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

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Keep on Turnin'

Today was better...at least for 6th grade. (7th grade, in all of their "love" struggles, left a lot to be desired.)

Still working to improve - more impromptu/move-around groupings? videos? less content but more depth?

The wheels keep turning. Slowly but slowly I'll piece this puzzle together...

Monday, September 29, 2014

Is that a Rhetorical Question?

Some days are just SO frustrating...especially those ones when the chattiness just does. not. stop.

(But, in speaking with my other teacher friends, I realize I am not alone, so then I feel much better about myself and life.)

However, I read an article that I had found on Pinterest, and I got a little disheartened that I'd used at least half of the phrases that it says to cut out. S***

As I think about the point this article is trying to make, I see the impact such rhetorical language has in my own classroom - it feeds into the need of my students to show power and get attention (the wrong kind).

Well, at least that's a positive step - realizing that I need to make a change. (Not that, by any means, do I consider this blog the Bible, but I think it makes a valid point.)

Let's see if I can make some changes to be less rhetorical tomorrow...

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Simple Prayer

This is absolutely beautiful, and I encourage you to read it and reflect on it: http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/19840/god-came-to-tea/

At a time when prayer doesn't always come easy (or, quite frankly, I forget to pray), this is a good reminder.

God is always waiting - inviting us to speak to Him. He's listening, and He wants us to return to Him.

Dear God, Thank you for this simple message found through poetic reflection today. It is a lovely day outside, and I am grateful to have spent some time enjoying the weather with friends and family. Please guide all those who have fallen away from close relationship with you to find you once again through simple, heartfelt prayer. Amen.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


I love incorporating new ideas into the classroom with each new school year, and this year has been no exception.

Over the summer (while working with a couple classes of teachers doing the ACE program through Notre Dame), we had a guest presenter who did a mini poetry workshop. We did an activity where she gave each group a stanza from Oh! The Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss, and she had very basic rules for our groups of 4 people:

1) Everyone has to say at least something by him/herself.
2) Everyone has to say at least something together/as a whole group.
3) No one cannot say anything - in other words, all must participate.

So, the first time wed did the exercise, it was just reciting the lines from the poem.

Then, the same rules applied, but we were instructed to add a movement to just about every word in our section.

And so, after having a little bit of time (i.e. a couple of minutes) to work on that, we all presented (again) with our movements.

And, finally, we did it a third time - but that time, it was done from memory.

Now, that wasn't the end of the activity - she followed it up with a writing exercise involving advice in verse about teaching, but the activity itself gave me an idea for introducing the Nicene Creed this week to my students...

So...I put up the rules on the board (one set at a time), and the students went around the first time just reciting the words of the Creed from their small groups (using the rules stated above). Then, after giving them minimal time, they did it a second time - with movements. And the third time, it was from memory.

As students left the classroom yesterday, I had them "tweet" on an exit slip (140 characters or less, of course!) about their takeaway from the activity. One student wrote, "I didn't know it could be so easy to learn the Creed!" and another said, "I had a lot of fun doing movement with the Creed, and I learned a lot."

If nothing else, it got them out of their seats...and it got them thinking about the Creed. We get into its history and meaning today before moving into the Trinity later this week.

Now, if only I can incorporate this activity into Language Arts soon...I think that might be something those kiddos would respond to...

Saturday, September 20, 2014


Why are some people so afraid of telling a child no? It's not like the child is going to die or anything.

Is it because they're afraid of the tears? maybe the child won't like him/her anymore?

Contrary to those thoughts, does anyone ever stop to think it would actually be a good thing for that child to deal with the word "no"?

In a culture where many children are over-indulged, saying no has become taboo... But man are we in for it.

Allow me to offer two examples of what I mean:

At aftercare on Friday, two moms (at two different times) came to pick up their children. Upon announcing that it was time to go home, the students stayed on the computers, insisting that they needed to finish the game. Apparently this was okay to both parents, as they just waited until their children were ready. One even proceeded to pack up her son's bag...

Earlier today, my sister and I were dining at Corner Bakery (after I finished MOC at the hospital) - while we were digesting our lunches, a family with a small girl came in. When the mom put her down, she immediately reached for a Capri Sun in the display, but her mom told her they had to pay first. The girl started pouting and crying over on the bench. Her dad sat down with her. Within a couple of minutes, one of the workers went over to the girl and handed her a Capri Sun. (Oh look, no more tears!) Really?...

What lesson have we taught the children in these cases? Do what you want - authority doesn't really matter anyway? or, Whine enough and you'll get your way because no one wants to see you cry?


I don't have a solution...except to maybe incorporate "no" into our respective vocabularies more often.

If parents and babysitters/nannies started to do that, maybe we'd have an easier time in the classroom when we tell our students no too...

Thursday, September 18, 2014

8th Grade Prayer Stations

On Tuesday and Thursday 8th graders participated in a "prayer buffet" of sorts to learn/practice different kinds of prayers using common materials in hopes they will explore more kinds of prayers on their own...

Please note, I did not come up with these stations on my own. Ideas were sought after and found on the following sites (and others):

http://www.rethinkingyouthministry.com/2009/07/creative-prayer-stations-for-church.html http://kidz.arumc.org/2012/09/21/lordsprayer/ http://www.rethinkingyouthministry.com/2008/03/youth-prayer-nite.html

Monday, September 15, 2014

Community Living

I snuck into Bible Study about 45 minutes late tonight (due to a volleyball game at school), and I was really glad I went. We're studying Acts of the Apostles, so there's a lot of good discussion to be had surrounding the beginning of the Christian Church.

One question centered around the type of living the early followers led - so we got to talking about community living and having all things shared. So, naturally, I started talking about ACE - how we all went in on one bank account, cooked and ate meals together, shared a house and transportation... I guess I take that time of intentional community living for granted because my table group started asking things like, wasn't that hard? and did everyone just go for the cheap stuff? They were surprised when I told them how well we actually ate in Phoenix those two years.

Maybe that time in ACE taught me more than I even realized then - intentional community living done well must indeed be close to those early followers. We looked out for each other, shared jobs, and spent quality time in prayer and conversation.

Darn right it was hard...and maybe I wouldn't have chosen it on my own. But in looking back, I think it has transformed me into a more empathetic person who can more easily go with the flow and not get caught up in the whole "it's mine" mentality.

So, years later, I've still got ACE to thank. :)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Loved and Lost

When the time comes for me to say goodbye to someone or something I love very much, the first thing I think is, "Why should I love so much in the first place if it hurts so much to lose someone/something? Wouldn't life just be easier if I kept myself closed off, keeping people (and things) at a distance so as to not get hurt?"

But then, a familiar line of a song comes drifting in: "What matters most is that we loved at all..."

Today, I got a text from my mom telling me that they were putting our dog, Murphy, down at the vet, and that they would bury him in the backyard. I've spent a good deal of the afternoon in tears, it's true, but I've also chuckled in remembering some really good times we all shared with him (as well as some of the silly things he did). And, even though it hurts to know he's no longer with us, it makes me happy that we have those fun memories together.

It's true - without love, there really would be no purpose in living, no matter how hard things get sometimes. Yes, it's painful, but that's what makes relationships so sweet and so special. No one lives forever (at least not on this earth), so we need to take the opportunity to walk with and grow with those people and things that come into our lives while we can.

So, thank you, Murphy, for the 13+ years you were a part of our lives. We love you...

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Going, Going, Gone

When life throws tons of things at you at once...make sure you keep your head above water.

For me (this past week), that meant giving up running and blogging (sadly).

I did take some "me" time with friends for a concert on Tuesday:

Yes, the opener (Mikey Wax) for Brendan James played the keyboard with his left hand while simultaneously picking the guitar with his right hand

Brendan James at SPACE

I could listen to this man play and sing all day...

...But that was pretty much the only "break I took. Between coaching 5th grade volleyball (practice 2 times a week and games up to two (other) days a week and school stuff (and being sick), there was not much time left for anything else.

I hope to change that this week. While I have (and will) spent (spend) quite a bit of time this weekend preparing materials/handouts/projects for school, I'm also making sure I get outside and enjoy the weather. Just this afternoon, my sister and I went to the art fair right at the end of my street. And tomorrow, I will be going to family Mass at my school. Today, I got a text from a friend about free tickets to a Cubs game this week, so that's definitely an opportunity to take a "time out" from the work and stress. (We just better wear some layers - it's going to be chilly!)

And I do hope to be back in the blogging action. So many thoughts and questions (especially about the classroom) have been swimming around in my head, and I want to share...

Until next time...

Monday, September 8, 2014

"High FIVE, Dolphins"

(Title/cheer credit goes to my sister.)

Thus began our 2014 fall 5th grade volleyball season. Our first match was today. The joy on their faces when they got multiple serves over in a row or when they made great bumps brought that same joy to mine. We were down by quite a bit in both games (can we say sluggish start?), but with substitutions, time outs, and a little bit of luck, they rallied to victory (and in only 2 games!).

As we put our hands in for each cheer, the girls placed a stuffed dolphin on top - perhaps he'll be our new mascot. And as we raised our hands on "Go Dolphins!" (It just doesn't have the same ring as "Go forth/4th, Dolphins!), we shot the stuffed one into the air.

We continue our week with practices on Tuesday and Thursday. As long as the girls keep smiling, learning, and having fun, I'll consider this season a success. Even though it takes up a lot of my time, it is time well spent.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Cheer, Cheer for Old Notre Dame

Cheer, cheer for Old Notre Dame!

Good ol' college game day - Great weather! Great friends! Great seats! (See photos below.)

Somehow it always happens that my mind finds itself wandering and pondering as I sit and watch from the stands - How very blessed I am to have been a part of ACE. When I'm not reminded of that each day through my teaching opportunities, I think of all of the incredible people I know (a number of whom we ran into on Saturday) because of this great program.

Where would I be without ACE? I honestly don't know. I surely wouldn't have been at Notre Dame this past weekend.

Hmm...I think I feel a Darius Rucker song coming on...

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

More student response favs

You can't make this stuff up. The mix between student profundity and responses that make you chuckle is incredible. Below are some of my favorite responses gathered from 7th grade student surveys about their understanding of the Mass:

In response to "What does the word 'Amen' mean?" -->
  • "You have finished praying"
  • "I think it means 'ok' - a combination of thank you and ok"

In response to "Why do we genuflect when we enter the pew at Church?"
  • "To show respect to God and to say hello"
  • "To enter ourselves and start the mass, I am taking a guess, by the way, sorry I forgot."
  • "We genuflect to show we are starting prayer and mass and we genuflectat the end to show mass is over."

I love my job.

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Gift to Realize that Everything is a Gift

Long weekends are amazing because, as a teacher, I feel that such times are the only true times (aside from more extended holiday vacations) when you can take a day off.

So, that's exactly what I did on Sunday. That's right - no work. Period.

My sister and I went for a run on the Lakefront path, which, while hot, was quite satisfying. After washing up, I met her and one of her roommates from ACE KC (Anthony) at Yolk (a local brunch hotspot) for some delicious pancakes. From there, we headed downtown (via the L) to drop off Anthony's bags at Union Station. It was at that time we had the brilliant idea that we would wander around...and ultimately find the cupcake ATM.

(Yes, believe it or not, it exists. Directly below is the proof.)

We enjoyed some sunshine, our cupcakes, fresh air, and conversation on a Starbucks 2nd floor outdoor patio (who knew?). And then we walked some more. (By the end of the day, let's just say my legs were a little sore.)

And after sending Anthony on his way (back to Union Station), Marisa and I grabbed dinner and then headed to Mass. Finally, to round out the night, Marisa and another friend and I experienced the beauty of a summer's evening with margaritas and tortilla chips on the patio of the Mexican restaurant right around the corner from Church.

This morning, I was able to wake up refreshed and so very grateful for yesterday's encounters and adventures.

Speaking of grateful, I'm starting that theme with my 7th graders this week in Religion class. They'll be writing daily in their gratitude journals, and I'll be reading them some books, sharing some stories, and inviting them to reflect on how we can all be a little more grateful for what we have.

I plan on showing this video tomorrow:

And here are some images to get us started and to use throughout the year:

As the video (above) says at one point, it's a "gift to realize that everything is a gift". Today, I was able to look out my back door and see beauty in the simple grace of the brilliant sunshine:

What are you grateful for today?