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, April 30, 2014


The 10 girls on my fourth grade volleyball team exude so much joy. And they bring a smile to my face with their enthusiasm and energy. (Sometimes they're a bit over the top and dramatic, but I'll take it...and I'll usually laugh right along with them.)

The girls did well tonight - they won a game and lost a game - and they took it all in stride. We've been working on serves and passes, and, wouldn't you know it, they did pretty darn good in both areas.

I believe it does the heart good to spend time with younger kids - the innocence and fun-loving attitude along with the willingness to work for improvement all add up to time well spent (especially as a coach). Our season is nearing its end, but we'll be back again in the fall. Bring it on, dolphins. Volleyball for the win!

Monday, April 28, 2014

I want to be a Saint!

In the classroom, today was definitely not a red-letter day.

In fact, as class ended, I doubted that the 6th graders had retained any information about the steps in the canonization process. (On a side note, this video from Busted Halo has a pretty straightforward explanation.)

Thankfully, I turned out to be wrong. Even in the chaos and chatter (yes, I wholeheartedly admit that happened today) of the classroom, I somehow was able to drive the message home. One student got so excited while we were discussing the steps as a class that she exclaimed, "I want to be a Saint! That's cool!"

(Can't ask for more than that, can I?)

When I explained to her that each of us probably won't be named official Saints by the Church, we hope to one day be in heaven with God (and that doesn't make us any less holy). She followed up to this by asking, "Well, is there a day for all of those people who don't get named by the Church?" (Yes, All Souls & All Saints Days.)

Hopefully I can chalk the students' behavior up to Monday...come tomorrow, time will tell...

Saturday, April 26, 2014

That's a First...

Today was my sister's students' big day - First Communion...

They were all decked out in their finest - the girls in dresses fit for a Quincinera, and the boys in little suits and ties. The girls had their hair up in fancy do's, and each one had a veil.

And when I walked into the room where they were gathered before heading over to Church, I felt like a magnet. "Miss Kelly!" they all called - and then they clumped. From my vantage point, it was pretty darn cute.

I'm glad I went (even if it was a nearly 3 hour service) - the kids were genuinely excited to receive Jesus. (I wonder where, as teenagers and adults, our excitement for receiving Jesus' body and blood goes? ) And it was nice to spend time (for the second day in a row) with my sister and her co-workers.

Alleluia! He is Risen! And He is present each time we receive the Eucharist. (We would all do well to remember that...)

On an unrelated note, I made some no-bake cookies tonight - the only differences to the recipe were that I substituted unsweetened almond milk for the whole milk and that I used cocoa swirl cookie butter instead of the original kind.

One of the first things I did after they cooled (besides taste them, of course!) was to transfer the recipe onto my "food I've actually made" Pinterest board. We have success!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Time and Thoughfulness

I just got back from a show, and it's late...so this will be quick. (And it won't be about the show because that would require too many thoughts and too much time at present.)

Just one thought for tonight - and it's one that bears repeating, as I know I've touched on this thought multiple times before in this blog - a little act of kindness/thoughtfulness goes a long way...

To put it bluntly, there were times today when I felt like I had been run over by a truck. I tried hard not to let it show - my kiddos had the Mass, my parents were visiting, yada yada yada - so by the time I got to afterschool volleyball practice and my school's athletic director came in to see how things were going, I had to give it to him straight: If it had been a normal day, I probably would have called in sick.

At this point, he offered that someone else coach practice so I could go home, but I said I'd be fine. So, he asked me at that point if I'd like some kind of juice to perk me up. And so he went and got me an orange juice from the concession stand and brought it back, and I tell you, orange juice never tasted so good. It was that one small act of kindness, that one moment of taking time away from what he needed to accomplish before he got to go home to his wife and baby, that made all the difference in my day.

And you know what, the girls and I had a good practice. And I made it through the rest of my day (which included a 2.5 hour play). And I'm still smiling.

Take the time, folks. It makes all the difference in the world...

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


He is risen - Alleluia!

Easter weekend was beautiful - Church services, Mass, family time, and all.

And today, it was back with the students...but I did have a bonus: my parents came for an afternoon visit. I'm glad they finally got a chance to see my school (having been here for almost 3 years now). And it was cute when a student told my parents, "Miss Foyle's a great teacher. You taught her well." (Aww...)

They head back to Michigan tomorrow (and finally home to Florida later in the weekend). It's been a good visit. Family time is always good time.

50 days of celebrating started Sunday...Woo hoo!!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Holy Week Stations

Holy Week stations in the 7th grade classroom this week led to some artistic depictions, sign language education, and deepening of knowledge of the significance of each day.

Check out one station's results below (each poster was a group effort) - after reading an article about Holy Week (and after having participated in a discussion/presentation last week), students illustrated one day's events/significance on a small poster. (I think the Easter group may have missed the mark a bit, but it still looks nice!):

That's all I have tonight - it's been a long day, complete with 2 4th grade girls' vball matches (one of which my sister reffed and one of which I reffed), Tenebrae service at Church, frozen yogurt stop with my sister, and, finally, packing my suitcase for this weekend's travels.

In case I don't get a chance to wish you it beforehand, have a blessed and happy Easter everyone!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Finishing up with Lent...

Finally! The last of the Lenten door decorations is up:

And my Lenten prayer doodle is complete (I worked ahead):

We're almost to Easter - such anticipation. Can you feel it? (I'm definitely ready to sing A******* and spend quality time with my family this weekend.) On a related note, I read a great post over at Catechist's Journey blog --> Knowing How the Story Ends Changes How You Experience the Story - Here, the blogger talks about how we don't have to be/act sad during the events of Holy Week (sober? yes, but sad? no) because we know of Jesus' overcoming of death through His Resurrection on Easter. (He is risen!)

This Holy Week, may you be filled with the anticipation of Easter, realizing fully God's sacrificial love for us.

Unrelated but couldn't help sharing --> Have you seen this article about how a statue of a homeless Jesus is making some people uneasy? Personally, I think it's beautiful - it's a reminder that Jesus is in each one of us, from the greatest (in society's eyes) to the least. Let people talk about it - the conversation needs to happen.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

How do you spell f-r-i-e-n-d-s?

Oh, I've got friends in...


What's the best word to use here?

I really can't describe my friends - they are amazing and selfless. Let me give two examples to illustrate my point.

Example 1 --> In efforts to address how the Catholic faith goes together with science/reason, I sent out an email SOS to friends both near and far. This is basically what my email said:

 "I wanted to reach out to you in the hopes of being pointed toward some good articles & resources regarding the (rather vague and large) topic of the Catholic Church and science/advances in technology. 

Some brief background info: I teach a very intellectual (and questioning) 8th grade class, and we're just finishing up a unit on Catholic Social Teaching. As the central tenet is life and dignity of the human person, we've faced issues like abortion, euthanasia, the death penalty, and cloning. (As you can imagine, we've had some pretty meaty discussions.) 

 Now, one of my students is very intent on pitting science/technology against the Catholic Church and its teachings. I've tried to explain multiple times that the Church is not so set in its ways that it does not consider advances in technology (Pope Benedict XVI being the first example I can think of when he made statements about adult stem cell cloning), and that the Church and science/technology are not mutually exclusive. However, I am having a very hard time getting this point across. I keep trying to frame it as, "Are these advances for the betterment of human life? or are these advances for the sake of doing it because we are able/playing God/out of pride or accomplishment?" (Ethics is a very hot topic!)"

Well, much to my relief, a number of my friends wrote back with resources, insight, and ideas for how to present the Catholic Church's stance in a way that will hopefully hit home and lay some misconceptions to rest. I'm planning to present all of my gathered/received info on Tuesday, so say an extra prayer for me that I don't get twisted of tongue. (Thanks!)

Example 2 --> As an enrichment opportunity for my 6th graders who just finished studying up vocations, I invited my friend in the seminary at Holy Cross to Skype with my students, and he graciously did so (for 2 different class periods on a Friday afternoon!). He was great about explaining how he heard his own call, and he also answered all of the students' questions, ranging from "Is it hard to be in the seminary?" to "Have you ever doubted your call?" to "What'd you give up for Lent?" While the first class got a little restless at the end of the period, I still think they got a lot out of it.

So, like I said, my friends are amazing and selfless. They inspire me to keep giving my best every day because I know they are behind me and will help me in whatever capacity they are able. Man, I wish there were more people in the world like all of them. They give me hope and keep me going!

Saturday Goodness

"It's supposed to hurt - that's how you know it meant something."

In the touring production of Peter and the Starcatcher, this line was spoken by Molly in one of the final scenes. While most of the play is full of great puns (e.g. immediately after Black Stache loses his right hand, Smee answers, "Here I am, I'm your right-hand man, captain" to which the audience responds with a loud groan), slapstick, and one-liners that remind the theatre-goers of Monty Python and the like, the play leaves you feeling that you've just grown up a little - that you've realized some of life's big lessons (like the one stated above).

The tour's just about over - so there's not much you can do now if you haven't seen it (Sorry about that!) - but it was definitely a show worth experiencing. Though mostly a straight play, it does have a few key musical numbers that keep the play moving along. The cast members were terrific, filling the space with few props and big personalities. Truly, it was a delight.

And, to top it all of, we had a miraculously beautiful day in Chicago yesterday - I mean, it was absolutely gorgeous to be out and about strolling downtown...with thousands of other residents and visitors who had the same idea. I'm glad my sister and I made the most of the weather yesterday because today is a complete 180 - rain and plunging temperatures. (Guess we won't see 70 again for awhile...) So, today I've spent most of my time inside - the gym, the blood bank (though my iron level was still too low by just a hair), a brunch place with my sister and her co-workers, and home (working on school stuff) - and tonight will be spent at Palm Sunday Mass (which is one of my absolute favorites of the liturgical year!), which is also inside.

Only 4 days to go this week...but I've got some busy days with the kiddos ahead. Here's hoping we get to Easter quickly...can't wait to see my family!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Problem presented...Problem solved (I hope!)

"Ladies and gentlemen, prayer cannot be news hour. It's not time for you to make long comments about what's going on where and with whom in the news. Look at the clock - we just spent 10 minutes in 'prayer.'"

I said all this rather calmly...which is surprising because I was ready to explode in frustration at this new trend in 6th grade prayer.

And then, one of my students - God bless his heart! - raised his hand and offered a suggestion, "You know. If we spend 5 minutes at the beginning of the day on current events, then we won't feel the need to say it all during prayer because we will have already talked about it."

Bingo. Great problem solving. I. love. it.

So, current events it is tomorrow. We'll see how that goes...

On a side note, my girls raised their record to 3-0 on the volleyball court tonight. In back-to-back games (with 3 girls missing), they played their little hearts out, rallied, and served pretty consistently. I am one proud coach of the way they've been calling the ball and having fun.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Holy Thursday reflection

I shared a short Holy Thursday reflection at a Paschal Mystery prayer service for RCIA at my parish tonight, so, in light of the fact that it's late and I am out of fresh ideas, I am posting it here - it's about Holy Thursday:

I love the image we have here of Pope Francis washing the feet of these people. This picture reminds us that we love others, because God loved us first. Jesus gave us the Eucharist as a reminder of God’s love, and to nourish us so that we may be a sign of that love for others. Obviously, Holy Thursday is about the Eucharist (because that’s when the Sacrament was instituted), but, just as importantly, (as this image suggests) it’s about Jesus’ call for each of us to enter into giving and receiving loving, selfless service. 

I’ll never forget – I lived in Arizona as part of a teaching program for a couple of years before I moved to Chicago, and I lived there with five other 23 year-olds. And one night, one of my housemates decided that we needed to take our goal of serving the poor to a literal level – she wanted us to go out to the streets of Tempe (where we would usually go on a Friday or Saturday night to the bars) armed with peanut butter & jelly sandwiches and water bottles. And we were going to hand it all out to the homeless people in the area. 

In retrospect, I don’t know how smart or safe that was. (I don’t think I ever told my parents about it.) But we went out in pairs, and after interacting with a few people, my friend George and I spent most of our time that night sitting and conversing with one gentleman in particular. He was an older gentleman - I don’t remember his name, but I’m pretty sure he had all of his possessions (which wasn’t a lot) surrounding him on his blanket. He asked us questions, but mostly he talked – he needed to tell his story to someone who would listen, and that happened to be us. We were there for probably close to an hour, and when our housemates finally found us to tell us it was time to go, I remember him looking into my eyes and saying, “You are an angel.” 

 And I think that’s when it hit me – it doesn’t take a lot to be Christ for other people. It really doesn’t. A smile, a conversation, a kind gesture, a car ride home for a coworker. Volunteering to coach a school’s basketball team, cooking a meal at a local shelter. In all of these (and other) selfless acts, Jesus is at work in us. Because we have been touched through Jesus’ words and actions in the Gospels, at Mass, and through others in our own lives, we, in turn, are compelled to do likewise and give selflessly to others. “Love one another as I have loved you.” Jesus’ message is so incredibly simple. Not easy, simple. And in our world today, it is so incredibly important.

Monday, April 7, 2014


Reconciliation - what a beautiful Sacrament. Especially when the students take it seriously.

Let's face it, 40 minutes in silence for students (let alone adults) can be torture, but the 4-8th graders kept it together (for the most part) and entered into a time of reflection and peace.

I think one of the priests - we luckily had 7 of them! - kept giving the same penance...two of my girls needed help remembering how to start off the "Hail Mary"! (You know how that goes - you just can't think of the first few words so you get stuck...)

Even though I coordinate most of the religious services & Masses at our school, I honestly did not have much to do in preparing this prayer service. And that was good because the stress level wasn't as high and also because I could focus on the message of Reconciliation better too. (Though, I didn't go today because I went to my parish Church's Reconciliation service last week.)

We are forgiven - not because of anything we do but because of God's grace.

How awesome is that?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Beep Beep Goes the ACE Bus

This weekend, the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) bus blew in to the Windy City, so obviously it was time filled with lots of faith, food, and friends. [The visit was part of the program's 20 year anniversary national bus tour - we were the 38th (out of 50) city.]

The bus visited my sister's school on Friday afternoon. So, needless to say, I was just a tad jealous. The school hosted a rally, and then, members of the ACE staff visited the students in their classrooms.

And this is where my favorite part of the story comes in. Fr. Sean (one of ACE's co-founders) went into my sister's room and asked her students what their favorite thing about their teacher was. "She prays for us." "She gives us treats." I guess they said some other things too. And then, there was one more student. (As Fr. Sean tells it) A little girl in the corner said, "She makes the hard things easy for us." And, as Fr. Sean pointed out, doesn't that beautifully sum it all up? Teachers are guides, leading students to become problem-solvers but not leaving them to face the hard stuff alone.

I'm pretty sure he'll tell that story this summer when the first year ACE teachers come. Heck, I heard the story twice in one day! It's a good reminder of what we, as teachers, should strive to do in our everyday work.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Stations of the Cross

We're doing Stations of the Cross again? Didn't we just do them last week?

Oh, the joy of teaching middle school. Such enthusiasm...

(Such sarcasm...)

Yes, we did them last week. We do them every week during Lent as a special way to remember Jesus' sacrifice for us as we prepare for Easter.

I mean, is my teaching just that riveting that they don't want to miss one of our regularly scheduled classes to head to the Church for some quiet prayer? (Note, this is sarcasm yet again.)

I bet it's something they don't readily want to do because it requires silence (except for the person reading the Station reflection), and it requires them to remain standing for the whole time (except for the 12th Station when we kneel). In fact, I tell them, "Jesus was on the cross for 3 hours - you can stand without leaning for 15 minutes."

I'm doing my best here - trying to make the Stations relevant by finding reflections for teens (Stations of the Cross for Teens) and from different perspectives (Stations of the Cross from Mary's Perspective). Next week, I'm having 6th grade write their own - well, each person/pair will take a Station and write a short reflection similar to some samples I'll provide for them. We'll see how it goes...

In doing the Stations of the Cross multiple times a day (for my multiple classes) each week, I've been able to think back quite a bit on my experience with Stations of the Cross and special Lenten traditions growing up. I am so grateful for my time in mime ministry, family choir, and other activities that made the season of Lent such a meaningful and special one for me and my family. I remember feelings of hope, and I still hold a special reverence for Good Friday's Veneration of the Cross, which is my favorite service of the whole Church year.

Maybe one day my students will look back with similar fond memories on our times in prayer together too...

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Volleyball Season Starts Again

My fourth grade girls did so well tonight - our first game of the season looked anything but that. They got their serves over, they had rallies, they called the ball (mostly), and they won.

With 10 girls, I now actually have a bench. Seeing as that never happened last season, I had to check the rules about subbing today. (Glad I got those squared away.)

I just love the enthusiasm from the girls, both in practice and in the game. They stayed positive, and even when we were behind, they pulled together, focused, and turned the game around. I also appreciate the support from the parents - that always helps too.

It will be a short (and fun) season. I'm looking forward to it! Let's go (fourth/forth) Dolphins!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Harmless April Fools Fun

April Fools...As a teacher, it's always a challenge to pull a believable (yet harmless) prank - especially with middle school students.

So, yesterday, when I was rearranging desks, I decided to swipe all the chairs...

and put them in the art room across the hall.

When the first students walked in, they came right back out to the hall - "Miss Foyle, we have a problem!"
"What is that?" I asked (as innocently as possible).

Student: "Our chairs are gone."
Me: "You have no chairs?! Oh man, they must have moved the stacks yesterday when I switched your desks. Well, it looks like you'll have to stand until I can find them."

And so, they stood for the remainder of homeroom. "Just sit down," I told them, to which they replied, "We can't!" (Ha ha.) They would have continued to stand for all of advisory, but my coworker gave me away when the students were trying to relay our problem to him. He raised his eyebrows at me, and I couldn't keep it together. (Shucks.)

It was fun while it lasted. Harmless. Believable. Fun.

On another note, check out how the 6th grade door decoration turned out - the theme is the 3 pillars of Lent: