Why I Choose Catholic Education

This past week I have been posting reasons why I choose to teach in a Catholic school. The reasons are numerous. I find that I find comfort knowing that I am teaching in an environment where I am surrounded by people who share a common passion…and that is Catholic education. The next question is “What makes an education Catholic?”

Catholic education is more than having a religion class everyday and learning about the Sacraments or ways of Christian living. Catholic education is living out the Sacraments and how to be Christian. Catholic education is being able to recognize a student that is struggling with a difficult situation and approaching that student and saying a quick prayer with him/her. Catholic education is being able to find those teachable moments and guiding a student to learn to trust the Holy Spirit will guide them to become an even stronger student.

Every Tuesday the school I work at attends Mass as a school. Gathering to share at the Lord’s table puts what we do as Catholic educators in a whole new perspective. Am I there to teach or am I there to lead students to draw closer in their relationship with God? I feel I am there to lead students to draw closer in their relationship with God. I enjoy and truly look forward to attending Mass as a school. I need to be reminded of how my students are forming their conscience and growing in their faith. This reminder makes me realize that I am still learning and growing in my faith.

My students wrote last week why they choose to attend a Catholic school and why they find it important in their lives. The responses I received made me feel even more commitment to teaching in a Catholic school. Students responded multiple times that growing in their faith is important. They also feel that attending Mass is important. That being with friends and learning something new everyday is why they choose Catholic schools. I am just honored to be a part of their learning process.

The growth of my students is an aspect of their learning that I find joy in experiencing. Yes, I am there to teach them social studies, spelling, handwriting, reading, and religion. More importantly, I am there to teach them how to be positive members of our community. I am there to teach them that decisions need to be made with faith and morality as their guide. My faith needs to be a role model. My responsibility is to the community, the parish, the parents, and most importantly the students. If I can’t provide my students with the best religious education experience possible, I need to find ways to do that. I need to lead them to a stronger relationship with Christ.

Placing Christ as the center of my teaching is essential. It’s not just important because I teach at a Catholic school, but it’s also important because my students deserve it. Students deserve an environment where they can grow and learn in the faith. They want this environment. They want opportunities to ask questions about Catholicism.

I am in a blessed learning community. We are fortunate enough to have priests that come and teach our students about their faith. Students appreciate the time the priests spend with them. Having priests in the classroom allows students to grow and see their faith differently.

Now that I have provided these reasons, plus the reasons in my other blog, here is the real reason why I choose Catholic education. Catholic education is my vocation. I feel that I have been called to be a teacher in a Catholic school. I feel that I need to be in a classroom to share my faith and to learn with my students. I want to be in the classroom and grow in faith. Teachers need to share the why they are teaching with students and I do share with them my reasons. Students need to see my commitment to the faith and to the students. Students need to see that I don’t just say what they should do, but I participate and show what they need to do.

Catholic educators need to provide opportunities for students to grow their faith. Walk along the path with them as they journey through new ways to grow their faith. Being a Catholic school teacher is a privilege. Teachers need to treat it as such. Where else can we participate in the education of children and help them become positive leaders in our faith all while growing in our own faith at the same time? I truly feel honored and blessed to be a Catholic school teacher. This is why I choose Catholic education!

Why Education?

When I first went to college, I simply had the thought that I would go into the business field. I wanted to work in hospitality and in the field of doing something to make people happy. I figured hotel management would be a great field for me.

I went through college and worked hard to succeed. I started classes early in the morning and went late into the night…typically 8:30am until 9:30pm. Obviously those hours included several significant breaks, but it still was a long day. I enjoyed the long days. I enjoyed learning. I enjoyed being with others that wanted to learn! I also had the major desire to earn money.

When I completed my Bachelor of Business Administration, I was unsure of what I wanted. I was lost, but now I also feel that entering the business world was not what God wanted from me. I took a risk and asked to take part in the Young Alumni Volunteer Program at St. Ignatius High School. I took a risk and it led me to something I now know I need to be a part of.

During my time in the Young Alumni Volunteer Program I worked with a variety of ages. I worked with young children from the neighborhood; I worked with elementary to middle school students in a nearby school; I was able to help form the faith lives of high school students through going on retreats. I also learned that the four walls of an office would not be the right place for me. So, I went back to school.

I went back to school to begin my journey into the world of education. I didn’t want to be trapped by the four walls of an office, but rather help the minds of children to break down the walls of a classroom and see the world that lies in front of them. I became a teacher.

When I entered college my days were long…and they still are. I wanted to be around learning…and I still am. I wanted to be around those who want to learn…and I still am. Education just feels right to me!

The world of education has allowed me to grow. I’ve grown in my own skills, developed new skills, became stronger (mentally, emotionally, and spiritually), I’ve seen my students grow, I’ve seen them struggle, and they’ve seen me struggle as well. I have developed friendships. I’ve been there for my students and they’ve been there for me.

Education has built me up to be a beacon for my students. I’m not always the most organized, but I know where my heart lies…and that’s with my students.

Some people are made for the business world. Some people know how to do great things by working in an office or building great pieces of machinery! Yet, there are some people that can do something that may not seem significant, but it means the world to them…and those people are teachers!

That’s what I want to do. I want to something that may not mean like much, but means so much to someone else. I want to watch a student break down that wall and see that world that lies ahead of them. I want them to discover and take a risk and learn where they need to be. I want to be their teacher…and always remember that they are teaching me as well! That’s why I became an educator.

Focus…making things clear.

Sometimes I lose my focus. Sometimes things get blurry for me and I need to settle down and put so much into perspective. I have found myself needing to settle down more often this year than last year.

I have found myself wanting to do so much and not knowing where to begin. I want to flip my classroom. I want to use more educational technology. I want my students to get the best education they can receive. That last one is where I need to put all my focus.

I need to put my educational ideas to the side and see what my students want from me. Where do my ideas lie in comparison to those of my students? Are we in the same area or do I need to put my focus more where they are? Sometimes our ideas get blurred together…and that’s even more challenging. They want to use an idea I have but in a different way. Do I let my stubborn nature get the best of me and refuse or do I give in and let the students show me a new way? I would hope to believe that I give in more than I refuse, but it’s not always that way.

The first thing that I need to do is get to understand what my students want from their education. What interests do they have? How can I connect their interests to the content? What are the best methods to do this? Are the ideas I want to implement truly best for my students? Where can I turn to for that guidance to learn more?

Focus isn’t easy to find. Lack of focus distracts us. It can also lead us to not understand our students and their interests. If we don’t focus on their desires and passions, where does that put us and the students? We fall behind. We go backward and not forward. We need to have a focus on our true responsibility, and that is preparing the entire student for future success. If we focus only on one part of our students’ education, we can’t focus on their entire education.

My focus needs to turn to knowing what my students want from me! I need to not overwhelm them and myself with trying to do too much too fast. I need to slow down and ensure myself that my focus is clear. Perhaps my students don’t need to use technology to be the best student they can be. Maybe they don’t need to utilize new methods of educating. They may only want the focus on them…and that’s what matters most!


Twitter and Why I Use It!

I was always intrigued about Twitter when I first heard of it. I thought at first it was some silly place to write really short Facebook status updates to an even larger, more random group of people that I may or may not know! So, just like any curious mind would do, I joined Twitter. I joined Twitter in January of 2009.

When I started, I started tweeting everything that I figured somebody that followed me might care about, even though most of these followers I saw everyday and were right next to me when it happened. Then I would start to follow sports fans on Twitter and just tweet out silly observations from the games I would watch. Then I started to think that nobody cared about what I was saying. There would be an occasional picture of me playing with my nephews, then something silly that my nephews were doing or some random thing I saw that was hilarious to me. Sure, these made me feel good to post and it made me feel even better when someone would “favorite” my tweet! Yet, something still was lacking from my use of Twitter.

One day, I’m not even sure when, my idea of Twitter drastically changed. Something happened! How did it happen? Honestly, I can’t even tell you! Maybe someone I follow (probably a teacher friend) was doing a Twitter chat. I was interested in a tweet that they sent and I just decided to click on the hashtag for that tweet (I think it was #ohedchat). At that point, my Twitterverse burst open! There was a whole world of Twitter that I didn’t even realize existed!

From that one tweet and my clicking of a hashtag, my experience and opinion of Twitter changed. I found teachers that had similar experiences to me that wanted to share thoughts and ideas! I found teachers with differing viewpoints and wanted to discuss differences with me in a civilized manner! I found administrators that were supportive of my ideas and encouraged me to keep pushing forward! I found teachers and administrators that continuously pushed me to finally complete my process for my principal license! I found teachers that showed their creativity and made me want to do greater things in my classroom. I found people that REALLY do care about what I had to tweet about!

Where did this one hashtag lead me? I went from some basic high school/middle school teacher with a 200 “followers” to a passionate, eager teacher with over 1,000 followers! These new followers have each played a role in developing my career as a teacher. I have found these followers in a variety of Twitter chats…#ohedchat, #tlap, #leadupchat, #hacklearning, #sschat, #catholicedchat, #2PencilChat, #flipclass, #satchat, #sunchat, #theclassroomwall, #whatisschool, #UrbanEdChat, #5thchat, #divergED, #KidsDeserveIt…and I’m sure many others!

Would I still be in the education field without these chats? Yes, I would be. Does having a great Personal Learning Network (PLN) behind me make it better? Definitely! I have had the pleasure to have met several of my Twitter PLN members in person! It is quite awesome to meet these fine people and see how well you feel like you know them even though we’ve only conversed over Twitter! Twitter has led me to several #EdCamps! I never would have gone to an EdCamp if I wasn’t on Twitter! Now, I am a huge fan of EdCamps and have traveled hours to get to one! Thanks #EdcampLdrOH!!

I am so blessed to have found that one tweet, that one hashtag, and send my 1st tweet in an educational Twitter chat! Twitter has been a great educational tool for me! It’s been a resource unlike any other in my career! Of course I still use Twitter to talk about Cleveland sports (how could I not? The CLE is doing great!)! I don’t do it as much and what I do say is positive about our teams! For education though, I would support any teacher that wants to expand their PLN using Twitter! Educators need to use Twitter to do what is best for students!

Ideas…Make Them Happen!

I got an idea over the summer that was met with a little push back. Sure, I was a little defeated when it happened, but I will not let that stop me. It was a little tough dealing with dissenters, but I know that what I want to do will benefit the students of my school.

Now, what is this little idea that I received? Well, I want to ask teachers for a collection of their teaching/education related books and begin to form a library in the teachers’ lounge. These books would be open for all teachers to borrow and gain further knowledge of their profession. It would also form a stronger community where teachers want to share ideas and thoughts about what they have read. Sure, some information may not pertain to particular class levels, but the idea that I could find a way to better connect to a grade level that I don’t teach, to me, is awesome!

I want others to know what I have been reading. I want them to take that risk and open their minds to new ideas. Some teachers may not even know what other books are out there! If we build a library, we will build a community! I want to make teachers push their minds further. I want them to push their limits!

This library would be simple. It wouldn’t be much, but it would be a foundation of opportunities. It would allow use to build new connections. It would allow us to do what is best for our students.

The feedback I first received was that of hesitation. It was also very tough. I am not going to let that stop me. I am going to make this happen!


My One Word…Passion

I was just in a Twitter chat (#sunchat) and that topic of what your “one word” for this year will be. I had to think for a few, but it quickly came to me…Passion!

What is “passion”? Passion, according to Merriam-Webster, is “a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something.” This definition describes my feeling about education perfectly. How can you enter into a classroom and not feel passion? How can you truly give yourself to your students if you don’t have passion? How can I show passion in my classroom?

Each day when I walk into my classroom, I feel an excitement that today I have the opportunity to connect to my students in a new way. This connection comes from me giving my students the desire to want to continue to learn. I have to show my passion for the content I am teaching. If I come in and state that this topic is not exciting, why would students care to learn about it? I am here to build the interests of students, I have to show passion!

I also have to show passion for my students! I teach 5th and 6th grade. These students are at a prime age of starting to build their interests and what defines them as a person. I need to be passionate about their discoveries. I need to show them that they are doing great things and that they need to show passion for their new area of learning!

I need to show passion for my colleagues. I need to make them feel like they are making a difference with their work and that I support their passion for their subjects. I also need to be passionate about their personal journeys. I need to feel a connection with them as a person and not just as another teacher.

Also, the word Passion has another meaning. In the Catholic faith, Passion is the suffering and death of Jesus. We need to be reminded that this Passion is a part of our life. We need to accept the pain that may come from showing passion. People may not always accept us or our commitment to an idea. It will cause some suffering. We will be hurt along the way, but as long as you remain steadfast to your idea that if this is best for the students, you will feel the great reward of your passion.

Passion is developed. You may not know where your next boost of passion will come from, but you have to respond to it with everything you have. Passion is strong. Passion is exciting. Passion lies within you! You need to take that passion and exhibit it and pass it on to everyone you meet. Be ready for a strong connection to everything you do and for everyone you are working with! Let passion lead you!

Appreciation…Let’s Enjoy It!

There are days when you just seem so excited to get up and get into the classroom…then there are days when it can feel like a major struggle. Perhaps those struggles come from a situation at home…maybe it’s because of a situation at work…or, yes it happens, you just are struggling with that one student and you need a break from that child.

These things happen. They happen because we are human. We are challenged by so many to make our students believe that we are something more than human. We feel like we need to be perfect at times. We don’t need to feel that way. We need to show that we do make mistakes. We need to show how to get past those “bumps in the road.” We need to teach from mistakes rather than criticize that a mistake happened.

We enter into our classrooms sometimes under that idea that we can’t struggle. Maybe we shouldn’t show our struggle fully, but we do need to let others know that we are struggling. We have so much to appreciate!

We need to appreciate our colleagues. They are the ones that may cause some of our struggles, but there are those few that will strengthen you and continue to push you forward. Turn to them, that’s why they are there!

We need to appreciate our administrators. They provide us with a resource of commitment to the school and can help us regain our focus. They are more than just a “boss” but they are also a leader for your well-being.

We need to appreciate our students. There will be those students that make us feel like we are not accomplishing anything. We want some students to be way further along than they are. Yet, we also need to appreciate any movement forward with these students. Appreciate the smiles they give you. Appreciate the effort they show. Continue to realize that we are there for them…and that they are there for us. We need to appreciate our jobs and all that we do! Appreciate yourself!

Why I’m a Catholic School Teacher!

I have taught nearly 9 years so far. Each one of those years I have taught in a Catholic school. Eight of those years were in a high school setting and one in a grade school. This is year 10 and my 2nd year in a grade school. Each year I feel more and more blessed to have the opportunity to do 2 things: 1. Educate my students…and 2. Share my faith with my students.

Educating my students is a top priority for me. The Catholic school setting allows me to touch on topics where I can show God’s true presence in their lives more deeply. I am able to take a few moments each day and reflect with my students about how God has truly blessed them and help them see Jesus in everyone. I am excited to see my students grow in their faith when they start to see how they live the Corporal Works of Mercy through serving others. When I stop and have a reflection with them regarding an important topic and they explain how prayer and God made them stronger so that they could get through a difficult situation makes me a stronger Catholic. I’m inspired by the faith of my students and I hope I inspire them as well.

Working in a Catholic school does have many challenges and sacrifices. Yet, each challenge and sacrifice is a blessing. I look to these as ways that I can grow my faith. Perhaps I don’t go out as often…perhaps I look at what I have and find a new way to repurpose it into something my students can use. I’ve made social sacrifices, but I have also grown my creative skills. I know I can do more to help my students grow in their faith and I’m ready to keep pushing myself to make sacrifices to help them grow.

I’ve truly learned what it means to be a “Man for Others” during my 4 years at my Jesuit high school, but now living the motto makes me understand what it means. I am proud to say that I am a teacher and even more proud to say that I am a Catholic school teacher. Being a Catholic school teacher has been a great journey. I have so many teachers to thank for making me the Catholic I am today and inspiring me to be the Catholic teacher I am today.

My Goals for 2016-2017

This is my second year teaching the 5th/6th grade level. This world is still new to me, yet it is a world of which I am excited to be in. Students are exploring, eager, and developing their young minds into greater life-long learners.

So, what can I do to help my students continue their passion to learn? Where can I go to better serve my students? What am I going to do this year to expand the minds of my students?

Goals for 2016-2017:

  1. Listen to my students more and allow them to have a larger voice in the classroom:
    • I often times fall back into the idea that the room I teach in is “my classroom.” It is not my classroom, but “our classroom!” It is a room that my students need to be a part of rather than visitors in. The voice of the student needs to be heard and they need to have a choice in their outcomes.
  2. Expand flexible seating.
    • Students need “their” space to grow and learn. They need a place to feel comfortable and to expand their mind. Providing flexible seating isn’t the easiest thing to do since resources and space are limited. I have been working to add spaces little by little and I hope by the end of the year I have even more places for my students to grow and learn.
  3. Do some units by using flipped learning.
    • Students have much different schedules than I had while in school. They are also in the mindset of completing more hands on projects and expanding their knowledge of material that is discussed in class. Flipped learning is a way students can learn and dive deeper into the content.
  4. Continue to expand my PLN!
    • Last school year I really dove into the world of Twitter and the amazing FREE professional development that it provided me! Last year I was motivated by so many great educators that I have met through Twitter chats that I completed all my requirements for my principal license. This year, I hope to continue to expand my PLN through Twitter and other methods of educational growth! I hope to attend a conference or two (EdCamps and larger ones).

These are just a few of my larger goals. I also have goals of being more available for my students, more compassionate and caring, and a stronger supporter of my fellow teachers as they attempt to take risks.

The 2016-2017 school year is one that I know will be challenging, yet very rewarding. New classes present new obstacles and opportunities. I need to take both the obstacles and the opportunities and run with them! I need to embrace them and grow in the same way I challenge my students to embrace their obstacles and opportunities and grow!