Home of the St. Pat Warriors

Ending Long Distance

img_2035How do you know when it is time to stop? As I move deeper into my 50’s, I wonder how/when I will know when it is time to move on, to cut back, to change up my running program?

Running has been a part of my life for a long time. I am a morning runner – most of the time during the early morning dark hours. Running helps me stay healthy, process different situations, sweat out anxiety and worry, and solve problems. I have seen countless gorgeous sunrises as well as millions of bright stars and stunning full moons descending to the other side of the world.

I recently trained for and completed my 15th half marathon, the Trenton Half Marathon. I have also completed 2 full marathons – The Shamrock in Virginia Beach and the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC. While I was training fort his recent half, I realized that it was harder, that it took much longer for my body to heal, that I was sorer and stiffer and that I was taking more Advil than I ever have. I decided that it was going to be my last long distance run.

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The fun part of the training and what kept me motivated was that I was going to do this run with one of my sisters, Sue, and two of my nieces, Grace Ann and Ellie. Another niece, Coleen, was running a half marathon in Greenville, SC on the same day. Also, this run was taking place in my home state of New Jersey, although it did cross over the Delaware River into Pennsylvania.

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I am not retiring from running – I am not ready to give up all the benefits that it gives to me – especially a good sweat, but I am going to dial it down. I am really happy running 4-7 miles and so are my knees and the rest of my joints and muscles. So, I pass on the long distance running torch to my much younger nieces and nephews – have at it – enjoy nature, enjoy the healthy feeling, enjoy having some time to yourself, enjoy challenging yourselves, and mostly, enjoy a really good sweat!

The Avalon Get-Away

img_2018As a principal in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, we gather in Avalon, NJ once a year for 2.5 days. Professional development is a big part of these days. This year we focused on Human Resource issues, technology integration, and continuous improvement surveys. Each day we celebrate the liturgy together as well as have a few hours of retreat on Friday morning.

The highlight for me was our keynote speaker, Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, a pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and a Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. I was really excited to listen to him because he spoke on on one of my favorite topics, Fostering Resilience in Adolescence and Teens. Resilience is the ability to face difficult things and bounce back from them – to deal with some of the “lemons” life gives us and turn them into “lemonade”.

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Another wonderful part of going to Avalon for a few days is being able to talk and share with other principals and leaders from the Archdiocesan Office of Catholic Education (OCE). I am often inspired by the leaders from our Catholic school system – hard working principals and OCE leadership. Their deep faith, dedication, and innovation spur me on to be a better principal and leader.

It is also great to be together for a few days to laugh and relax. We were entertained one night by the Office of Catholic Education. As you can see from the pictures, they are a very talented group. Beside helping to build a very strong Catholic Schools system here in our Archdiocese, they can really sing and dance!

The annual Principal’s conference is a blessing to me – from the inspiring keynote speakers, to the communal prayer time – from a walk on the beach, to the camaraderie with my peers, the time in Avalon is renewing and energizing. It allows me to come back to St. Pat’s with some new ideas, a clearer perspective, and with a deeper love of my vocation in Catholic Education. Go Warriors!

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The Teaching Principal

 

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By the time I was in 7th grade, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. I admired my teachers – their preparedness, their creativity, and the manner in which they related to students. More importantly, though, it was the way they showed how much they loved coming to school each day that made me want to be like them.

I have been a principal for 20 years and although I love what I do, I always have the deep yearning to get back into the classroom. Being a principal allows me to focus on the big picture, work with amazing teachers, assist families, and introduce programs and ideas that will effect student learning. These are all good and necessary parts of the education world, but nothing is as impactful as being in the classroom working with students.

This year I have the wonderful opportunity to be teaching 2 classes – 5th grade Religion and 7th grade Social Studies. These 2 hours each day are definitely the best part of my day – teaching these classes leaves me energized and makes me smile. They also leave me with papers to mark, lessons to plan, websites to search, and grades to enter into our online grading system, but most days this seems like a small price to pay for engaging with young learners.

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During the 10 years I was teaching, I taught 6-8 graders math, religion, and ELA. The longer I have been a principal, the more I realized that I took those 10 years for granted. Getting back into the classroom has allowed me to get back what I loved – connecting with kids, seeing the light bulb go off in their heads when they understand a concept, listening to their perspectives, and loving their inquisitiveness and deeper thinking.

I may be spending more hours preparing for my classes, researching, planning, and taking my “real job” work home with me, but the pay off is the 2 wonderful hours out of each day that I am able to be with my students – to laugh and think, to listen and inquire – to be a teacher and learner! Go Warriors!

 

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Winning Even When You Lose

img_1926This past weekend I had the awesome opportunity to attend a Notre Dame football game in South Bend, IN with 2 of my nieces and a nephew. Although the game’s final outcome was not what we were hoping for, the whole experience at Notre Dame is special and one-of-a-kind. As we were walking around the campus, it was impossible to miss the Catholicity. From the crucifixes to the Blessed Mother on the dome, from the many religious statues to the lawn signs announcing times for masses and confessions, their Catholic Identity message was anything but subtle.

Another amazing part of the weekend was the University of Notre Dame’s Marching Band. Their half time show was dedicated to the military. They played the march for each branch of the military, formed the name of that branch on the field, and asked any active or retired member to stand during their anthem. The total respect and admiration that the University and all the fans in the stadium showed to the military was heart warming, inspirational, and powerful.img_1917

Another incredible part to this experience was that at least 3 times during the game – actually during the TV time outs on the field – the public address announcer let the crowd know that Saturday night mass would take place 30 minutes after the conclusion of the game. These masses were in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, and in a number of the dorm chapels. Thousands of people streamed towards these places of worship after the game. My family and I were lucky enough to squeeze into the Basilica with at least 1000 other fans and were part of a wonderful experience of worship and praise. img_1871

Notre Dame was not supposed to lose the game against Duke, and although that is what the score board showed when time ran out, the total experience was a winner. The Catholic message is loud and clear on that campus. The warm and friendly students, ushers, workers, coaches (we met Muffet McGraw, head women’s basketball coach), and fans made the weekend nothing less than perfect, despite the final score! Notre Dame wins every time because they keep the main things the main things. Go Irish! Go Warriors!

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A few days ago my cute, loving, and loyal Bailey turned 13 years old. She is a shepherd/black lab mix and was given to me as a present 13 years ago. baby-1

During her birthday celebration – party hats, bits of hamburger, and rice – I was thinking about how constant dogs are – how they greet you and love you and hang out with you like you are the only person in the world. I was flooded by all the things we have been through together – some friendships have come and gone, but Bailey has remained. I have moved 2 times since I’ve had her, and yet she has adapted and come right along. I have lost my father, my idol, mentor, and friend, and Bailey was there to comfort me through the grief and pain.

Dogs are the best walking/running companions. Bailey and I have covered thousands of early morning miles together while she helped me train for marathons, half-marathons, triathlons, or just leisurely walks and runs. We have seen tons of astounding sunrises, been guided by the bright light of the gorgeous moon, been caught in many rain storms, witnessed many hot air balloons flying over our heads, and chased off countless deer, red fox, and rabbits. We have prayed for hours, solved the world’s problems, planned meetings and agendas, discussed situations, and role-played conversations on these walks/runs.

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Since she was born in Virginia Beach, VA, she is naturally a beach kind of girl. Throwing the ball into the ocean and bay has been one of her favorite past times. She has buried countless bones in the sand, chased hundreds of seagulls, and been snapped at by more than a few ghost crabs.

When Bailey  turned 13 years old, I found myself being appreciative for every dog kiss and tail wag. I was reflective, taking a trip down memory lane, but mostly, I felt grateful to have such a wonderful four-legged friend in my life for the past 13 years. I love my Bailey Girl!

What’s Yours?

If you ask my family and friends for a list of things that I am passionate about, they would probably tell you exercising, reading, sports, music, singing in the car, the beach, and coloring. While these are all things I love and really like to do, nothing gives me more pleasure than gardening and working with my plants and flowers.

When I looked up the definition of passion, this is what I found: passion is a feeling of great intensity toward a particular person or activity, to love something of someone with a passion means you feel almost a burning drive to be involved. Passions give us purpose, but more than that, they make us feel that we have purpose in our lives. Passionate = emotional, enthusiastic, interested, alive.

How does gardening do this for me? In early spring I begin to get excited about seeing my perennial plants begin to poke through the cold, hardened winter dirt. When I see that first sign of green, I give a huge fist pump because my plants have made it through the winter months and soon will be budding, blooming, and blossoming with beautiful flowers. butterfly and cone flower 3

Gardening is also rewarding and relaxing. It gives me time to be alone – to reflect, pray, solve, create. It allows me time to process conversations, plan projects, and just enjoy being outside away from my desk, phone and e-mail. I can get lost for hours pruning for new buds to appear, weeding, and watering my flowers.

One of the most amazing things is watching the bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds get drunk on the nectar from my beautiful plants. I lose track of time as I watch them go from flower to flower collecting pollen, all the while knowing that they are helping my plants become healthier and more vibrant.

Gardening is also hard work and can sometimes be disheartening when Mother Nature, a disease, or the deer come along and ruin a crop. Dirt under my fingernails, callouses on my hands, and scrapes on my legs are just a few of the wonderful side effects of gardening. The peace, satisfaction, and sense of accomplishment that gardening gives to me is second to none. Each season I learn more about how to take care of my plants – but maybe the truth is that they are really taking care of me!?

Find your passion and let it heal you, invigorate you, connect you to your deepest self. Go Warriors!

The Joy of Sharing

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Public speaking and “putting myself out there” has never been a strength of mine. I do it because I have to – it is part of my job and I am expected to speak in front of large groups of parents throughout the year.

This year, one of my goals and challenges was to get out of my comfort zone and push myself to improve in this area. (Be careful what you ask for!!) As soon as I  decided to work on this I was asked to give a presentation to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia principals on Genius Hour. Each October the principal’s meet in Avalon, NJ for three days of professional development and I was going to be one of the break out sessions. I was very excited to share the Genius Hour topic because I know how it has enriched our academic program as well as empowered our students to be creative and deep thinkers. However, the thought of talking in front of a room full of my peers and colleagues was daunting – was I really going to have something worthwhile to say and share? In the end, it was a good experience for me – I had lots of positive feedback and even a few principals who came to St. Pat’s to see Genius Hour in action so they could implement it into their school programs. IMG_1699

While I was preparing for the principal talk, a friend of mine was encouraging me to submit a proposal to the National Catholic Educational Association(NCEA). I jumped in with two feet and my proposal to speak about Genius Hour on a national level was accepted. A definite perk was that the national convention was being help in San Diego, CA,. What a beautiful place!

Right before I left for San Diego, a received a call from NCEA asking me to speak at their STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts, Math) Symposium at Neumann University. They asked that I share the STREAM water unit that St. Pat’s did in November.

As I prepared for all three of these talks I had the same thought: Why did I say “yes” to this? And, the answer to that question was always the same: it is because I was excited to share the wonderful things our teachers are doing here at St. Patrick School. I wanted to brag about the enthusiasm, the deep thinking, the collaboration, the planning, and so much more that SPS teachers do in order to improve student learning and engagement. I wanted to compare ourselves to other local and national schools and programs in order to gauge if we are on the right track. What I have found is that St. Pat’s is ahead of the curve – we are setting the bar and challenging ourselves to be better and better. Why? Because we want our students to be the best – we want our students to love learning and to have meaningful learning experiences.

Will I continue to do these talks? Yes, if I am asked. Will I ever be comfortable in public speaking settings? Probably not, but practice does make perfect! Will I continue to share St. Pat’s good news? Absolutely – even if it does mean speaking in front of large groups, because we have so much to contribute to Catholic education on a local and national level!

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