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A Religion Teacher

Posted by margaretpeterson - June 29th, 2012

Back in the early 1960s, it was impossible to obtain nuns to staff the school for religious education so the people of the parish had to try to fill in.  There was only one requirement – a car.  If you didn’t have a car, you cared for the children of a mother who did have one.  Unfortunately, I had a car.  A car is not a vocation.  First, I failed at teaching the first grade.  The high point of the year was when someone heard some mice running around in a box and I took them outside and let them go.  Everyone thought I was brave.  The next year I changed to fourth grade.  It was misery personified.  I asked the nun who was in charge if I could quit, as I had no vocation to teach.  She said, “I’ll decide that!”  She proceeded to sit in the back of the room at my next class.  It was amazing how quiet it was.  The Sister said, “You definitely have a vocation.”  I said, “No, I don’t.   I had you sitting in the back of the room and you’re wearing a black habit!”  My words meant nothing but there was one slim chance for escape.  If a person could be on their way to motherhood again, then they were excused!  To this day, I have a special love for our fifth child.

Quite a few years went by and when I finally realized I needed God completely, I turned my life over to Him.  Whereas before if someone told me I was pretty, I felt myself to be a success; now I had warmer, lasting feelings when I could help someone.  Joy was serving God where I was.  I didn’t even have to step out of the house.  Life was sweeter.

Three years later, I knew I had to go back to teaching religion.  I decided to teach the grade that was the worst – fourth grade.  Could the Sister have been right?  I couldn’t believe the difference in the classroom when I lived with God more closely.  I had a quiet class without the nun sitting in the back of the room.  It was great!  The following January, I woke up in the middle of the night and started thinking about the religion class.  I wondered how there could be such a great change in me and yet the only difference in the class was that it was quiet.  All of a sudden, I got a great idea from God of an example of life with Him and life without Him.  I could hardly wait to tell the class and they loved it.  The following week I wondered if God could please give me another example, and He did!  It evolved to every week praying and receiving examples just right for the class.  Examples like an airplane with and without wings.  God is the wings and we cannot rise high without Him.  After some time He added giving students a gold star on Wednesdays if they did a good deed every day just for the love of Him and have them tell the class the best deed of the week at treat time.  Also, the student should daily say, “I love you, God, please guide me” before they get out of bed in the morning so the day belongs to God and He can guide them through it.  Saints books were added that could be read in about twenty minutes and one piece of candy was given for every book read.  Actually, Jewish people operate on the same principle – after a child learns a passage in the Bible, they receive something sweet so they learn that the Law of God is sweet and to be treasured.

Some people wonder why I’m still teaching.  I say that after going to Mass on Sunday, this is the high point of my week.  A type of niche.  I treasure it, love the children, and will be sad when it is time to leave the world.

 No matter how many credits a person accrues in the field of religion, nothing compares with inviting God to come with you into the classroom and help you say what He wants you to say and open the children’s minds to receive it and retain it.  I’ve seen difficult children change into sweeties and I know it’s God’s grace!

 Maybe the nun was right.


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