Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Drink Texas, Eat Texas

When the heat becomes just about unbearable, as it has in Texas over the last couple of months or so, there are really only two ways to beat back the inferno—beer and ice cream—and there is really nothing better in the whole wide world than a cold St. Arnold’s or Shiner in a frosty mug followed by an even colder scoop, or three, of Blue Bell’s Homemade Vanilla.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Cross-Curricular Initiatives PPT Presentation

I put together a PPT today on cross-curricular initiatives for a STH faculty in-service. I'm not sure if I will even be presenting it yet, but it is definitely a subject that interests me greatly. I wrote my Master's Thesis on interdisciplinarity and its application in Catholic schools, so, yeah, I dig it. Let me know what you think! I realize that one or two of the slides got a bit blurred when I uploaded it to Google Docs. I apologize for that. You can access the PPT here or below.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Jesus' Fortitude Before the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes

Jesus’ altruism never fails to astonish me. Today’s Gospel reading from Matthew recounts the famous miracle of Jesus’ multiplication of the loaves and fishes. I have heard this story many times in my life, and it always strikes a chord and resonates with me. Usually the narrative focuses my attention on the Eucharistic mystery and its sacramental foreshadowing in Christ’s feeding of the five thousand. I have also wondered with exceeding wonder at the generous and gracious heart of our Lord and Savior. The perpetual kid in me sometimes dwells on the miraculous omnipotence of God to do so much with so little. This time, though, what caught my attention is Jesus’ fortitude and stark humanity.

At the outset of the reading, Jesus has just found out that John the Baptist has been executed, clearly an ominous portent of what is to come in his own life, and he withdraws to be by himself in the comfort of solitude. Jesus’ prayer and isolation are interrupted, no disrupted really, however, when the masses pursue him ravenous for his teaching. Can you imagine the emotional turmoil and inner conflict that Jesus must have felt? The reality of his terrible destiny at the cross is beginning to dawn on him with the death of the prophet. He must be feeling real fear and struggling to get a handle on it before he continues with his mission. Instead of rest and convalescence, Jesus finds a mob at his feet testing his mettle even further. And how does he respond? The only way he knows how to: with love and the breaking of the bread. You just gotta love this man! It is a real test of courage to put aside his own personal angst to shepherd his needy people and to satiate their spiritual and physical hunger. Jesus does so without complaint in the true spirit of charity. It is easy to put my faith in such a warm and hospitable savior.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Why I Love Zombie Fiction

For some, it’s vampires. For others, it’s witches. For still others, it’s ghosts. But for me, it’s all about the zombies. In the last few years, I have been ravenously gobbling up these stories like one of the living dead greedily slurping up a still bloody strip of man flesh. I cannot quite place my finger on exactly why I have such an uncanny interest in these spine-tingling narratives, but maybe it has something to do with their exploration of the dark side of humanity, like all occult subjects; or perhaps, it is, ironically, their curious spotlighting of man’s fundamental goodness that can never quite be snuffed out no matter how hopeless a post-apocalyptical world may seem; however, maybe it is the versatility of the zombie flick aesthetic or its seemingly universal applicability to the germane social issues of the time; finally, I wonder it if it is just one of those pesky “all of the above” answers that test-makers plant at the end of a sequence of multiple-choice questions to make test-takers question their gut instincts and ponder if this is a trick question or not. No trick questions here. It’s definitely all of the above.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Frakking & Fracking: Best Homophones Ever!

Growing up in a house with four brothers and then teaching at an all-boys high school, the crass culture of cussing has been with me all my life, but now that I am a teacher I have to watch my language. Enter Battlestar Galactica to save the day. By substituting frakking, frakked, or frak in place of that other very familiar four-letter word beginning with the letter f, I have been able to avoid blurting out a word that might jeopardize my job security or taint my character.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Playing Chicken With Our Economy

Playing chicken with our economic security is probably not the best or surest method of problem solving in a national crisis, nor is it a particularly exemplary model of leadership. Frankly, it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth and leads me to wonder if there is anyone out there not disillusioned with the political process yet. I’m sure there are a few idealists left, but there numbers are surely dwindling as representatives on both sides of the aisle prove obstinate in their unwillingness to budge on the issue and break the current partisan quagmire.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Are Graphic Novels Literature?

Incisive, germane, and avant-garde, graphic novels have hit full stride in the last two decades and deserve recognition as a fecund and vibrant art form, an art form at least occasionally worthy of the appellation of literature. The best examples of the graphic novel genre possess the key hallmarks of great works of literature: original plot lines, potent conflict, rich characterization, refined detail, meaningful dialogue, and complex themes that tackle the sophisticated concerns and sensibilities of the postmodern zeitgeist.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

On "Of Gods and Men"

Exploring the very heart of fortitude, “Of Gods and Men,” a stunning film by Xavier Beauvois that garnered the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010, examines the internal turmoil and spiritual angst of a group of Trappist monks in Algeria in the mid- 1990s who are torn between their commitment to serve as shepherds to the local community that depends upon them and their palpable fear of death at the hands of Islamic fundamentalists.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Proud of STH!

Well, this is shaping up to be a banner year for St. Thomas across the board. Let me just give you a rundown so far. We won state titles in wrestling and basketball and came in runner-up in cross country. We had a football team with a winning record by the end of the season. Baseball is still undefeated besting Strake at their place. The rugby team knocked off Dallas Jesuit, the defending state champions. We won the TAPPS Academic District competition for the second year running. We set a new record for Round-Up with $379,603 raised for students on financial assistance. We qualified our first debate team for the TFA State Tournament in years AND our first team in school history for the NFL National Tournament in Dallas this June. Concert Band, Jazz Combo, and String Ensemble have all advanced to the state music competition. The Drama Department is preparing what will surely be a memorable performance of Shakespeare's Macbeth. We have nearly completed work on a new parking garage, and money is coming in to build a new athletic center and science classrooms and lab space. The crazy thing is there are probably a number of accolades that I have forgotten. There is a great vibe at STH these days. Magic seems to be in the air! Eagle Fight Never Dies!

Friday, March 4, 2011

An Elegy for Karol Wojtyla

My English I students were required to write an elegy after reading and reviewing Al-Khansa's moving tribute to her sibling in "On Her Brother." I promised to participate as well. Here is the simple poem that I wrote this morning for Pope John Paul II who played no small part in my faith life as a young man.
           On Karol Wojtyla

Who would have thought that manliness
And gentleness could live in bliss?

Who would have thought that manliness
And tenderness could coexist?

Who would have thought that manliness
And holiness would be so missed?

His boundless energy bounded
And rebounded beyond the bounds

Of life. He smiled much from the Sun's rays
And much joy and much hope filled his days.

His zeal for the commonweal
Bespoke the love within the seal

Of his heart’s nature, and the flame
Of Nature’s heart would brook no blame,

Nor besmirch his kindly soul with
Ill thoughts or sinful deeds forthwith.

Truly, this was a saintly man,
A man who loved to serve in God’s plan.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

University Resources at our Fingertips

I am rather curious how many educators out there are taking advantage of the increasing range, diversity, and quality of university resources available to us in our classrooms free of charge. For many years, I have referenced and incorporated Harvard's Chaucer page when covering The Canterbury Tales and Princeton's Dante Project and UT's Danteworlds when reading The Divine Comedy. I have also availed myself of one OU professor's materials on mythology.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Augustine's Political and Theological Realism

One of my colleagues at work, Judy Granberry, is making her way through selections from St. Augustine’s magnum opus, The City of God, with her Adv. English I students. She sent me the following question and what follows is my response to her inquiry:
Adam - What is Augustine suggesting about free will when he asserts that one community of men is "predestined to reign eternally with God, and the other to suffer eternal punishment with the devil"? Is this contrary to his argument that by living rightly we may obtain the supreme good and escape the supreme evil?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Oscar Wilde: Harbinger of Matrimony's Decline

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves.”       (Matthew 7:15)

Jesus’ words ring especially true of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, for this memorable play is most definitely a wolf masquerading in sheep’s clothing. The mood of the work is light, witty, satirical, even playful, yet it engages in the most deliberate and determined subversion of traditional mores and values of the Victorian age and our own. It is no wonder that George Bernard Shaw penned a scathing review denigrating Wilde’s work as “real degeneracy.”

Monday, February 28, 2011

In Honor of the Devil...

My Speech students have started working on their Devil’s advocate speeches. For those trivia diehards out there, the popular expression comes from the Advocatus Diaboli, a canon lawyer whose purpose was to seek out evidence and make a case against the canonization of any candidate for elevation. Pope Sixtus V established the office in 1587 and Pope John Paul II abolished it in 1983, paving the way for a dramatic increase in the number of canonizations. At any rate, my students will not be attempting to demonstrate the sanctity or lack thereof of any individual; instead, they will have to articulate a position on a divisive political issue from a vantage point with which they would normally disagree.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Waiting for "Superman," Protests in Wisconsin, and Personal Reflections

Davis Guggenheim’s “Waiting for ‘Superman’” is a trenchant and timely documentary on the myriad problems plaguing the U.S. public school system. The film’s investigation of the deleterious effects of teachers’ unions struck me as especially poignant in light of the recent protests in Madison, Wisconsin. Teachers there shutdown several school districts as they marched on the capital to protest Governor Scott Walker’s plan to limit the powers of the unions.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Clickers for AP MC Practice

I tested out the Clickers technology with my AP English IV class today. The results were a huge improvement over my previous approach to AP MC practice questions.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Autonomous Islands or Constellations of Meaning?

There have been some discussions over the last few years about the possibility of interdisciplinary projects at St. Thomas. Sadly, most attempts at cross-curricular work have fallen flat because curricula do not sync up perfectly across disciplines, assessments are notoriously difficult to craft collaboratively due to divergent methodologies and rubrics, and the school culture seems ambivalent towards interdisciplinarity in general at times.