Thoughts Forthcoming…

In the meantime, I’m grading approximately 1.54 billion essays and performance assessments.

Okay, fine. The performance assessments are done now.

They had to create Reading Strategies booklets. That is, they had to create “How to Read Dante’s Inferno” books for the future sophomores based upon what they had been learning.

Yes, I teach my high school students how to read. If you don’t do that – and you teach ANY high school subject – Science, Math, Religion, Social Studies, whatever – you need to start right now.

Or maybe next fall. You get the idea.

A preview of my students’ awesome stuff, which I’ll be writing about soon:

I have so many things to say about this booklet. This student impressed me so much with his attention to detail and to anticipating future students’ misunderstandings.


This is the best advice ever. I keep trying to give it, but they forget easily. So I’m glad this girl remembered:

Note: “If Dante can get through hell, you can get through this book!” Amen, sister.


And this is probably my favorite:

Now if she would only follow her own advice…


Ah. As I said on my Facebook page, I feel so blessed. But now I have a whole new batch of kids to miss.

7 Quick Takes Friday (2/14/14)


It’s Valentine’s Day. So the theme is love.


My friend Serena has written a beautiful article over at Public Discourse entitled “Politics, Art and Love: A Lesson from Dante.” You should read it. She gracefully weaves together an argument for the proper approach to debating political issues with a simple but profound explication of Dante’s Divine Comedy.

A taste:

Just like Dante, every person has the capacity to open himself to truths that are bigger than our minds can initially fathom. We can often lose sight of the fact that the answers to political questions on abortion or marriage, for example, are based on understandings of the nature of human life and love that are just too big and too profound for us to grasp all at once. The process of changing someone’s mind on such questions will probably be slow, but it can be helped along by relationships that, in love, persistently ask others to reconsider the philosophical foundations of their beliefs. (Serena Sigillito at Public Discourse)


Speaking of love…

Via Catholic News Agency Blog:


This may sound rather abrupt –

But I truly believe this: if you don’t love teaching, if you don’t love your kids, then go do something else.

You might be a very imperfect teacher (like me). You might not know everything about your content or how to “control” a classroom or how to help a student. I have struggled with all of these things. And I still do.

These things you can learn and improve upon.

But if you do not love the act of teaching itself — if you don’t love spending time with young people, if you don’t love your kids, then you should not be a teacher. You will not have anything to give if you do not have love.

The truth is, if you do not love teaching, then maybe you really are called to something else. You can show your love and serve God in a different way. And that is okay.

But please don’t stay a teacher because you get summers off and because you’re “qualified.” If you don’t love you’re kids, then you’re not qualified.

Okay. Rant over.


Here is a fascinating article in the Atlantic on “Why Writers are the Worst Procrastinators”, whose pithy title alone seems to explain my entire academic career both as a student and as a teacher.

I have always struggled with procrastination, even though I have done well in school and pretty consistently turned assignments in on time. McArdle explains:

Most writers manage to get by because, as the deadline creeps closer, their fears of turning in nothing eventually surpasses their fears of turning in something terrible. (via  The Atlantic)
This is very true. The adrenaline rush that an impending deadline provides is a much stronger motivator for me than almost anything else. Since I feel as though I no longer have a choice in the matter, the words come. They come out of my fingertips though the keyboard and onto the screen almost in spite of myself.
What makes this article even more awesome (besides explaining me to myself) is that it cites Carol Dweck’s research on success and failure, growth mindset and fixed mindset, terms that have greatly influenced my own teaching for the last few years.
Dweck argues that people often procrastinate because they are afraid of failure. If a student plays video games all night instead of studying for a test, he can always explain his failure on the test later by saying “Oh I didn’t even try to study for that” rather than by his own poor abilities or lack of understanding.
It is easier not to try in school than to try. If you try, you actually are putting yourself on the line. You are putting yourself into your work. If your work then receives all sorts of red marks on it, you feel as though you have nowhere to hide: you are a failure.
But if you don’t try at all, no matter how many “red marks” you receive, you can always attribute them to your lack of trying–not your actual talent or performance.
It’s safer that way. But it’s also cowardly, and prevent real learning from taking place:

“You never see the mistakes, or the struggle,” says Dweck. No wonder students get the idea that being a good writer is defined by not writing bad stuff.

Unfortunately, in your own work, you are confronted with every clunky paragraph, every labored metaphor and unending story that refuses to come to a point. “The reason we struggle with”insecurity,” says Pastor Steven Furtick, “is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” (Ibid)

We forget that writing–and all learning–is a labor of love. Key word: labor. No labor, no love. No mistakes, no learning.

Happy Valentines Day! Or, as some of my students informed me, “Singles Awareness Day”… aka S. A. D.
My friend Emily posted this wonderful list of Catholic Social Teaching Pick Up Lines in honor of the day.
I like these:

2. You must be poor, ’cause I’ve got a preferential option for you.

3. Hey, don’t I know you? I could have sworn we were in solidarity with one another once?

And this:



For those celebrating the S. A. D. version of today, there is a beautiful article over at the CNS Womanhood Blog about living the single life.

Best of all, the author, Elise Italiano, looks to Saint Edith Stein for her advice:

As Stein notes, one’s singlehood might not be deliberately chosen. But one does have freedom in the face of it. Father Jacques Phillippe writes in Interior Freedom, “We need to understand that there is another way of exercising freedom: less immediately exciting, poorer, humbler, but much more common, and one immensely fruitful, both humanly and spiritually. It is consenting to what we did not originally choose. (Italiano, “Edith Stein’s Advice to Single Ladies” CNS)


Which brings me to the topic of vocations.

Brother Justin Hannegan, a fellow UD graduate, recently wrote in Crisis Magazine about vocation. He made a rather startling argument – that discerning one’s vocation to the religious life, married life or single life has less to do with searching through one’s desires than it does with one’s abilities. One should not ask: what does my heart desire? But rather: what am I able to do? In other words, if you can do the religious life (with God’s grace), then do it.

He references the Church Fathers (especially Aquinas) and seems to have the first 1900 years of Catholic tradition on his side.

Hannegan’s original article: “Sacrificing Religious Life on the Altar of Egalitarianism”

His response to critics:”Sacrificing Religious Life: A Reply to Critics”

But another graduate and friend of mine from UD, Gabbi Chee, respectfully disagrees:

We have also forgotten how to discern. On that point, I agree wholeheartedly with Br. Justin. But I don’t agree that searching one’s desires is the wrong way to go about discernment. But we need to clarify and define “desire.” Earlier in the article, Br. Justin quotes one of my favorite authors, Fr. James Martin, S.J., as saying “God awakens our vocations primarily through our desires.” I can’t speak for any of the other religious orders or for their take on discernment, but in Ignatian terms, desire is not just about what I want, like ‘I want a Ferrari’ or ‘I want to live somewhere sunny’. It is about what is at the core of my being and my heart. This is not something that everyone can articulate right away. That’s what discernment is for. Discernment requires that we stop and take stock of our life and the direction it is taking and the way that God has been leading us all along.

Read her excellent article too over at Saintable: “The Role of Desire In Discernment”

What do you think?


I’m considering responding to the questions about discernment Hannegan and Chee raise. In the meantime, however, I’ll just end with a beautiful insight from Italiano’s article:

[A Dominican priest] spoke to the temptation of the person in their twenties or thirties to measure their life in a linear way: to measure their worth and success by whether or not they had achieved certain standard markers that they felt they “should” have arrived at: obtaining degrees, landing a dream job, getting married, having a set number of kids by a particular age, and buying a house. The priest said that we ought to measure our lives vertically, like the corpus on the Cross. We should measure our lives by the depth that we enter into the present moment and how much love we are putting into it. (“Edith Stein’s Advice to the Single Ladies”)

It’s all about love, people.

Happy Valentine’s Day!