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, August 30, 2015

A Promise Worth Keeping

In my (nearly) 30 years of life on this beautiful earth, I have come to the realization that I like to spend my time (and money) on events/outings rather than on things/goods. That's not revolutionary, I know, but, even more so, I really appreciate good theater and music, so I naturally try to channel what little extra money I have (after food, rent, & Church- and school-related stuff) toward this.

Therefore, I want to make a promise to myself - and it's one that I think I'll be pretty good at keeping (especially since I live in Chicago): My goal is to attend at least one show/concert a month. In September Marisa and I are already lined up to see the "Q Gents" and "Side Show." In October we'll get a chance to see "Ride the Cyclone." After that, I better start looking at my options.

It may sound extravagant, but we have our ways of finding cheap tickets. (And it's also a good excuse to spend an evening with friends and/or family.) Plus, it supports the arts - these people are INCREDIBLE, and they need to be celebrated!

So yes, it's my little secret. It's a promise I'm looking forward to keeping. I'll keep you posted on how the shows go...

Friday, August 28, 2015

Happy Hour...Happy Week!

Happy Hour happened tonight. Yes ma'am. Right on the Riverwalk in downtown Chicago.

And it was lovely.

And it was most fittingly named, for I was, indeed, happy.

What teachers and educators have so aptly nicknamed the "honeymoon phase" of the year, I am in it full on with my 6th graders. I am knocking on wood trying not to jinx myself at every possible turn, but they are such a delight. Yes they get a little antsy and there are times when we stop, "rewind," and try again. But, for the most part, they engage in the tasks (with one small exception using the iPads today) and they partner talk about what they are actually supposed to be talking about.


Will it last? Let's hope so. (At least for this year, right?) Let them be those angsty teenagers next year...or, better yet, wait until high school.

But more than simply the students (not including the 8th graders - we've got some work to do...but it should be good work), I truly feel like part of a team. When misbehavior comes calling in the classroom, I have so many people I can turn to for suggestions, and I don't feel the least bit judged! Other teachers (who are even busier than I am - and man, do I feel like I hardly have two seconds to breathe in a given day!) actually have taken time to sit down with me or chat while making copies. It is incredible. Such a huge help and joy in my job. Team effort, oh yeah!

Lots of work to do this weekend, including developing a genre project for the 6th graders and finishing some lesson plans. Groceries and laundry are a must, but I do plan on sprinkling in some more fun with friends as well as Sunday night Mass.

Woo hoo - week 1 - we did it!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

One and Done...Well, I Guess We're Just Beginning

Day 1 is in the books, folks.

And it was a good day...even though I did get a touch frustrated with the 8th graders due to chattiness and not following directions. (But, as a coworker pointed out, they're not malicious or doing things to hurt people on purpose. He's right - if chattiness is our biggest problem, we should consider ourselves, or, really our students, lucky.) But, if it takes 5 times instead of 4, or if something isn't going as planned, we'll break it down further and go over it again. Procedures, procedures, procedures + high expectations, that's what I'm striving to bring to my classroom this year.

I'm also striving to be more organized and prepared. Let's face it, it's not usually the kids' fault - there was likely faulty directions, unclear expectations, hasty release of responsibility, or the mere forgetfulness of the fact that I am, in fact, dealing with teenagers (and their respective hormones). So, yeah, it's going to take some extra effort and foresight (and some flexibility) in the beginning, but we'll get there. I have faith in that (and in them).

In other (teaching-related) news...Today we will celebrate Mass as a school community, both campuses uniting in prayer and fellowship. It is a great testament to our values as a Catholic school. (Now, if only I can get the middle schoolers to sing...hmm...)

I'm looking forward to the start of volleyball practice (today!) and settling into the teaching routine. Plus, I already have a happy hour in the works with a few teaching and non-teaching friends this Friday. Let's keep this week going!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Open House = Open Heart

Monday will mark the beginning of my 8th year as a classroom teacher. Though no year is ever exactly the same (in terms of the classes and/or content I teach), one thing does stay the same - each year is an opportunity for me to open my heart (and my door) to a new community of learners.

And that's exactly what happened at Friday's Open House - students came by to see if they needed any books (which, the older ones know, I never give out - I like to think they came by to say hi), and parents new to the middle school were both anxious and excited for the changes that will present themselves to their children this year. Parents are ready to send their kids back to school, and students are, for the most part, ready to come back and see their friends (and maybe learn a little too).

Do I have any goals for the year? Sure I do. I have BIG goals focused on helping the students develop personal relationships with God through regular prayer and through Sunday Mass attendance. I want to get to know every child and help find activities that meet their individual needs. I want to strike a balance between school stuff and my personal/for fun activities. And I want to empower the grade level teams of teachers to discuss and use data effectively to improve instruction and student learning. Don't worry, I have some smaller goals too... ;)

Here are some of the final touches to the classroom - although, my "Just Finished" sign will need to change, as I literally just finished "Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library" today. (It was a pretty phenomenal read with lots of clues and twists at every turn of the page.) -->

Monday morning will be here very soon. It's time to start the next chapter in my time at this school.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

More Photos...and a Little Fun

And here we are again - photos do a better job of telling the story of this teacher setting up her classroom than words ever could:

Personal picture books + religion loaning library

by my teacher desk

prayers and goodies bulletin board

attempting to keep my teacher desk organized

ready for student work to be turned in

Look who showed up - it's Flat Francis (and a great quote from St. Ignatius of Loyola)

These hang by the door on the way out of the room...

student artwork and yet more attempts to stay organized

Absent? Now work is going to be in one place.

"Homeless Jesus" statue from the prayer table

desk setup...for now

partially completed Mass bulletin board

an almost organized classroom library - waiting on one more bookshelf

Yes, I'll admit, I got a lot done the past few days in my classroom. But I also took some time for fun with friends - on Friday night, a few friends, my sister, and I went to the Chicago Summer Dance swing lesson & open dance downtown - I hadn't swing danced in a long time, so it was a ton of fun! Then, on Saturday night, another group of friends, my sister, a co-worker, and I met up at one of the Shakespeare in the Park shows, which this year happened to be his "Greatest Hits."

All's well that ends well, that's what I always say.

Oh wait, that was Shakespeare who said that...

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A few classroom pics

I'm off and running to the first official day of inservice at my school, so I unfortunately don't have much time to post. (I was at a coaching clinic for volleyball last night, so I got home late - but the content from that meeting warrants its own blog post. Stay tuned.)

Regardless, here are some pictures - I was able to get into my classroom yesterday as well as make a trip to Target. I feel pretty good; even though progress is slow, it's steady:

Entrance sign above door (inspired by my Practicum supervision site in Elkhart)

Exit sign above door

Prayer corner - decided to change up the location of it and its content this year

objectives & agenda board for my 3 sections

personal bookshelf - with more books being stored in the cabinets...

turn-in bins (still need labels for them)

WARNING - book sorting in progress

playing around with ideas for 8th grade to learn more about the Saints (Table of Contents)

My sample Saints page (St. Lawrence)

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Summer's Slipping Away

 Nothing says the end of summer like a beautiful wedding... (and an MSU one at that!)

In terms of how I know the bride, I'm luckily guilty by association - Marisa worked with Allison for 4 years at her current school (before Allison went back to State for graduate school), so when Marisa and her co-workers would all hang out, I would tag along too. Not a bad gig - her friends soon became my friends too. And that's just lovely.

Another summer highlight includes the birthday of my goddaughter - the picture below is of her wearing an ACE shirt I sent. (I was unable to make the birthday party, but I got this cute picture via text, and I get to see her and her parents soon.)

 Marisa and I also found this gem of a book at Hallmark - we proceeded to buy copies for the professors we helped this summer. It is absolutely terrific - check out a small sampling of pages below:

#winner #shouldbeoneveryhouseholdbookshelf #becauseJesus (Ok, enough with the hashtags - I mean, gosh, I don't use that many when I'm posting on Twitter.)

There is one last image I will leave you with today - it is from the garden at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower. (Yeah, say that 5 times fast.) St. Therese reminds us that we do not need to do great deeds; instead, we should strive for doing little things with great love and doing simple acts of kindness and generosity toward others.

Please pardon this post's randomness...and have a happy Tuesday!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Up 2 Date

Recently updated my "Book List 4 Life" - be sure to check it out! Maybe you've read some of them...