As a first year Theology teacher at a Catholic high school, I have had a lot of thoughts over the past nine months. Things like, “Did she really just ask me that?” and “Are they laughing because they think I’m funny or because I sound like an idiot?” cross my mind on a daily basis.
Questions in my head range from “Can I make them reenact the sound effects from Pentecost?” to “IS THAT MY STUDENT SITTING DIRECTLY BEHIND ME AT THE BEYONCE CONCERT?” (The answer to both of these questions was yes.)
My emotions have been all over the map as well, encompassing joy and compassion one minute to dread and frustration the next. Any Theology teacher can attest that there are certain aspects of the job we will miss during the months of summer… and then there are some moments we will absolutely not miss.
1. When students walk in and ask for an extension on a paper or project or ask to reschedule a test because “Year of Mercy.”
Don’t fret! We will do our best to be merciful when grading your late work – how does that sound?
2. “Can we have free period? Can we have a fun day? Can we have class nap time? Can we go outside? Can we just meditate? Can we just not do anything today?”
Do you ask your chemistry teacher these things?
3. “I’m going to be absent tomorrow, will I miss anything important?”
Another variation: “I missed class yesterday, did I miss anything important?” Nope, of course not! The salvation of your soul is nothing important! We didn’t become Theology teachers because we thought the subject was important!
4. When students request to meet with other teachers or counselors during our class period, because Theology isn’t a “core” subject or considered “academic.”
Does that mean our entire education hasn’t been academic? We have about 100,000 pages of research and writing that beg to differ…
5. The blank stares received when we ask about a basic theological concept that they should have known before reaching this level/something we talked about in a previous unit/some idea foundational to the faith.
Similarly, having to correct students when they make errors in restating fundamental knowledge of theological concepts, for example, statements like “Jesus, the Creator” or “When the Holy Spirit gave us the Beatitudes.”
6. Comments on the amount of work assigned because the student perception is that “Theology isn’t a real class.”
Shockingly enough, Theology is still a class and therefore, you will still have homework and be graded!
7. Negative student feedback about how we take off points for incorrect spelling and grammar.
True, this isn’t English class, but you won’t always be writing academic papers for English class and we find it valuable that you learn how to do so now!
8. Constantly reminding students that “Christian” and “Protestant” are not synonyms.
Protestants are Christians and so are Catholics; please stop asking “What’s the difference between a Christian and a Catholic?” because this question doesn’t make sense.
9. Having to address questions on the nature of sin to any extent; for example, “Is [insert very specific action/ emotion/ thought/ concept here] a sin?
Do you go to hell if you do that? But what if [insert obscure and most likely unrealistic scenario in which said action may be morally ambiguous]? That’s pretty harsh. Why?” We actually don’t have the Master List of Sins, what’s right and wrong, and what will land you directly in hell. Not included in our curriculum but had you been paying attention all year, you would realize we’ve been giving you the tools to avoid hell altogether!
10. Students using answers like “God is love” or “Jesus” for everything and acting totally affronted when those answers are incorrect.
Not every answer in our Sacraments course can be boiled down to “because Jesus died on the cross to save us from dying!!!”
Bonus: Obnoxious misconceptions about our personalities because we’re Theology teachers.
We’ve all had students and parents ask if we plan on entering religious life, students floored to find out we listen to Top 40 radio (not just worship jams, although our collection of worship jams is impressive), or awkward run-ins with school families at non-school sponsored events.
[all images from teachermemes.com and quickmeme.com]