I was, for the most part, what one would consider a ‘good boy’ when it came to my conduct during school hours as a kid. I wasn’t exactly a high-achiever but I did knuckle down and study hard and complete assignments to the best of my ability and got decent grades for my efforts. I wasn’t always a saint, though, but I wasn’t the devil either. While there were times where I have been called out by the teacher for not paying attention during class, I was never suspended or expelled, didn’t get into any fights on school grounds and also never skipped class Ferris-Bueller style. As a result I was branded ‘boring’ and a ‘goody goody’ by more than a few of my peers but in my mind, I was merely standing my ground and not giving in to the pressure to ‘look cool’ for those fools.
One of the most vivid memories I have of running afoul of my teacher wasn’t in a formal school environment, but during Sunday school when I was five years old. I was born and raised a Catholic and when my sister and I were very young we went to Sunday school every now and then (every two or three weeks if I recall) while our parents were at mass to learn more about God in a child-focused environment. The classes were held in a small classroom next to the church and its walls were adorned with colorful posters and pictures and a giant chalkboard hung smack bang at the front (do chalkboards even exist anymore????), overlooking a few small rows of seats. Desks and chairs were situated closer to the back door.
For the most part these classes went ahead without incident but every now and then a kid would act up and be punished for their troubles. For the average child school was a sucky but necessary evil and to have to sit in another school-like environment on a Sunday wasn’t exactly their idea of fun and so restlessness could sometimes get the better of them. Punishments usually involved being forced to sit in the corner or just outside the front door for five to ten minutes depending on the severity of their sins.
One day, a friend of mine at the time whose name I have long since forgotten and I joined that club.
I don’t quite remember which part of the bible our teachers had planned the day’s lesson around but it did mention God plenty of times. In the Filipino language the word for ‘God’ is ‘Diyos’ but when said in a thick accent while speaking rather quickly it sounded like the word ‘juice’. My friend and I picked up on it right away and held on tight, laughing ourselves stupid whenever the teacher spoke His name and repeating it over and over again to ourselves like a couple of idiots. Some of our fellow peers got a laugh out of it and, for a while, so did the teacher, but there was a limit to her patience and we quickly reached it.
“Ok, guys, let’s get back to the lesson…..
And so we all regained our composure and continued to listen pensively. That was, until she mentioned His name again.
More laughter. This time the teacher wasn’t having it.
“Boys, one more time and you’ll be sitting in the corner,” she warned.
Yeah, to a couple of five-year olds that was tantamount to being threatened with death and so we shut right up.
Ok, lesson learned, back to the lesson. No more clowning around.
It didn’t take long for our limited powers of resistance to temptation to crumble once again. Five-year olds barely have a grasp on the concept of self-control and my fellow knucklehead and I were no different. We tried to keep it together for the sake of avoiding punishment, even when the teacher mentioned His name over and over again, practically holding back tears as we resisted the urge to laugh. But our willpower, only marginally stronger than any semblance of maturity and self-awareness that we might have had in us at the time, got the better of us once again. After one too many mentions of God’s name we couldn’t help ourselves.
Talk about finally breaking the cap off a soda can that had been shaken aggressively for several minutes. In my defense, it was my friend that shouted out but I was guilty by association for laughing out loud. The whole class was in stitches yet again and there was going to be hell to pay for us.
“Both of you sit in opposite corners in the back of the room, NOW!”
And so my friend and I sheepishly made our way to the back of the room and sat down in our respective corners on the floor, bored as can be and twiddling our thumbs when we were not staring vacantly at the carpet and wondering what was underneath it. Luckily it was only a five minute time-out and we were better behaved once time had been served.
But we continued to laugh and joke after class with our peers while waiting for our parents to come out of church, especially since the class ended with an afternoon supper of biscuits and juice.