After a summer of unemployment, nerves and constantly searching for a job, I got one. A job, that is. I was beginning to think it would never happen, and seeing as I have a shortage of faith in my life on occasion, I didn't believe it (even after a blessing that stated I would find a job) until the Lord spiritually hit me over the head with something like a dead tuna at church one day and I realized I just needed to trust him. The day after this realization came a call from a school called Bias Yaakov, or Beth Jacob for those of you who don't speak Hebrew. It is a private, Jewish Orthodox all girl's school in North Miami. They teach 6-12th grade there and have about 300 students. In the morning, the girls study a multitude of Jewish and Hebrew topics with names I can't pronounce. Girls can not date, if they do, they are expelled. They must wear long skirts, stockings, long sleeve shirts and high collars. In the afternoon, I have the privilege of teaching 8th and 11th grade English. The girls are talkative and have names like Hadasa, Bracha, Batya and Rochel Leah where the CH sounds are a guttural cccchhhhhh in the back of the throat. The girls enjoy attempting to argue their way out of assignments and things they don't want to do, which causes me to try to pull out my hair from its resting place on top of my head. But overall, the students are respectful and I don't have to worry about them pulling knives on me or even swearing. That is refreshing, and the girls are intelligent and the parents care, which makes a difference.
Life at the Jewish school is interesting. I've found that I have gone from being the Ultra-Conservative Mormon, to a super liberal Christian just by accepting a job. I've never been liberal before. It's a strange sensation. I was called in after the first week to speak to the principal because I had mentioned romance to my 8th graders. We were reading an O'Henry story where the main character turns from his life of crime because he meets a girl and decides to settle down. It was written in the 1900's. Obviously it was too much romance for the girls and a parent phoned in about it. Apparently the 11th graders are able to handle more of this topic than the 8th graders, because some of our books for this year include Pride and Prejudice and Emma, some of the most romantic books in the world. I have to learn how to talk more seriously about subjects that I've considered normal most of my life, but I respect their views and so I'll try.
I also have been learning more about the Jewish culture. For example, two weeks ago, one of my students handed me a beautifully wrapped present and exclaimed "Happy New Year!" (Keep in mind that it is still September.) Puzzled, I looked at her expectantly. "It's the Jewish New Year," she said-- as if that explained everything. I have a lot of strange holidays off. I get the first 1o days of October off for the Sukkos holiday. This is otherwise known as the Feast of the Tabernacle, I think, and is in remembrance of the 40 years of wandering around in the wilderness that Moses did. They each build a tent in their back yard and do all their eating and socializing in it for a week or so. This sounds fun to me. I wonder how I can get myself invited... I may be too new in the community for invites. I also have the day off of school today, because it's Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. It is the reason I have time to write, but mostly I am writing because I have a stack of homework and tests to grade and I am putting it off as long as possible for procrastination's sake.
One entertaining moment at school occurred on the first day of class. A previous class had been using glue and a small piece of paper had become stuck to a desk. Normally this would not be a problem, rip it off, scrape the rest of it up, wipe it down, no problem. Problem. As I attempted to help the girls remove this piece of paper, the girls started screeching "Don't rip it! Don't rip it! You can't rip it!" Apparently, this piece of paper was special. It was written with Hebrew script, unintelligible to me, but apparently it had the name of God written on it and is therefore sacred and never to be destroyed or mangled in any fashion. After several attempts to gently remove the paper without ripping it, we realized that this was an impossible task. I went and got another teacher who knew more than I did. He teaches history, wears a cap over his white hair, and poking out from underneath his suit vest are tassels made from a homespun material. My fellow teacher looks at our problem and tries to get the paper off the table. After a few minute's work he looks me in the eye and exclaims, "We better go get the Rabbi." So he went to get the Rabbi. The Rabbi looks at the situation, makes a little "harrumph" noise, bends down and with a few gentle yanks, rips the paper off the table. "I'll take this with me," he says and walks back to his office. I chuckle. It was funny.