I loved school when I was little. I was one of those little girls who could sit quietly, follow directions, and refrain from shouting out answers. In second grade, I actually begged my mom to let me go to summer school because I didn’t want to leave. This week I was faced with my antithesis. I was assigned a classroom full of squirrelly, wild, eight-year-old boys who would strongly prefer playing basketball to gluing tiny antennae onto felt bees. I can’t say I blame them on that one. The girls’ crafts looked just like the picture on the bag: each bee meticulously placed on its hive, surrounded by flowers and glitter. The boys’ crafts sported piles of glue and headless bees with antennae sticking gruesomely out of their sides. My co-teacher and I gave up on the craft thing. They had to attempt the craft, but after that they could go play basketball.
I very much overestimated my ability to control a classroom. I can’t say it helped when the games leader told our class to run, screaming, through the tunnel of middle school helpers. They followed that direction well, and then continued to run, screaming, through the church patio and up the stairs to our classroom as I desperately chased after them. “Yes, I know he told you to scream.” “Yes, I know he didn’t say when to stop.” “Tomorrow let’s all stop screaming before we enter the church office.”
I thought I had hit on a moment of brilliance when I kept them quiet between snack time and craft time with a game of “telephone.” I had forgotten that with a group of eight boys and four girls, “love Jesus” will always turn into “fart pants” somewhere along the line. I recognized myself in the little girl who just shook her head when the forbidden phrase reached her. “Charlotte, do we need to start a new game?” She nodded.
Today, we spent about a half hour in the sanctuary with our class, teaching them about prayer and worship. My co-teacher had dragged a large wooden cross to the center of the stage. The cross is covered in old nails, left over from an Ash Wednesday service exercise where people nail slips of paper to it. I remembered why I love working with kids when a boy in my class walked up to me and asked: “Teacher, is that the real cross that Jesus died on?” I bit my lip, trying to keep the laughter out of my voice. “No, it’s just to remind us of what the cross looked like.” “Oh, okay. I was wondering why there are so many nails.”