Tenth grade meant taking a religion class with Mr. Kremin. I remember him standing at attention in front of the crucifix (in the way only a former member of the military can) to lead us in prayer at the start of class. He faced forward with his back to us; his reverence was an example for the rest of us.
Kremin’s class was amazing because he gave us one of our first tests of being treated as adults. When you walked in the room, you were met with an air of respect. You had to decide how to respond to it. It was the first time that respect in the classroom really seemed palpable: You walk in and you matter. It’s hard to put into words, but it’s one of those intangible things that really resonated with me.
He was a natural teacher and storyteller. What he shared was captivating, maybe because it seemed to be more than going through a lesson. He wanted to communicate more than just the material but to truly reach you, to challenge preconceived notions.
We talked about life and how to make good decisions. We were introduced to the four temperaments. I’m not saying I totally understood the differences, but it was at least an introduction. The temperaments later played a bigger part in my journey of self-awareness. We also read the book “Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens.” That was really enlightening and relatable. I think during our book discussion, Mr. Kremin also shared a popular demonstration of how to prioritize your life. It was a powerful visual about focusing on what’s most important and essential first and then adding in the extra fillers on top. (The shared video is obviously a more updated version, since at the time of our class social media wasn’t as overpowering as it is now.)
The class itself was called Catholic Moral Theology. So we definitely dove into matters of human sexuality but in the context of faith, in the context of how we are created. We had open discussions in class. Mr. Kremin didn’t shy away from challenging topics. He taught us from a book he wrote himself. He handed out hole-punched sections to us so it wasn’t overwhelming and we didn’t get ahead of ourselves.
Of course, one of the highlights of the year (or at least one of the most memorable) was seeing slides of what sexually transmitted diseases actually looked like. Oh yeah, we got graphic, but parents had to sign consent forms. Mr. Kremin wanted to make sure we understood the consequences of our actions. Sex wasn’t just some glorified action that people do because they’re bored; there’s a deeper meaning to it. Outside the context of marriage and even within marriage, there are real consequences. So we viewed slides of infected genitalia. I was very thankful my class was at the end of the day and not just before lunch. I’m sure it didn’t deter everyone, but I’m confident it made many reconsider having sex in high school and into college.
The biggest assignment of the year was writing our autobiography. He wanted us to write about our lives up to that point and then describe where we would be in 5-10 years.
I found my paper as I started to launch this blog. I’m so grateful that I took this assignment seriously. I didn’t just describe major events, but I went grade by grade and described highlights. That’s part of the reason why I can recall some of my early memories so clearly.
Moments that I wrote about for the assignment and have detailed on the blog, gaining a fuller view of these experiences:
- The time I approached my grandfather and asked him to stop pinching my cheeks
- Struggling to learn cursive
- My fourth grade experience of keeping a journal and having to share it with the class, how that jump-started my creative writing ventures
- The agony of sixth grade
- Feeling accepted in seventh grade and appreciated on the basketball team
- The challenges of eighth grade
- A nonchalant reference in the autobiography about writing the poem “Vanishing” and how it was my first psychotic poem
- The progress I made in ninth grade and making the varsity team
Of course I wrote beyond the assignment expectations, handing in 17 pages double spaced. I have no idea what was actually expected, but I doubt it was more than 10 pages. Mr. Kremin read every line because there was an ink dot before each line, words and phrases circled or underlined, and comments and questions written in the margins. It’s empowering to have such an engaged reader, even if it’s simply a graded assignment. That level of engagement means everything; it offers validation.
Notes from Mr. Kremin about the paper in general:
- You definitely are a writer! (Yes, 17 pages does indicate that!)
- Fascinating life so far and the best is still to come.
- It’s amazing how so many seeming coincidences have led to major paradigm shifts in your life — someone is watching over you.
- I hope to read some of your creations one day in the New Yorker or Atlantic Monthly or literary review.
- Maybe another Flannery O’Connor is being born.
The biggest difference between what I wrote for this assignment and my recollections on this blog is that in high school I didn’t know about my sensory processing problems. So some aggravations were overlooked in this piece, and some were underplayed. What I found shocking, though, was my apparent certainty of where my life was headed. Here’s the ending of my paper.
One thing I do know is I have always treasured my relationships with my teachers. They have truly made a huge difference in my life and I owe them so much. I never had any problems communicating with them and they were always ready and available to discuss anything that troubled me. That is why, I guess, it should not be that big of a surprise that I want to be a middle school teacher. I have always had a love for children and helping out anyone whenever I had the opportunity. I want to give back to the world like those I deeply admire have. My mind seems to be set on becoming an English teacher, but lately I have been battling between English or math. Either way, I will be happy. I love both subjects.
So far, my life has been pretty good. The only thing that I would change if I ever had the chance would be sixth grade. I had the worst time then. Then again, if I had not gone through that, I might not be the same person I am today. Everything has its reasons for happening so I suppose my experience was meant to occur. ….
Over the years I have always had my shy and awkward moments and they are still present, but I have learned to laugh at my mistakes and continue on my way. Also, my relationships are finally getting better. I have been more open which has certainly helped.
There are a few goals which I have set for myself. There is no doubt that I want to go to college to get a degree in education. The field is still up in the air, but I definitely want to become a teacher of some sort. Some where during college or shortly after, I hope to meet a guy that I can trust and one day marry. I want to get married, but if it does not happen I will be able to live with that. My dream job is to become a professional writer. If this for some reason does not happen, I would love to teach seventh or eighth grade and write as a hobby. I have always wanted to teach because of my mom. The idea of helping others along their journey through life is something that I have always associated with myself.
I guess I was much more optimistic than I remember. But it’s really sad how much self-doubt can keep you from pursuing your goals and working toward your dreams.