Wednesday, January 31, 2007


For Catholic Schools week, the student council put together a little powerpoint presentation about what they like about each of the high school teachers here. Each page had a picture of the teacher and 3-5 qualities they appreciate about you, along with other related illustrations to emphasize your qualities.

It's funny to see what they think about when they think of you. For me they wrote:
Fastest Teacher
Loves to Laugh
Coolest Incoming Beard
Palm Pilot!

#5 is there because I have never let my beard grow out until this month. It started to come out different colors (salt 'n' peppa!) so I decided to see what it looked like. The worst comments I've gotten involve the "S" word (scruffy) and the best comments involve words like "distinguished" and "professorial."

#6 refers to my grade book. I keep my grades on a Zire 72, which is also my camera and video camera, my MP3 player, my calendar, memo pad, rolodex, and breviary (Liturgy of the Hours in Latin!)

OK, enough bragging about myself. But in my humble profession you get rewards like this that money can't buy.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Catholic Schools Week

My personal way of celebrating Catholic schools weeks is to open Math class with a simple Hail Mary prayer, and afterwards shout, "I love teaching in a Catholic School!" I love the bewildered faces of the students (and the few knowing smiles among them).

My reason for doing this: my two former positions were a public school and a non-Catholic private school. To finally be at a school where I can not only freely express my faith in and through my work was as much a relief as it was a great joy.

You may not think that the Faith has any bearing whatsoever upon teaching mathematics, but you would be wrong. The question, "How do we know what is true?" is a crucial philosophical question that I pose and try to get students to think about. I clearly state when the answer to the question leaves the "math" territory and enters philosophy, and then theology. How succesful I am at getting teenagers to understand is debatable, but at least at my Catholic school, I can approach the question without fear of getting in trouble. I have a friend in public school who has been disciplined and may eventually be forced out for talking about his beliefs in the science classroom.

Incidentally, the US House of Representatives is honoring Catholic schools, as they usually do. We'll leave the state of U.S. Catholic schools today for another post.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Third post, 2nd try

So my first attempt at a blog was marred too many perfectionistic expectations of myself.

It was my third post that killed me.

What third post, you ask? The one I never posted because it got so convoluted and arcane that I could never finish it. I think it was about an article in First Things I had read. It was how the Fathers of the Church are making a comeback. I guess I should just have said something simple like, "I like reading the Fathers of the Church, too, especially St. John Chrysostom" and leave it at that. Instead I tried to be too scholarly and too high-falootin'. Anyway the article is here.

The thing I liked best was his point identifying the Fathers as men steeped in Scripture, and how we needed to be steeped in Scripture too in order to renew our culture and save it from the modern Barbarians (or even from the post-Modern Barbarians).

I was also trying to use that post as a way to introduce myself a bit more to my readers. I was born into a Lutheran family in the early 1960's. After my parents divorced during the cultural hurricanes of the 70's (we were the first family of all 4 on my block to implode that decade) I lost the faith, only to regain it through reading Scripture with Evangelicals at my public high school. They loved Scripture and they helped me steep myself in it. (Later I converted to the Church with the help of a beautiful Catholic girl I met my junior year in high school. That's another story.)

If you ask me, good, solid, directed Scripture study is what Catholics need more that anything right now, from praying the Psalms to memorizing chapters of Paul's epistles (like I used to do in high school, influenced by the Bill Gothard seminars.) Putting that Scripture into practice creating new traditions or restoring ancient ones, more than anything will help us to renew our little parts of the world which we inhabit.