Help Me Help My Students!

Hello friends! I know it’s been a while again. I’m writing to ask for help with a project for my classroom. I’m trying to get more computers for my class, and there’s only $516 left. However, if my project doesn’t get funded in the next 11 days, all the money goes back to my donors and I have to start all over. If you would like to help, please follow the link below!

https://www.donorschoose.org/project/computers-for-practical-technology-skill/2493037/?sharebar=true&utm_source=dc&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=proposal_expiring_teacher&rf=proposal_expiring_teacher-project-teacher_2590367&challengeid=20629381

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A Step Forward

This has been a trying week. After a vitriolic election season, I think most of us were ready to move on, but a lot of people took for granted the possibility that Mr. Trump could actually become president. Now that he is the president-elect, the poisonous political atmosphere seems to only be worse, as those who did not want Mr. Trump to win are questioning the motives of anyone who did vote for him, questioning relationships, and their standing in this country.

To come at this fully disclosing my own political views so that any bias I have is out there, I did not vote for either Clinton or Trump. I could not, in good conscience, vote for Clinton because of her stance on abortion and belief that a child, up to the point of delivery, could be killed if a mother so chooses. However, I also could not vote for Trump, whose rhetoric on Mexicans, Muslims, refugees, women, people with disabilities, and those who questioned his credibility, was so abhorrent to me that I couldn’t fathom having someone who seemed to hate so much of our population trying to lead our nation effectively and fairly.

So no, I did not vote for either candidate. But, while I would have mourned another eight years of our federal government touting abortion as a woman’s right, I had resigned myself to it and was placing my hope in a Senate and House that would continue to fight for the end of abortion.

When I realized that Trump was going to win, I was surprised by how hard I took it. I have cried multiple times in the past week as I think about all the people he scares, including myself. Even as I know that a pro-life leader (although, in the same breath I will say no one is pro-life unless they respect the dignity of ALL lives) is what our country needs, I feel incredibly hurt by the fact that 1 in 4 people chose Trump.

I believe this is where many people are currently living, some place between knowing this is better than 8 more years of our country actively participating in the killing of unborn children, and also wondering what this means for all the minority groups that Trump has spoken out against.

Most of all, this is my question: of all the pro-life candidates that were out there, how is Donald Trump the one we ended up with? I mean, seriously, there were 17, SEVENTEEN, candidates for the Republican party at the very beginning of the election season. Not all of them were establishment politicians, but all of them recognized the importance of ending abortion. Yet, Donald Trump became the nominee, and now our future president.

I fully support those who voted for Trump because they vote pro-life. I respect that and accept it as a fundamental issue for others as well as myself. But how on earth did we get to the point that Donald Trump was the pro-life candidate the Republican party ended up with? That is where my hurt, and the hurt for many others, lies.

This has been, and will continue to be, a process of acceptance. My hope is to in some small way begin true dialogue with those of opposing view points, and so I will try to be writing more frequently about what I feel needs to change in our society in order to end the polarization and begin to heal our nation.

In the meantime though, I will pray. 

I will pray that those hurting because they feel their country has turned its back on them are shown compassion and love.

I will pray that those who voted for Trump are shown love and understanding by those who question their motives.

I will pray for dialogue between people of different races, ethnicities, nationalities and immigrant/refugee status, political persuasion, sexualities, sexual identities, religions, genders, and ages.

And I will pray for president-elect Donald Trump, that he recognizes and is humbled by the huge responsibility he has been given to lead this country forward.

 

Because I’m Tired of Seeing “Common Core Math” Posts

This is thoroughly non-theological, but I’m a teacher on maternity leave, so every time someone posts something on Facebook about how they sent a check to their child’s school using “Common Core Math” to make some sort of point, I see it and read all the comments of people praising the person who did this, so now I’m irritated.

Here’s the deal: there is NO SUCH THING as “Common Core math”!

There are the Common Core State Standards for math, and there are different curricula that are aligned with the Common Core. But there is no such thing as Common Core math.

I know it may seem like there isn’t a difference, but really, there is. For starters, do you hear people complaining about Common Core reading or writing? Nope. There are Common Core State Standards for English/Language Arts, but the curriculum most schools seem to follow that aligns with the Common Core in these subjects isn’t seen at home as often. However, in many cases, there has been just as much of a shift in how reading and writing is being taught as math, depending on where you live and what your school district’s curriculum was pre-Common Core.

Kids are learning to read and write earlier than ever before in most states. I teach kindergarten and we expect students to be able to write multiple sentences to tell a coherent, cohesive story by the end of the year. That’s new. But again, I don’t hear people outside of schools complaining about this. Teachers are, but that’s a post for a different day.

So, I want to set a few things straight for whoever decides to read this.

  1. Common Core State Standards is basically a road map for what students need to know and when, i.e. by the end of third grade students will understand the properties of multiplication and the relationship between multiplication and division (P.S. this is a real standard). Notice, the standard doesn’t mention how this relationship is supposed to be taught, it just tells us what students need to know, which leads to my next point…
  2. The standards don’t dictate how we teach what needs to be learned. That doesn’t mean they haven’t had an effect on how we teach, that just wouldn’t be possible. Of course they effect how we teach…students need to know more about more topics at a younger age. But again, the standards are only the road map. Now, for what actually dictates what we’re teaching…
  3. Curriculum is how teachers, using professional judgement in hand with the curriculum, determine what is being taught each day. DISTRICTS ADOPT CURRICULUM! Teachers have a say, yes, but depending on the district it could be huge input to hardly any. The curriculum, which has to follow the sequencing of the Common Core, is what parents see at home and which may or may not be familiar or at all similar to how they were taught reading, writing, or math.

So why all the fuss about math?

From what I’ve seen online, most people seem to take issue with the curriculum formerly known as EngageNY and now known as Eureka math. This curriculum is Common Core aligned and FREE to school districts, they just have to cover the cost of printing it for their schools. So, when you have a flurry of new curriculum adoption (due to needing to align with new standards), which is insanely expensive, for both English/Language Arts AND Math, a free curriculum is quite appealing. Additionally, I’m not sure there are many good math curricula out currently that are aligned with the Common Core, so there’s that as well.

EngageNY/Eureka is very different in many ways from how math has been taught in the past, and teachers have many different opinions on its methodology, but here’s my two main points:

  1. Different/new does not equal bad.
  2. It forces kids to think deeper about math, and not just “plug and chug”.

Does this curriculum have major challenges, especially for parents who want to help their kids with homework but have never heard of the strategy they’re learning? Absolutely! Does that mean people should be sending passive-aggressive letters or checks to their children’s teachers or school administrators because they don’t like the math? I don’t think so. And it definitely doesn’t mean people should then be posting online how they decided to stick it to their children’s school and get applauded for it online.

Teachers, administrators, and schools want to be partners with parents in the education of their kids. So this is what I would ask:

If it doesn’t make sense, ask your child’s teacher to explain it to you! Most would be more than happy to help!

And if you really don’t like the curriculum your school district has adopted, make your voice heard by attending school board meetings or finding out who to contact in the district office. If enough people get involved, it will cause change.

Hiatus is Over!

So, I unintentionally went on a six month hiatus from blogging! Between pregnancy, work, and working on my master’s, blogging ended up being put on the back burner. However, now I’m on maternity leave with nothing but time (well, mostly), so I’m back to my blog.

For the most part my blog so far has been about my personal journey from being a Protestant to becoming a Catholic, and the theological differences I’ve encountered. From this point on, I want to try and write about common questions or issues Protestants often have with Catholicism. I’ll be picking topics, but I also want to invite anyone who reads this to ask questions they want addressed or identify a topic they want me to spend time on. I’m not a theologian, but I’ve dedicated a lot of my time to learning the reasoning that is the basis of my faith, and I love any opportunity to discuss theology with others.

The invitation is open! I hope some of you will spend some time having a conversation with me. 🙂

According to Plan

If someone had told me as I entered college that in seven years I would be married, pregnant, AND living in my home town, I would have been disappointed. Actually, I would have been upset. That was not my plan. Entering college, I figured I would major in peace studies, graduate and movie to a country in Africa most likely, or maybe Central or South America because I love Spanish, and work in a school or start a special education program in an area where there wasn’t one. I met with a professor who was from Kenya and discussed this plan with him, another woman from Tanzania who ran a school and said she would love to have more teachers come over, and even was dating someone who had a love for Uganda and would maybe want to go back there.

Set in stone, right?

Well, I ended up changing my major unofficially about five different times, finally landing in teaching against my better judgment. I figured I would at least do secondary education, but an education adviser said realistically with what I wanted to do I should go with elementary education. Yikes. Not part of the plan at all, but I added that to my special education major and got started on classes my sophomore year.

To my surprise, I loved elementary education. That was fine though, I could still become a teacher in other parts of the world, though then me and my boyfriend who fit perfectly into this picture broke up.

Fast forward a few years and I was graduating with degrees in elementary education and special education, planning on spending a month in Alaska north of the Arctic Circle for a practicum, and in a serious relationship with a Catholic (which freshman me would have again been shocked at…I mean, they worship Mary right?).

Right before I left for Alaska, on Christmas Eve actually, my boyfriend (now husband) proposed. If I’m being entirely honest, my first thought was to wonder if I was even ready to get married. I loved my boyfriend, wanted to marry him, but I was still stuck on my plans to live abroad for a year, and this wasn’t meshing with my plans. I said yes, with the caveat that I wanted to wait for at least a year to get married. But then after a day or two of processing everything, I began to realize that waiting to get married wasn’t the answer to my dilemma. I wanted to travel, but I didn’t want to be away from my now husband for a year. That sounded awful. So we decided to get married that summer.

While on our honeymoon I got a job interview and eventually an offer to teach a first/second grade combo class in my home town, and now I’m teaching kindergarten, still in my home town. We just bought a house here and are expecting our first child in December. Oh, and I’m Catholic now. And I’m so glad I didn’t know when I was 18 what my life would look like when I was 25, because that me couldn’t appreciate what I now have.

Of course, I still want to travel and see new places, but I want to do that with my best friend, my husband. And I wouldn’t trade our life together for the life I imagined for myself when I was 18, as wonderful as that life sounded. What I’ve learned in the last seven years is that God really does know us better than we know ourselves, and the way He works is mysterious, but if it wasn’t we wouldn’t come to appreciate the things we didn’t know we wanted the way we do with the mystery intact.

I am grateful for every twist and turn that has led me to where I am, and most of all that my life went according not to my plan, but to His plan.

St. Bridget of Sweden

(c) York Museums Trust; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

“There is no sinner in the world, however much at enmity with God, who cannot recover God’s grace by recourse to Mary, and by asking her assistance.”

– St. Bridget of Sweden

Born 1303

Died July 23, 1373

Patron Saint of Europe, Sweden, and widows

St. Bridget, also known as Birgitta, was born into a prestigious family in Sweden that was related to the Swedish kings through her mother. When she was 14 she married Ulf Gudmarsson, and together they had eight children. One of their children was St. Catherine of Sweden. St. Bridget quickly became known for her great works of charity, especially in her caring for unmarried mothers and children in her community.

In her 30’s she was appointed as a lady-in-waiting for the new queen of Sweden. After serving for the queen, she and her husband decided to take a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, but soon after their return Ulf died. After losing her husband, she became a third order Franciscan, dedicating her life to the care of the poor and the sick. She also took the initiative to start a religious order which would become known as the Brigittines.

In 1350, Bridget traveled with her daughter Catherine through Europe in the midst of the plague. The two made their way to Rome and waited for the return of the papacy from Avignon, France back to Rome, and in the meantime continued to campaign for the return of the Holy See to Rome. She also was outspoken about Church abuses at the time, which some in Rome did not take kindly to, and was constantly urging people to taken on a more moral and uplifting lifestyle. She made a few pilgrimages during her time in Rome, but never again returned to Sweden, though she sent instructions back to Sweden for the building of the monastery. She specified that the head of the monastery, housing both nuns and monks, should be an abbess, signifying the Virgin Mary.

When St. Bridget was young she believed she periodically had visions, and as she got older she was more certain that she did indeed have them. The visions she claimed have made her somewhat controversial, especially the prayers she said Jesus taught her, now known as the 15 O’s (because each prayer in Latin began with either O Jesu, O Rex, or O Domine Jesu Christe). However, some scholars believe these prayers originated somewhere else. The prayers did begin to spread throughout Europe, however certain promises were made with the prayers by their proponents that Church leaders did not endorse and were therefore left out of future documents. St. Bridget is also said to have had visions of the Nativity of Jesus and to have predicted the future Vatican State.

While her life is undoubtedly open to some questions, St. Bridget was a strong female leader who worked hard to advance the faith and promote love and morality.

Resources

http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=264

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02782a.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bridget_of_Sweden

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

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“He is more within us than we are ourselves.” – St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

Born August 28, 1774

Died January 4, 1821

In 1975, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was the first native-born American to be canonized by the Church.

Patron Saint of loss of children, loss of parents, widows

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was born into an upper class family in New York City, and grew up in an Episcopalian family, loving to read the Bible. When she was 19 she married William Seton and began a happy marriage. Sadly, within a few years of their marriage, William’s father died and he and Elizabeth had to take responsibility for his siblings, as well as his father’s business. They ended up having to declare bankruptcy soon after taking over, and then moved to Italy since William’s health was failing. William died in Italy, and after so much personal tragedy Elizabeth was drawn to the Catholic church and eventually joined the Catholic church in 1805.

Elizabeth left Italy and moved to Baltimore, Maryland, where she started the first free Catholic school in America. She and two other women started making plans to found a sisterhood, and in 1812 the Rule of the Sisterhood was officially ratified.Although she took vows as a nun, she still raised her children in while living with the sisterhood. By 1818 the sisterhood had established another school and two orphanages. Elizabeth had been fighting tuberculosis and in 1821 finally succumbed to her illness at the age of 46.

St. Elizabeth was known for her kindness, patience and good sense, and put these traits to use by helping children in her community and continuing to live for God even after so much personal tragedy. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was a strong female leader in the Church and in the secular community.

Resources

http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=180

http://www.biography.com/people/st-elizabeth-ann-seton-9479538