by Miss What's-Your-Name-Again?
Dear Principal What’s-Your-Name,
I have, very proudly, and on many occasions, boasted, “Give me a textbook and like five minutes, and I can teach anything. Whatever.” I consider it one of my finest qualities as a substitute teacher… maybe my only fine quality left, having long ago abandoned fluff like a positive attitude, attention to detail, willingness to follow directions because, well, you know, #streamlining. So this is a damn fine quality, and the last one I have so I better be good at it, right? And the day I come across something I just absolutely can’t teach, well, I should just stand on top of my desk, toss my lesson plans “make it rain” style, and go try to find myself a waitressing gig like a normal person who can’t have a steady job. And this was precisely what I was contemplating when you peeked in to check on my class.
So, to backtrack just a smidge, I was aware that you were a catholic school when I arrived at work this morning. The fact that you’re named something like “Our Lady of One Million Suffering Sad Things” tipped me off. And I am so cool with that! I find catholic school students to be exceedingly well-behaved, maybe it’s that good old-fashioned fear of God, whatever it is, I don’t understand it, but I’m down with it. It was, as a matter of fact, the moment when I opened the lesson plans and discovered that I was expected to teach a lesson in scripture, that I came as close as I probably ever will to understanding the fear of God, too.
It started off fine. Kids can sense blood in the water, you know, so I did my best to keep my cool and read the textbook passage like I was a sassy nun in “Sister Act” or something. Something about “treasuring God above all else”… seemed easy enough. Try not to let my faithless, “Well-I’m-Jewish-But-More-In-A-Cultural-Sense…” reveal itself in my “thou’s” and “thine’s” and whatnot. And it was fine, I was damn near through the entire lesson without bursting into flames. And then I uttered the most common phrase, something I say one million times in a school day, that I wished I could pray into oblivion as soon as it came out of my mouth, “Any questions?”
And that’s when one of your adorable kids raised his hand and asked, so sweetly, with such earnest concern, “But… what if I treasure my mom more than God? Is that wrong?”
I imagine it appeared as though I literally deflated. Like, I slowly shrank behind the podium, my insides collapsing on me as I stared, horrified, at his worried little face. I stammered things like, “Well, it says here that, um, you know– it’s not, I don’t know that it’s really a literal, um…” as the gravity of teaching you something I not only have no knowledge of, but something so subjective, something so important but for which I personally hold such a careless disregard, sank deep into my bones. And as his sweet little face, full of worry, watched me expectantly, I blurted out the gem you caught, as you peeked into my room, “Hey, look, you know– I think God gets that you’re going to love your mom more than him. Okay? God has got to be cool with the fact that you’re going to love your mom the most. It’s your mom, for Chrissake.”
If you know any restaurants who will take a neurotic, lazy, godless former-teacher with no waitressing experience, I would be very grateful. I imagine it might be a bit much to request a reference? Because, you know, #forgiveness.
God bless and stuff like that,