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

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Take it Away...

In my middle school religion classes the past two days, I asked the students in their bellwork to think about the big take-aways they have from last year's class (or, if they weren't at our school last year, two to three goals that they have for this year). While I did get many answers that were simply naming activities we did, some students did dig a little deeper:

There are many different Saints, and they became Saints in multiple ways.

There are multiple types of prayer options.

I learned and took to heart how to really value God and make decisions based off my religion.

The seven Sacraments, especially Reconciliation, are gifts and should not be feared.

All Christians who devote their lives to God are Saints, whether or not they are sanctified.

All stories in the Bible are either real things or metaphors to explain God and Jesus' greatness.

I learned that priests are people too. ("Miss Foyle, I learned that by Skyping with your priest friend.")

After I got back from the Holy Land, I had a bit of a different perspective of religion class - my ultimate goal (for the year/years I teach them) should be to get these kids closer to heaven. If they deepen their relationships with God or open their minds to aspects of our faith they hadn't know/thought of before, then I should consider such things "successes."

2 Wednesday Take-aways

They're back...the class that just keeps talking...

And I'm the one at a loss for words.

I've already solicited advice, tried different tactics, waited until I was blue in the face...but some continue to do their own thing. (Yes, they've been this way as a group since at least 3rd grade.) I think I may try parent phone calls next - not to be negative, but to get everyone on the same page. They've already heard the message about respect (for their classmates, for me, etc.) from me, but they need to hear it at home too.

In speaking with some fellow teachers at dinner last night, it seems that part of the problem with respect in the classroom is that a lot of children aren't expected to show respect at home - parents seem to be more concerned with being a friend to their kids (and to their kids' friends) than being the parent. Now, please know that I'm not judging any parents or saying how parenting should be - trust me, I'm not a parent, so I have no place in doing so - but it's just an observation.

And it's going to be a tough conversation to have with some parents, I'm sure. But I think I need to do it...

On an otherwise classroom-related note, I read Because I Love You with my 7th and 8th grade Religion classes.

Yes, I still read picture books to 13 and 14 year olds...and the results are awesome! Students engaged in beautiful discussions about "the hole," sin, and free will. Many students slowly began to understand that God didn't create us to have us be puppets or to force us to want to one day be with Him in heaven - it's our choice...but every time we fall away, God is already coming to us to bring us back. He's (actively) waiting with His arms wide open.

Oh, we have plenty of other picture books lined up for the year. Let's see how the kiddos do...

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Kitchen Trials

After a full day of teaching followed by the first day of fifth grade volleyball practice (and then more school work preparations for tomorrow), it was time to go home.

Too tired to run...but in desperate need of using up some groceries I bought this past week, I decided to get cooking. Mixing chicken breast, broccoli, zucchini, diced onions, pepper, garlic, sea salt, balsamic, and olive oil, I baked it in the oven for 35 minutes (adding cheese in the last 10-12 minutes)...

Here's what happened after some oven magic:

Things were looking so good, I decided to put in some cookies into the oven afterwards...

And another success was achieved! Yay for boxed chocolate with mint chip cookies from Target!

Some days teaching takes it out of you...but you can still live it up cooking in the kitchen...

Monday, August 25, 2014


Hello first day of the 2014-2015 school year! Middle school Religion and 6th grade ELA, y'all ready??

Today was a really good day - even if we did have a very abbreviated time frame for each of our classes. It's good to be back in the swing of things and have students in the room and student work already up on the wall...

student puzzle pieces in 7th grade go together to make a quote illustrated by their names and pictures representing their summers

One responsibility I have...at school...at home...to myself
And "What is one thing you need from your classmates in order to learn your best?"

And the day ended with a lovely visit to a local ice cream establishment with my sister and a friend.

In the infamous words of The Lego Movie...

"Everything is AWESOME!!!"

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Close Encounters of the Best Kind

I am finally getting back in the swing of Ministry of Care - after my hiatus since the end of May this spring, I was able to go down to the hospital to visit and bring Communion to some of the patients.

Everyone was very pleasant. One woman was really sweet (and in such high spirits) - after about 10-15 minutes of conversation, she said, "Well, I better let you go. It's just that there aren't too many people around here to talk to." Yes, her husband was there, and, yes, her sisters had recently come to see her, but it must just be good to talk with someone about things other than your illness or other family members or things at home or goodness knows what else.

And just like that, I was reminded again why it's important to keep participating in this ministry. It may not seem like anything special or extraordinary on any given Saturday, but it may be just the thing someone needs on any given day.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Every little thing's gonna be all right...

The (almost) final additional pictures:

Latin & Greek root words interactive bulletin board

It's all Greek (and Latin) to me...

picture of what the supply box should look like

and then you put it on the bins with a "check off" list

Let's keep fingers crossed that the students stay responsible for these...

"Stop. Does your box have...?"

Exit activity spot

Love thee, Notre Dame (clearly)

packets and pre-ordered supplies ready to go for Open House

Friday's Open House message up and ready to go

going to try to stay organized with all the ELA handouts...

class rules (middle school-wide) = 4 r's

I am so excited for Open House...but I'm also nervous for the start of the school year. I feel like once we kick off Monday there will hardly be time to breathe. (And we don't even have all of our lesson plans done for next week yet!)

Here we go, though - it's the start of another school year...

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Modern (Catholic) Family

At Friday evening's Mass of the Assumption, I was pleasantly surprised to see a number of parents with their small children in the congregation.

A few of my classmates and friends from the ACE teaching program have settled down and started raising families - and they are trying hard to have the children baptized and to bring their children to Mass each week.

It's people like these that give me hope for our Church and hope for the modern Catholic family. Parents (who, at times, may seem like a small amount of them) are taking on the responsibility of being the primary educators of their children's faith, and they are making family the center (with God at the core) of all they do.

Let us lift our Catholic families (especially newer parents) up in prayer that God strengthen their zeal and love for the faith in order to pass on a desire in their children for developing personal relationships with God. Amen.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Coming Together as the Countdown Continues...

The classroom is coming along...the set-up is nearly done:

As per usual, our daily objective & homework board - yay for blue painters' tape!

Kind of decided to do this bulletin board on the fly...but I think it will turn out great - more about how I plan to organize/manage it at a later time...

Students will sign up (alone or in pairs) in each class and share in creating the bulletin board for the previous Sunday's Gospel message. (I'm not so secretly hoping this will increase Mass attendance!)

Maybe a little too much distraction around the crucifix...but, as my partner teacher pointed out, they're closer to Jesus that way!

That's a lot of student birthdays...They definitely brighten the room...

Calendar and bulletin board awaiting some ELA-inspired theme...

Don't know how I feel about starting with "pods," but I'm willing to experiment with just about anything. This will allow me to use those student material boxes and free up some space...

In my humble opinion, the room looks bright and welcoming - I can only hope the students think so too...They come for open house next Friday. Woo hoo!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

O Classroom, My Classroom...

First glimpse of classroom pictures (cue lights! cue sound!) - Keep in mind that while I have come far from where I started when I walked in yesterday, I still have quite a bit left to do...

One of my first tasks was to take out everything from the shelves, chuck what I am not planning to use (slash, what would just accumulating dust), and reorganize the cabinet. As you can see, there are many PD & religious books (as well as DVDs) stashed away in this area of the classroom:

The next four pictures are of the front of my classroom, creating our prayer space:

Funny story about the corkboard, actually - I didn't realize how thin it was, so when I tried to use push pins, they wouldn't hold (or would poke (with effort) into the wall). Bummed, I almost took down the large piece, when I had an epiphany - Use the smaller pieces that I had just bought at Target to make some of the board double thick. Voila! It worked. (At least, I hope it's still hanging up tomorrow...and in the days to come...)

I had to make directions - bottom line, be careful when posting!

Prayer "table" with multiple books and sacramentals.
The empty vase will *hopefully* hold fresh flowers on a regular basis...

Oh hey, Pope Francis...and Holy Land postcards

Getting the kiddos thinking (and using my religious Tweets book).
I also love the fact that I was bequeathed a frog hall pass. <3

After a year of minimal use (due to being solely the religion teacher last year) - sadness! - it was time to actually fix up and label my classroom library. We'll see how long those books stay sorted. I even made a section of Miss Foyle's Favs to advertise some of my favorite novels and classic literature.

Of course there's a Sharon Creech section. I think all her novels are in that bucket...

I broke down and bought a new CD player this year (because last year the one I had broke). I had to strategically move the pencil sharpener too - I don't have too many extra desks to play around with this year because I'll have 22 kiddos in my homeroom. Woo hoo!

And, if you look closely, there are Piglet and Anne (of Green Gables) snuggled nicely next to the lamp.

As any teacher will tell you, organization is essential, so I will do my best this year to stay on top of that (both for me and for my students), and I will also work to stay as de-cluttered as possible (especially my teacher desk)...

Crates for archiving student notes and assessments - 2 bins for each class!

Group seating material boxes. Crossing my fingers that they last!

glue & tape (for interactive notebooks), spare pens & pencils, a pencil sharpener, a highlighter, some scissors, Y/N spoons, & post-its - the idea is to minimize unnecessary movement and to help them be responsible for returning items at the end of each class...

Every computer station is "armed" with a stuffed animal and a pair of headphones.

So many teacher & prayer books, so little time...
I love my frog collection, dolphin, and Olaf!

Reminders (and inspiration) hanging above my teacher bookshelf

Yep, that's most of it for now. I have yet to group the desks, but I plan to put my carpet up near the SMARTBoard so to be better able to conduct mini lessons (mostly for my 6th grade ELA class) and create a better sense of classroom community. (Plus, it's right by the prayer table, so maybe we can better utilize that this year.)

Tomorrow is pretty much a full day in our classrooms after breakfast and a brief orientation with the full staff first thing in the morning, so I look forward to being mostly done with classroom set-up by roughly 3:32 tomorrow afternoon.

(And one last plug - for those of you Catholics reading this blog, remember to go to Mass for the wonderful Marian feast of the Assumption. Mary, our mother, pray for us!)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Least

As I sit here writing this, I'm not really sure where to start. Ever since I've been back from my trip to the Holy Land, I've been pondering more and more about the purpose of life - both my own and those of everyone around me. Things like what happened yesterday just really get me thinking...and it's hard not knowing the answers...

Yesterday, I was on the L (en route to my hair appt), when a young-ish gentleman came aboard:

"I know you all don't want to hear this, and I'm sorry that I'm pissing you guys off by doing this, but I need help. My right leg is swollen to almost twice the size of my left one - I'll show you (which he did). I need $19 to fill a prescription for Cumatin, it's a blood-thinner. I don't have insurance, I got laid off. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I hate begging. I hate my life - my G** you don't know how much I hate my life right now...I'm sorry..."

How heartbreaking to hear that. And coupled with the recent news about Robin William's suicide after a battle with depression, it makes me wonder what gets a person to such a desperate state. And it also makes me wonder what we, as a society (and as individuals), can do to reach out to people in need.

I know I can't give money to everyone on the street or everyone who asks - or, then again, maybe I can...but I don't. But there has to be something.

So much of where we go and get to in life seems predetermined at birth - who our parents are, where we live, who we know...I've always taken it for granted - the fact that I was able to pursue (practically free of cost) a Bachelor's and then Master's degree, the idea that I have chosen to live in Chicago, the way I still have a little money to spend on entertainment/charity/school/etc. after rent and food costs... Not everyone can do that. And, yeah, I had to work to get these things, but I started out in a pretty good place with people (my family, teachers, friends, etc.) who helped me along the way.

But what about people who don't have that? What are we doing to help them?

Like I said at the beginning of this post, I don't have the answers. I'm just begging the questions right now. And I apologize if this seems like a rant or some kind of tangent - that was not my intention.

So, for tonight, I'll leave you with this thought:

While at Theology on Tap tonight, Fr. James Martin (with whom we were Skyping) brought up the "litmus test" of getting into heaven: Matthew 25 - "Whatsoever you have done to the least of my people, that you have done unto me..." It is said that a society can be judged by how it treats its least and most vulnerable. On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate us today?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Chop and a Build

Accomplished a few things today - a hair cut chop for one:

Before the chop

That's a lot of hair...and it's all mine...

Now, I need to bag it up, print the donation form, and mail it off to help some kiddos in need. Woot!

Also managed to build a desk (with rolling drawers and everything!) while inflicting minimal pain to myself:

right out of the box

mid-building process

all finished (& typing on it now!)

picked up a bruise while attempting to get the heavy box up my back porch stairs
And that's not all! Tonight I met up with my sister and another friend (and my roommate) for dinner (at a new place - yay for trying new things!) - it was a wonderful chance to catch up, enjoying food and fellowship at the same time.

Summer is such a great time - I feel like (when I push myself) I can get a lot done. But the school year is great too...and we're starting back soon...