Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Teaching Teenagers and a Sub Story

Every now and then a teacher will tell me a memorable anecdote, and last week a substitute teacher at our elementary school told a group of fourth and fifth grade teachers a unique experience she had at the nearby middle school.

That's what we call 'em here in New Mexico. Middle schools. In other parts of the country they call them junior high schools, but they're the same thing, and they are filled with kids who, when interrogated, will state their unequivocal belief that they are smarter than me. I don't teach teenagers. Or at least I try not to, except for that one moment when I got conned to teach teenagers.

It happened at my church, for heaven's sake. I was having a grand time teaching fourth and fifth grade elementary Sunday School. However, there was a class of about nine or ten junior high and senior high school teenagers without a teacher, and somebody asked me to switch classes and teach the teenagers.

I told them, "Oh no! I'm not doin' that! I'm not stupid. I can't teach kids that age."

The congregation member/Christian /salesperson / shimmy shyster /snake oil peddler on the other end of the conversation said, "But you're a professional teacher with capabilities and experiences far beyond that of any normal human adult. And don't forget, you'll be teaching children who are believers in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior, and they will be at Sunday School ready to learn more about God's Word found in the Bible. And you have been through five years of BSF and are very knowledgeable on the Old and New Testament. If anyone can handle this job, you can."

I'm ashamed to say I fell for that crud, and replied, "Yup. Yup. Dat's me. I can do dis. Gives me da job!"

Five Sundays later I quit, with a resignation letter to the Sunday School Superintendent, informing her that the God-fearing teenagers in our congregation had emotionally driven me to bended knees on a dead end street. Half of them had told me on more than a dozen occasions that they were far more intelligent than me and any of their previous Sunday School teachers, and they were always askin' me what in tarnation I was mumblin' about, and they told me that everything I said and ever would say would be under immediate scrutiny as a lie, and they asked where was my hair, and then after gettin' personal like that and leavin' me exposed, so to speak, they questioned my credentials as a Bible teacher. One of the boys had expressed his concern, on more than a few occasions, that I apparently was an evil man who was corrupting God's Word, was on my way to Hell, and mentioned something about Dante's Inferno, and brought up the idea that maybe my imminent and welcomed death would necessitate a tenth level of hell being developed especially for human frailities such as myself, and one of them told me to quit asking them to sit down and pay attention, followed by an aside about different learning styles and that some people were "mobile learners."

I told that story to that lady, that substitute teacher at our elementary school, and she agreed. "Oh I hate subbing at middle schools. The kids have no respect for authority and are incorrigible."

Then she said something that caught everyone's attention in the teachers' lounge. Everyone stopped chewing and listened as she told us this inspirational story.

"I do have one shining moment as a substitute at the middle school. One day I was subbing in a seventh grade classroom, and during social studies I was hit in the face by a spit wad. It was a big, wet, juicy spit wad. I didn't see who did it, and I felt humiliated, and I was upset, and I asked the class, 'Who was it that threw that spit wad?' Of course, no one answered, so we went back to reading the textbook, but I was so upset by the incident that I lowered my head, closed my eyes, and prayed to God. I prayed, 'Dear God. Please help me find out who it was that threw that spitwad. It isn't right that this student gets away with that type of abuse to a woman they don't even know. I know it's impossible for me to find out who it was, but I would appreciate some intervention on your part, Almighty Creator, to help me do the impossible and reveal to me the perpetrator. Please help me find out who it was.' At the very instant I finished my prayer, I opened my eyes, looked up, and lo and behold, there was one of the boys in the class with his arm rared back and ready to hit me with another one o' those nasty spit wads. I caught him right in the act! It was wonderful!"

All of the teachers in the elementary school teachers' lounge nodded their heads in agreement, expressed acknowledgment of and appreciation for the Creator working in our lives, and offered up a silent thankful prayer to the Infinite Being and Lord of Lords for making us elementary school teachers.

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