What I Said at the Friendship Prayer Service

It’s funny that the God Squad asked me to give today’s talk about Friendship because it’s my job at this school to teach about argument and debate. I teach my students to anticipate what the opposition is going to say, analyze their weaknesses, and crush them in debates. Not very friendly. But we have a saying in my class and that is in argument, you must first seek to understand, then to be understood. If you release yourself of the responsibility of trying to change someone else’s mind, then you are free to try to understand the other person’s point…

Whose Jersey I Was Wearing

A couple of days ago, a line of Varsity football players barreled into my classroom. I’ve been known to offer encouraging journal writing times before big game days. Friday was a huge game day. The league championship was at stake against a higher ranked team. I thought they might have been there to ask to write with me. They weren’t there to write. They were uncharacteristically quiet, this group of boys. Shuffling their enormous feet. Smiling funny. “Guess what,” one of the guys finally said. “We get to pick one teacher to be with us on the field for Friday’s game…

Why Do You Pray That Way?

I pray with my students at the beginning of every single class. When I worked in public schools, I called it Breathe. Always the same words: Sit up nice and straight and tall, feet flat, rear ends to the backs of your chairs, shoulders back, eyes closed or looking down at your desk. Take a nice deep breath in and out. And another nice deep breath in and out. You are a person of great dignity and worth. The world got better on the day of your birth. There is nobody better than you. And one last deep breath in and…

What I Said at the Prayer Service Today

In the beginning of the first Toy Story Buzz LightYear was excited about all of his power. He had the power of lasers, and flight, and the power of a star command ship that he talked to through his monitors. He had lots of gadgets and stuff and a mission. The problem was, it wasn’t real. It was all fake. But when he dropped his mask and breathed the real air, he grew to realize that it was only in cooperation with his friends that he had real powers and a true mission, and he was more powerful and capable…

What Resilience Looks Like

Some of my favorite lines of poetry come from DH Lawrence’s “Self Pity:” I never saw a wild thing  sorry for itself.  A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself. My students have stories that I sometimes never hear. We are busy people in the classroom. We don’t have a lot of time to sit around and talk about our feelings and cry. Sometimes, though, I get a chance to know the true resilience of the rising generation. Their stories evoke the tenacious bird of the poem, its gnarly little feet curled around…

Lenten Theme: Focus

I did not grow up in a church-going family. The Liturgical Calendar meant nothing to me until I began teaching at Catholic schools in my very early twenties. Since then, Ash Wednesday has special significance. I attended Mass with my students today. I received ashes on my forehead and made some private and public promises about what I would “give up.” Maybe it’s because I only participated as an adult, but now I think Lent is awesome. Today, an early morning message from a friend evoked the word “focus.” She is making choices about her time in order to maintain…

Be Generous

2016 is going great so far. Amazing great. For example, this month a friend gifted me with a two-day writing workshop with the author of the truly excellent short story collection Refund, National Book Award Finalist Karen E. Bender. I am an enthusiastic fan of Ms. Bender’s work and vision, and I was going to have the chance to work with her in a small group format. In the two-day workshop, we listened to Karen Bender’s wisdom about the craft of writing fiction. All of the participants read one another’s work and came prepared with notes on each story. Everyone got a turn for…

Drink Water

You bought a new notebook for this? After the build-up and the vortex of accomplishment and the go big on resolutions hoopla, the first thing I have to say to myself is drink water?! Drink water. A few years ago I went through RCIA at the Newman Center. During the session on Baptism, the leaders asked us to reflect on water as a symbol of renewal and rebirth. One of the other students was a Physician Assistant. After the talk, my new friend and I walked together to our cars. “I never thought about the symbolism of water,” he said. “But in…