I swear in my dreams.
Last week, I dreamed I said it in front of my grandmother. I don’t know what was happening, I just know the word flew out of my mouth and she was horrified, stood there looking at me, blinking, probably ready to disown me.
Two nights ago, I dreamed I said it in front of the worst possible audience: my fourth graders. They were all sitting at their desks, their faces bright, a few of them clamoring to see what we’d be learning in Latin. And out it came, “What the…?” and I clapped my hands over my mouth so fast, in real life my cheeks would’ve burned red.
There was no reason for me to make such an exclamation, no prompting from either my grandmother, or the class full of children. My psyche is freaking out.
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That is a word I consciously choose not to use. I say “consciously” because a little part of me would love to break out with such profanity and look at those around me and laugh. Yes, I swear. And you want to do it, too.
But I don’t.
Or at least, not that word.
I can’t even imagine what would happen if I did, if I stood in front of all these children who made me Valentines (spelling ‘Magistra’ like ‘Magestra’) and swore like a sailor. I would be fired, probably. No, definitely. And I would live on in their memories as their “Magistra who said…”
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The name of this new blog is my attempt at the impossible: to admit to myself that I am now an adult. As I wrote about earlier, I may never feel like an adult. But that doesn’t change the fact that 99 children’s parents have entrusted a part of their education to me (albeit a relatively small part). I may not feel like a very grown-up person, but I’m as tall as I’ll ever be.
I wrote an overdue letter to my dear friend in Switzerland the other day. In it, I admitted that I love how much those children look up to me. I love that they can’t wait to see what I’ll say next – that they devour the derivatives of rex like it’s the most amazing thing they’ve ever heard. They race to get the dictionary if they have questions, and they jump to be the first actors when we act out the Latin skits in our textbook. They ask me questions that seem far too deep for third, fourth, or really even fifth or sixth graders, and I know that what comes out of my mouth is important. They believe every word I say.
Maybe that’s why I dream about swearing in front of them. I know that what I say matters so much more in those classrooms than it seems to outside of them. I can still picture the adults I admired and respected as a kid, and it’s frightening to realize that I have become one of those people. It’s frightening to realize that there is so much in the world these kids have yet to discover.
Eventually, they are going to realize that all I say isn’t gold. They’ll see my faults (“You forget everything, Magistra!” they say in chorus as I run back in to grab my water bottle almost daily), and my humanity will be all too obvious.
Someday, they’ll realize it, but it won’t be because I said ______.