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, June 20, 2014

A Quick Book Talk

With the idea of teaching reading (& writing) finally a reality for me next year, I've taken the opportunity to read some teen novels - yes, even more so than usual...

1. Before I Fall (Lauren Oliver) - Groundhog Day + High School Musical + Tuck Everlasting = this book. I think that's a pretty fair mix. The main character gets into a car accident (in the first chapter - don't worry, it's not a spoiler alert) and spends the rest of the book figuring out what she needs to do to make good. She basically relives the same day 7 times, getting her epiphany/a-ha moment as she awakes the final day. At first I was put off because it seemed to glamorize popularity, underage drinking, sex, drugs, skipping classes, etc...but as the story progresses, the main character comes to realize that these things aren't all they are cracked up to be. I was pretty satisfied with how all these topics were handled, and I would highly recommend it for any high school student (or adult for that matter). You only live once...so make it count.

2. No Place (Todd Strasser) - Homelessness. Taboo topic. Not so, my friend. This book presents this issue in a very approachable and able-to-understand way. It tells the story of a (white) high school senior who is preparing next year for a full baseball scholarship to Rice University. He's a pretty popular guy, complete with a beautiful girlfriend and a number of pals. However, both of his parents come on hard times with their jobs, and they find themselves moving in with his uncle's family. But that doesn't quite work out, so they move to a tent city, Dignityville, where he meets a girl from his school and finds himself in a situation that is pretty uncomfortable. Issues are presented from both sides - the pros and cons of a more permanent homeless establishment. I think this book would be a great way to brace homelessness with high school students, especially within the context of teaching social justice or Catholic Social Teaching. There's quite a bit of truth to what was stated in the book, and I think anyone would do well to use this book as a starting place for becoming more informed about homelessness.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

All Packed!

**** just got real...

(Yes, there's a real suitcase beneath those 2 smaller bags...)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Time for Thanks

Finally got around to writing thank-you notes this morning. It's about time, I know. It's hard to believe it's already been a week since we released our students out for summer break.

$1 for 8 (cute!) cards in the Target dollar bin...I'll take 'em!

At least there weren't too many cards to write - some Starbucks gift cards, a paperweight, some homemade cookies, a gratitude journal...

My favorite thing to receive, though, is handwritten notes. Honestly. (And, it's likely any teacher you ask would admit to the same thing...even though Starbucks cards never hurt anyone either...)

Notes like these make me realize that in some small way maybe I am making a difference - the work I do has meaning and the kiddos are responding.

Notes like these make me smile.

On an unrelated (but highly exciting) note - I prepped more for my Holy Land trip yesterday - read some notes from another tour group who went in March, watched a movie about Jerusalem, and tagged up my tour guide book with post-its:

Plus, I got a book in the mail I had forgotten I even ordered. Guess it's coming in my bag (which is actually closer to being packed!) on Friday...

Monday, June 16, 2014

My Confession

Here comes the sun...doo do doo doo...

Go back to sleep alarm! Why did it have to come up at 6:45 today? School's over...

Oh, that's right - there were plenty of things to do...

Gym, breakfast, shower, car emissions test, clothes donation drop-off, coffee and book-reading, Reconciliation, Target, bank, cookie stop, gas, errand for a roommate...and all before noon!

(The rest of the day was not so productive - although, I did watch the AMAZING USA-Ghana soccer game - "We believe that we will win!!")

It's a Costa Rica jersey (from when my sister studied there), but it's definitely done its job getting me ready for the World Cup! Go USA!!!

The best thing, by far, was Reconciliation - I had made an appointment with my school's pastor in order to prepare myself better spiritually for my upcoming pilgrimage. It felt so good to get some things off my chest. (I really should make a habit of Confession more often!)

Slowly but surely everything for the trip is coming together...except for the packing...I still have to get on that...

Sunday, June 15, 2014

These shoes were made for walking...

...I hope.

With less than one week until my Holy Land trip, I'm feeling a little more confident day by day with last minute purchases (like these shoes - so comfy!).

Still have a bit of reading/research to catch up on before Friday, but that's what this week is for, right?

As I told more and more people (especially co-workers - they kept asking what I will be up to this summer) about my trip, I got more and more excited. We're going to be where Jesus actually was...ah!!!

A trip that originally seemed so far away (e.g. first group post on FB page was "150 days till Holy Land", or something like that) is actually here. So, if you think of it, please pray for me and my Church group. I will be most grateful...

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Summer is HERE!!!!

As my mom so kindly pointed out to me, it's been a week since I last blogged.


I guess you can say I've been a little busy...and you could also say that I didn't feel I had much to say these past few days...because, quite frankly, I was a little frustrated.

Looking back, I don't know why I let the kids' behavior get to me - I mean, why should I, as a teacher, expect students to want to learn up until the bell rings for summer break? I guess it's a little unreasonable - the kids are already checked out and ready to hit the beach...or the hay.

But summer break is finally here - we said goodbye to our students today. We had Mass, a hot dog lunch, an indoor/outdoor World Cup match... It was a lot of fun. But it was hard to believe another year has gone by so quickly...

I'm already thinking ahead to next year - and that's going to be another adventure. I'll be at my same school, but my subjects are a little more mixed up. No longer will I solely be a Religion teacher. Nope, I'll be teaching Religion to 7th and 8th grades, and the rest of my time I will be filling with 6th grade Language Arts/Reading & Homeroom/Advisory.

(Never a dull moment - curve balls are always welcome.)

My classroom is mostly packed up - still need to stack desks, take down a bulletin board, attend some PD, work on school accreditation stuff...

But the end is in sight. By Friday at noon, I'll be walking out the door, handing over all of my keys until mid-August.

Goodbye 2013-2014; Hello Summer!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Just one step

One step. That's it! That's all we, as teachers, really have with our students - one step along the tremendous journeys of their lives.

For some students, that step is larger or smaller than others - and it depends on how long we've know them, how far we've helped them grow, how we've helped them listen for their future vocations...

But, again, it's just one step.

Tonight, the 8th graders will graduate. I didn't know this group until I came to my school 3 years ago. (And, really, I didn't get to know them as young people until this school year when I was blessed to be their Religion teacher.) I don't know much of their past, and I will likely not be with them as they journey forward towards their bright futures.

But that's okay. I've done what I can - it can never be enough...but that's exactly as it should be.

It all makes me think of the words of wisdom attributed to Oscar Romero -->

It helps now and then to step back and take a long view. 
The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is beyond our vision. 

We accomplish in our lifetime only a fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work. 
Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us. 
No statement says all that could be said. 
No prayer fully expresses our faith. 
No confession brings perfection, no pastoral visit brings wholeness. 
No program accomplishes the Church's mission. 
No set of goals and objectives include everything. 

This is what we are about. 
We plant the seeds that one day will grow. 
We water the seeds already planted knowing that they hold future promise. 
We lay foundations that will need further development. 
We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities. 

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing this. 
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. 
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest. 
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. 

We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not messiahs. 
We are prophets of a future not our own.

"Teachers plant seeds that grow forever." (This bracelet was a gift from my Aunt Jill for Teacher Appreciation Day in May - the sentiment is truly fitting for a graduation night.)

Monday, June 2, 2014

3 Bits of Advice

1. Don't take any pictures for the first 3 days of your trip - Remember your purpose: you're a pilgrim, not a tourist.

2. Have one very special intention to take with you on your trip. (And pray about it leading up to the trip too.)

3. Don't buy every souvenir you see.

These were three pieces of advice passed on to me from a friend who recently went on a trip with her Focus group to the Holy Land...which is exactly where I'll be going so very shortly!

The one that sticks out to me the most is #1 - How often do I worry about getting the "right" picture? or, will I be able to share my memorable trip with family and friends back home? or, how will I remember this trip if I don't take any pictures?

And in thinking on these things, I realized how likely I would be to miss the experience of the trip. Yes, pictures are all well and good, but, in the end, it goes back to the original thought posed - Am I a pilgrim or a tourist?

On this trip, I am a pilgrim. And in the greater scheme of life, that's what I am too - a pilgrim on a journey, just trying to get to heaven.

So, I'm going to work on following these suggestions. It's going to be an amazing trip...