When a Baptist Sub takes Kindergarteners to Mass

Substitute teaching is the perfect job for me. I sub in public elementary schools and more often in two Catholic K-8 schools.

Every assignment brings with it a unique event, some funnier than others, some quite memorable. Being a believer in Christ, I find teaching in the Catholic schools my preference, as discipline is strongly in place, which provides each student a calm environment in which to learn. These students are respectful, smart, and get to pray at the start of most classes. I am able to pray individually with them if sports or play has given them an injury.

Today my assignment landed me on the front row at the 8:00 Mass with my 23 darling Kindergarten students; it was a packed-full sanctuary. Mind you, I have attended Mass about 50 times this school year, and I am learning the prayers, songs, responses, patterns of standing, kneeling and when to what. And while this Southern Baptist girl is frequently in Catholic Mass, she has not forgotten her roots or her beliefs. But still, I fear making a wrong move.

So my Kindergarten class took its place on the left two front rows in Mass. I instantly felt unprepared to be in such a highly visible location – what if I led these 5 year olds to kneel instead of stand? What if my ‘fail’ led to a look from the Priest, or worse yet, an assist from my Principal? (Neither is like to happen, but at least it might lead to an invitation to attend Catechism classes). I knew what I needed to do. I stepped back to the other Kindergarten teacher and told her I was uncomfortable sitting down on the front row. She told me it would be OK and to just watch and follow others behind me! I begged off so she agreed to switch with me; I now had her class, she had mine.

Within minutes of  being with this new class, one girl 3 students to my right, had her uniform skirt pulled up to her thighs, scratching madly at dry skin or an allergy to her mama’s new laundry detergent. That led me to lightly tap my finger and thumb to get her attention, frowning and shaking my head, then I did the two finger eye-touch and redirect to look at the priest. Five minutes later the boy beside me said loudly that the girl beside him was crying. What? Sure enough, the girl between him and the scratcher was sobbing, rocking the pew in upset, snot everywhere. I asked her what was wrong, but got only a mean look and no answer, so I sent her packing two rows in front to the other teacher. Another boy near me then asked for the paper puke bag. (At my last Mass at that school, I had 2 pukers). It was time to stand. I closed my eyes to pray, but instead asked myself, ‘can an evangelical girl really pass her way through Mass?’ That is when the miniature student right in front of me turned and said in full volume voice, “I can tell you’re not a Zombie.” Slowly shaking my head, I responded, “No, I’m a Southern Baptist.”

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