By Michelle Keefe
Being fairly new to the profession of teaching religion, I came into the job (at an all-girls Catholic high school) just bursting with zeal for my faith and the students in front of me. I was ready to set hearts on fire through osmosis, with a contagious energy and passion for Christ!
I was so excited to start being a mentor to these young girls, to start bringing young MTDers (Moralistic Therapeutic Deists… stay tuned for more on MTD!) into a more mature faith, and to walk with them on that journey.
What I wasn’t expecting was just how hard it is to be taken seriously as a religion teacher:
“Religion? Oh, that’s my easy class.” “Yea, our old teacher would just let us re-do the tests or make corrections on assignments until we got 100s.” “You’re so passionate about your faith, you should become a nun.”
What I quickly realized was that as soon as I say “Religion teacher,” the students put me into a box. They think they have me figured out. They are not phased by my energy for faith; in fact, by about October, they are kind of numb to it. They expect me to love Jesus and to love my faith, and oftentimes don’t see why it’s so personal and meaningful. Duh- it’s because I am their religion teacher. So much for osmosis.
I was talking to one of my colleagues last year, who also happens to be Catholic, but who teaches math. She had started up a rosary group with some of the girls and I had asked her how it was going. She said something to me that sort of haunts me. She said one of her students came up to her after math class and asked,“Mrs. Stanley, you’re doing the rosary group, right? But you teach math…? So… you’re like a ninja Catholic, right?”
They put us into these funny boxes and expect to have us completely figured out. I must admit, I am envious of the powerhouse my friend is for the Church- to be a mathematician who loves her faith! How revolutionary! And how humbling. For all my spiels about my love of my faith, for some students it doesn’t make a difference, because it is what they expect me to do. It’s a funny thing when we compartmentalize people or things.
I wonder how often I end up doing that to Christ? And how often I keep Christ in a box because “I have him figured out.”
I pray I never become jaded to Christ’s love for me. I pray my girls will learn about Christ’s love through any avenue of Christ’s Body here on earth. I just have to get over myself that it won’t be me who can reach all of the students all the time. Sometimes, they need a ninja. For that, I’m grateful to all my colleagues who express love for their faith, especially when they are not religion teachers.