Silence fills the corridors of Carter Christian School like the soothing sound of heavenly hosts’ harmonies. I wave through the window as the last of the over-excited, Christmas-expectant children clamber onto the school bus.
With red pen in one hand, a long overdue cup of coffee in the other, I study the desk in front of me. One end has somehow been decorated with glitter glue during Christmas craft, and someone has managed to set all the pencils, felt-tips and my car keys in it. On the other half, twenty-two unmarked books lie scattered.
Turning a blind eye on the glittery mess, I decide to tackle the kids’ creative writing first. After reading them the Christmas story, they had been asked to write about what Christmas meant to them.
‘God sent his sun into the wold as a help-less little babby, to shoe us that he had to becum just like wun of us.’
I flip over to look at the front of the book. Lauren Stephenson? She should know better than to make such mistakes. The red pen frantically crosses out letters, and writes ‘Quite careless’ at the bottom. Sighing, I toss it to the side, and begin to read the next one.
‘Its hard two beleeve the savour of man-kind was born in a lowelly manjer.’
This class has already spent four months with me, and what have they actually learned? I gulp back my coffee, in the hope that some caffeine may revive me.
Book number three belongs to Isaac Johnston.
‘Ppl sumtimes don’t C Y xmas is so gd. They R so busy with shoppin + prezzies that they 4get the Lrd Jesus.’
Whoever invented cell phones and text messages sure has a lot to answer for! This time I score out both sentences. Depressed, I decide it’s time to go home, and bundle the rest of the books under my arm.
The next morning begins with a lesson in spelling. On the board, I write a selection of Christmas words such as Baby, Manger and Angel. Despite various interruptions (including Michael falling into the Christmas tree and knocking baubles across the floor), the children manage to put all the words into the Christmas crossword I have prepared.
I’m so delighted that everyone has spelt each word correctly that I write ‘Fantastic!’ on the board in giant letters. I then reward them by telling them that they can dramatise the Christmas story.
After some prompting, Lauren bosses her way into becoming Mary, and Tim placidly settles into the role of her donkey. Isaac agrees to be Joseph as long as he doesn’t have to hold hands, or go too close to Lauren. Ryan decides to pick all the glitter glue from my desk rather than joining in.
I finally give them a little quiz over each Christmas spelling, wiping my brow in relief when each word is remembered. Perhaps there has been a breakthrough.
On the last day of school before the Christmas break., the children are more excited than ever. They gather around me to see my reaction when I notice the dozens of Christmas cards left on my desk.
“Oh, my! Who could have left all of these?” I gasp in an exaggerated fashion.
It’s worth it just to see their faces beaming with pride. As the bell rings for playtime, their interest turns to being the first one in the playground. It doesn’t take long for the classroom to empty, leaving me with my mound of envelopes, the name ‘Mrs. Reynolds’ scribbled across each in childish writing. I open the first one.
‘2 Mrs. Reynolds. Thank u 4 teachin us about Jesus. I’m readin my Bible l8r each nite to find out more about the stories u tell us. Luv frm Isaac.’
I can feel my hand reaching angrily for the red pen in my pencil pot, but suddenly I stop. It’s as though scales have just fallen from my eyes. What more important lesson can I possibly teach a child? It figures too that it’s a child who teaches me a lesson about my priorities.
After some thinking, I open Lauren’s card. On the front is a picture of the angel Gabriel, proclaiming the good news. Inside it reads:
‘To Mrs. Renoulds. You are an angle in disgise.’
I smile, and wonder what sort of ‘angle’ that may be. Before now, I had always thought I was right, but I may have been obtuse all along.
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