Confession #27

I am as smart as a fifth grader.  Not because I went to college, but because I am a substitute teacher.  When it comes to math, however, I am probably as smart as a fourth grader.  Jumping into lessons plans at the elementary level can be daunting for someone new to common core.  To put things into perspective, when I went to school, teachers told us to sit in politically incorrect Indian style on the carpet.  I have no idea in which year criss cross applesauce became the norm.

Of course students pushing limits and outright lying comes with the substitute territory.  There are classes though, where all hope is not lost due to a few respectful students.  I’ve encountered a multitude of students – geniuses, autistic, smart but they don’t apply themselves, and low IQ.  What frustrates me are the kids that I know have the brains but choose to misbehave.

Typically, the low achievers come from dysfunctional households.  I can spot them a mile away now.  They’ll either be the next Bill Gates or living in someone’s garage. It’s a real toss up which way they will go.   I find a lot of these types of kids in Title 1 schools.

You feel the difference walking into a Title 1 school immediately.  You see it in the classrooms, with bare bone materials, run down equipment and even the lighting.  The lighting, you ask?  Yes, I say.  The other day I subbed at a non Title 1 school and the teacher used subtle multi-color lights instead of the harsh fluorescent ceiling lights.  It created a calming atmosphere, not a harsh institutional feel.

When I sub at a Title 1 school, I need my handy whistle at times to get the kids to focus at the front of the room on me (I never could figure out how to do the finger whistle).  The whistle was intended for herding the kids when their outside recess is over.  But I’ve found it works indoors to startle the children into silence so I can tell them what to do next.

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Only in Title 1 schools have I been told by a teacher, if said child wants to walk out of the class when he feels like it just let him or he might throw a desk at you.  Only in a Title 1 school have I heard tales from a second grader who was enmeshed in subjects beyond her years such as her drug addicted father she wasn’t allowed to see.

I am not saying family dysfunction does not occur in Non Title 1 schools.  I just notice the dysfunction manifests itself more overtly within the Title 1 schools with violent and disrespectful behavior.

As a sub, my job is to educate my class according to the teacher’s wishes.  Discipline becomes a huge part of that role when students perceive you as a pushover and/or family background obstructs academic achievement.  To be perfectly honest, there are days I leave a school thinking I feel sorry for the main teacher and for those kids’ parents.  I only had to spend 8 hours with them.  I can wash my hands of it and choose to never step foot in that classroom again.  But I also feel bad for the kid who is marginalized and criticized to the point where he has lost belief in himself.

Don’t even get me started on middle school and high school.

Confession #26 (Jewish Sasha Fierce)

I picked out my white Marilyn Monroe style wedding dress, the pearl baby’s breath hair pins, and an understated cubic zirconium round cut pendant.  My choices were more limited as the wedding planner presented my fiancé and I with a small menu of options for the bouquet, the boutonniere and the celebrant.  This was a fancy elopement – vows taken on a gondola in the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas.  We contemplated Elvis marrying us but neither one of us were big enough fans of the Pelvis to warrant that.

I’m Jewish and my husband is agnostic and since we were getting married on a Saturday, the rabbi wasn’t available (yes, they actually will provide one at the Venetian).  We decided on a civil  ceremony, and agreed to a secular sermon complete with phrases about the joyous union of two people and a man and woman facing the world stronger together. God was not involved.

Unfortunately, when we arrived at the designated meeting spot, the pastor asked me if he could say the word God during the ceremony.  I honestly thought he would mention God only once, maybe twice.  I hesitated, and against my better judgement said yes but he could not mention Jesus.  He snidely commented “Ok, I won’t try to baptize you either.”  At that point, I should have rescheduled the wedding but the gondolier called our name to embark on our journey to marriage.

Before the wedding day, I familiarized myself with the passages he would read.  However, as we floated down the fake Venetian canal on our wedding day, my head started to spin.  The pastor not only brought up God several times, he went completely off book and referenced the Bible and the Lord.  The pastor had co-opted my wedding!

I sat there torn between looking deeply into my almost husband’s eyes and pushing the pastor overboard.  I hated the fact that I was angry during my wedding ceremony.  I hated the fact that someone else imposed his beliefs on one of the most special days of my life.   I hated the pastor at the moment I was to profess my everlasting love to my fiancé.

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My husband and I with Antonio (I actually have no idea what his name is) before being double crossed by the pastor.

I sat there wondering if I should speak up but decided not to because I did not want to cause a scene during our wedding.  My husband had no idea what was going on in my head as this was the one time I stayed quiet while deeply upset.  I didn’t want to ruin our special day, yet I let this selfish pastor ruin it for me.

You might think, “how apocalyptic to say RUIN your special day.”  My husband said later “It’s not about the ceremony, it’s about marriage.” as I cried to him how disgusted I was with the pastor and insulted by his arrogance.  While I understand these sentiments, a bride has expectations.  She is the queen for the day and an insolent pastor has no right to fuck with that.  I complained to the wedding planner and told her she should never let that man officiate for a civil or non-Christian wedding ever again.

Four months later we invited a few friends to celebrate our matrimony at a dinner party.  Before the meal, each person took a turn to read one of The Seven Blessings, a Jewish ritual from ancient rabbinic teachings.

In reality, I am not a religious Jew, however, when the pastor turned my secular wedding into a Baptist oration, I felt betrayed.  I don’t keep kosher or stop writing on the Sabbath (I am writing this on a Saturday morning) but incorporating Jesus into one of my life’s key events felt like heresy.  My Jewish Sasha Fierce had arrived.