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, May 31, 2014

Good Goodbyes?

It's getting to that point of the year when I really start actually thinking about the end of the year.

No, I'm (surprisingly) not referring to summer vacation. (Although, thoughts of that will soon follow.)

I'm talking about saying goodbye to students...and not just for summer. A few of my students are moving out of town, and the 8th graders are moving on to high school.

In looking back over the time I've known each of the students who will be leaving our school, I started to cry - yes, they've been challenging, but the good times and moments of growth have far outnumbered the rest.

I understand that the goodbyes are so hard because it means we had something great in the first place, but that doesn't soften the blow, no matter what Pooh says:

So, it's apparently time to grab that box of tissues. It's time to remember the positive times. It's time to celebrate the journey of our school year...

Because summer's on the horizon...

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Teaching with Joy...Interrupted by Frustration

Teaching with the Joy of the Gospel (see yesterday's post) - I went into today with that as my goal.

And I lasted...until just about 1:45 p.m. when my second period of 6th grade walked in my classroom...and then proceeded to talk/waste our time for the following 40 minutes. (Guess what they had to do for homework...what we didn't get to in class...Ah! Gosh, I hate doing that - homework shouldn't be punishment...)

Gotta get back on track tomorrow - I have to turn the tables, get things going my way and help these students learn. But how to do it...?

Video? Hmm...it's possible - I have some options...
Acting things out? Check, we're doing that Friday with Bible study...
Discussion? Well, that's a given...but keeping it focused...???

If you have any brilliant ideas, feel free to share. We're finishing up the year with studying the monotheistic religions (Islam & Judaism) and touching on Pentecost and the Ascension...

Monday, May 26, 2014

JOY - Rooting Ourselves in the Gospel

I read a really timely article today on The Religion Teacher (which, by the way, if you teach middle/high school religion, this site (and membership) is for you):

The article conveys the sentiment of rooting ourselves in the Gospel message (of joy) better than I could ever hope to. So, rather than reading something mediocre I could post here tonight, I direct you straight to the article - it's worth the read, especially as we near the end of the school year and get ready to rejuvenate over the summer. 

Trust me.

Sunday, May 25, 2014


I feel like I've fallen off the planet with posting on this blog...oops...

I can't even really blame the end of the year - we're still 2.5 weeks away (except for 8th grade - they're 1.5 weeks away)...

This weekend (due to the holiday) is a long one - and it's been very relaxing so far. (There's quite a bit of lesson planning and grading for me left to do tomorrow, but that's another story.) Our aunt and uncle are in town from Michigan, so we've had the pleasure to be tourists in our city of Chicago - Navy Pier, Andersonville, out in the suburbs...

It's good to relax - so refreshing...so needed...

The next few weeks are going to test my patience - I'd pull a million bucks on it (if I had that kind of dough)...

Dear God, help see us through till the end of the school year. Your dear friend, Kelly

Monday, May 19, 2014

Let Us Go...An 8th Grade View

Cue lights.
Cue sound.

Today was our first campus-wide spring choral concert practice. And, surprisingly, it sounded pretty good. (And I say surprisingly because, let's face it, usually the first rehearsals of anything leave much to be desired...)

The show progresses chronologically through the grades, with 8th grade going right before the final group number. Now, the 8th grade number is pretty fun, as they sing along to the tune of "Let It Go," but with a twist of lyrics, belting instead, "Let us go!" (Someone - I'm not sure who - rewrote the words.)

Now, I can't honestly say that there has been any point this year - except maybe right in the Mass for Confirmation itself - where I felt that 8th grade was my favorite class. And they still aren't, but as they sang those words and I looked upon them as a whole group, I couldn't help but feel a wave of sadness. Yes, sadness - even when I was ready just hours earlier to scream in frustration while attempting to break open the Book of Revelation with them - and I realized that in spending this past school year with them studying important topics about our faith and trying to help them adjust to the everyday challenges of growing up, I am not quite ready to let them go. 

Damned if I understand the reasons - and I know if I tell my colleagues about my sentiments, they may think I'm crazy (or secretly feel the same way, who knows). But I'll tell you one thing - when you spend enough time around your students, they become a part of you: a puzzle piece nicely nestled in and written on your heart. 

(I'm sure it pales in comparison to the feelings parents have, but on a basic level, I bet it's pretty similar.)

Ups and downs, we've had them in abundance (oftentimes within the extent of a class period), but we made it. I don't think highly of everything they do, but I have faith in them, and I wish them the very best.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Until August...

Today was my last day of Ministry of Care until next school year rolls around. 

And both my time at the hospital and the tulips lining Michigan Avenue did not disappoint. (Note in the picture below how I superimposed my name badge over the flowers to "say" this sentiment visually.)

(Corny, I know.)

But it truly was a beautiful day, rounded out by a leisurely brunch with my sister - We're carb-ing up before our half marathon tomorrow! - and a trip to Target.

I also finished the book Tattoos on the Heart (just in time for Wednesday's book club!) this afternoon before tackling this week's Bible Study reading/reflection of Revelation.

Not much planning left to do for school - 6th grade is working on a project (and class will be consistently disrupted with school music concert practice); 7th grade is watching a movie and finishing their vocations unit (courtesy of Holy Cross vocations); and 8th grade voted to take a look at Revelation (for which I will be using resources I've gathered through my current Bible Study). Yes sir, the school year sure is winding down in a hurry...

Spring has (finally) come and (nearly) gone so quickly here...

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Movie Assessment (Follow-Up)

Here's a follow-up to my previous post - I present...the assessment!

It's far from perfect, but I think it will work (especially at this point of the school year)...

Three report card standards from one movie - woo hoo! This make me think it's okay to spend a week of class time on one film & its related assessment. (Not only is it a great movie, but the assessment will provide a substantial amount of scores for the students' report cards...)


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Let's Go to the Movies...

Showing movies in the classroom sometimes get a bad rap.

And this is understandably so - The teacher needs some extra time to do something? Put on a movie. Kids are engaged. Time is yours. Boom. Done.

Perhaps a common response: "All you did was show movies in your classes today? Sooooo, you didn't teach..."

Not so fast, my friends...

Movies in the classroom have SO much potential - whether you show parts of them or all of them - but the kicker (in my humble opinion) is that the teacher needs to be watching right alongside the students.

Personally, I enjoy using movies in my religion class - in fact, this year I've used three (full-length) ones for my 6th grade class. The videos (and assessments/projects) have met with positive feedback from kids and parents alike. And they have each included some sort of assessment to be completed after viewing. 

The kids are engaged (for the most part), but I usually pause the movie a couple of times each class period to discuss key things going on, reasons for characters' actions, etc. and to address student questions or concerns. And I think that interactions such as these during the films have the potential to make using movies in the classroom successful. This goes back to the idea of watching right alongside your students. (There really is no way around it...)

The movies I've used - "It's a Wonderful Life," "Tuesdays with Morrie," and "The Song of Bernadette" - could be considered ones that are hard for many adults to wrap their heads around. And yet, the students have dug deep within themselves to make connections, apply content material, and think critically.

Clearly, the purpose/curriculum connection(s) must be there. And, the teacher needs to guide the students while viewing the movie, stopping when necessary (much like what would be done during a read aloud or a guided reading session in Language Arts class).

It's no sure-fire formula, but I think the students tend to walk away with a lot more meaning and understanding when they are able to apply their school content knowledge to the movies (or, you know, real-life scenarios - duh).

So, at least in my classroom, I can pretty much guarantee we'll be going back to the movies again soon. (We just won't go too much...)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Your Mother and Mine

It was amusing to log into Facebook this morning and see the vast amount of posts about "Mothers' Day" - let's just say, it's definitely trending.

While many people (at least at some point) may claim to have "the best" mom, there is one mother we, in the Catholic faith, believe is mother to us all - Mary.

And what better time than the month of May (and especially on Mothers' Day) to turn to our universal mother and ask for her intercession? For we believe she hears our prayers and carries them directly to God.

And no matter what title you call her by - "Our Lady of Guadalupe," "Mary, Help of Christians," "The Immaculate Conception," "Mary, the mother of God," etc. - she is one in the same...she just looks a little differently.

Have you tried to pray to Mary? If it's been awhile or if you have some skepticism of the whole "Why do Catholics pray to Saints?" thing, may I suggest a few simple ways to pray:

- Include a simple invocation at the end of your prayer, such as "Mary, Help of Christians, pray for us!" (That's the Salesian in me coming out...) or "Our Lady of Victory, pray for us!"

- Pray a "Hail Mary" when you find yourself getting frustrated or when you hear/see an ambulance go by.

- Pray the Rosary. (They have lots of apps like this one available for FREE download for iPads and iPhones now...)

Rosary from Lourdes (one student's dad brought it back from his recent pilgrimage)

- Have a prayer conversation with Mary, much like you may have with your own mother.

Another way we can honor Mary is by loving and honoring our own mothers. So, if you are one of those lucky people who still live close to home or who happen to have traveled to spend the day with your mom, enjoy your time together - there can never be too many hugs! (I, unfortunately, am many miles away from my mom today, but we're going to attempt our first Facetime chat later...we shall see...)

Happy Mothers' Day to all moms, soon-to-be moms, and those who hope to one day raise a family. God bless!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Mothers' Day 2014

Wishing a most wonderful Mothers' Day - I know it's a little early - to my mom and all mothers! Thank you for all you do!

Spring tulips in bloom in Chicago

Friday, May 9, 2014

Love First, Teach Next

In attending "The Sound of Music" last night (which was incredible, by the way), I couldn't help but watch the play through my "teacher lens..."

I really liked looking at it that way - seeing the relationships develop between Frauline Maria and each of the children, much like relationships develop between a teacher and her/his students. It reminded me that it appears children respond to scolding and strict rules, but that's done more out of fear of getting in trouble. Instead, what they really respond to is love and to those who take an interest in them.

Seems like a simple realization, doesn't it? But how often as teachers do we forget this, getting wrapped up instead in annoying behavior and frustration because we can't get things done? Are the kids going to remember the extra 3 minutes of grammar a teacher tries to squeeze in while raising his/her voice to get the kids to settle down, or will they remember that their teacher always let them out late to lunch? Will the students remember all the big events that happened in our Church history, or will they remember that we spent each day with student-led prayer (even when it took longer than 5 minutes of class time)?

Now, at the end of the school year, is as good a time as any to review our teaching practice. (And trust me, I need to do it just as much as the next person!) And now is just as good a time as any to return to why we're teachers in the first place - For me, it's because I love working with children. They give me energy and push me with questions that require me to be stronger in my faith and values. They help me laugh and not get too serious about any given day.

Teaching is truly a special job - it is unlike any other one you can have. Sure, we may never thank teachers enough for what they do, but, at the end of each day, there is usually some small reward - a smile or hug from a student, a chance to spend time in conversation with a co-worker, an opportunity to see students involved in sports or extracurricular activities...

Kids respond when they realize their teachers care. They may not always be the best behaved when doing so, but they usually know where the line is if the relationship is there first.

So, as any frustrations or tasks at the end of the year start piling up, I want to remember to be like Maria - love them first, teach them second...

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Step Stool Grace

In the middle of the afternoon, I realized I had left my roomate's step stool over in the Church. (We had used it for today's May crowning Mass.)


I couldn't leave it there (as it wasn't mine), so down the stairs and across the street to the Church I went (high heels and all).

Am I glad I forgot that step stool!

When I entered the Church, the sunlight was pouring through the stained glass windows. There was a beautiful serenity and complete stillness. The noises of the street and l trains faded away, and I caught my breath as I took in the grace of that moment. That beautiful, quiet moment in the middle of a decently hectic day.

Maybe I should forget things in the Church more often...

Cookie Butter Cookies - mmm, mmm, good

Mmm...mmm...good! And not just by my lil' tastebuds but to my coworkers' liking as well. Cookie butter cookies - see for yourself:

the ingredients

I recommend using a larger saucepan - the cookies will set faster

2 containers full - ready for the teacher potluck

ready for the close-up (and tasting!)

Second time around - just as good as the first. I highly recommend them...just don't focus too much on the ingredients you put into them, or you just may find yourself in a sugar coma...

Monday, May 5, 2014

A piece of my heart

Sometimes all it takes is a license plate...

And I'm transported back to my time in Arizona:

A time of sunrises, hikes, and outdoor school walkways.
A time of mountains and red rock, magnificent colors and cacti.
A time of Salesian Sisters and Holy Cross priests.
A time when 2 hours chatting around the dinner table was normal.
A time when even though I was so far from home I never felt more at home.

Damn you, Arizona license plate. Why must you make me get all teary-eyed on my way to Mass last night? I can't quite put my finger on it (though the list above gives some idea of what I left behind), but there's a part of my heart that lives on and remains out there. (How does it survive that Arizona dry heat?!) There's a part of me that will never be the same because of all of the experiences and people I met while serving during and post-ACE.

And, I believe it's like that for all of us - wherever we go, we leave a little piece of ourselves, and when our hearts try to patch up and heal, they never grow back to exactly how they used to be...

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Daily Emmaus

Nearly moved to tears tonight at Mass...not sure what exactly hit me so strongly...I think the preparation song had something to do with it (and the Gospel being the story of Emmaus):

Who are you who walk in sorrow
Down Emmaus’ barren road,
Hearts distraught and hope defeated,
Bent beneath grief’s crushing load?
Nameless mourners, we will join you,
We who also mourn our dead;
We have stood by graves unyielding,
Eaten death’s bare, bitter bread.

Who is this who joins our journey,
Walking with us stride by stride?
Unknown Stranger, can You fathom
Depths of grief for one who died?
Then the wonder! When we told You
How our dreams to dust have turned,
Then You opened wide the Scriptures
Till our hearts within us burned.

Who are You? Our hearts are opened
In the breaking of the bread—
Christ the victim, now the victor
Living, risen from the dead!
Great companion on our journey,
Still surprise us with Your grace!
Make each day a new Emmaus;
On our hearts Your image trace!

Who are we who travel with You
On our way through life to death?
Women, men, the young, the aging,
Wakened by the Spirit’s breath!
At the font You claim and name us,
Born of water and the Word;
At the table still You feed us,
Host us as our risen Lord!

So beautiful. So powerful.

Sitting in Mass today (and afterwards while attending a presentation on the Archdiocesan "To Teach Who Christ Is" campaign), I realized that I am so blessed to worship with such a vibrant faith community that worships within a beautiful church building, has an angelic choir, and has dynamic priests. (And I feel that I've been blessed along the way growing up with such similar combos of worship dynamics in my Catholic parishes at different points in my life too.)

I pray to take the words of this hymn with me this week, keeping them ever present in my heart and on the tip of my tongue. Thank you, Lord, for speaking to me through song tonight.

The digital age

The time has come to join the digital/connected/always-on-the-go world...

I bought an iPad (mini).

Yep, it's gonna be an adventure.

(I haven't taken it out of the box yet...but I did skim over most of the online instruction manual. Plus, I don't have a case yet, so I don't want to risk any scratches...)

I'm hoping it will turn out to be a good investment as far as finally motivating myself to learn Spanish (Duolingo), read on the go (Nook App), and take more photos (even in the classroom).

I can finally tell my students that I have joined the digital age!...After seeing my phone the other day, a student remarked, "Miss Foyle, can we PLEASE (emphasis NOT added) all contribute to buy you a new phone. You have slide yours to open it. They don't make those anymore..."

Oh geez...

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Lazy Saturday...Beautiful Weather...

Beautiful days are not meant to be wasted inside. Though good weather has been inconsistent this "spring" (and I use the term loosely) in Chicago, the sun is shining today, and my sister and I enjoyed a leisurely lakefront path jog this morning followed by a stop at Starbucks.

I don't have many lazy Saturdays...but every once in awhile, I'm sure I glad I get to have a few...

Thursday, May 1, 2014

"Turn on Life"

As much as I have faith in young people, I admit I also have moments of doubt...

In advisory this morning, a couple of the 6th grade girls were trying to spread the word about National Screen Free Week. In doing so, they asked their classmates to take a pledge to self-regulate (not eliminate) use of electronics and screen devices. With the uproar of excuses, sighs, and complaints, you would have thought they asked the students to stop watching television for the rest of their lives.

Honestly, it made me sick. To not be able to give up one hour (or even 30 minutes) of screen time a day for one week - wow. What does that say about kids (and, let's face it, adults too) these days? What does this say about our culture/society? Where are our values? Where are our priorities?

It's the playoffs.
I can't give up video games - I only get an hour a night on the weekdays as it is.
I have to watch my tv shows.
I always use my phone during dinner - what's the problem?

I tried the angle that their parents' generation didn't even have cell phones, computers, and (color) televisions, and do you know what some of the kids said to that? Since they didn't have those things in the first place it wouldn't be as much of a temptation to give up. Maybe that's true, but it missed the point - they didn't need those things. That generation knew how to play pick up ball games, ride their bikes down the street, enjoy family dinners, and have real conversations.

As the girls who presented left the classroom this morning (after the others), I told them that they're fighting an uphill battle...but to keep trying. We need to make every effort to be aware of how much time we spend in front of our computers, televisions, and smartphones. (Yes, maybe it's a bit ironic that I'm writing this on my computer.) In the words of the campaign, we need to "turn off screens and turn on life."

Are you ready and willing to take the challenge and to encourage others to do the same?