This is a link to a great version of this song by the Doobie Brothers http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3aYJibxMOQ&feature=related
Here’s a shock for you all – I teach 7th grade Religious Education for my church. Believe me, it often takes me by surprise, too. Mostly when I am not prepared for the evening lesson.
Right about the time my daughter was conceived, I began my journey back towards my faith and God. I put aside my old rhetoric about hypocrisy, money and other crap and just focused on being a good Catholic. It worked for me. It worked for my family, as we wanted to raise our daughter in a faithful way.
One day, at the end of mass, the Deacon asked if anyone would like to help out as a hall monitor. Being that I was going to be bringing my daughter to CCD, and wanted to help out in the church a little more than just tithing, I volunteered. Easy, I thought. Make sure the kids are out of the halls and can find the bathroom.
Then one day I mentioned to the right person, that if they needed someone to fill in as a substitute teacher, I would be willing to give it a shot. Two days later the Deacon asked me to teach a class. Not just any class, but the 7th grade. For the whole year.
And really, how do you say ‘no’ to the Deacon?
So I got my materials together, mentally prepared myself the best I could and showed up at the school. As I was walking down the hall to my first class, I ran into a friend that also teaches religious ed. When I told her where I was headed she replied, ‘7th grade? Good luck, they’re the worst bunch to teach.
Oh, brother. What have I gotten myself into now?
So, I went into class with the mentality that it was going to be difficult to keep the kids focused (and it is, very much so). Drawing from everything I have ever experienced, the way you keep a bunch of unruly kids in order is to lay down the law – in a clear, firm, non-jocular and paramilitary manner.
That works for about the first three classes.
One of my famous quotes – “Sure as I am standing here, you will remember me saying this to you” (I say that because it sounds so ominous). “Some day you are going to need to know how to pray. Life is like that. And what are you going to do when that time comes? Stand there and say, ‘oh, geez, God, I, uh, well, uh, I don’t know what to say….how’s it goin’ up there?’ A lightening bolt will fly out of a cloud and fry you on the spot!”
For the most part they are good kids. For the most part. Some are more good than others. I wouldn’t call them dumb or naive, not by a long shot. But they are not street savvy. So I try to spice up my weekly hot air sessions with little vignettes from my long, checkered and oft times misspent life. They seem to like that, but I have to be careful what I say so they don’t decide to begin a ‘Birdlife’ of their own.
(Hey Teacher, I tried to make grease bread on the stove over the weekend. Mom says the I ruined two pounds of bacon and Dad said I almost burned the house down…)
They throw some tough questions at me that I have to give serious thought to (on the fly, no less) so that I can formulate a lucid answer.
‘Was Hitler (or Osama binLadel) the Devil?’ No, but I am sure they are speaking to him right now.
‘Do aborted babies go to heaven?’ Everyone goes to heaven. Jesus made sure of it.
‘Will I see my pet dog in heaven?’ As long as he didn’t pee on the carpet, ever.
‘Why do some people die young and others not?’ When their job is done here, God calls them home.
‘It says ‘thou shall not kill’, so what about eating animals?‘ The tastier something is, the more ok it is to eat them.
‘Do you believe in ghosts?’ For that one I usually break into a tale of the NJ Pinelands, foggy cedar swamps and the notorious Jersey Devil.
Being that they are only between 12 and 14, there are a lot of things that are very difficult to explain to them because they have not experienced life yet. So it is a challenge to distill a response into language and terms that a pre-teen can understand.
I never, ever discuss sex. I don’t even mention the word. In all seriousness I am not comfortable talking about it, I don’t feel it is my place and I am not interested in answering questions about it. Not ever. They will find out about that whole world soon enough on their own. No need to complicate things any further for them.
I try to get them to understand that their faith is important, but that they will come to understand that in their own time frame, like I did. That being said, I also let them know that when they decide to get their heads out of their asses and look to the sky searching for God, that putting forth a little effort now will go a long way towards their enlightenment then.
It’s difficult because they don’t view CCD as regular school and think that it is mostly an hour and a half of boredom. I understand that, but it is my job to push past that and get them to understand some basics about their faith.
On the last day of class I bring in ice cream sandwiches (the round ones, not the cheap rectangles wrapped in tissue paper) to try and make up for being rough on them all year. I don’t think it helps much. Inevitably the ice cream melts and coats everything from their hands, to their desks, to their books. And there is always one kid that doesn’t eat ice cream. I just can’t get past that. What kid, let alone one out of each class, doesn’t like ice cream?
So, you are free to call me a hypocrite, Sisters Nancy, Gale and Elizabeth. I certainly have earned it. You can gloat at me getting my comeuppance after the disinterest I showed in your classes.
However (of course there is going to be a ‘however’…) something must have gotten through, perhaps via osmosis –
(Osmosis – molecular movement from an area of higher concentration to an area of lower concentration via a semi-permeable membrane, like my skull)
– because when I decided to get my head out of my ass and look skyward I not only found Him, but saw that He was pleased with my return.