A Lesson in Karma During 4th Grade Science

Did I tell you about the time my 4th grade science teacher put a curse on me? Yeah, that happened.

She was a slender thing, with dark skin and darker hair that was always tied in a low, thick ponytail, not unlike an actual pony’s tail: Ms. C. I remember exactly what she looked like, but for the sake of a good story I want you to picture Zoe Saldaña with glasses and anger issues.

Anyway, Ms. C was lecturing our class again on something “bad” we had done. I’m putting “bad” in quotation marks because I doubt that whatever deplorable thing took place was serious enough to warrant a 20+ minute talking-to, but then again, I remember Ms. C being quite the humorless individual. This part of her character, an utter lack of a funny bone, saddened me because she was one of the youngest teachers at our school. Unfortunately, she was no ally of ours.

Back to the story at hand: Ms. C was yelling at us, wasting all of our sweet time and putting us at a great academic disservice. I recognized that my peers and I could have been learning about the Earth, maybe even sparking a future career interest in geology in one or all of us, but instead a finger, a bony finger was being wagged at us. So, like all children past, present, and future in the process of being scolded, we stared blankly, counted our teeth, thought about why we drive on a parkway and park in a driveway; our minds were everywhere, but there.

When she finally wrapped up this speech, I was put in a mindset of praise. So much so, that before I had the chance to think about what I was doing, a whispered, but emphatic “Thank GOD!” escaped my lips.

“Who said that?! Who said ‘thank God’?! WHO?!”, Ms. C growled. Maybe this is the right place to note that I attended a parochial elementary school. Thanking God was serious business there, so saying it in the context in which I’d just done it was not small potatoes.

Ms. C scanned around the room for a tell, a crack in the facade, of the guilty party, but we were a bunch of (angelically) poker-faced 4th graders. In my heart, I’d hoped she’d just let it go, shake it off, etc. However, she took the situation from 0 – 100 (real quick) and threatened that if the perpetrator wasn’t named, we’d be missing recess.

Now, if there’s one thing that elementary school students value most during the school day, it’s recess: The daily opportunity to step outside of the educational assembly line and be children. You take away recess, you take away what separates kids from lower species, like adults. To my surprise, no one called me out (Though, one boy did look at me, but I shooed him with a “Boy-if-you-don’t-turn…” look.) and I’ll forever be grateful for that fact.

Still, I wasn’t going to allow my classmates to be punished for my compulsion to add commentary to everything, so I took a deep breath and put my hand straight up. Ms. C looked at me and twisted her face into a wry smile. “Okay,” she started.

At this point, I was scared. Not of the impending punishment, mind you. I was fearful of the possibility that she’d go off on yet another angry tangent. My little heart wouldn’t have been able to take two of those in one day.

“Okay, just remember that whatever you say or do is going to come right back to you. It’s called karma, boys and girls, and it always comes back,” she stared straight at me with the final three words, “to get you.

Silence.

Me, in my head: Is she threatening me? Who would say this to a child? And why is she bringing Eastern philosophy into this decidedly Catholic environment?

And that was the end of that. She gave us an abridged lesson and then dismissed us (even me!) for recess.

Every now and then since that day, I think back to Ms. C’s karma talk and wonder if what goes around had indeed come around and punished me, yet. For the longest while I didn’t think so: life’s been pretty good to me. But, now that I think of it, I bet Ms. C is the reason I’m allergic to peanuts. Yeah, that’s it.
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