Blog Archives

being me

When I went back to school to get my teaching credential, I was overwhelmed by the techniques, theories, and strategies one needed to learn in order to teach effectively. We learned how to help children who had special learning needs, plan a lesson that covered our state standards, make content accessible for English language learners, use technology to enhance learning, and everything else in between. What they didn’t teach us, however, is how to connect with our students. How do we build relationships with these young people who we see almost every single day? And more specifically for those like me who teach in a Catholic school, how do I help students cultivate their relationship with Jesus?

During my first few years of teaching, I kept my distance from my students. I was their teacher, not their friend. They knew nothing about my personal life aside from maybe which basketball team I was rooting for that season or what I watched on TV. I never joked around with them because if I did, I thought the class would erupt in all kinds of crazy. And I never shared stories about my faith with them, because at the time, I felt those stories were only reserved for those closest in my life.

Over time, I began to realize that by keeping my distance from my students, I was harnessing the most powerful tool I had that would help me connect with them and meet them on their level: ME.

My students needed me. They needed me share my thoughts, dreams, fears, and favorites in order to see me as a real person, as someone they could look up to. They needed me to laugh and be silly and let go every once in a while (not too much, but just enough) to see that there is a time to be serious and work hard and a time to be free. They absolutely needed to hear me share stories about my faith journey, because just like them, I am a child of God. By being who I am, I inadvertently allow my students to be who they are.

Now, I obviously make every conscious effort to know where to draw the line. I am still not their friend, nor do I divulge every detail of what I do with my personal time. I joke around with them but never let it get out of hand. They’ve seen me be relaxed, but they also know that I expect nothing but the best from them, and that any form of disrespect will not be tolerated. There is still a divide between adults and children that should never be crossed. But if you share just a little bit of your human side with them, they feel more at ease, more willing to do for you what you ask of them. They feel comfortable asking me questions about concepts and topics they don’t understand, and when I try to help them, they don’t resist. (Most of the time…)

When I look back at my middle school experience, I remember very little about the things I read in textbooks or learned about in lectures. But I do remember finding it funny when my teacher would laugh at one of our jokes. I remember my 8th grade teaching sharing with us the story of how his wife died, and how broken he was for a long time. I remember when one of the seminarians that worked at our church (he was a super tall, skinny guy) showed us how he could reach the top of the door frame with his shoe by kicking his leg up really high. And I remember our principal dancing, just to make us laugh.

That’s what it’s all about. Sharing and laughing and learning and connecting. It’s about letting go and being who we really are, so that our young people can feel comfortable to be who they are meant to be.



love your enemy

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Today I had a discussion with my students about forgiveness and loving your enemy. I asked them if there were people in their lives that they considered to be their enemy. To my surprise, more than half of my class raised their hands. I guess I was surprised because while I realize 12 and 13 year olds certainly dislike some people (this changes on the daily, let me tell you) I didn’t think so many had enemies. There were just as many who felt like they couldn’t forgive their enemies because the sin committed against them was too great.

This made me really sad. What a heavy burden it must be for such a young person to carry around. We discussed things we could do to help ourselves forgive. They suggested praying for their enemies, which I affirmed. I also made another suggestion – to pray for the conversion of their own heart, that maybe God could help them forgive, even when they think there’s no way they can. My students were surprised at this as it was something most of them haven’t thought of before.

Prayer doesn’t change situations, it changes the person. If we pray for God to help us to forgive those who have hurt us the most, we allow love to enter our hearts. And when love enters our hearts, even our greatest enemy can become our friend.



unplugged

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We recently had a power outage at school and were without electricity for a couple hours. Our school is a 1:1 school (every student has a device – iPad, chrome book, or mac book) and most of what we do is online. Needless to say, the students did not know what to do with themselves without their laptops. And, I have to confess, neither did I. The lessons for the rest of the subjects I was going to teach that day were online or using the laptops in one way or another. I realized how dependent we all were on technology. I even asked my students what they would do if the power went out while they were at home. Someone said he would go to Starbucks and use their WiFi. Sigh…

So, I busted out the good ol’ paper and markers so that we could do our Reading activity. It worked, and we all survived without technology for a couple hours.

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It made me think about how I want to challenge myself to go “unplugged” for a little bit each day. Maybe when I wake up in the morning, I chat with my husband instead of checking my email and twitter feed. Or maybe instead of checking facebook while my daughter finishes her bottle at night, I just hold her and stare at those beautiful almond eyes. Because there was a time in my life where I wasn’t so plugged in…and I think it’s important to remember that.

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for the love of paper

I am a notetaker. I was that student that wrote furiously as the teacher was talking, trying to write every last word that was said down on paper. I have to write things down to remember them. My desk is scattered with to-do lists of every kind – grocery shopping lists, work lists, cleaning lists, things to buy, names of people to email back, sticky notes reminding me to check my to-do lists, and everything in between. I have kept a planner since I was in elementary school, and have had every kind/brand/style of planner there is. Because I was going to be starting at a new school this year, I decided to splurge and get my self one of Erin Condren’s Lesson Plan books. Only people who read mommy and/or teacher blogs will know about these coveted organizational devices. 

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They’re colorful, personalized, customizable, and durable. Definitely worth the price, IMHO. I wanted to have one place I could go to for my calendar, lesson plans, notes, reminders, and checklists, and this planner has it all. This bad boy was going to get me through the school year and keep me organized, and therefore, sane

And then, we had our first faculty meeting. I brought my planner, of course, ready to jot down dates and start my beginning-of-the-year to-do list. Looking around the room, I see that every other teacher has brought their planner, too. Except their planners look like this:

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Oh, I have one of these beauties, too. Except, I didn’t bring it because, well, we weren’t going to be doing any word processing or google searching during our faculty meeting, right? You can imagine my embarrassment. I felt very primitive and…from the old-school.  During the meeting the teachers accessed the agenda via email, typed notes on stickies, notepad, or Evernote, used iCal and viewed shared documents on google docs. (Oh, that’s right, we’re a 1:1 school. We are big on technology.  Almost forgot about that part.)

Despite being the only one with a pen in her hand, I still took notes (albeit, they were sparse) and wrote in my cute calendar. But I had to seriously think about how I was going to adapt to this school’s way of doing things. When my students are setting alerts on their iCals, I’m at my desk writing it down, then typing it in my phone so that I can make sure I get a reminder when I need it. Something seems amiss. 

I’m still trying to figure out how to merge the two together. I’m not ready to give up my paper planner or brightly colored pens just yet. But how can I stay on top of the technology that’s at my (and my students’) disposal and stay true to how I know I work best? 

The struggle is real.



The Shortlist

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Every teacher that I know dreads looking at the calendar and realizing that it is almost the end of summer.  For me, the beginning of August marks the beginning of crunch time.  Classrooms need to be set up, lesson plans put in place, and beginning-of-the-year meetings scheduled.  I start having nightmares about the first day of school (yes, teachers get nervous, too!), and try very hard to put myself on a regular sleeping schedule.

This school year will mark the beginning of something new.  I’ll be at a different school this year, still teaching middle school but only to seventh graders.  I left my old school of six years in order to be closer to my daughter.  This new school is only five minutes from my house – three if all the lights are green.  I won’t have to cross the bridge (good-bye $5 toll) or sit in afternoon traffic.  That’s an hour extra every day that I get to spend with my babygirl, precious minutes with someone who is already growing up too fast.

2013-07-25 00.03.39[I asked her to smile for the camera. Then I told her we were leaving and that she had to get out of the chair. What a diva.]

I’ve naturally been doing lots of research in order to prepare for next school year, especially because I will be teaching two subjects I haven’t taught for a while now: Social Studies & Literature.  I feel like a brand new teacher.  Not in a good way…but in a I-want-to-do-it-all-but-don’t-know-where-to-start kind of way.  There’s so much information on the internet nowadays that it’s almost information overload!  I’ve been writing stuff down, printing tons of resources, and pinning like a madwoman.  Today I spent over an hour searching for “round robin reading alternatives” when I suddenly realized 2 things:

  1. The baby is going to wake up soon.
  2. How much of this am I actually going to use?

Hands up if you feel me on #2!  I’ve always been the type to be so gung-ho about something, gather everything I need to get started, and never start.  Or worse, start and never finish.  It’s actually something that I’ve been working on to change about myself.  I could sit and google for hours about the latest teaching techniques, behavior management tips, or the Common Core (dun dun dun), but it won’t make any difference if I don’t put any of it into play.  So, what I have decided to do is get a nice short list of ideas going of things I would like to do differently in my classroom this year and make it a goal to try them out.  Once I’ve exhausted the list, or if I’m in the need a little more inspiration, I’ll get back on the computer and google away.  In case you were curious, here’s my list for the 2013-2014 school year.

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We will see how just how many of these get implemented and sustained next year.  Realistically, we’re looking at 3 out of 5.  I’m working on the follow-through, remember?