One of our colleagues and close friends rushed into the English Office early one October morning.
It’s going to be Halloween! Mimi announced.
The rest of us groaned.
Halloween on a high school campus falls somewhere between Carrie and Zombie Apocalypse II. It is typically a lost teaching day and is spent keeping marginal control of 150 to 200 students dressed in every conceivable costume and are much more interested in each other than the assignment at hand.
I have an idea! That was not news to us. Mimi always had a new idea. We’re sisters. We can all come dressed as nuns.
We looked at her. We looked at each other. We grinned. A plan was in the works.
On Halloween, we arrived, one by one, and looking very nun-like. With floor-length black habits, 1940s black shoes, white wimples, black veils, rulers in hand, and reading glasses perched on the end of our noses, we were ready. Sister Mary Peggy, Sister Mary Sabra, Sister Mary Janet…well, you get the picture.
Our principal, a very devout Roman Catholic, was among the first to get wind of our costumes. He rushed down to the English Office, scowling.
It’s Halloween. We’ll be good sisters.
He rolled his eyes. He had heard that before, usually in regards to our attentiveness during predictably long staff meetings where we attempted to keep ourselves awake by group-writing limericks, an increasingly trashy romance novel or correcting student essays.
Today, however, as we had no other clothes and there was no way he was going to get 12 substitute teachers at the last minute, he was stuck with us.
The warning bell rang for first period.
I walked into my English II class of 35 sophomore students, all dressed in various Halloween garb and ready to hijack the prepared lesson. The kids looked at me, looked at each other and then just looked stunned. They didn’t know how to react, with some trying to hide their laughter, some just plain surprised.
Good morning children. I stood facing them, stone-faced, the ruler tucked halfway up the habit sleeve and the reading glasses sliding down my nose.
Good morning, ah, um.
Sister, I corrected them in a firm tone. The costume had now taken over and I was totally in character.
Just because it’s Halloween, you still need to stand when addressing me.
And then, just like magic, the tone of the room changed and I was teaching 35 darling teen angels, calling each by their given name…Gabriel not Gabe, Kathryn not Kathy and so forth. Even more amazing, they sat up straight, hands folded on their desks and stood when politely answering my questions with “Sister, the answer is...”
At lunch, black habits and long veils could be seen flying across campus as the good sisters flocked to the office to exchange stories. The stories were all the same: courteous students, orderly classrooms, lessons completed even with Halloween.
Halloween had become a dream, not a nightmare.
We looked at one another, looked at our habits, grinned and instantly decided to come dressed as nuns for the rest of our teaching careers.