew. We shared food and conversation around the table while the girls made a movie trailer in the basement. (On a side note, iMovie looks amazing!) It took me over 30 minutes to actually leave because I kept talking with the girls and the parents kept chatting too. Many asked if I would coach the girls in the spring and even next fall, but I can't commit either way yet (as much as I'd like to). I leave that up to our athletic director to put me where he needs me most. We'll have to wait and see which team next year that turns out to be...

Trust me, I had plenty of things I needed to accomplish over the many hours I spent in the activities above. [In fact, the first thing I did when I got home after a quick trip to Target with my sister (another short visit!) was finish scoring the 6th grade religion tests.] But the visiting time was renewing, necessary, and much-needed.

More time being, less time doing. That's what our culture needs.

In these weeks leading up to (Thanksgiving and) Christmas, be merry, yes. But challenge yourself to be Mary too...

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The end is near

Hard to believe it's already Thursday night...or, maybe it's not...

You can tell it's the end of the trimester:

Kids are getting anxious for the holidays...and about their report cards...
Parents are scheduling conferences...
And grades/comments are past due...
Teachers are getting antsy for the much needed "mental health" holidays...
The snow has started to fall...and it's only mid-November...

The train is nearing the end of the tracks...and the holidays are that light at the end of the tunnel...

I think I can...I think I can...I think I can...

Monday, November 11, 2013

Not of my own, but worth the read

Not any original content today, but these gems are worth the read...

20 Things You Should Never Say to Teachers

20 Things Teachers Love To Hear You Say

Bored! Eight Ideas About Bored Students and Boring Teachers

And worth the listen: Best Day of My Life (American Authors)

Happy Monday!

Tomorrow I get to hear this guy in concert...that makes for a pretty exciting Tuesday... :)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

10 Miles - Woot!

10 miles down and feelin' pretty good.

We sure lucked out with race day weather, that much I am sure about. And my sister and I finished under our goal of 1:30:00 for the race, which is awesome.

Yesterday was a little stressful with finishing grades and writing comments for report cards, but today is already looking much brighter (and a little more stress-free). 

I think I may try to write a couple of assessments for my 6th and 8th grade religion classes later on, but then tonight I am putting the work away and enjoying a night out with a couple friends in support of Catholic Charities.

(I hope there's dancing...)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Teachers Got Talent

An opportunity to be ridiculous in front of students and school parents? Bring it on.

Some of my fellow teachers (myself included) did a rendition of Evolution of Dance at the end of tonight's Middle School Talent Show. And it was so much fun! I am so glad I allowed myself to be talked into it.

I'm not a dancer by any means, but I guess I fooled a few people tonight. (Ha ha)

My favorite part was practically being tackled afterwards by some of my 4th grade vball players and some of the 5th graders. (Oh, how I miss that age group!) So darn cute.

On my way home, my mind started wandering, and I got to thinking - how would my students describe me? I think (and I don't think I'm too far off) one of the top words would be "joyful" - and not just happy (because I'm not always happy), but rather rooted in the joy that God loves us and calls each of us to be a sign of His love to others.

They probably all wouldn't say that - some may say I laugh too much or am too hard on them...and those could be pretty accurate too, I suppose.

Ah, well, it's definitely something to think about, eh?

They were listening...

It turns out the 8th graders were listening...

Example 1 - While on a Church "tour" on Monday, our pastor asked one of my students if people at the time of Jesus celebrated the Mass the same as we do today.

Now, we had just gone over this the previous week, so I was crossing my fingers...

The student said no, explaining how at Jesus' time the Eucharist was more about being with the community and sharing a meal in celebration of their faith together. And many times it was done in secret - definitely not in churches.


Example 2 - When I was scoring 8th grade quizzes yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised by how much detail the students were able to convey. The idea of the Age of Expansion being a time when Christianity became legal and people were no longer martyrs actually stuck with them, and one student even wrote about how the monks were considered the martyrs of their day. (And that was a student who usually gets into some kind of misbehavior on a regular basis in class.)

While it may seem that we, as teachers, are oftentimes beating our heads against a wall and that hardly any of our students are listening, I urge you to think again. (Trust me, my 8th graders can be quite the shenanigans.) They do hear and they do connect the dots...at least once in awhile.

Now, the challenge becomes one of how do I keep them engaged?

Oh, how I wish I had all the answers to that one...

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Top 3

A small miracle today - I completed my lesson plans (without rushing) with all of my classes.
A larger miracle could occur tomorrow...if they remember everything (or even some of it).

Here are my top 3 moments from today:

1) Teaching "Mary, Did You Know?" in sign language to my 7th grade students in small groups while they were doing different Marian stations

2) Having a student ask if we could have a Bible Study club after explaining how I had participated in a Bible Study last night

3) Ridiculously dancing around to Father Abraham with my second 6th grade class

Other than the rain, I think it's been a pretty rock solid day...and I haven't even gone to volleyball yet.

Monday, November 4, 2013

6000 words?

A picture says a thousand words...and I have 6 of them.



In all honesty, pictures AND words could not do Saturday's ACE reunion at the ND/Navy game justice...but they sure are a good start. As you can see, the weather was a far cry from perfect (though, during the game it was almost pleasant...if you can call 40 degrees pleasant). But there were about 30 ACE 15 (my class) grads there + scores of other ACErs, parents/friends of ACErs, etc. - each time I turned around, I was bumping (sometimes literally) into someone I knew. What a joyful day!

And, as you can see, the ND band made a bus on the field for halftime - it was pretty sweet.

Back to the work week. Happy Monday!