So I’m still a Primary teacher. Nobody’s fired me yet. I have the eight-year-olds this year. It is a bit of an adjustment after teaching the ten-year-olds. Most of my teaching experience is in junior Primary, but that’s not saying a lot. I was never any good at teaching junior Primary (although I like being around junior Primary-age children). My husband and I taught the ten-year-olds for a whole year, and I’m afraid it made me a bit soft. All the kids could read, and their silliness was tempered by their need to appear cool. Also, you could say stuff like, “Listen up, jerks,” without crushing their tender little spirits. Eight-year-olds are different. They’re only a little less silly than six-year-olds. They also only read a little bit better than six-year-olds. So reading from the scriptures is more challenging for them. I mean, it was clearly torture for the ten-year-olds, but ten is a good age to start boring kids to death, I think. Just a little bit, so they have a solid foundation for being bored in Sunday School later on. But I feel bad doing that to eight-year-olds. They’re still so cute.
So yeah, I’ve had to alter my lesson-giving style a bit. My husband isn’t teaching with me anymore, so my charisma has dropped about 20 points, and that’s tough too. But I persevere. Which brings me back to my original point, that I was teaching Primary a couple Sundays ago and I needed someone to give an opening prayer, but nobody wanted to do it. The kid who gave it the week before didn’t want to do it two weeks in a row, and that was certainly fair. But everyone else refused to. That’s the difference between eight-year-olds and six-year-olds. Six-year-olds still like to pray. Well, if they’ve recently finished being five, anyway. Most kids that age will do anything to be at the center of attention. When I taught CTR6, the kids would fight over who said the prayer. (Unfortunately, they would fight over sitting there and listening to a lesson too, but that’s another story.) Eight-year-olds aren’t quite that desperate. And unlike ten-year-olds, they haven’t accepted the inevitability of praying in church whether they want to or not. Hence the refusals.
Now, if my husband had been there, he would have just randomly picked a kid and said, “Come on, give us a prayer. Come on. Just a short one. It’ll be fun. Go ahead. We’re waiting,” until the kid realized that Brother J just wasn’t going to take no for an answer. Brother J can get away with that behavior because the kids love him. Kids don’t love me. To be honest, kids don’t even like me. Heck, most adults have to know me for a couple years before I stop giving them the creeps. The kids in my Primary classes don’t have a couple years with me; they only get one. I still think half of the eleven-year-olds I taught last year would rather not run into me in a dark alley, but this isn’t the same as kids fearing me. I’d settle for them fearing me–in fact, that might be kind of awesome–but instead they just strongly distrust me. So no one’s going to say a prayer just to please me (or appease me).
What this means is that for the last couple weeks I’ve been saying the opening prayer because I’m the only one who can’t say no. I mean, I could say no, but that would be setting a bad example, and I don’t want to do that. Also, even if I were constitutionally capable of persuading/cajoling/forcing one of the kids to pray, I’m just not willing to do that. I didn’t like saying the prayer when I was a kid, and I kind of resented anyone who made me do it. I mean, I still kind of resent it when my husband calls on me to pray. Sure, it’s mostly because I think he enjoys the power trip too much, but it’s also because I’m just not a big fan of praying out loud.
Most of that is I’m not a big fan of talking out loud, period, because I lack conversational skills and I have difficulty maintaining my train of thought once my jaw starts yammering. If I’m going to make a phone call, I have to rehearse in my mind what I’m going to say first—rehearse it several times, usually, or I don’t have any hope of remembering (most of) it when it’s time for me to actually say it. If I’m going to give a talk, I can’t work from notes. I will never remember what the notes mean once I start speaking. Once I start speaking, the brain stops working. If I haven’t memorized what I’m going to say, to the point where it can fall automatically from my lips without me thinking about it, I’m pretty much screwed. To be honest, I have no idea how I graduated from college. I’m not sure how I graduated high school. I never had an oral exam—I guess that’s how. I do very poorly with spontaneous questions. That’s why I’m a terrible interview. That’s why I’ll probably never have another job again as long as I live. I think very clearly as long as I’m only thinking. When I start saying what I’m thinking out loud, I’m no longer thinking at all. It’s not a recipe for clear communication.
That’s a big part of why I don’t like praying in public. I still do it, because it’s hard to have church if no one’s going to pray. So I’ll pray in church if somebody asks me. I’ll say a very short prayer because I can only pre-load so many words onto my tongue. I can’t be expected to come up with new words as I go on. In theory, the Spirit would move me, but in practice that hasn’t been my experience. Unless the Spirit just really wants me to shut up. I’m open to that possibility. But I digress. I don’t like praying in public because I don’t like speaking in public, or speaking at all. I also don’t like praying in public because I consider sincere prayer to be a very personal thing. I feel very self-conscious talking to God while everyone else is listening in. Not that I kid myself that most people are listening, really. I reckon most of them are just waiting for the “amen” at the end. Still, it’s the principle. But again, it’s hard to have church if no one’s going to pray. I guess we could all pray silently to ourselves, but I don’t think that’s ideal. Sometimes we need to hear the prayers of others. Like when you’re opening a class and you need to invite the spirit to be with you (in case it feels like showing up).
So I will probably continue to say all the opening prayers in our class, as long as no one else wants to do it. I hope the kids don’t notice that I rely on a lot of vain repetitions (although I am proud to say that I’ve never uttered the phrases “harm or accident” or “nourish and strengthen”–that would just make me feel like an idiot). Maybe I’ll throw in an occasional “please bless us not to walk on the chairs” or “bless us not to climb out the window,” just to mix things up. And maybe I’ll bring Hershey’s kisses and give one to whoever is willing to say the prayer because I like Hershey’s kisses, and I think I’m worth it.