Monday, July 30, 2007

What I learned from Sister Albertine

Even though there was a time in my life when I was a teacher, I realize now that I have always been a "learner." More so now, perhaps, then ever before. And my greatest learning experiences, upon reflection, happened to me when I was in grade school, especially in the second grade with Sr. Albertine.

I was privileged to go to parocchial schools all the way from the first grade through high school. I therefore had the distinct pleasure to having women religious (aka-nuns) all the way through. But If you think you are going to read a diatribe about how abusive they were and how I am now a "fallen away" because of their classroom "terror" tactics, you are going to be sadly disappointed.

In 1948, at the tender age of 6, I met Sr. Albertine.... second grade teacher at St. Mary's Academy. The Daughters of Wisdom wore real habits in those days. She kinda' looked like the Dutch Cleanser lady. ( You are really old if you can remember the Dutch Cleanser lady!) Tall and slender (she seemed to be 8 feet tall to me), she wore metal rimmed glasses that perched perilously on the edge of her long, gallic nose. She spoke French fluently, and when we were disorderly, a stream of beautifully sounding though fiercely pronounced words would come forth. Whatever disarray was ongoing, immediately ceased when Sister spoke French. We new it was a danger signal.

Thirty-six children in one 2nd grade classroom. No resouce teachers...no special assistants...just Sr. Albertine. It was 36 to 1, but with Sr. Albertine in charge, we were outnumbered big time. So what did my wonderful year with Sr. Albertine teach me? Several things:

1) Management skills- it is possible to control large groups of individuals simply with the force of a presence, a fierce glance and a few well chosen French phrases.

2) Organizational skills- My bookbag looked like my room when I began second grade. But Sr. Albertine would periodically do "search and seizure" missions. Ones book bag had better been organized to pass muster. God forbid a left over "PB&J" or small toy be found lurking in the bag's folds and corners. No student ever wanted to be on the receiving end of one of Sr. Albertine's piercing glances. By the time May rolled around, I had a bookbag that a bank exec would have been proud of.

3) Timeliness- Sister never bought into "the dog ate my homework," or some of the other feeble excuses we could craft.. When it was due, by God it was due! Late getting to school? Even if the d$%# bus broke down, she was not happy... No excuses! Just ask my children if the indelible time and date stamp implanted by Sr. Albertine has not lasted until this very day?

4) Line skills- Having to line up or even waiting in lines, has never bothered me. Parochial school trained me well. We lined up to go to class, ...to go to recess, ...to go to the boys room, ...to go to lunch , ...to go home at day's end. And the lines had to be straight-woe betide any rambunctious lad who squirmed out of position. "But Sistah, I got ADD" would have been useless, even if it had even been tried!

5) Last but not least, the Faith--Oh how very grateful I am to Sr. Albertine and all of the consecrated women who taught me the Catholic Faith over those years. What a gift I received, since most of those in the post Vatican II era grew up basically uncatechised! From Question #1 in Grade 1 to Question #479 in Grade 8, the Baltimore Catechism helped form a solid basis for my fledgeling Catholic Faith.

So, don't take me to a production of Nunsense..or force me to watch Whoopie Goldberg in a nun's habit demeaning the women who gave up their entire life to make sure that I not only learned how to read and write, but more importantly, that I learn Question #1 --that indeed, God is the Supreme Being who made all things. And as if that were not enough, I learned the answer to Question #2 ---He made me to know, love and serve Him, in this world so that I can be happy with Him in this life and in the next. -----Thank you, Sr. Albertine.

1 comment:

kristib said...

This is nice, Daddy. Sure wish I had old Sister Albertine here at home sometime. Maybe it is time for me to learn French, again.