I was reading an article the other day that immediately brought me back: this year marked the 40th anniversary of Catholic Schools Week.
So what is Catholic Schools Week? It’s a time when Catholic teachers and students gather together to attend special masses and invite parents, teachers, parishioners, and anyone else who is so inclined to come in for Open School activities.
When I was a kid, those special activities included: Spelling Bees, Math Bees, plays, speeches, soliloquies, poetry readings, bake sales, the Crowning of Mary, problem-solving at the black board, Science Fair, having the 8th graders help the 1st graders make boats from Ivory Soap, and more fun stuff.
These days, the activities have included “Hero Day,” where the kids dress up like their favorite heroes (Fireman, Policeman, Mom, Dad, Mother Theresa, Pope Francis); Character Dress Up Day (The Cat in the Hat, Clifford the Dog, Cam Jansen, Junie B. Jones, Charlie from Charlie & The Chocolate Factory), Student vs. Teacher Volleyball games, and more.
This is one of those instances when I wish I had a special time machine to go back to when I was a kid so I could plan the activities for Catholic Schools Week. So what would I have in store for the teachers and students if I were in charge? Well, here are some of the activities that I would gleefully participate in….
1974’s Top Twelve Head-Turning Events for Catholic Schools Week
Are You Smarter Than your 1st – 8th Grade Teacher? I’d send in the kids who were always the super geniuses in the class, and coach them so they could demolish the teachers. If for some reason the kids weren’t able to beat them, I would act like Alex Trebek and tell the teachers that they couldn’t get credit for any of their answers because they pronounced it wrong or didn’t phrase the answer like a question. Yeah, I know this isn’t Jeopardy, but so what? I’m Alex Trebek and what I say, goes. I’m in charge!
Teacher Dress Up Day: students would be encouraged to come in dressed like their favorite teachers. So, if I wanted to dress like Sister Peg, I’d make myself a really ugly skirt and wear a jaunty neckerchief that doesn’t really match anything else I’m wearing. For Mr. Caffee, I’d encourage one of the boys to wear his pants almost up to his head and sport a bow tie. Fans of Harry and Robbie (our poor janitors) would get to wear the same clothes as the local car mechanics and carry a big can filled with sawdust, just in case someone puked.
What’s My Line? Students parrot famous teacher lines, such as: Mrs. C’s “a pencil is very interesting,” Mrs. H.’s “you’re so mature,” Sister Felicity’s “pick up my tissue, moron!” Mrs. V’s “Everyone’s entitled to their own opinions, provided they agree with mine,” or Mr. P’s “Breathe diaphragmatically!” Then it’s up to the parents or grandparents to match the teacher with the line.
Catholic Clue: Mrs. Mueller, our school secretary, has been “killed,” because she refused to let someone use the school office telephone. Students and parents must figure out which teacher did it, even though they all insist they are innocent. Was it Mrs. Heaphy in the Supply Closet with a yardstick? Mrs. Gross in the convent with a prayer book? Mr. Kearney in the library with a stack of books? You decide.
Let’s Make a Deal: the teachers are encouraged to dress up as favorite TV show stars, like Kolchak from The Nightstalker; Archie Bunker from All in the Family; Marcia Brady from The Brady Bunch; or Angie Dickinson from Police Woman. Then, your host, a boy formerly tormented by Sister Jane and now dressed just like her, drags the teachers by the ears and explains that they’re in BIG TROUBLE for watching shows like All in the Family, The Brady Bunch, Police Woman and The Nightstalker.
So now it’s time to for the teachers to say, “LET’S MAKE A DEAL!” They must choose between Door #1, 2, or 3. Let’s say they choose #3. Here’s what they would have won:
Door #1: Thirty hours clapping erasers! Which will really cut down on the time they spend hiding in the teachers’ lounge
Door #2: A year’s worth of mentoring the school Folk Group! Tell them to make sure they watch Godspell and Jesus Christ, Superstar the next time they’re on, because they’ll be singing all the songs from it, a lot.
And here’s their prize:
Door #3: 500 CASES OF CHOCOLATE BARS! That’s right, they now get to sell about a million chocolate bars! They can’t sell them to their families, since we told them not to buy any. Plus, we’ve placed a ban on selling door to door and parents have been instructed not to sell any at work for them. Now all of the teachers will discover how combining hard work, intensive prayer and sheer optimism can still lead to CRUSHING DISAPPOINTMENT. Hooray!
Atomic Dodge Ball: This is kids versus teachers, only the kids get water cannons and Nerf® balls, and they can (and should) shoot at the teachers, who are unarmed. Kids can hide behind obstacles, shoot from the rafters and burst out of closets, but the teachers have to stand there and take it. I’ll bet this one will be a BIG favorite!
Saved By The Bell, also known as: Student Appreciation Day: students are shown donuts from the local donut shop, which they are not allowed to eat until the bell rings. Of course, after seeing the donuts, one student will steal a donut, and the teacher must figure out who it is. He/she will do this by inspecting each student’s face and clothes for crumbs and icing, and possibly by water boarding suspects. Interrogation lamps are also highly recommended. NOBODY GETS ANYTHING UNTIL THE TEACHER FIGURES OUT WHO STOLE THE F#&!*#G DONUT! But in the end, every time a bell rings, a student gets his wings…err, a donut. This is repeated until every student gets a donut. Phew.
The Crowning of Harry: The kids will be encouraged to thank the janitors with a special crown, robe and scepter. They will allow Harry to sit in a big cushy chair all day while they clean up after themselves. If necessary, they will throw sawdust on the floor if any of their classmates puke.
Robbie gets a turn later, unless we run out of sawdust.
Nun Piñata: the kids who are good at crafty stuff will be in charge of this papier-mâché masterpiece, which will be a labor of love and a modern-day- miracle. It can resemble Sister Felicity, but not so closely that she will recognize it.
Imagine how the Parish Hall will ring with laughter as the kids will slam the piñata with a yardstick and beat the tar out of it while also screaming, “So you think you’re funny, hey stupid?”
This one will also be a HUGE crowd favorite.
Pin The Tail on the Monsignor: Hold still, Father! This game just requires a Monsignor with a sense of humor and a thick skin. A glass of beer and a bag of salty pretzels would help too.
Just a word of warning: make sure Monsignor has his hands full of drinks and pretzels when you pin the tail on him, because his wingspan is wider than a condor’s, and that beer glass might hurt your head.
Open School Visits: In this version, it’s the parents and grandparents who must go up to the board and be harassed and embarrassed by the teachers. Here are three possible questions to spring on them:
1. What’s the square root of 6,561?
2. Can you diagram 5 sentences in under 5 minutes?
3. Which sense is the strongest memory trigger?
If your parents/grandparents just stare blankly at the teacher and/or shrug their shoulders, mumbling, “I don’t know,” they should expect to hear: WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DON’T KNOW????
Here’s my advice to any and all of the elders caught in this dangerous situation: Watch out for the yardstick, my friends.
1. I don’t know. (Quick: put your hands over your head NOW!)
2. What’s a sentence diagram? (Again, protect your head and knuckles)
3. What was the question, again? (Use one arm to protect your head, the other to guard your knees. I’m afraid your midsection is on its’ own)
Catholic School Jeopardy: Now I really do get to be Alex Trebek. I will warm up by chit chatting with the teachers who are about to play by saying: “So tell me a little bit about yourself.” When Sister Clara says, “I’ve been studying the Dewey Decimal System since the dawn of time,” I can laugh my haughty Alex Trebek laugh and say, “You know, I hear computers will be putting you and Mr. Dewey out of business some day.” Hopefully, this doesn’t make Sister Clara box Alex’s/my ears.
Next, I’ll move on to Father McMann, who will say, “I try to cover every homily in less than 10 minutes because I don’t want to miss kick-off,” I can answer with: “No wonder your 12:30 mass has the best attendance!”
Finally, when I get to Mrs. Magoo, she will say, “I’ve moved up with your class every year since you got here,” and I can counter with, “Really? I hadn’t noticed.” The crowd will laugh, because after all, I’m Alex Trebek and polite laughter is in my contract.
Then, we’ll move on to the categories for Jeopardy:
NICKNAMES FOR THE KIDS ALL THE TEACHERS HATE
GYM CLASS EXCUSES
WHAT TO SAY WHEN YOU’VE GOT NOTHING TO CONFESS
WAYS TO SELL 1,000 BOXES OF CANDY BARS
SINS THAT BEGIN WITH “C”
THE BIBLE ON FILM
JESUS HAD ME AT HELLO
For the Double Jeopardy Round:
NICKNAMES FOR ALL THE TEACHERS THE KIDS HATE
WAYS TO TORTURE YOUR GYM CLASS STUDENTS
THE BEST PRIESTS TO GET FOR CONFESSION
WHAT TO DO WITH ALL THAT CANDY YOU CAN’T SELL
SINS THAT BEGIN WITH “M”
THE BIBLE ON FILM, PART II
MARY’S GREATEST LINES
And finally, the category for Final Jeopardy is:
WHO’S REALLY GOING TO HELL
I think my Catholic Schools Week activities roster will be legendary. But just in case my old teachers don’t agree, I think I’ll leave my time machine running.
Too Much Chocolate Cake
Remember the old bake sales? All of the moms would come in with their best cakes, and you’d have quite a hard time deciding which one to spend your hard-earned quarter on. We had some world class bakers back then, including Mrs. Pecora, Mrs. Reilly and of course my own mom.
So, in honor of those old bake sales, here’s a recipe for a cake that’s off the charts in terms of chocolaty goodness. By the way, is there ever such a thing as too much chocolate in a cake? As the kids say these days, that sounds CRAY CRAY to me. Try this recipe for a cake that got a ton of 5-star ratings:
Here’s a healthier version:
So, Hungry Lifers…if you could go back in time, what kind of activities would you plan for your old school/teachers? Which game do you think will be the biggest hit? Which cake did your mom bring to the bake sale? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!
And for the two or three of you who actually noticed, I missed my usual Wednesday posting time but never fear…I will post today and I’ll be back on Wednesday. Cheers!