Catechism classes ended tonight. We won't meet again until fall. And I, the accidental teacher who fell into the first-grade gig by way of checking the "willing to volunteer" box on Sean's CCD application in August, will miss it.
I'll be happy to have my Monday nights back, at least for a few months. But I will miss teaching. I will miss "my kids". I'm sad they're moving on and also looking forward to the new crop of kids, which will include my son Nolan and several of his friends. I'll be better equipped to teach next year. This year, my students taught me so much. The only way to repay them is to pay it forward.
They taught me patience. They taught me that I had a greater well of compassion in me than I thought possible. They taught me that no matter what, there is always another way to look at something or a new way to teach a lesson. They taught me that it's crucial we don't lose the most important teaching in all of our dogmatic exercises: Love.
Being with my students every Monday night, hearing their questions about God and tending to the occasional hurt feelings and temporarily broken friendships among them all amounted to one thing: Love wins. Love is the only thing they truly understand. It's simple. It's uncomplicated. And kids don't understand why grown-ups go and complicate it with so many rules and parameters. God created us because he loves us. He gave us life, which is an amazing gift. What more do we need to know? (Well, we need to know a lot if we want to be little Judeo-Christian scholars and make our sacraments. And the more we know about Catholicism, the more we can understand other religions, too. But I digress.)
Love knows no dogma. Love knows no rules. It's unstoppable. It's powerful. It comes in so many forms. And my students taught me that I am capable of loving others without expecting a single thing from them. Yes, my own children have helped teach me this lesson, but my students helped me believe I was capable of it beyond motherhood. The truth is that pure, good love doesn't want too much. It's content with the gift of loving another for who that person is. It's content with watching that person grow and blossom and bloom into an amazing person. Motherhood began this wellspring; teaching furthered it. What a bonus.
I like to think it's something that extends to marriage and other adult relationships. I suppose it's possible, though when we tangle up our lives with others on paper with mortgages and such, the purity of love can get lost in the shuffle of files and signatures. Expectations are part of the package; and so unmet expectations are to be had, too. But if you step back from it all and see love for what it is--a thing that grows without effort or even much tending. A thing that flourishes if we nurture it just a little. A feeling that makes our hearts swell with something that can only be summarized in Jerry Maguire's cheesy way: "You complete me." Whether it's romantic love or a hug from a child, that pure level of sincere regard and affection is just mind-blowing.
So, I love my students. They frustrated the hell outta me some nights. They didn't always behave. But class met at 6PM on Mondays, and the kids were just six years old. They were tired. They were hungry. They didn't understand why they had to be in class learning about God, when they already knew that God is love. And that they need to show that same kind of love to each other.
They did want to know if there would be a quiz on all of it at the end of the year.
We ate cake, played hangman and shared our goody bags.