Tuesday, June 26, 2012


"For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare, not for woe! plans to give you a future full of hope."
-Jeremiah 29:11

I am a believer that everything happens for a reason. This is often a difficult philosophy to embrace, especially when seemingly bad things occur. In many ways, my life is proof of this scriptural passage.

First, I was deathly ill when I was first born. I was baptized in the hospital because I wasn't supposed to make it home. At the time, doctors couldn't even identify my illness. But, I survived.

Many parts of my adolesence, especially being picked on during middle school (but who wasn't?), taught me many lessons about treating all people with respect and dignity.

Much of my athletic career set me up for becoming the first athletic director of Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School - from getting cut from the basketball team, to joining the wrestling team (both in high school), to walking onto the football team at the University of Notre Dame and actually seeing the field. Even my first two years in coaching at St. Petersburg Catholic helped to shape my vision for what athletics should be in middle and high schools http://www.bmchs.com/canesathletics.cfm?subpage=743682.

My wife Emily and I grew up about 15 minutes away from each other in suburbs of Cleveland, OH. She went to an all-girls Catholic high school. I attended one of the three all-boys Catholic schools. We lived in dorms next door to one another in college and even had mutual friends. But, it took joining the Alliance of Catholic Education and randomly being placed in Florida for us to meet and become best friends and husband and wife.

I could go on and on about the connections between and among the many aspects of my life and how I have seen God's hand through them all. I haven't always been able to see It in the moment, but have been able to see Divine Providence at some point afterward.

It's what gives me the courage to believe that God has a plan for me and for all that is happening to me. He has plans for my welfare, for my future hope! It's not always easy, but trusting that God can take ANYTHING and make it work for His good is our challenge as believers. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans (8:28), "We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose."

In other words, I can see and I truly believe that right where I am in my life - no matter the storm, no matter the curve ball - is exactly where God wants me to be.

I can see and I believe that everything that's happened has led me to this...whatever this may be. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


As mentioned in my last blog, Rejuvenation, I mentioned the need for educators to find sources of inspiration during their summer break. As a way not only to rejuvenate myself but also to offer a source of inspiration to others, the focus of my blogs throughout the summer months will be inspiration.
For faithful readers of my blog, you may have noticed the short list of blogs that I myself frequent. Among them is a blog from Christian music artist Matt Maher (pronounced "mar"). Besides the music, the thing that draws me to Matt is that he is Catholic, and in a business where openly professing faith in a particular sect of Christianity - especially Catholicism - could have a detrimental impact on overall sales, his openness is daring. And what's more is that his knowledge of the Catholic faith is impressive. His songs have depth, many are based on Catholic theology and catechism or even Catholic prayers.

As a Catholic educator, his music can give a whole new meaning to praise and worship music.  

His latest single, Rise Up, is a song that uses its title as a rallying cry. Since receiving the album on which it is found for Christmas 2011, I have turned to this track multiple times throughout the past 6 months. Teachers must often rise up above their circumstances of being overworked, underpaid, unappreciated and underslept. Catholic schools must rise up above dwindling enrollments, limited resources and the opening of new charter schools touting a free "private" education. Teaching is difficult. Dealing with as many personalities / characters / family backgrounds / intelligence levels / etc. as there are students in a classroom is draining. Trying to lesson plan, grade, discipline, help with extra-curricular activities and communicate and work with families leaves little time or energy to do much of anything else.

Rise up.

Jesus tells us, "In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world" (John 16:33). Take courage. Fill your heart. Life is hard - even Jesus tells us so - but He has conquered it. We're playing for the winning team. No matter the score, no matter how low, discouraged, disheartened, or disillusioned we feel, rise up

Rise up.

Lambs will roar like lions. Prisoners will break their chains. The poor will find their treasure. Heaven is coming this way.

When life has got you down look at the One who has conquered the world...and rise up.   

Saturday, June 16, 2012


As a principal, I am well aware of the dangers associated with students sitting idle during their summer break:
According to the authors of a report from the National Summer Learning Association: 'A conservative estimate of lost instructional time is approximately two months or roughly 22 percent of the school year.... It's common for teachers to spend at least a month re-teaching material that students have forgotten over the summer. That month of re-teaching eliminates a month that could have been spent on teaching new information and skills.' http://www.rif.org/us/literacy-resources/articles/keeping-kids-off-the-summer-slide.htm

Therefore, I am a strong supporter of summer programs designed to keep students engaged in learning. I would probably even go so far as to be a proponent for "year round" schooling, with smaller but more frequent breaks spread out throughout the entire calendar year, including the summer.

Ideally, students and families would take advantage of the summer not only to relax and rejuvenate, but also to participate in experiential learning through trips to other cities, countries or to places like museums, zoos, or parks and recreational centers. Visits to the library (or downloads onto eReaders) would allow students to read for pleasure (it actually is pleasurable!); therefore, such trips / downloads would be frequent. Students would be encouraged to venture outdoors, or outfitted with creative toys like Legos or art supplies.

Even though I am a proponent of fighting against the summer slide, I (along with just about every educator across the country) embrace the upcoming 8 weeks of summer "vacation". For me it will provide ample opportunity to plan for the upcoming school year - purchasing new text books and supplies, designing class schedules, revamping / refining policies and procedures, cleaning, doing maintenance work, updating computers / technology, and planning professional development opportunities for my faculty and staff. I can't imagine not having a break during which I try to accomplish these things.

But, probably even more importantly, the summer weeks provide me the opportunity to tap back into the wellspring of inspiration to accomplish what is oftentimes an emotionally, intellectually and physically draining job. I'll listen to music. I'll read (for both business and pleasure!). I'll take some time to be with my family. I'll sleep more. I'll exercise more frequently. I'll pray - for my teachers, my students and our school's families. I'll look for sources of inspiration anywhere and everywhere I can find them.

I'll replenish. I'll rest. I'll refresh.

It won't happen by sitting idle for two months. It can't happen by staying in school year round.

Even Jesus went off by himself to pray...to rejuvenate.

Blessings to all for a safe, relaxing, fun and rejuvenating summer! 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Magic Powers

The 8th Graders at Incarnation Catholic School created a class book while in 2nd grade (during the 2005 - 06 school year) titled, "If I Had Magic Powers..." In it, each student was given a two page spread: one for their explanation of "magic" powers and the other for their accompanying drawing.

Many of the entries were typical of 2nd graders,

"If I had magic powers everything I touched would turn to gold and I would be President of the United States."

"If I had magic powers I would wish every day was Christmas. People would get lots of presents and see Santa and his reindeer."

"...I would fly away." "...my dog would fly with me." "...I could zap myself into my guineapigs size. Then no one would be able to see us. We would be able to sneak into Busch Gardens and go on all the rides." "...I could turn invisible and scare people on Halloween. I could scare my cousin on Halloween, too." "...I would turn people into frogs if they're mean to me." "...I would make Star Wars real."

"If I had magic powers I would go to the Milky Way and visit Planet Peace. The aliens there would be called Twonkeys."

Others, though, took on a much deeper slant:

"If I had magic powers I would make it rain money, so I could buy food for all people."

"If I had magic powers I would make sweets healthy for us. I would eat doughnuts, candy and ice cream all the time. They could only serve that in the cafeteria."

"If I had magic powers I would make everyone happy every day. And every day everybody would stop fighting and be nice to one another."

"...I could buy a bike and give it to a child who doesn't have one."

"...I would make kids smarter so they can pass all their tests."

"If I had magic powers I would make everyone stop fighting. And I would make war stop, too."

As products of a Catholic School, these 8th grade graduates may not possess magical powers with the abilities to visit the home of the Twokeys or even eradicate poverty, but they do possess gifts and talents to make our world a better place.

They may not have Midas's touch, they may not be able to defy gravity, and they may not be able to make the junk food that we put into our bodies any less unhealthy than we already have. But, because of the benefit of a Catholic education, they have have an education rooted in Christ, so they not only have knowledge but also a moral compass. Being formed as disciples of Jesus, they have been fitted into a Mold that won't allow the world to squeeze them into its own.

Some day they will pass policy that will provide food for all people. Some will figure out a way to establish and keep peace. They will impart knowledge. They will care for those who have less than they do. They will work to make people healthier. They will spread happiness.

They will take the world that they will inherit from us and do what they can to make it better than how we gave it to them.

Even as second graders they had a sense that the world was in need of fixing. That in some way, it was broken and that they were being called, by Jesus, to use their "magic powers" to make it better.

As products of a Catholic School, they may not have magic powers, but they do have heavenly ones - and those are about as magical as you can get.    

Congrats, ICS Class of 2012. Good luck and God bless.