Mrs. God

Teaching the Catholic faith to a roomful of often mischievous first graders may not appear to be an enjoyable experience for most adults, but it is for me. I have taught first grade for longer than most of my children are old, so nothing should ever come as a surprise to me, right? Wrong.
All sorts of questions and perplexing problems are presented to me on a fairly regular basis:
“Why does that man in front of the church wear that big long green thing?”
“Why do we kneel so much?”
“Does God know when I kick my dog……..even if I do it in the dark?”
Sometimes it takes enormous restraint to control my laughter in trying to acknowledge my students.
A friend of mine was extremely frustrated with her third grade student. Upon asking him what the four marks of the Catholic Church were, the poor child thoughtfully responded, “Mark the Apostle, Mark the teacher, Mark the preacher, and Mark the Gospel writer.”
A high school teacher was equally stymied when she reviewed the subject of sin with her class. “What are the two types of sin?” she asked. An energetic fellow raised his hand and bellowed, “I know, Mortal and Vertical.”
My own son, after receiving the sacrament of reconciliation for the very first time, jumped up in the air and blurted directly in front of the confessional, “YAY! I have no sins!”
One frigid day in early January, a new student entered the room with her grandmother. She was quiet, reserved, and obviously uncomfortable. She had long chestnut hair and brown soulful eyes. We welcomed her to our class and then I proceeded with our lesson of the week according to my usual routine.
Always wanting to encourage participation from the children, I began to coax answers out of them in whimsical form. I feel that laughter is important and helpful in absorbing the lesson. If they aren’t enjoying anything about my class, I have doubts that anything will be retained. All of the children responded with answers as well as a fair share of questions…..some on target, some way out of the ordinary. All except my new little girl Emily—she remained steadfastly silent. No amount of cajoling would produce even a whisper from this waif of a child. Her head was lowered and it appeared as if I and the rest of the class ceased to exist in her world. Not wanting to embarrass her, I kept on with my routine.
Class was finally over and little Emily slipped out before I could take her aside and talk to her. Her grandmother must have been right out the door, for when I went looking for her, she was also nowhere in sight. Being a bit on the sensitive side, I felt like I failed this child. I began to question my lesson plans as well as my style of teaching. Maybe I should have been more “teacher-like,” using workbooks, and writing extensive lessons on the chalkboard. Maybe I made her uncomfortable because I tended to joke around a lot; I don’t know, but for the first time, I was unsure if I was up to the task of a room full of six and seven year olds.
The week passed by rather quickly, and my thoughts settled on little Emily and my first grade class fairly often. Sunday morning found me sitting at my desk taking attendance. As I began to check off the absences, a dark shadow loomed above my head. Looking up I recognized Emily and her grandmother. Emily gave me a shy smile and scooted off to her seat. Her grandmother shook my hand and introduced herself. “Emily couldn’t stop talking about your class all day last Sunday,” she remarked.
“Really?” I questioned, “She seemed so quiet and reserved, I was hoping she wasn’t uncomfortable.”
“No, she loved your class and said she learned a lot and that you were funny,” stated the grandmother. “Only there is just one thing?”
“Yes?”
“Well, I asked Emily what your name was and she said, ‘I think it is Mrs. God……….’”

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