Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
May 15 2012

Religion and Schools

Let’s be honest: waking up early on a Saturday, putting on a teacher dress, and spending all day criss-crossing across town between Catholic masses and parties full of strangers is not most people’s dream way to spend a weekend. Turns out it’s not so bad.


This Saturday was a big First Communion day for my kids. They were dressed in beautiful all-white dresses and suits, surrounded by proud family and on their best behavior. Relatives no one had ever heard of were popping out of nowhere and everyone’s houses were open for big post-mass celebrations. There were lots of pictures and lots of presents and lots of hands to shake.


It was a day that made me very happy to speak Spanish. From the priests to the godparents to the little siblings to my kids themselves, pretty much no one breathed a word of English all day. I’m not sure I would have survived a 90-minute mass without being able to follow it, and enjoying the pozole at my student’s house would have been lonely if her mom hadn’t been able to sit with me and explain the ingredients.


Without Spanish, I also would have missed out on the most noteworthy part of the day. Literally everywhere I went, people pointed me out to one another. I was pretty much followed around by whispers of “Mira! Es una maestra!” like I was some sort of mythical figure on the loose. In no way was it a bad thing, but such excitement at my presence is not exactly a normal part of my Saturdays. It’s especially interesting when you realize that only a couple kids had thought to invite me, but a ridiculous number of my families were there and they all wanted me to come to their houses once they saw me. Did they not actually want to invite me originally? Or did they just never think I’d bother showing up?


I wish more kids would tell me about these events more often. It’s a huge time commitment, but it’s also incredibly worth it. What could be better than seeing my kids outside of the classroom and getting to be a part of the bigger community? With my own family so far away, why wouldn’t I want to enjoy a home-cooked meal with a million relatives in someone’s home? When I spend so much time on discipline, why wouldn’t I want to just relax and celebrate with my kids on their own turf? It’s a really, really lovely thing.


And best of all, it continues to pay off at school. I was running detention today, and two of our toughest boys were sitting next to each other. I started talking to one of them about how great his suit was on Saturday. The other one, who hadn’t been there, was hanging on my words like he never will in class. He didn’t even try to act cool or hide his enthusiasm. As soon as the other boy took a breath, he cut in with, “Miss, can you come to my Confirmation? It’s happening when I turn 13! Would you be there? I’ll make sure to invite you!”

2 Responses

  1. Caorline

    WOW, Mathinaz! That is an incredible story and touched my heart. I believe in what you are saying. As teachers, we do not get credit for wanting to be part of students’ lives, but we do. We spend so much time with them during the day and they become close to us that we would like to play a part in their lives outside of school. For many students, they need this extra support system and for others it is just nice for them to see that we care enough to be there. I personally think the teacher has to make it known to the parents that we want to be a part of their child’s life. As a first grade teacher, I get many baseball and soccer schedules to attend, but have never been invited to church. I would love to see where some of my students attend church. I feel this is harder for parents to invite to because church is not addressed in schools. It would be wonderful if we could open that door and talk about church and attend together. Good luck and keep attending!
    Caroline S Hooker

  2. Yes! Faith/church plays a huge role in so many kids’ lives, especially at the secondary level, and yet it’s so rarely talked about as a way to connect with them. (Maybe that’s inevitable with public education.)

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