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, September 27, 2015

Shaking things up with Pope Francis

Pope Francis was in America this past week, and, while I could not physically be in DC or NY or Philly, I did my best to celebrate here in Chicago...

Yes, that's my little Flat Francis in the background. (I also got a matching shirt for my sister.)

It was somewhat difficult to keep up with the events in real time, so these websites were (and remain) my go-to's for playing catch up:

*America Magazine's coverage
*USCCB's coverage, including videos from all the live streaming events
*Pope Francis's visit 2015 coverage (this is the site I got the shirt from)

There was quite a bit of excitement (or, at least, talk) surrounding the Pope's visit at school, with my family, and with many friends. But, on the flipside, I think that since Pope Francis is very much centered on reaching out to those on the margins and making a place for everyone, regardless of circumstance or past history, in the church, that some people were turned off by his visit and became closed off to his messages surrounding immigrants, the death penalty, the homeless, etc. 

And this makes me sad because Jesus himself dined with sinners and chose to spend his time with those on the outskirts of society. In the video (from the USCCB website) I watched from Pope Francis at the prison in Pennsylvania, he reminded everyone how we are all sinners in need of God's mercy - we must first find the log in our own eyes.

Pope Francis came to shake us up - it should make us uncomfortable because chances are many of us may be doing something, but there are things we can do more and better. (Trust me on this one - I'm right there with you.) 

Thank you, Pope Francis, for your example, your wisdom, and your courage!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Fourth Grade Refresher

Can we say deja vu?

I subbed in one of our fourth grade classrooms (actually, it was my old room) this morning for writers' workshop and religion class. While the students were far from perfect (there are some little chatterboxes, I can tell you), they were eager to learn.

Writing was fun because the students were writing "I Am" poems as their last addition to their poetry portfolio packets. We used a model poem from my previous co-teacher, so that was pretty neat! With only a few exceptions, the kiddos set to work writing their own "I Am" poems for about 10 minutes. After that, I saw each one's writing stamina meeting its match, so I called them back together. They each shared one line from the poem they had written: "I am a big brother," "I am a sports player," and "I am a hockey player" were some of the lines they chose to share. It was a fun close to writing.

On to religion...(Well, we did a quick shake it out energizer first.) I believe I actually ended up teaching a religion lesson plan I had planned back in 2012 - go figure. It was about the Nicene Creed and the 4 Marks of the Church. It's some dry material (in comparison to some Church teaching or events surrounding Pope Francis - of whom we did speak briefly today!), but the fourth graders managed to focus and seemed to enjoy reading about and coming up with symbols for each of the Marks.

The time passed quickly, and soon their teachers returned, and it was time for me to go. It was so refreshing to be with younger children, even if it was just for that one hour. At the younger grade levels, there is more of a sense of love for learning, while many middle schoolers seem to have (at least outwardly) lost that sense of joy for school.

I am grateful for that hour today - it makes my 8th grade class (epic failure) not overshadow my whole day. :)

On a church-related note: Pope Francis spoke to Congress and visited with the homeless in DC today. While I wish I could have watched (in person or via livestream), I am glad I could read about these things tonight instead.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

You've Got to Be Taught

Never have I been a more firm believer of the idea that you have to be taught prejudice and fear, just like the classic musical, "South Pacific," reminds us:

One of my 8th grade students took the initiative to present to her classmates about her summer experience at a leadership institute through one of the local universities that allowed her some field experience working with the homeless population in our city. I could clearly see that spending time just talking to people had made a huge impact on her outlook, no matter what preconceived notions she had before. Her classmates, on the other hand, who did not have such an experience, were quick to offer their own "experiences" of seeing people on the street who take money given to them to buy cigarettes or drugs.

"Why don't they get a job?"

"Why don't they just go to school?"

Do you hear what you're saying? (Probably not - it's probably just repeating what they hear their parents say...) What would you do if you had to choose between providing shelter for your family or getting them food? What would you do if  you were mentally ill (or someone in your immediate family was) and you couldn't afford medicine without forgoing other necessities?

The young people I teach have not even begun to grasp how fortunate and privileged they are - not everyone in this world can send their children to private/Catholic school, let alone one like ours with such fine facilities and opportunities. And why should we be so lucky to have these chance? There's no answer - it's pretty simple and straightforward: many of my students have won the proverbial "middle to upper white class" genetic lottery - they were born into their families, doing nothing to earn where they are today.

It's so easy for those of us privileged with opportunities to point fingers at those who have less, when, in reality, we need to turn those fingers around and ask ourselves what God wants of us because we've been blessed with so much. We are in the prime positions to make a difference. (Granted, I'm a Catholic elementary school teacher so it's not like I have money flowing out of my bank account, but it's enough to get by on and then some, for sure.)

My 8th graders are on the brink of their unit on Catholic Social Teaching, so this is as good a time as any to address these prejudices. But I've been in enough situations to realize that it's going to take more than merely trying to tell them facts, figures, and stories - their prejudices may never change (or at least maybe not until they get a chance to spend time with others outside of their immediate social class), but I'm going to try. I'm trying to think through some optional enrichment projects that include students reading a book like Crenshaw, Paper Things, or No Place (any other suggestions are welcome too!), and then having them spend time on websites or with agencies that reach out to those in need in our community (church or otherwise). With the insight from the book and information researched, I am hoping they can put together a Prezi, Weebly, iMovie, etc. that helps them demonstrate some new-found understanding and just maybe helps them start to shift their views towards homelessness in our community.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Let's not forget the FUN

In all the craziness of this weekend, I forgot to post the FUN pictures. Yes, we did have a GRAND time at the game. ND played well and we got to hang out with friends all day - what's not to love?

Here you go! Have a wonderful Wednesday!

My favorite shirt by far...obviously

Win one for the Gipper!

Look, you can see Touchdown Jesus from our seats!

Got our game faces on

token band picture

all smiles after an Irish victory

speculoos cookie butter shake 

definitely all smiles after that one!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Break In versus Bakin'

"Break In" versus "Bakin'"? I'd rather have the latter, thank you very much...

Marisa put our South Bend Sunday predicament in a thoughtful, hopeful light - there's really nothing to add, so I invite you to wander over to her blog today (in terms of familiarizing yourself with what happened).

Here are some pictures, though, from the car break-in (& patch up):

What can I say? We have some pretty amazing family and friends we can count on at all times. (And my car window is scheduled to be fixed on Wednesday - not too bad...)

On a lighter note, though, sometimes you just have to throw yourself into something else to get out of the funk of an event like this...something like baking! (Well, these are technically "no bake" cookies, but this totally counts in that category.)

So much sugar...

...and butter...

and cookie butter...

before forming the cookies - just add oats!

clean up was DELICIOUS

Who will help me eat the cookies? (Hopefully my co-workers...)

Well, I'm back at it, folks. It's time to finalize that 6th grade Religion quiz and this week's class slides. Hope you're enjoying a restful Labor Day!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Highs and Lows: the Beautiful and the Jaded

While it wasn't my ideal Friday night, I did get a chance to read through my students' bellwork sheets last night. I was so excited to see such beautiful ideas and reflections from many students, both in 6 & 8th grades - here are 2 samples:

"My high in religion was all the fun activities we do and I have no lows at all!"

"A high has been reading a story (Children of the King) in religion. A low is that I forgot to pray."

As a teacher, I love to see responses such as these...but I was troubled when I came across one 8th grader's paper with responses on many of the week's prompts such as "This doesn't apply to me" and "my high was when religion class ended and my low was religion class." That really bothered me...and I am stumped.

Not too long ago, this student (who is not Catholic) was interested in what we were learning about even though it was different from her own faith...so what happened? When did such a drastic change occur? Most importantly, how can I bring her back to a more open, positive mindset for learning about the Catholic faith and developing her own personal relationship with God? I do plan to make a phone call to her mom on Tuesday just to see if anything is going on at home and to make her parents aware. How can someone so young be so jaded?

Well...we'll keep fighting the good fight in the classroom this year - my goal is to get both the students and parents on board for spending time together in prayer and for going to weekly Sunday Mass - maybe this will be the year when this finally comes to fruition. Time will tell.

But for now...GO IRISH! Woo hoo!!