#OneWord2019: Opportunity

A set of circumstances that that makes it possible to do something…an opportunity.

An opportunity is what we all need to make ourselves better. An opportunity is what we all need to push ourselves forward. An opportunity is what we all need to give each other to make each other better.

Opportunity is the word that I have chosen for my #OneWord2019. Why? Why did I choose this word? Well, first of all, I have been given an opportunity to become an educator. I have taken this opportunity to, hopefully, guide the lives of my students to become loving, caring, faith-filled citizens of our world. Each day that I come to work, I feel joy in knowing that I have the opportunity to make an impact on the lives of my students. I have the opportunity to discover more about my students and make connections with them, whether it be about sports, the subject we are discussing, dancing (which I am not too good at!), cats (that I’m allergic to!), theatre, or any other random topic that comes about…it’s the opportunity to learn more about students as people, rather than just a number in the classroom. If the opportunity to learn more about students is not acted upon, students don’t feel welcome; they don’t feel like the classroom is theirs…students won’t be excited to learn. I need to take the opportunity that lies ahead of me when it comes to knowing my students to ensure that they truly want to be there to learn!

In another sense, I need to provide my students an opportunity. I need to give them the opportunity to learn more…to desire more…to be more than they are currently. It is my responsibility to make every learning opportunity available to my students. Students need to be given these opportunities, for it is their learning. Everyday is an opportunity for them to grow in their learning, socializing, spirituality, and emotional growth. I need to be there to support them and their needs. It is an opportunity for the school community to develop and understand each other.

I also need to see opportunities to better myself academically. The academic world is ever changing. There are so many new, innovative teaching resources available that can aid my students that I need to understand. There is so much I need to learn as a teacher. There is so much I need to learn as an academic leader. This year is an opportunity for me to develop into a greater guide for my students, my colleagues, and my school community.

We need to see the opportunities that we have in our lives. Sometimes what we see as an opportunity is not the opportunity that is right for us. Maybe situations that we encounter that we don’t take but are later presented to us will be the right opportunity for us. We just need to take each opportunity seriously and with the best that we have to offer. We cannot let opportunities to pass us by…pass me by!

Each day is an opportunity. An opportunity for me…for my students…for my colleagues. Grow with them. Challenge yourself. Embrace the opportunity. Be the opportunity for others!

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The Christmas Toy Drive

Yesterday I took part in an event that I know I will always remember…the delivery of a dumpster full of toys to Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland. The toys came from the generous donations from the families of my school, St. Michael School in Independence, Ohio.

How did we get the idea of having a toy drive for Rainbow Hospital? Well, we did it because St. Michael School is a family! One of our students, PJ, has had many surgeries to help him. He has a condition called Craniosynostosis which means his skull does not develop to fit his growing brain. He has had 16 surgeries on his skull to help him. He is a special child…he is a Blue Angel…he is family!

PJ’s family wanted to do something special to help the children who may not be receiving gifts this Christmas season. They know the realities of how the holiday season is for children in the hospital, which is where St. Michael School stepped in. We started PJ’s Rainbow Christmas Toy Drive!

When this started, I’ll admit that my homeroom started off kind of slowly. I was promoting the drive and encouraging my students to give. It was still slow but then all of a sudden it took off! My homeroom started giving…and giving…and even more giving! Entering into the last few days we were at 87 gifts donated by my homeroom! The last day, even more came in! We ended with over 110 gift for the toy drive! I couldn’t have been happier! My students stepped up and overwhelmed me with their compassion and generosity!

Now, this was just my homeroom. Every homeroom was just as generous! The school carried their donations down and we filled up a dumpster full of toys! It was a beautiful sight! It was a sight of our community gathering, donating, and showing the true meaning of the Christmas season!

At the end of day, PJ and his family headed down to Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital to empty the dumpster. I was unsure if I wanted to go, but in the end I decided to go, and I will be forever grateful for my decision! I followed a dumpster from St. Michael School all the way to Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital. It was a dumpster full of joy!

As we waited to empty the dumpster, we were unable to put the dumpster down on the ground, which caused some issue. For some reason, I said just lift me up and I will be the one in the dumpster to empty it. It was me in the dumpster full of the generosity of St. Michael School. It was emotional and joyous! We emptied the dumpster…box after box of toys, books, games, and crafts! We filled up Rainbow’s library! We showed the true St. Michael School spirit…giving to others without questioning what we will receive in return! We give because it’s what we do!

So many amazing moments happened…me not wanting to go, but ending up being the one to unload the gifts…PJ’s neurosurgeon just happened to walk by for an awesome photo opportunity…seeing the faces of the UH Rainbow’s staff as they were overwhelmed by our donations! It was just what I needed heading into Christmas break!

I will never forget having PJ and his brothers join me in the dumpster to help get the items out. I knew of PJ, but I never really met him until yesterday since he is only in 1st grade. After yesterday, I feel like I have known him for a long time!

Yesterday was extremely special. Yesterday was St. Michael School at its finest! Yesterday was a day that I will always remember! I want to thank PJ’s family for letting me be a part of such a special event!

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Making Connections

Well, today I did something that I haven’t done before. I was challenged by my students to take on a task that they see as very important…and that is to play Fortnite! I know that this game has been around and that it is an activity that students see as a release from the stress of school and their daily pressures. It also is a way for students to connect outside of school…and that’s where today’s adventure begins.

Today was the first day of drama club auditions and I am supervising a room full of 6th and 7th graders who are showing great dedication to this show already! While they are waiting for auditions students are playing various games on and off of their devices. Students who are playing Fortnite kept asking me if I have ever played the game and I told them that I haven’t…but that soon was going to change. A student handed me his phone and said “Here you go!” and I was on my way to playing Fortnite!

Well, I soon ended up falling from the sky…landing in some random place…jumping onto a plane and flying around…chopping down trees…and losing. Honestly though, it was a win. Students saw me differently. They saw me doing the Fortnite dances. They saw me taking on something that I haven’t ever done before. That’s the win! That’s where I come out ahead…students seeing teachers take risks…being silly…being real!

Fortnite isn’t for me…but it is a silly game that I enjoy putting myself out there to play! I may not be good at it, but I did have fun. I am looking forward to working with this group of students on this drama club production! Maybe we will have some Fortnite dances in our choreography!

School Theme…Let Your Light Shine!

As we continue into our school year, our school theme of “Let Your Light Shine” is bright throughout the school community. We are growing our light in many ways. We are trying new methods of teaching…we are welcoming new students and teachers into our school with open arms…we are finding new friends…but most importantly, we are shining God’s light to everyone we see!

“Let Your Light Shine” shows that we are working together to make our school and community an open and inviting environment for all! We cannot be an environment that excludes. We are all God’s children and we need to treat each other as such. God’s light needs to shine brightly from within each of us. The darkness in this world can only be overcome by the light that we show.

I have 16 students in my homeroom and each student shines their light in a different way. There are artists, singers, dancers, athletes, readers, crafters, engineers, and so many other gifts that God has given to them. This has been an inspiration for me. These students, in the short time that I have had them, have reignited my passion for education. We have been in class for 1.5 quarters and I have seen such growth in these students. They have truly brought a new light into my educational career.

We have to continue to let our light shine. We cannot stop letting it shine because of challenges that we may encounter. We need to have our lights shine brighter during these difficult moments. We each face challenges throughout our lives, but we need to find ways to let our light shine through any crack in that challenge and find a motivation to move forward.

This year has already prepared me for a bright future. All I hope is that I am leading my students towards their bright future. Can’t wait to see how bright my students will shine at the end of this school year! Let your light shine, Blue Angels!

Preparing for the School Year

The upcoming school year is rapidly approaching and it is a bittersweet moment. Spending time with family and friends, working on my new house, enjoying time with my new wife, and enjoying time exploring my new neighborhood…these are all moments that will be reduced as I begin this new school year. Yes, I will miss those moments, yet I’m excited for the upcoming possibilities that this school year holds. It’s going to be a year of innovation, growth, socialization, and self-discovery. It’s a year all about students!

When students enter into my classroom, excuse me, when students enter into THEIR classroom, it will be a place for them to be who they are. It will be a place where they can grow in their social skills, grow in their knowledge, and grow in their faith. I do not want my classroom to be a place where students feel unwelcome or out of place. Our classroom will be a community.

Preparing a classroom is not easy, yet at the same time it is exciting. This summer our school did a little remodeling. The classroom was painted and new carpet was laid. It’s a much different look now! With all these changes, there is more to do to prepare for the upcoming year. There is more cleaning, moving of desks and cabinets, and hanging posters up on the wall, but this is a representation of our upcoming year…it’s a fresh start!

Every student comes into a classroom with a past. Every student has their story. I cannot let those stories impact how I see a student. Every student that enters into the classroom is a new story and this school year is a new chapter for them. The past will not define my perception of a student. This upcoming year is like the new paint and carpet in my classroom for each student…it’s a fresh start.

I’m excited for this upcoming year! Next week students will enter into their classroom, some will be eager and others may be nervous, but each student will be there to grow as an individual or a community. We will grow together and we will share laughs and failures and we will become a better community. We will see our faith grow individually and in each other. We our going to SHINE!

NCEA Day 2…The Presentation

So, today I did something that I never thought I would do…present at a national conference! Sure…it wasn’t the entire convention I was presenting to, but it was still letting my voice be heard to teachers from across the country. I was overwhelmed, excited, nervous, and all those other words to describe my anxiousness. All that matters though is that I did it. I took a risk and faced it head on. I did something that was different for me and I did it well.

Yes, I said I did it well. Do I know that for sure? No…but I felt like I did well. My perception from observing the audience was that they were receptive of what I was saying…and sometimes that is what matters most. I will never know the true outcome of my presentation, but if it helped one person, that is what matters. I was placed in Junior Ballroom B at the Duke Energy Convention Center for some reason. I spoke from the heart…I told the great story that is St. Michael School…I shared my Joy of the Gospel with the people that attended my session. That’s what I set out to do. I wanted people to walk away from my session energized in a way that will make them want to bring their passion of the Word of God to the families in their school community. Now it’s up to the Spirit to lead them to deliver that joy to the families.

Leading up to the presentation, I was nervous. Why? Why was I so nervous telling the story of a place that I hold so dear to my heart? Here’s the answer…there’s a lot pressure sharing the long, wonderful story that is St. Michael School. I have only been at the school for 3 years, but I can tell that the families and teachers have a deep care and love for the school community. Placing myself in front of educators from around the country to tell this story was overwhelming, but a great honor as well. I was blessed to have had the opportunity to tell the great things that St. Michael School does to educate both our students and school community.

The main thing I did throughout this whole process was to let the Spirit lead me. I had to trust that I was being placed where I needed to be, and I truly feel that I was led to where I needed to be. I was where the Spirit placed me to give the spark to someone or some place…who that was or where that was I may never know. All I do know is that I was able to share my Joy of the Gospel and Joy of St. Michael School to those in attendance at NCEA 2018!

NCEA 2018 Day One…Spirituality and Mission

Today was the first day of the National Catholic Educational Association Convention and Expo in Cincinnati. I went into today with having a basic idea of which sessions I wanted to attend, but as I went further into the day I let the Spirit lead me into the sessions I needed to be in. Yes, the sessions I needed to be in…not the sessions I wanted to be in. Sometimes we need to let ourselves go and let the Spirit place us where we need to be.

Even before sessions began, the Convention began with Mass. Today’s Mass was special as it was presided by His Eminence Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education. In simpler terms, he oversees all Catholic education for the Vatican. The main theme for the Mass was “Who are we seeking?” We are seeking the Lord, Jesus Christ. We need to seek Him everywhere.

This is sort of why I let the Spirit lead me to the sessions I attended. I was seeking the Lord where I needed to find him. I found him in 2 sessions that dealt with Spirituality and Mission in schools. Why was I pulled to these sessions? What was I to find in these 2 sessions? I believe I found my reasons…I need to be stronger in developing mission and faith formation for myself and my school community.

Session 1 was great. I spent the session thinking and reflecting on my own reason of why I am a part of a Catholic school. It strengthened my calling of being a Catholic educator….yet I also found new ways, simple ways, to bring faith formation to myself and my colleagues, which will only lead itself to developing a greater faith formation for our students. It’s where I needed to be.

Session 2 was a last second decision. I was about to walk into a session, yet I stepped out and went next door only to be pulled into a session on developing spirituality and faith formation. Very similar to the first session, yet it was more interactive. More opportunities to share and build with other Catholic educators. This was more of what I needed, especially since it built off my first session. I found several connections and ways that I feel will benefit my school community well. I’m excited to share what I gained in these 2 sessions.

Again, I didn’t really have a plan, but I did feel I needed to be in these sessions. Sometimes we need to let go of our plan and let the Spirit lead us to His plan.

Our keynote address was by His Eminence and then Bishop Caggiano. Their discussions were on the Joy of the Gospel and Catholic education. This was a bit overwhelming for me since my presentation tomorrow is Taking the Joy of the Gospel from the Classroom to the Home! How am I supposed to follow up a Cardinal and a Bishop on this topic? I will try my best, but all I can do is let the Spirit lead me. The Spirit will guide me in what I need to say and share. The Spirit does wonderful things for us. We just need to place our trust and focus on letting the Spirit place us where we need to be.

Tomorrow is a big day for me. I will be presenting. I will be sharing the story of St. Michael School and how we take the Joy of the Gospel from our classrooms to our families. We have areas we can grow and I feel we are on the right path. I’m excited for tomorrow, yet I’m also nervous. I know that I will share from the heart and that I have amazing support behind me. Please keep me in your prayers.

God bless!