Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Learning my lesson

It's a good thing, every now and then, for a parent -- particularly a parent who has had a somewhat, shall we say, demanding attitude toward school personnel -- to stand for a time in a teacher's shoes and say, "Yowch! Somebody get me outta these things! They pinch!" That's the experience I had the other night as I filled in as an emergency subsitute for a sixth-grade religious education class at our church. I'd assured the religious-ed director that I would be very bad at the job, but could serve as a warm body in the front of the room if that's what they needed. It was.

Sixth-graders, let me tell you, are a tough audience. They alternated between stony silence -- this would be when I asked a question and waited for a response -- and fits of uncontrollable giggles -- this would be anytime else. I suddenly had sympathy for teachers who yell and threaten and withdraw priveleges from even the students who are behaving; it's unfair, sure, but you get to a point where you really would like to feel you're in control of something. In this case, though, I had, on the one hand, no particular priveleges to withdraw, and on the other, no particular responsibility to do anything other than survive the evening and deliver the children to their parents in one piece. That, I could do. And so I made them read the boring passages from their booklets and do the boring exercises therein, and if at the end of the evening I wasn't responsible for them growing more deeply in their faith, I also wasn't responsible for the fact that one girl didn't know how to spell the word "dinner," and one boy didn't know whether Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were Old Testament books or New. I'm just passing through, folks. These aren't my students. And I'm not really their teacher.

Thank God for that. And thank God for teachers who really do have a talent and a passion for their work. Standing in their place, bathed in flop sweat, made me want to kneel down and kiss the feet of anyone who can do this sort of thing for a living. I probably should snap out of that before daughter's IEP meeting on Thursday. I may still have to be unreasonably demanding, but out of respect, I will try very hard not to giggle.

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