There are two lines from Broadway shows that stuck with me as I began my teaching career in the parish.One was from the King and I.It said”When you are a teacher by your students you will be taught.The other was from A Man for all seasons the play about the life of Thomas More. A teacher was begging Thomas More for a position in the King’s Court. Thomas replied to the request” but William you are a wonderful teacher. William scoffed at the remark and said “who will know if I am a good teacher. Thomas said’God will know, you will know and your students will know and that is a wonderful audience.”
My assignment at Holy Trinity High was to teach Religion to high school juniors. There were three groups and for some bureaucratic reason they were labeled as the a b and c groups. This system could not have been driven by any true evaluation of their intelligence or capabilities because there was not one iota of the difference in the three groups.For me it was the highlight of the day and in hindsight I put so much time into developing a curriculum over the summer that the classes were rigorous and high level. I never bought into the old teaching adage that you should not smile until Christmas and found the students to be not only bright but engaging. High school juniors are a separate breed because a great deal is at stake in this year regarding their futures. They have matured past the sophomore year and have not retired on the job like many of the seniors.
One of the major benefits to teaching was that the personal bond between teacher and student often led to the building of trust relationships where students would confide all sorts of issues. I was privy to personal as well as family issues, and also what was going on in the community. At the end of the day I was leaving the building when one of my students was hanging around with no apparent reason and I realized that there was something serious on his mind. After ten minutes of interesting but not relevant information he shared that there was going to be a robbery at Dewey’s Pizzeria over the coming weekend. He would not give me the names of the robbers but assured me that they were not students in Holy Trinity. That information did not matter as much as how I could warn the proprietor of the Pizza place without causing a panic.
That evening after another ghastly meal in the rectory I visited the Pizza parlor and engaged in small talk with the Italian owner while eating pizza. We covered a host of questions like his interest in my father’s Italian village. Finally I asked ‘Do you have a security system in the restaurant?” The tone immediately changed and at one point I shared that I had some information that he needed to take seriously.
What had been a casual conversation had become quite electric and he pressed me for my source. I assured him that I would convey to my source that he had been warned and decided it was time to go.
I was back at the rectory for no more than five minutes when a local detective rang the doorbell and asked to see me. He pressed hard for my source but I told him if I give you a name I will have no credibility with these kids in the future. He kept up the pressure but at the end graciously said” I understand father. Thanks for tipping the owner off. “The good news is that apparently the word made the rounds and there was no robbery then or ever in the pizzeria.