Today was my last day of CCD for the year. I always get a little bit sad about saying goodbye to my class. If I were a real teacher and saw the same students five days a week, I’d be a bundle of tears and sobs on the last day. They bring me presents, the girls hug me and the boys don’t trip me and pull my chair out from under me on the last day.
I taught fourth grade this year, my 10th year as a CCD teacher. If you’re reading this and you don’t know what CCD is, it’s Catholic Sunday School. CCD does not stand for “chocolate covered doughnuts.” It stands for something that I can’t keep in my brain for more than three seconds. If I go look it up, I’ll forget it by the time I come back here to write it down. It’s Catholic Sunday School.
Everything I know about fourth graders I learned in my CCD class.
■ No matter what their parents’ income, no matter how spoiled they are, how well cared for they are, when you put food in front of a fourth grader at CCD, they will act as if it’s their last meal and they’ve been starving in their basements up to this point. They’ll trample each other, and step on their best friends’ hands and faces to get one Chips Ahoy cookie and a handful of pretzels. They’ll drain a Capri Sun juice box in one cheek-deflating suck, as if they’re near death with dehydration.
■ CCD class causes staggered bladder weakness. Every child will need to go to the bathroom at a different time, no matter how short the class session.
■ No matter what you give them, they’ll try to eke out a little bit more from you. Pass out a little gift and they’ll ask if they can have two. They won’t be the least bit upset or disappointed when you say no; in fact they expect it. But they have to try.
■ In class discussions, they’ll bad-mouth their brothers and sisters to such an extreme, a priest will have to be brought in for an insta-confession. They’ll tell you they physically harm - sometimes maim - their siblings, and they’ll freely admit to lying about them, getting them in trouble and not giving two hoots about them, as little and innocent as they are. And then they’ll ask if they can have a second Tootsie Roll for their little brother.
■ Farts don’t embarrass them. I think that might start to change in the fifth grade.
■ They love gadgets because gadgets allow them to fidget without looking like a delusional psychotic. They’ll bring in laser lights, mini-highlighters on a keychain, and anything their parents picked up as a freebie at a fun run. And God forbid they’re allowed to have a cell phone. Don’t waste your breath telling them to put that thing away I don’t want to see that again If I see it again I’ll take it, because they can’t help it. It’s a fidget-tool and they’ve got to use it. In the same vein, it’s hopeless to tell them they’re not allowed to fiddle around with the things in the Catholic school kids’ desks we use. If you don’t want the CCD kids playing with your Winnie the Pooh eraser, then I suggest you take it home with you over the weekend. Everything you’ve heard about “the public school kids” is true.
■ They don’t forget anything. If you tell them on the first day that you’ll be doing a craft with pom-pom balls sometime during the year, they’ll ask you every Sunday for nine months if it’s pom-pom day.
■ Fourth graders are the perfect humans. They’re old enough to ask interesting questions and understand concepts like how God can be everywhere all the time, how the Immaculate Conception worked, and what it means to covet someone’s wife, but they’re still innocent and pure enough to ask the big questions. When we had our priest in as a guest speaker, they asked him questions like: “Is it lonely not having a wife?” and “Are you afraid of evil spirits?” I could just cry.
I think “and a child shall lead them” was edited down from: “And a child shall lead them. And it shall be a fourth grader. And you shall be amused like the dickens.”