What’s Your Organizing Style?

In organizing, as in life, one size does not fit all. Here’s a guide to choosing storage systems for school supplies that fit your students’ styles.

By Lisa Lawmaster Hess

Years ago, I was given the gift of a fresh start in the guise of moving to a smaller office. I was grumpy at first, but, after a little reading, a lot of thinking and many boxes, bins and crates, my change in location led to a change in attitude. I saw moving as an opportunity to do things differently and Organizing by STYLE was born. Armed with silly, kid-friendly names for the styles, I brought my particular take on organization into the classroom. With a playful, non-judgmental approach from me and much trust from my students, a typically boring topic turned into one kids could get excited about.

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Pope Francis

by Jean Grant

Help your students learn more about Pope Francis with this prayer service.

Preparation: Begin by making copies of the Prayer Service for each person. If possible, place a picture of Pope Francis in the gathering space. If an interactive whiteboard is available, the picture or the service text itself could be enlarged to enhance involvement by all. Along with the leader, all students should make three small crosses—one on forehead, lips, and heart—as we do before the Gospel reading in the Liturgy.

All: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Leader: Pope Francis is the first pope who chose St. Francis of Assisi as his namesake. Following in the steps of his role model, then-Cardinal Borgoglio rode the bus, cooked for himself, and lived in a small apartment. He has given up the papal apartments for a simpler life as pope.

All: O Blessed Trinity, we believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth. We believe in Jesus Christ, his Son, who came as our Savior, died on the cross, and rose from the dead. He offered himself to bring us to Heaven. We believe in the Holy Spirit who breathed courage, life, and Spirit into the Apostles and us. We thank the Trinity for blessing us with faith, hope, and love as members of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

All: (all make three signs of the cross, on forehead, lips, and heart) Be in our minds. Be on our lips. Be in our hearts.

Leader: What a blessing we have been given through Jesus’ example and the creation of Sacred Liturgy and the Sacraments. They enrich our lives and draw us closer to the Trinity. We are so loved to have grace flow to us from them. Most of all, we rejoice in Jesus who at the Last Supper gave us the gift of the Eucharist. He left food for his future Church in the beautiful Mass. Thank you, Jesus, for saving us and bringing us to your meal.

All: (with all signing) Be in our minds. Be on our lips. Be in our hearts.

Leader: We were given the Ten Commandments to guide us, to love God above all else, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. If we treat others as we want to be treated, how can we hurt and wound others? How can we think of unkind things to do or hurtful words with which to wound others? If our hearts are pure and loving, there is no room for hate or prejudice toward others. We were created in the image and likeness of God. We are all special! When we fail, as God knew we would as human beings, Jesus left us the gift of Reconciliation to make our souls once again as clean and bright as new sparkling snow in the morning sunshine. God’s love is infinite. It never ends. When we make bad choices he is ready to gather in his lost sheep when we tell him we are sorry for our sins.

All: (with all signing) Be in our minds. Be on our lips. Be in our hearts.

Leader: We want and need to join Jesus and take time to pray! He gave us the Our Father, and from that lesson we can choose so many ways to pray. Talk to Jesus from the heart as your best friend. From our rich history and collection of prayers over the centuries, help us to take advantage of quiet moments and the inspiration of those prayers. Dear God, shut out the noise of this hectic world and let us listen for you in the rustle of leaves, gurgling water, radiant blue skies, and other faces of creation. Let us pray for peace in the world amongst all nations.

All close with a Glory Be in honor of the Trinity.  


Source: Today’s Catholic Teacher, April/May 2014

Six Markers of Motivational Teachers

by Sr. Patricia M. McCormack, IHM

Kick off the school year with these ideas for becoming a more motivational teacher.

Next to parenting, what vocation can compare to teaching? Nothing known to me, though all pursuits that serve God’s purposes and promote the welfare of humankind are worthy of praise.

Parents bestow life and assume the primary responsibility for educating their children. At Baptism they heard the challenge:

“…Give constant care to training [your] child in the practice of the faith. See that the divine life, which God gives him/her, is kept safe from the poison of sin, to grow always stronger in his/her heart… and bring that dignity unstained into the everlasting life of heaven.”1

This parent responsibility is so vital that “it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute.”2
Teachers “complement the primary role of parents in educating their children”3 by functioning as agents of evangelization for both children and families. Catholic Church literature4 indicates that in response to the culture of the last 25 years, the role of the Catholic school (and, therefore, the teacher) expanded from companioning parents in their vocation to preparing parents for their vocation. The expansion of the role of the Catholic school includes:

• being helpmate to parents (1965)
• serving as the educational arm of the Church in the work of personal formation (1972)
• assuming fundamental leadership in providing adult, parent, and family education (1976)
• providing for the complete Christian formation of pupils; being an expert in transmitting culture (1977)
• preparing parents to have greater influence in the work of education (1981)
• evangelizing (1982)
• making parents aware of their responsibilities (1988A)
• preparing parents for their vocation (1988B)
• serving as a life compass for parents (1991)
• fostering initiatives that encourage parent commitment, and providing the concrete support that the family needs today (1998)

Is teaching a vocation? You bet it is! If teaching were merely a job, it would break you in the trying! Catholic-school teachers embrace a God-given vocation to be the hands, the feet, the voice, the affirmation, the direction, the compassion, and the mercy of God for those they teach—and for the parents of their students. A vocation (any vocation) is from God, for God, to God. Vocation is God calling us to holiness through a specific means and our responding “yes” as Mary did. Mary’s “yes” brought life into the world. Our “yes” enriches the lives of those to whom we minister.

Catholic-school teachers resonate with the question voiced by fourth-century Doctor of the Church St. John Chrysostom, who asked: “What is equal to training the soul, and forming the mind of one that is young?” Again I say, “Nothing known to me.” What a grace to companion Jesus and to be his catalyst of formation in the hearts of our students!

There is quite a difference between monitoring or proctoring a class of students and teaching a class of students. Catholic educators are catalysts of soulful formation rather than mere transmitters of information. In our technological society, information access is available with a keystroke. But forming a child in the ways of faith, compassion, responsibility, stewardship, social grace, integrity, self-control, prudence, justice, temperance, fortitude, and Christian love of self is not the by-product of surfing the web. Soulful formation results from the intentional personal interaction of people who daily respond “yes” to the vocation of Catholic-school teacher!

Motivating students to grow into the persons who God created them to be takes more than wishful thinking. Twentieth-century inspirational writer William Arthur Ward explained: “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” This article considers inspiration and motivation as synonyms. It suggests six markers of a motivational teacher, and it includes formative support for both teachers and parents by way of a parent handout that was designed to be distributed at “Back to School Night” parent gatherings (see “Ten Home Habits for School Success” on page 40).

1. Promote Proactive, Positive Attitudes
Smile. Use humor, not sarcasm. Promote the attitude: “Good, better, best/I will never rest/Until my good is better and my better is my best.” Anticipate pitfalls and plan accordingly. Exhibit effort, energy, and enthusiasm. Be present to extracurricular activities and, within the school day, integrate curriculum references to student interests.

2. Prepare Today for Tomorrow
“Plan your work; work your plan.” Throughout a weekly lesson plan vary approach, materials, activities, learning styles, independent application, and group work. Duplicate materials, arrange supplies, coordinate resources, and clarify scheduling details before the students arrive. Proactively anticipate problems; have ready a “Plan B.”

3. Monitor Daily Performance
Devise a simple method for examining, recording, and reporting daily classwork, homework, quizzes, behavior, and effort. Be kind but firm while nipping at the bud poor student choices. Alert student and parent while there is time to remediate. Encourage effort.

4. Cultivate Social Skills
Make a personal connection with each student. Refer to an outside interest, use a respectful nickname, communicate via facial gesture, show appreciation, etc., while safeguarding the role of adult mentor. Use respectful tones. Correct in private. Demonstrate self-control. Initiate conversation and forgiveness. Model how to admit a mistake and turn it into a stepping stone for improvement.

5. Practice Study Skills
Provide instruction and practice before assigning an independent project that requires a working knowledge of study skills like identifying the main idea, mapping, outlining, note-taking, solving word problems, etc. Teach how to create a chapter study guide, perhaps using the SQ3R method:
1. Fold a paper in half, length-wise. 2. Survey (read titles, pictures, and captions to generate questions). 3. Write questions on the left-hand side. 4. Read through the chapter to answer the questions in the right-hand column.
5. Recite the questions and answers. 6. Use the paper to review the chapter.

6. Structure the Environment for Success
Maintain a crisp, attractive, neat classroom that conveys a sense of industry/good work ethic. Use decorations that are purposeful teaching tools. “Publish” or display corrected student work. Establish guidelines and expectations for student notebooks and examine them regularly. Have available a few extra copies of handouts, available to students for a 5¢ replacement charge! Determine a procedure for turning in work and for preparing homework/classwork requirements for absentee students. Organize a system for distributing and collecting books and materials.

These same six motivational markers will be the focus of the 2014-15 Parent Partnership Handbook newsletters, written with examples that relate to the parent community. Parents and teachers share in the formation education of children. May both take comfort in the scriptural maxim: “Those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars for all eternity” (Daniel 12:3).



1 Rite of Baptism for Children
2 Flannery (1998). Vatican II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents Volume 1, Christian Education #3
3 Miller (2006). The Holy See’s Teaching on Catholic Schools, p. 61
4 Church Literature: Documents of Vatican II (1965), To Teach as Jesus Did (1972), Teach Them (1976), The Catholic School (1977), The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World (1981), Lay Catholics in Schools: Witnesses to Faith (1982), The Religious Dimension of Education (1988A), The Lay Members of Christ’s Faithful People (1988B), Putting Children and Families First: A Challenge for Our Church, Nation, and World (1991), and The Catholic Church on the Threshold of the Third Millennium (1998)

Source: Today’s Catholic Teacher, August/September 2014

A New School Year: Forgiveness, Love, and Peace

Kick off the school year with this prayer service.

by Jean Grant

Preparation: The theme “Teaching about God’s Gift of Forgiveness” comes to us from the guidelines of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for Catechetical Sunday, September 21, 2014. Forgiveness, as a gift, springs from the font of Baptism. With our hearts open to forgiveness, we keep the Word of Jesus alive and give witness to our faith expressed in the Gospel. Read more…