Just When I Thought I’d Seen It All

dr-henry-g-selby-01092012[1]A high school student slapped himself in the face right in the middle of my lecture. He later explained that he was “trying to wake up.” I suppose people of all ages and in all occupations do oddball things. Having spent most of my life in schools (which I believe are the perfect images of society) I have a temptation to think that I’ve seen every oddball quirk that besets the human condition. But then the eight o’clock bell rings and the curtain rises on the premiere of a brand new show! I wonder what could ever top the story of Rastus and Medusa?

Now Rastus and Medusa were large, white rats. Miss Clark, the Kindergarten teacher, had them in her room (complete with the Kindergarten teacher’s obsession with labeling everything) with a card proclaiming “RAT” on their cage) as class pets. I didn’t care for this arrangement, for it was difficult to give tours to prospective parents and explain that our rats were utterly cherished by the five year olds. Couldn’t they just have a fish bowl? Maybe a hermit crab? Miss Clark, however, was a spectacular teacher, and I allowed her this idiosyncrasy.

You can imagine my dismay, therefore, when a little boy appeared in my office one day and reported that Rastus had died, that a funeral was being planned, and could I come say a few prayers at graveside? I sped to the Kindergarten room and held a sidebar with Miss Clark, carefully stating my theological objections to a rat funeral. I explained that she had a golden opportunity to talk to the children about the great circle of life, how Rastus would nourish other living things by being buried, and that this science lesson had no equal! She agreed, and soon a hole was dug behind the preschool building for the repose of the body. I was invited to witness the interment. Miss Clark taught a brilliant lesson.

As we began to fill in the hole with the dirt, little Ben blurted out, “But Miss Clark! Aren’t we supposed to pray at a funeral?” I glared at the teacher with one of those “I told you this would happen” looks. But she was a pro. She fielded the question on the fly, replying that it was always good to pray, and that if he wanted to pray he certainly could. I was in awe of how she handled it.

Little Ben then caused his fellow Kindergartners to hold hands in a circle around the hole. He bade them bow their heads. And then he led his peers with the only prayer he had memorized: “God is great. God is good. Let us thank Him for our food. Amen.”

Schools are indeed mirrors, microcosms, and often great theatre! Here is where we can see our true nature, and guide those who follow us with expertise, with encouragement, with love, and not the occasional bit of humor.

“Henry G. Selby, headmaster of All Saints’ Episcopal School in Morristown, is a popular speaker at seminars, conferences, civic events, and professional development meetings. He would be delighted to speak at your next meeting. Please call the school for more information.”

Source: Dr. Henry G. Selby Headmaster All Saints’ Episcopal School Morristown, TN