I started school in 1978. Apparently the educational institution is my siren song. I cannot escape her allure. Numerous times since ’79 school has deemed me done, but I keep going back. Last December I graduated from seminary. Done! Yet, you guessed it, I’m back in school. The Siren has called my name again.
This time I am back in school in a way I have never done school. For the first time in my life, I am a teacher. It is true that after I graduated from college I did some sub work for the elementary school I attended. It was going well until I subbed for my 4th grade teacher. A word to the wise. Your 4th grade teacher doesn’t want to see you after you graduate college. It makes them feel old. I was proud of the moment. I think it ticked her off. She was sick the next day as well. That was the last time they called me to sub.
So this time I’m not a sub, I’m real. My assignment is 9th grade Old Testament in a local Christian High School. Its only two hours, but I haven’t been in 9th grade since 1987. I remember my first day of 9th grade well. I went to public school. Compared to your first day of 9th grade at a Christian school, public school for a 14 year old is like turning yourself in to Alcatraz. You know you are going to get killed, but its the right thing to do. In public school your fear is the humiliation of the swirly (which consists of a much more post-puberty Senior with facial hair turning you upside down, sticking your head in the toilet, and flushing – hence the swirl-do of your hair), booking (which consists of a facial haired Senior coming up behind you and knocking all your books 67 feet down the hall), wedgie (you know what that is), or just a plain old fashioned beat down. I’m not sure what you fear in Christian school, perhaps getting called an Old Testament name? Brining the wrong translation to class and everyone laughing? I don’t know, but I am sure there are discomforting peer pressures in Christian School, but with more grace to them than Alcatraz.
So its 2012 and I’m back in 9th grade. The night before class was to begin I realized that in Christian School the classes are separated by gender. I would teach the girls and then I would teach the boys separately. In public school one gets that sort of separation for sex ed., apparently in Christian School one gets that sort of separation for Old Testament as well.
I thought that at 39 years old I was well acquainted with the differences between boys and girls. On the first day of school I learned there are more than I realized. The energy level of a class of 9th grade girls is at a different fever pitch than a class of 9th grade boys. Girls enter the classroom like gymnasts. 9th grade boys come to school like John Travolta.
The first girl in the classroom entered the room with a trot, hit the last row of desks and vaulted three desks landing perfectly in the first chair. Mary Lou, welcome to class. Within seconds the rest of the girls entered and I was barraged with questions offered at the speed and pep of a cheerleader. “What is your name?” “How do you pronounce Branam? Is it Braaanam, Braunum, Branum? How do you say that?” “Where do you live?” “Are you new here?” “I met your daughter.” All of this took place within milliseconds.
Our student pastor at my former church, Caleb, also taught school as a part of his ministry assignment at Ridgecrest. He would always come in with these classic stories of funny things students said. I envied him in this. I am now no longer in a position of envy, but experience. I asked the girls, as we were calling roll, “Tell me who you are and in 5 seconds give me one thing cool about yourself.” “One thing cool about yourself” is comparable to the 1980’s, “tell us what you did last summer.” A girl seated to my left said, “My name is _________ and in three years I will be a certified midget.” It took us awhile to recover from that moment. The next day I asked the same girl, “So what does that mean for your life? Does that mean you get a better chance at a scholarship?” Her answer, without missing a beat, “No, it means I get better parking.” Again, it took awhile to recover.
I must say that it has long been a dream of mine to teach. The students at CHS made my first week there great. 9th grade was uncomfortable for me the first time around, it feels much better this time around. We will see where we are by Spring Break. Hopefully the Sirens will not cause me to crash into the shore.