In Time For Tea

I don’t like to be too controversial on here, as I mostly try to avoid my opinions on the world, but I can’t resist today. I’m not the biggest fan of religion by a long stretch, but with today being the feast of Corpus Christi in Catholicism, the religion I was born into, all the kids in school today went to Mass. With it being a Catholic school I work at, it shouldn’t surprise me…

But obviously there is no place for my views in school, so I keep them to myself. I highly disapprove of religious schools, for the simple fact that they are prescriptive and do not allow children to ponder life’s deep questions and injustices for themselves. Instead they are told that something is “God’s will”, or it is “the mystery of faith”. Faced with these kind of explanations, most children either look baffled, but accept it because they know no other, or, more likely, just stop listening.

So I had to go with the two classes I help out in to Mass today. It was a strange experience. I have been dragged to churches since my eye-opening moment when I realised the religion thing is a sham, and in those occasions I have sat at the back and not participated. But this time I had no choice but to “take part” with the singing and the prayers, as all around me were children who would start to get suspicious, and some might follow my example. You have to be careful when kids are around you… as they are incredibly sophisticated observation and repetition machines. I couldn’t look sarcastic or uninterested either. I had to pretend I was paying attention.

I’m not really sure why, because all around me the kids were listening, but the blank expressions or the frustrated glances to the ceiling were telling me that the lights were on but no one was home. How fascinating it would be to listen to their thoughts at the time the priest is telling them of the Last Supper. I can’t remember what I used to think, because I used to just believe it, as a good Catholic should, while being put on a guilt trip about all the sins I’m told I have done lately.

For these reasons, I don’t believe religion should be part of school life. It closes the mind at an age when it may be extremely difficult to open again. It is not quite indoctination, but it is certainly socialising them into a way of thinking that religion is that important and worthy of a lot of brain time.

It struck me as also being rather unfair. If you sat a collection of adults whose minds were as blank a canvas as a child’s with a priest while he tries to explain the mystery of the faith, you would expect a healthy degree of scepticism. But kids aren’t like that. Religion takes advantage of you when you’re at your most naive. And that makes it a little disturbing to me.

So I was sitting there, pretending to take part, while wondering what was going through the minds of the hundreds of children around me. A strange experience, but a fascinating one nevertheless.

The past few days have been OK on the whole. I was in school yesterday and today, but spent most of it doing rather tedious admin or other odd jobs for the teachers. Not really what I want to be doing as it hardly gives me a chance to communicate with or help the kids, which is the kind of experience I want to get. Today I spent almost the whole day making little drawer labels for the kids who are coming into Year 4 next year. 59 drawer labels, which took 3 hours, and I didn’t finish. I would have done so if I hadn’t been asked to go to Mass. But the other hour was spent in a much more fun way, playing Kwik Cricket with one of the classes. That was very cool, and they seemed to enjoy it.

I also spent far too much time wondering what one of the kids had written on his apology letter to the teacher. He got severely told off yesterday for failing to greet a visiting teacher into the class with the usual “Gooooood moooorning Mrs Naylor”. The teacher reckoned he was being cheeky, and he probably was a little, but the reaction was way over the top considering this is not a typical “naughty” child. So he had to write an apology letter. I was desperately trying to keep track of it all day, waiting for the moment the teacher would leave the room so I could dig it out… but the moment never arrived. Then the note disappeared from its last known location. I was disappointed.

We all make mistakes, and I think the teacher felt her response was disproportionate too, judging by the fact that she changed her mind, deciding that missing one break was enough, and that she didn’t need to see his parents after all. Another lesson learned, methinks… don’t take decisions in the heat of the moment when you might well have lost your temper. Take a few minutes, then decide in a more rational, calm light, when you’ve regained your perspective. This was really a trivial incident compared to some of the way more serious ones that go on.

I do wonder, if I keep on going down this road, what kind of teacher I’ll be…

And I’ve just finished in time for tea… Result.

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