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

Monday, January 26, 2015

Answering a Vocation

"It is important that you choose your career with care, so that you may really follow the vocation that God has destined for you. No day should pass without some prayer to this end. Often repeat with Saint Paul: 'Lord, what will you have me do?'" 
- Saint John Bosco (1815-1888), Feast day January 31

At the start of Catholic Schools' Week, this quote (which came across my inbox today) seemed highly appropriate. As most Catholic school teachers can tell you, we ain't in it for the money. For many, it is truly an opportunity to answer a vocation and to help nurture the young people in our care to one day answer theirs.

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of Catholic education! Please instill a deep sense of love and faith in the hearts of your people. Please bless all Catholic school educators, administrators, parents, students, and supporters. Give them, O Lord, a sense of fulfillment in knowing they are carrying out your will. Amen.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Work hard, play hard(er)

Yesterday (after our marathon training run), I spent roughly four hours under a mountain of Hobbit book-end tests: There were 25 of them, and I had insisted they apply their understanding of how to best answer extended response questions, which we had been practicing this past week in class. So, they did just that - they used quotations, drew conclusions, and gave lots of examples. (So, as much as I regretted the quantity of reading I had to do, I was actually glad they followed directions.)

By the end of it all, my head was definitely in a spin, and my speech/conversation was probably incoherent. But it was worth it because I was able to spend last night spending time with friends from Church at a house party, and today I was able to visit with friends who recently had a baby and celebrate Mass at school.

Work hard, play hard(er) - that's a good motto.

I'm so glad I was able to kick back a little today. Yes, there's a full week of Catholic Schools' Week activities ahead, but I still have some relaxing to do, including some Downton Abbey to watch...

Friday, January 23, 2015

Unexpected (heartfelt) Validation

An unsuspecting little me was going about my business, hanging student essays in the cafeteria in between classes, when a parent (who had been doing a presentation for a social studies class) came up to speak with me. We first talked about the high school application process (which, by the way, is crazy in Chicago!), but then our conversation took a turn, and he wanted to make sure I knew how much my teaching and guidance in his daughter's eighth grade Religion class had shaped his daughter's faith life this year. He said it was so important for his daughter to really start to blossom in her faith, as much of today's culture points to anything but Christian values.

I was taken aback. After just discussing last night with my faith-sharing group about how often I feel like I am failing, this man came along and said I should never feel like that because teaching the faith in such an earnest, anything-but-fluffy manner is what kids these days need.

Sometimes God sends people our way to lift us up when we're too hard on ourselves, and for such people, I am so grateful. Thank you, God for the thumbs up and pat on the back today - it was much needed and also much appreciated!

I'm Glad There Are Other Teachers Here

"I'm glad there are other teachers here," one woman in my Strengths for the Journey group at Church mentioned last night.

And isn't that true? When we find others who are battling the same struggles (large or small) as we are, it helps the rest of us make sense of it all. It's the feeling of "Oh really? You too? Good. I thought it was just me..."

For teachers, it's easy to often feel like a failure: kids/teens/college kids interrupting or disengaged, lesson plans not fully fleshed out, too many papers to stay on top of... But then, at moments like a few of us had last night, it becomes clearer. Sometimes, kids will be kids, and they're more interested in each other and their cell phones than the class content...Sometimes a lesson plan is a flop...We're not meant to be on top of everything.

And that's so freeing to remember from time to time!

So, as I make my to-do list for the weekend, which, coincidentally, includes a LOT of grading and lesson/activity preparations, I need to remember to keep it all in perspective. I can't beat myself up over not reaching that ideal state of the perfect teacher that I  (and, likely, so many of us) have dreamed up in our heads. What's more important is to focus on the here and now (in the classroom) - meeting the kids where they're at, showing patience (yet firmness) at the same time, and not losing my cool. (They're 12.)

Nobody's perfect. Each day is a chance to keep going.

And so, today, I'll do the best I can, and what's left undone, I'll start tackling tomorrow...

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Catholic Schools' Week 2015

We're gearing up for Catholic Schools' Week 2015... It's time to celebrate faith, knowledge, and service. We have lots of fun activities ahead - it's gonna be great!

This bulletin board was inspired by Look to Him and Be Radiant. (Lots of amazing posts on this blog!)

Sunday, January 18, 2015

A Good Morning It Has Been...

Today's goal = 14 miles...

Though it was overcast (and even started snow flurrying a little bit), it was lovely weather for our (my sister's and my) first "official" marathon training run. We made it down past Soldier Field!

And who wouldn't have anything but a good morning with a stop at Yolk for our post-run Sunday brunch? (I highly recommend the fried egg & cheese on a toasted bagel sandwich.)

Today has already been a good day...and it's only about halfway done. The only things I really need to do between now and Mass this evening are to score some student blog post paragraphs and to brainstorm some ideas for a student/parent poetry analysis project.

And tomorrow's a day off for those (most) of us in the teaching world - hooray!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Ups and Downs of the First Week Back

Who would have predicted that the first week back after break would have included a cold weather day mid-week?

I sure didn't...but I'm glad we had it. And, although some of my co-workers may disagree, I am glad we just had one. Getting back in the routine of school this week has been a struggle all its own, and when you throw days off into the mix, it just gets harder.

But, we persevered! And, even though we had rough times, we made it! Sixth graders are plowing through Hobbit; seventh grade learned about the 12 Days of Christmas, Epiphany, and personal & community prayer (i.e. Mass); and eighth grade began their Confirmation unit as they gear up to receiving the Sacrament in early March.

For the most part, most students seemed to be interested in the material (and generally happy to be back in school/routine), but some were more interested in each other than the content. Now, you're probably thinking, Duh! Kelly, they're teenagers. (And this is true...very true.) But it still caused a bit of frustration on my end...So, I waited...a lot... And, generally, we accomplished the objectives we set out to accomplish.

One thing that worked especially well for both 7th and 8th grades on Friday was the Anytime Examen (from God in All Things). It was very calming (music- and narration-wise), and the students actually sat there quietly thinking. It was long enough to get some good reflection in, but it was short enough for their limited attention spans. I would highly recommend it (or any of their other downloadable Examens) for both high school and middle school students in addition to any adult's personal use. Heck, I may even play it at the beginning of my sixth grade Language Arts class to see if it can help calm them down in the morning...Hmm...

But, yes, it's good to be back. And, as the Christmas season wraps up on Sunday (with the Baptism of Jesus), it's a relevant time to look back on the holiday season and the start of this new year. We should ask ourselves these questions: Am I keeping my resolutions? And, more importantly, are these resolutions ones I want to do as part of a checklist or as part of a true effort to improve my personal, spiritual, and physical self? Hopefully, we are aiming for the latter (improvement over checklist) - it's harder to achieve this, but I've come to realize, it's not so good to go through life treating it like a checklist because the meaning gets lost.

I hope you all continue to have a blessed new year! Enjoy the weekend, cold weather and all!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Awaken Us From Our Sleep Walking

75 degrees and sunny on Friday in Florida (where I spent my Christmas vacation)...

High of 5 tomorrow with very low wind chills and ice/snow (where I currently live)...

The cold weather has definitely quickly jolted me back to the reality that school starts up again on Monday. (Vacations always pass much too fast.) And, while I'm looking forward to seeing the students again, I have to keep things in perspective - they'll probably be pretty tired/crazy/wired coming off a two week break.


But before the thoughts of school dance in my head tonight - that's if I can fall asleep in the first place - I want to touch on the homily the visiting priest at my school's parish touched upon during his homily today (which he tied in rather nicely to the Epiphany). He started with a very brief story of a man in WWII who heard the steel guitar for the first time while over there. Upon his return, he wanted his sons to learn the steel guitar, as he was fascinated by and fixated on it. What was something some intriguing that the man would do everything to make sure his sons learned how to play that instrument? (It's kind of like how the Magi were fixated on that star...) He went on to explain that those two boys were Santo and Johnny Farina, a rock and roll duo probably best known for the song "Sleep Walk."

The priest then transitioned into the idea of sleep walking through our faith - in other words, going to Mass on Sundays, saying our prayers, etc. but out of routine more than anything else. That's not what Christ came into this world for, is it? He went on a little more about this idea, and after his homily, in place of the Nicene Creed, he had us think of a plan of action we can take in our everyday lives so as not to sleep walk through our faith this year.

Naturally, I thought of some resolutions I had already made about praying a decade of the Rosary every day, keeping a gratitude journal, and trying to attend evening Mass and/or adoration at least once a month. I believe these are concrete, simple actions I can take to be more awake and alive in my faith this year.

But it will be a day-by-day effort, and there will be many opportunities to likely say no or forget about these actions. It's essential to remember, however, that faith needs to be a conscious action, not just a set of motions we do because we have to follow the rules.

Awaken us, O Lord. Fill us with your love. Amen.