Thursday, November 17, 2005

Tragedy's Al-a-ternative School

Every school day starts the same. We open by making the sign of the cross, then pray Luther’s Morning Prayer. The Pledge of Allegiance comes next, then either “My Country ‘Tis Of Thee” or the National Anthem. After that we pray the Catechism.

Now and again the students find me with my foot in my catechetical mouth. I learned the Catechism according to an older version than what they are memorizing, and it sometimes slips out. One particular day the blessing of the Fourth Commandment slipped through the cracks, “That it may be well with thee and thou mayest live long on the earth.” So, I held a short catechetical to explain it. Luther advised that those in the household who refused to learn their Catechism should not be fed their supper. The kids thought that bizarre, too cruel. Ah, but if you reject the Bread of Life that is God’s Word, why should you be given anything that comes from the mouth of God? A parallel is known by Alternative School. If stubborn cannot learn their lessons in such a fine place as GSLS where so much is given by the hand of God through their parents, then they should be sent to Alternative School where they can be better instructed to obey their parents and teachers. Jeremiah (T-1) and Byrne (T-2) shot meaningful looks at each other that dissolved to smirks and grins. So the day began.

The day was a fine one, brilliant blue and gold.

When we go out to the field, there is a set procedure. We stay together. We reach the end of the driveway to GSLS, and then we stop. We all look for traffic, but no one crosses the street unless Deaconess says, “OK, we can cross now.” Then I lead the way. The street can sometimes be busy.

On this particular day Jeremiah (T-1) and Byrne (T-2) were so absorbed in their own world that they kept on walking. They didn’t stop. They didn’t look both ways.

They were completely across the street before they realized they were there alone.

Jacob looked up at me and said, “Oh boy. Well, there goes that. C’mon guys, let’s go back.” Shawn and Tucker were slow tracking why. Matt wasn’t sure what had happened.

I turned the Troublemint Twins around and marched them inside the school. Jeremiah (T-1) knew he was in deep trouble, but was silent.

Byrne (T-2) did all the talking. “What are you going to do with us? Call our parents?”

Inside the school I told the twins to sit down at their desks while I wrote out a letter for them to copy to their parents: “Dear Mom and Dad, I didn’t listen to Deaconess today. I could have been hurt or killed. ...” That’s when the impact of what had just happened to himself hit Jeremiah (T-1). He lost it. Literally.

He ran to the trash can and vomited.

That was too much for Byrne (T-2). His near-permanent smirk turned to a stifled giggle.

Jeremiah started to return to his desk, but just as quickly reversed himself and fled to the safety of the trash can.

Byrne giggled again, louder.

“Stop it! It’s not funny.” Jeremiah tried to walk back to his desk, but again failed.

“I can’t help it.” By now Byrne was in a ball on the floor.

Jeremiah started to cry. “But you’re my bestest friend. How can you laugh at me?” He ran for the trash can once more.

Byrne found his giggling impossible to suppress. It was now high-pitched gales of glee.

Jeremiah was hugging the can. Byrne was rolling on the floor in delight. The room was filled with the antiphonal sounds of Jeremiah’s retching and Byrne’s giggling. Meanwhile I had finished the letter to their parents for them to copy.

Jeremiah begged to go home instead. “But I just threw up. I need my mommy.” Byrne, who seconds before had found hilarity in his friend’s suffering, immediately rushed to his aide, advancing his cause. “He does, Deaconess. He really needs her.” T-1 gaped at him, “Why did you just laugh at me?” Jeremiah turned a sorrowful face at me. “I want to go home.”

“No way, Buddy. You’re sticking this one out. Both of you are going to write these letters, eat your lunches, and finish the day.”

And they did.

They wrote their letters while I monitored their classmates at play. Both sets of parents were called just to give them a heads’ up. Jeremiah’s father agreed he should stick the day out. Then they both ate a good lunch- Jeremiah especially so.

The next afternoon Jeremiah’s dad took him out for a walk through the field. It was a nice long walk. The following morning he was full of grins and giggles over it. He and his father had gone through the woods, Jeremiah leading the way.

“Have you ever sent anyone to Al-a-ternative School, Deaconess?”

“No, I haven’t, Jeremiah. In fact, this school has never expelled any student. We like to keep our own here.”

“Awww… I didn’t think so,” he grinned. “I’m going to do good in school. I’m never going to do that again.”

“I bet not, Jeremiah.”

Since then Jeremiah has settled down considerably. He tells Byrne, “Leave me alone. I’m working now.” He also tells him that he has found other “bestest friends” so that he now has more than just one. He writes disciplinary sentences infrequently.

Jeremiah’s big scare seems to have been his call to repentance. He’s a lovable paradox of a kid. On the one hand he can’t keep track of his papers and crayons or pencils. At least once daily he spills his box of crayons and markers, says “Ooopsie daisie,” then flops down on his belly and all fours to clean them up. It takes a good ten minutes to accomplish the task. On the other hand he breezes through Latin and reading. His reading ability is already light years ahead of the Phonics curriculum, yet he still needs its concepts. So I supplement him with outside books such as those from the “Little House” series. Still he’s only six, and he thinks like a six-year-old.

A truly wonderful, huggable one at that, too.

No comments: