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

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Time...for Advent

Holidays (and the related school breaks) always come and go much too quickly. It seems that just as your plane is landing at the airport you are taking off in the other direction to go right back where you came from.

How is it that time never slows down when you actually want it to?

Time is one thing you can never get back, it's true. It keeps pressing us onward, beckoning us to return to the grindstone of daily living.

But there is something about this time of year (Advent) that calls us to slow down, to prepare for Jesus' comings...

So, what are you waiting for? It's time to prepare...it's time to start slowing down...

Happy (liturgical) new year, everyone! Have a blessed Advent!

Check out some of these great resources to help in preparation for the season:
- Free Advent App
- Advent resources from Loyola Press

Sunday, November 23, 2014

I Kill the Mockingbird

Clever would be one way to describe it. Or, perhaps you could call it intriguing. It's definitely a book with potential to have you chuckling (if not laughing) out loud.

I Kill the Mockingbird.

Yes, you read the correctly. (And, if your brain went straight to Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, you're already on the right track.) In addition to the fact that To Kill a Mockingbird is a true classic, this book incorporates a wealth of references to other quality literature, including (but not limited to) books by Charles Dickens, Moby Dick, Farenheit 451, and Charlotte's Web. Plus, the three main characters are graduating 8th graders at a local Catholic grade school - so, as you can imagine, there are some great Catholic references too.

Here are just a couple of my favorite lines from the book:

When their teacher explains about what good reading actually is: "It's not enough to know what all the words mean...A good reader starts to see what an entire book is trying to say. And then a good reader will have something to say in return. If you're reading well...you're having a conversation."

When the main character's father is talking about why he spends so much time at Church (and as a Catholic school principal): "Life is a gift. Going to church is like sending a thank-you card."

Whether you are looking to recommend a novel to a young person (child, student, random neighbor) in your life or whether you're just looking for a light-hearted (but thought-provoking) easy read, this book should be next on your list.

There are no excuses - it has been in my car's trunk for nearly two months because I "haven't had the time to read"...but it literally took less than 3 hours to devour it. Om nom nom.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Poetic Apology

At the end of my second period of 7th grade Religion today, I received the following note of apology from a student - note, they were very rambunctious today and could not settle down to save their little lives:

I am sorry, Ms. Foyle, that we have been quite bad.
I know that all our talking makes you feel sad.
I am sorry that our energy is released in your class
And that we always talk and give you so much sass.
I'm sorry that we put you to your hardest test.
I'm sure that you want to move away from us, maybe far out west.
We know that we always laugh and tend to make noise.
I'm so sorry Ms. Foyle, but you give us such joy(s). (Hey, that rhymes.)
I love your hard work and the effort you put in
To help us learn about God and try to avoid sin.
I our world, you are the real hero.
For, after all, you never got up to go.
I know our talking constantly gets in the way
And this manner continues day by day
But we all respect you and think you are the best
despite the amounts of writing and tests. :)
You are very smart and so loving too.
We thank you, Miss Foyle, for all that you do.
Without you we couldn't grow in faith and love
and later go join our Father up above.
Your patience, I think, surprises us all
If I taught this class, I'd always cry and ball.
Our class may be tough and talkative too,
I don't know what we'd do without you.
I know that this class may be so very hard,
But I want to say sorry through this poem or card!

I did not change one bit of wording (smiley face included).

Well, doesn't that just beat all!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Poverty Inc

Went to see Poverty, Inc last night with my sister and a couple other friends. (It wasn't the movie I thought I was going to see, but it was definitely worth it!)

It's an eye-opener on the impact of NGOs (non-government organizations) and other efforts of aid that are actually hurting the local economies of the very places they are intending to help.

I believe the film is being shown at various places around the country slowly but surely. If you have a chance to go see it, please do. Getting informed is the first step...

Monday, November 17, 2014

Case of the Mondays

Today we had a case of the Mondays...yet again.

I thought it was just 6th grade Language Arts...but then 8th grade was chatty...and the first 7th grade...and then the second 7th grade.

Maybe it's just me...? (Well, that was cleared up when I talked to my fellow colleagues and teacher friends at other schools.)

But honestly, today felt like Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day because things went from bad (having no heat through the night and into the morning - which included no hot water for a shower when I got back from the gym - due to some problem on our whole block) to worse (when I felt ineffective as a teacher).

Some days just knock you on your butt. For me, those days are usually known as Mondays. (It's too bad they come around so often.)

But that means the week can only get better. Tomorrow will be a chance for me to get back up and stare Tuesday in the face.

And I'm ready...

P.S. Here are some of my most recent classroom photos - as you'll see, we're doing some Church history, Hobbit, etc...

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Church History Excitement

After watching a video about Sts. Peter & Paul...

Student A: Miss Foyle, I thought Church history was going to be boring, but this stuff is actually really cool!
Me: Yes, it certainly is.

Later in class:

Student B: Miss Foyle, you seem pretty excited about all this stuff.
Me: Yes, I guess I do.

It's amazing the difference a year makes. Having traveled on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land this summer and having just finished a Bible study on Acts of the Apostles, my familiarity with early Church history (and my confidence in teaching it) has gone up quite a bit since last Fall when I first taught the subject matter.

And it's made a difference.

It's gotta be the Holy Spirit...

Thursday, November 13, 2014

It's Magic

Watching students come alive - that's magic.

What's causing this joy and energy? Our school's new literary blog! We haven't had any submissions yet, but the students who are part of our newly formed club have a mission and a plan to get there.

Sure, I'm now giving up my after school time on Thursdays to moderate a club, but let me tell you, it's worth it. To say I have nothing to do with it (except for the opening of my classroom and occasionally redirecting the students back to their determined task at hand) is not a shirk of responsibility; nor is it me trying to be overly humble. It's honestly all the kids.

They are organized and ready to go. I can't wait for their project to get off the ground. 

And me? I'm just the lucky teacher who happened to plant a seed of an idea at the right time to the right student. Let's see how it grows!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Perfect Love

We wrapped up this season's Bible Study session on Acts of the Apostles on Monday night. As always, the caliber of conversation was high and engaging.

One question was along the lines of how Jesus may be acting as a light in the world through us, and one person spoke to the fact of realizing (through the visit of his brother's family, especially his godson) that he has the capacity to love someone (his godson, in this case) so much that he would willingly risk his life for that person. He said that until that point, he wasn't sure if he was capable of that kind of love.

And I thought to the Baptism of my own goddaughter I attended about a month ago - when I looked down into her eyes as I held her in my arms, I was overwhelmed with that same sense of love. (I can only imagine what her parents must feel!)

God calls each of us to this kind of love - selfless and perfect, willing to sacrifice for others, be they siblings, spouses, friends, or even strangers. To circle back to the topic of the question, then, what are we doing to allow Jesus to act as a light through us in ways that show this love to others in our world today?

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Stressing Less

Guess what goes first when the stress, "homework," and activities pile on...


Yes, this past week was surely a stressful one. In fact, heading into the weekend, I was stressing out because there was just way too much to accomplish this weekend (in my mind).

However, with a little help from last year's lesson plans & supplemental activities for my religion classes, I was able to pull together my classroom activities for the week more quickly than if I had needed to invent them from scratch. Report card comments and final grade overrides took a long time, but it wasn't nearly as long as I expected. Young Adult retreat planning also took less time than I thought it would. For Language Arts, I was able to make a solid (cheap) purchase on TPT for Hero's Journey materials that I didn't have to create those activities either.

In fact, things moved along so much better than expected this weekend, I got extra things done, including a skeleton of retreat ideas for the three 4-8th grade retreats coming up in Advent. (Yay!)

God is so good. I have to learn to stress less. It will all get done...eventually. (Or, in this case, it will get done sooner than expected.)

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Already dreaming of Christmas...?

Are you kidding me? Christmas lights already? The thought just made my skin crawl. (I was pleasantly surprised to find that the lights just belonged to one of the local bars...but then I was equally distressed that they were the colors of Ohio State, complete with a giant blow-up Buckeye mascot out front.)

Maybe Christmas was on my mind yesterday because the NBC Today Show on Saturday had a clip about how holiday shopping is already underway. 

Yes, you read that correctly. 

Pretty soon Christmas is going to be year-round...but at what cost? When it's constantly surrounding us and dragged out for months and focused on Santa and presents, it loses its true meaning. (Does the saying Keep Christ in Christmas come to mind right now?)

Nowadays, there are fewer and fewer hold-outs. (You know, the ones who refuse to listen to Christmas music till after Thanksgiving and who believe in homemade gifts or ones you can get at the store up until a few days before Christmas, sale or no sale?) But I'm planning to stay one of them. There's still a long way till December 25th...and a lot to do to prepare our hearts (especially during Advent) before then. 

And, to top it all off, why rush Fall?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

United Forever

Today is the Feast of All Saints...but, as it falls on a Saturday, it is not a holy day of obligation for the Catholic Church.

There was Mass offered this morning at my parish, so I decided that would be a great way to start my morning. Apparently, not many people had the same sentiment, as the Church only held about 40(?) people today. But of that amount of people, many were fellow pilgrims on my trip to Israel this summer, and my joy was overflowing for seeing them all.

And this feeling made me realize that after traveling to such a sacred place on our pilgrimage, there will forever be a bond/force/you-name-it that will unite us together. Without a doubt, the pilgrimage changed each of us and wove our lives together, and I am so grateful every day (and especially days like today!) for those who helped make my journey (and memories) so meaningful.

Happy Feast of All Saints!