Monthly Archives: February 2016

Confessions Of A Seventh Grade Nothing


I was recently asked what job I dreamed of having as a kid and wasn’t really sure how to answer because I don’t ever remember dreaming about being a particular “thing.” But as I thought more about it, I guess I could say I thought about being a teacher. Not because I had any great desire to teach or an over-abundant love for children. Nor did I entertain any grandiose fantasies of my future self, making a profound difference in a kid’s life or presenting myself as an unsung hero, inspiring young minds to seize the day. No. My adolescent brain entertained thoughts of a teaching career while sitting in my seventh-grade classroom, hoping and praying that the teacher would not utter the words that I knew were inevitable… “Pick a partner and…” It didn’t matter how that sentence ended because those first words, the words I dreaded, would simply paralyze my twelve-year-old brain.

I was the new kid at Queen of Martyrs school on Chicago’s south side. The path which led little brother Paul and me there was a bit circuitous but was the result of a hasty move from our old, comfortable neighborhood to a new and completely foreign world.  No longer was I accepted simply by virtue of my last name. I was a legacy at my old school, having had five older siblings pave the way. Everyone knew us. I was the mascot of our grammar school football team; my eighth-grade sister, the captain of the cheerleaders. Life was good.

That all changed when we transferred schools and I came to the brutal realization that I had nothing going for me. Suddenly, I was a gangly, stringy-haired, self-conscious, nerdy introvert in desperate need of a friend, but sadly lacking one. Oh, did I mention I wore glasses and a retainer? I wasn’t cool. I was the most uncool kid you could imagine. A few kind souls reached out to me, a welcome I happily accepted. My brother didn’t suffer as much, having found his niche as a star of the fifth-grade football team. Soon, his reputation garnered a little respect for me and I was able to bask in his shadow.

But his benevolent umbrella couldn’t help me when I was stricken with the inevitable directive to find a partner. The worst were days when my possible partner was absent. My heart would go into absolute panic-mode as I’d scan the classroom, silently beseeching someone – anyone – to notice me and offer to partner-up.

Those were the times when I fantasized about becoming a teacher. As a teacher, I would NEVER, EVER direct my students to “find a partner” or allow them to arrange their desks as they wanted – an activity that would send the other kids into fits of joy. No, I swore that would never happen on my watch.

Well, fast-forward four decades and I never did become a teacher, which is probably a good thing. But, to those teachers who may find themselves reading this, I now beseech you to always consider the outcasts when addressing your classroom. That is one way you can leave a lasting impression on those kids. The smallest acts of kindness will always be remembered, as will the hurtful moments of isolation, which manage to plant themselves deeply into one’s psyche.

I suppose the silver-lining of that experience is that I was able to draw upon those memories to teach my own kids to notice the outsider on the playground and be that kid’s friend. Because he’s the kid who needs a friend. So I guess I did become a teacher after all. Class dismissed.   🙂


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My Answer To The Burning Question Of WHY??


Catholic Schools Week has arrived!! When my kids were little, that meant a much anticipated week filled with fun activities, assemblies, games and contests. And of course, themed days like crazy hair day, pajama day, favorite sports team day and just about any other thing you can think up, all the while learning even more about their Catholic faith. To them, though, this week was simply known as Spirit Week.

They have since grown up, with my youngest now wrapping up her third year in college. No more Catholic Schools Week for them – not since they attended the University of Iowa and for the first time in their lives, went to (GASP!!) public school. Of course, in college, every day is crazy hair day, pajama day or favorite sports team day.

I was reminded of Catholic Schools Week on Facebook yesterday as one of my FB friends shared a link to an article (which I am also passing along) entitled: Why My Kids Go To Catholic School. Over the years, I have been asked that question many, many times. And each time, I’ve answered it as simply and honestly as I could. That, while there is no question an excellent education can be had at our local public schools (and quite honestly, the programs and facilities in those schools would have been immensely helpful for my fine-arts offspring), my husband and I chose Catholic schools for our four children because they could offer the one thing that the public schools could not: a Catholic, faith-filled environment. Period. Not because we thought we were better than anyone else, as some seem to believe. Being immersed in their faith and beginning not just each day, but each class with a prayer was important enough for us to make the financial sacrifice to send four kids to twelve years of Catholic schooling. Let me tell you, that’s a lot of tuition. I keep telling them that they’ll thank us for it someday…

Some people also mistakenly believe that we must have a lot of money to make the Catholic School choice. And to them, I say, we are totally broke precisely because we paid that tuition for all those years.

The high school my three sons attended was an all-boy, Benedictine academy with an Army JROTC program. When my son, Brian, once described his school as “an all boy, Catholic military school,” the response was, “Wow, that’s a lot of discipline!” And it was. But, I remember a story a Senior Theology teacher liked to share with families new to the school which showed a different side. Before each class, his students would say a prayer, followed by any requested personal intentions. Every day, one student would simply raise his hand and request a prayer “for his mother.” After a couple weeks, the teacher said, “Joe, every day you ask us to say a prayer for your mother. If you feel comfortable, could you tell us why?” He quietly answered, “My mom has cancer and I’m afraid she’s going to die.” The class was silent for a moment, until one boy stood, walked over to Joe and hugged him. Each boy then did the same thing until every one of them had embraced their classmate. From that day forward, during intentions, a different student would raise his hand and say, “For Joe’s mom.”

I love that story because people would never think, in such a macho kind of environment, that these young men would feel safe enough to allow themselves to be so vulnerable without the fear of ridicule. Instead, they were connected through prayer and community.

And THAT’S why we sent our kids to Catholic schools. Oh, and also because uniforms make life so much easier in the morning. 🙂



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