Back-to-School Special: Amy Cattapan’s New Book for Teachers

Just in time for the beginning of the school year, Ave Maria Press has released Amy J. Cattapan’s first nonfiction book, Sweet Jesus, Is It June Yet? 10 Ways the Gospels Can Help You Combat Teacher Burnout and Rediscover Your Passion for TeachingWritten for new and veteran teachers alike, this book is the perfect read at the beginning of the school year, offering Bible-based strategies teachers can use to battle discouragement, stress, and burnout.


As a fellow member and volunteer for the Catholic Writers Guild, I’ve known Amy for several years. She’s a middle-school teacher and author of two novels for middle- and high-school students, a Dame of Malta, an avid runner, and (in her free time?) recently completed an Ed.D. This summer, Amy organized the Catholic Writers Guild conference, a hybrid event with in-person and online speakers and attendees. Amy also hosts a YouTube channel featuring the “Cath-Lit Live!” video series, in which she interviews Catholic authors about their newly released books. Amy is energetic (as you can see from this list of accomplishments) and always ready to share what she’s learned with others. You can learn more about her work at



It was my pleasure to interview Amy about her newest book.

Is Sweet Jesus, Is It June Yet? for Catholic school teachers only?

The initial audience for the book was Catholic school teachers, but I’ve found that DREs and catechists are also relating to it, as well as other Christians who work in education. Basically, anyone who reads the Bible and does some kind of teaching can appreciate the connections between the Gospel stories and the work that they do.


How can homeschooling moms (or dads) benefit from this book?

Homeschooling parents can benefit in much the same ways that classroom teachers and catechists do. It can help them to focus on why they decided to homeschool in the first place, as well as find guidance for how Jesus can be a role model for them as educators as well.


What’s your advice for teachers who feel that admitting feelings of teacher burnout means that they’re not good teachers?

Even people who love their jobs and are very successful often go through periods of burnout. This is why we need to take breaks from our work and then come back refreshed. Feeling burned out is a normal reaction to caring about the job you do. If we are feeling burned out, it’s an indication that we’ve been pouring out heart and soul into the job. While it’s great that so many teachers care so much about doing a great job, we also need to remember that it’s necessary to step back and “fill our own cups” whenever we feeling like we are running on empty. Don’t forget how many times Jesus had to go away to a quiet place! If He needed rest and quiet, then so do we!


In one of my favorite chapters, “Jesus Knew When (and How Far) to Bend the Rules,” you mention the destructive power of negative attitudes. When I was teaching, I stopped eating lunch in the teachers’ lounge because of the negative attitudes among some other teachers. While I cut myself off from the cynicism, I also missed opportunities for sharing ideas and getting help. Is there a better way to handle that kind of situation?

Excellent question! I know many teachers who avoid the lounge; sometimes it is necessary to do that. However, that shouldn’t mean we isolate ourselves entirely. Try to find the coworkers with whom you can have constructive conversations. Seek out times that you are free, and make a point of connecting with that person(s) regularly — perhaps during a mutual planning period or even a few minutes before or after school. Also find ways to connect with teachers outside of your own school. For example, go to teacher conferences, talk to friends who are teachers at other schools, and participate in informal professional development opportunities, like the #CatholicEdChat discussions that happen on Twitter the first and third Saturdays of each month.


It’s providential that your book has been released just as teachers are beginning a second full school year with the challenges of pandemic restrictions. Which chapter would you recommend to teachers who are feeling anxious about this?

I would recommend chapters 8 and 10. Chapter 8 is called “Jesus Took Challenges in Stride.” We’ve had a lot of challenges over the last 18 months. Jesus can teach us how to handle them with grace. Chapter 10 is called “Jesus Knew When to Stop and Just Let It Be.” There is so much we can’t control during a pandemic. Jesus can show us how to let go of unrealistic expectations and focus on what we can do.

This book makes a great teacher gift!

Sweet Jesus, Is It June Yet? is available from the publisher, Ave Maria Press, on Amazon, and wherever you purchase Catholic books. If you’re interested in ordering multiple books for all your kids’ teachers, contact Amy about a discount code for bulk orders! (Don’t wait until Christmas to share this book with the teachers you know. They need it now.)

Copyright 2021 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Author photo courtesy of Amy J. Cattapan
This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I was given a free review copy of this book by the publisher, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

#Worth Revisit, Goldfish Edition

This morning I got a text message from my husband, who’s on his way to work (he carpools, and it’s not his day to drive):

“the one goldfish may have died.”

These carnival goldfish from a parish festival last October haven’t been looking too good. And I’m a little squeamish for this sort of thing. Always have been, ever since that time when, on my birthday, I was setting the table for dinner and I stepped on a fish that had jumped out of its tank.


Let me just say that there is no way I’m doing a well-being check on a carnival goldfish.

But there’s a funny memory of dead aquarium fish, and that’s the subject of today’s edition of Worth Revisiting.

From November, 2013:

Friday will be a challenge:  I’ll have 3rd grade, self-contained. I don’t think I’ve taught a self-contained class since I substituted during my college days. I’m used to kids coming and going every 45 minutes.

Here’s what happened the LAST time I taught a self-contained class. (Remember, I was still a college student.) It was a 3rd-grade class at the parish school where my uncle was the pastor. When the morning bell rang, I went out to the playground to collect my students. We entered the classroom and the kids got busy with their morning routine…until the kids whose job it was to feed the fish noticed that the class pet had gone belly-up in the aquarium. Pandemonium ensued, with all the girls shrieking and all the boys yelling, “The fish is dead! Can I flush it?” In the middle of all that, my uncle strolled by the classroom.

worth revisitCheck out the rest of the Worth Revisiting posts, co-hosted at Theology is a Verb and Reconciled to You!

Small Success Thursday: Kindergarten, Lattes and More!


Small-Success-Thursday-400pxThursdays at begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!


I’m done with my long-term sub job, and I’m at peace with that decision. “Drop-in” substituting is much more my speed, and based on requests I’ve already gotten this week, I’ll be busy enough. Yesterday I was in kindergarten, and I got lots of waves, hugs and yells across the cafeteria from my former foster-second-graders.

Tales from the kindergarten room:  I had to tell one child that Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” is not an appropriate song to sing at school. This brings back memories of my own kindergarten days, when my teacher kindly took me aside and informed me that I couldn’t sing “Pass It On” at (public) school.

And two kids cried during math. I can’t even figure out why one was crying, because he had the answers right on his paper.

magic school bus lost in snowOf course, the best part of the day in kindergarten is storytime. I let the class helper choose the story, and he picked a Magic School Bus book. WIN!

Then the kids decided they wanted to call me “Ms. Frizzle.” I guess it’s easier to pronounce than my real last name.


I gave myself permission to get rid of all those original boxes from my Christmas ornaments. Recycling, here we come! I’ll wrap things well in bubble paper or tissue. Matching ornaments to boxes takes forever, and it’s the whole reason I avoid putting away Christmas ornaments. Last year I avoided it completely. I just put the giant tub of unwrapped ornaments in the basement and ignored them. This afternoon I’ll turn on some mindless TV and get this job done.


0108151303I rewarded myself with a latte (Cinnamon Dolce!) after I managed not to lose my mind during a mother-daughter trip to ShopRite that involved lots of miscommunication, at least 3 items from the list not purchased, and plenty of opportunity (for both of us) to lose our tempers. Now I’m trying to figure out how to pronounce my new first name. (It’s usually the last name that people get wrong.) Look! I got an extra vowel–and an extra syllable. Do you think that final “e” is silent?


I finished off a case of Grumpy Martyr Syndrome (to which I am susceptible more often than I’d like to admit) by praying an Express Novena on behalf of a friend of mine who’s battling cancer. It’s really easy:  9 Memorares in a row for your intention, then a bonus Memorare in thanksgiving. Try it! And in your kindness, pray one for my friend G!

Share your Small Successes at by joining the linkup in the bottom of today’s post. No blog? List yours in the comments box!

Advent 2014: And So It Begins

To be honest, I don’t think I’d be feeling very Advent-ish at all this year if I weren’t forced to do so by my job.

But there are 18 second-graders in my foster classroom, and it’s my sworn duty to teach them all about Advent (hey, it’s actually in the curriculum! Their book has chapters for each season of the Church year.)

So before we headed off to Thanksgiving break, we made this:

Advent calendar 2014

Inside each little “door” of the calendar is an activity (fun, festive or devotional) suggested by the kids.

I also have Sarah Reinhard’s Welcome Baby Jesus book and I know how to use it. It’s perfect for this age group.

I bought a little tinsel tree at 5 Below yesterday and plan to have them make Jesse Tree ornaments to hang on it. Don’t know from a Jesse Tree? Don’t feel bad; I don’t either. I’m relying upon the extensive resources Christine at Domestic Vocation has compiled. You can even sign up for daily Jesse Tree devotionals.

Tomorrow we’re going to make little mangers out of cardboard jewelry boxes. I have a container of yellow basket filler. When the children do a good deed for someone else, they can put a “straw” in their manger.

Finally, I’m going to take the Holy Family out of the cloth manger scene (my kids’ baby toy) and let the students move them around the classroom, each day getting closer to the manger. We’ll start at my desk tomorrow.

Advent: Sublime, Ridiculous and SentimentalAround the house, it’s time to take out the manger scene and set up the empty stable. And, of course, we’ll have the Advent wreath on the dinner table.

I’m adding this post to the Catholic Bloggers Network Advent Linkup. Join in!

Grace of YES Day

grace of yes day header
Good morning, class! Today is Tuesday, November 18, 2014.

It’s Grace of YES Day.

grace of yes day classroom photo

A few weeks ago, I said “YES” to a long-term substitute-teaching assignment. I’ll be there through Christmas. I’ve gone into more detail on the subject here, but a “YES” to any teaching job is a “YES” to a gratifying, frustrating, entertaining, saddening experience. It’s not just a job; it’s a ministry.

The students and I keep their Regular Teacher in our prayers each day. She is dearly missed and we all hope she will return to good health, and her classroom, as soon as she can.

I pray for my foster-second-graders as I

  • hand out birthday pencils
  • give spelling tests
  • grade spelling tests
  • read chapters from Ramona the Pest
  • encourage reverence during Grace Before Snack
  • redirect children who use the wrong hand to salute the flag
  • line up the class for the bathroom. Again.
  • conduct science experiments involving rocks, water and flimsy plastic containers
  • enforce the “no sharing snacks” rule (we have allergies)
  • invent the “no shaking down other kids for snacks” rule
  • make sure the two Imaginary Students are not disrupting the class

This job saps my energy, creativity, and voice like no other.

And I love it. Even when I have outside lunch duty on 35-degree days and my hair is up because there’s a Head Lice Epidemic on the first floor and, well, I’m not willing to make that sacrifice for the kids…

Little Brother leaves notes on the board for my class before they arrive in the morning and visits us on his way to the nurse for his pre-snack insulin at midmorning. This “YES” has been good for him. I think he likes having me around his school. (He even hugs me in front of my class. Don’t tell him I told you this.)

It’s grace, pure and simple, that is getting me through these challenging days and weeks.

What’s your “YES” and how is grace making it possible? Share on Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #graceofyesday

Want to learn more about the Grace of Yes? Read my review of the book here and join the discussion at!

Teaching in Someone Else’s Shoes

This past week, I’ve been substituting for one of the second-grade teachers at Little Brother’s school. I’ll probably be there for the next couple of weeks, which is a little terrifying.

Substitute teaching is not just a job. It’s a ministry. And it definitely isn’t babysitting.

Substitute teachers minister to students who are used to the way their Real Teacher does things. Subs try to maintain the usual routines, learning them as they go along and finding out halfway through a task that their Real Teacher does things differently. The kids aren’t being rude or defiant–they’re looking for the comfort of the routine their teacher has so carefully established. In second grade, it’s all about routine. There’s even a procedure for sharpening pencils. I’m a big fan of procedures, but the kids know them and I don’t, so I’m at a disadvantage. This week has been Procedure Boot Camp in the second grade–for me!

Substitute teachers minister to parents who worry that without their child’s Real Teacher, the kids will fall behind or miss out on learning key concepts. We’re not doing busy work here; I’m not babysitting the kids. I am teaching them the next math chapter and helping them practice their spelling words. We worked on the Oxford comma this week (and I even taught them its official name, which was not in the book, but that’s just a bonus you get when your substitute teacher has an M.A. in English Literature.)

Substitute teachers minister to the principal, who wants to make sure that learning is happening, the children are following the routines already in place, and no one’s swinging from the light fixtures or getting hit by cars in the parking lot AKA recess playground (yes, I’ve had to prevent that last from happening.)

morning message
I love this teacher’s custom of a Morning Message. It’s a fun part of their daily routine.

Substitute teachers minister to the Real Teacher, especially when it’s a long-term situation. The sub walks that fine line of making sure the Real Teacher knows that the sub does not want to replace her, but just wants to do the best possible job as an unrehearsed understudy.

The students and I pray for their Real Teacher every day, which is a lovely perk of working at a Catholic school. It’s nice for me to be working, but I don’t want to poach her job. I know she’d rather be in her classroom with her students, and I’m trying to make it as easy for her to be away from them as I possibly can. When she comes back, I want her to just be able to step back into her usual M.O.

We’ve had our challenging moments, like today when I was frustrated because we were assigning next month’s classroom chores, and there was a dispute about whether someone could choose a job he’d already had in September, because “you can’t have the same job 2 months in a row” means, to some children, “you can’t have a job you’ve done before EVER.” I made an executive decision and shut down the dispute fast, and half the kids were not happy. Oh well.

We’ve also had our sweet moments. If someone drops a crayon box, half the class hits the deck to help pick them up–unasked. One child has measured me for a rubber-band bracelet. And yesterday when they were answering some questions from their religion book, they reached one that asked, “Who helps you learn about Jesus?” and a few of the kids asked if I would write my name on the board so they could spell it and fill it in for that answer.

I’m following someone else’s procedures and carrying out someone else’s lesson plans. I’m trying to be fair to my grade-partner teacher who is shouldering extra burdens as she helps me pick my way across an unfamiliar curriculum and grade level. I’m going home each day with tired feet and a tired voice and wearing chalk-dust smears.

I’m teaching in someone else’s shoes. They don’t quite fit me, but for the sake of the kids, the parents, the principal and the Real Teacher, I’m doing my best to make it work.


Overheard: The Classroom Edition

I’ve been substitute teaching a lot recently, and sometimes the things the kids say are nothing short of priceless. Here are a few samples I managed to scribble down:

7th-grader, upon hearing that we’d be eating lunch in the classroom because the cafegymatorium was set up for a graduation reception:  “Can we order some ribs?”

scissorsMe: “Tie your shoes.”
3rd-grader: “They came untied yesterday.”

3rd-grader: “This is my folder. It’s blue. It’s my new favorite color.”
Me: “Blue is a great color! What was your favorite color before?”
3rd-grader: “Well, I made something with my buddy…”

Actual 1st-grader-composed spelling sentence: “If you took my pencil, I would tell on you.”

Actual 7th-grade religion test answers:

  • The religious vows:  “chastity, obedience, patience”
  • The religious vows:  “poultry” (others left blank)
  • The theological virtues: “Don’t lip, Don’t cheat, Don’t steal”

Things Teachers Say:

  • “Tie your shoes.” (100 times a day, no matter what the grade)
  • “You don’t close the window by pushing on the glass.”
  • “Stop juggling scissors.”

image credit

Shifting Gears: Small Success Thursday

Small-Success-Thursday-400pxThursday is the day we celebrate those little achievements–not the trophy-worthy stuff, but the little things that make our day. Or week.

Join us at to share your little joys and give a pat on the back to the others who have shared!

Here’s mine. It’s a quick-and-dirty edition since the day has been crazy.


I’ve been substitute-teaching most of the week–3 school days out of 4 and I’m scheduled for tomorrow too. Today they called me at 8:20. I’d been to the gym, but hadn’t eaten or showered, since I figured I’d clean the house first and then get clean. “Can you come in today?”
“Give me an hour.”
I got there in 55 minutes, clean, dressed up, lunch packed, breakfast eaten, coffee in hand.

Of course, that change in the game plan meant that the house is rapidly approaching “hovel” status, but that’s what Saturday is for, I guess.


jeopardy OKFRI used the SMARTboard this week at school. I even wrote up a Jeopardy board that could go up on the SMARTboard, and we played the game to review key concepts in 7th- and 8th-grade religion.

It did make me sad that when we were playing Jeopardy, the kids didn’t know who I meant when I referenced “Alex.”


I listed about 10 books on PaperbackSwap over the weekend and have already off-loaded four of those. It’s a great way to get rid of books you’ve finished and to pick up new-to-you books. All you pay is the postage for books you mail out.

Never Off Topic

I spent Monday as a substitute teacher in second grade at the parish school. As my training is in secondary education, I’m used to students trying to derail any discussion in order to avoid doing work. Seven-year-olds don’t generally display that level of guile, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t stray off the subject during our school day.

Children that young just want to share. As soon as you mention anything, they make a connection and need to tell you–and the whole rest of the class–about it. Every once in a while, that can be a good thing, if you can manage to capture the moment.

raised handWe were in the middle of a language-arts lesson based on the story of an injured child riding to the hospital in an ambulance. Up goes a hand. “My mommy says that when you see an ambulance you should say a Hail Mary.”

Me:  “Yes, a lot of families do that. It’s a really good thing to do. When you see an ambulance, you can pray for the person who is sick or hurt and for the people who are helping.”

Student:  “And police cars too.”

Me:  “Right. That’s another good time to say a prayer.”

Other student:  “But just for the police. Not for the bad people.”

Me:  “We should definitely say a prayer for the bad people. Do you remember that Jesus told us we should do that?”

Class:  “Yes.”

Me:  “Jesus said that we should pray for people who hurt us, not just for our friends and family. Maybe the people who hurt us need even more prayers.”

Moments like this are why I love Catholic school. Our faith isn’t confined to the schedule block reserved for religion. It can (and should) pop up at any point in the day. I love that the children in this class feel free enough and comfortable enough to bring up the subject of prayer when the thought enters their mind–even during a story about a fictional ambulance ride. I pray that these lessons will be put into practice during a real emergency.

image credit