Conduct for Learning

Three cheers for Catholic students who are taught good manners

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Community Virtue

It’s been over 50 years since I taught physics and math ― not the most popular subjects, compared to hands-on training in auto mechanics at a vocational trade school in Beacon Hill. My young students were a rambunctious lot, shooting spit balls and flying paper planes when I entered to start the class. For a semblance of order, I drew on my military training and had them all stand at attention when I entered the room. It worked wonders.

I was invited to teach a 5-day course on personal finance at St. Joseph Academy, a small private Catholic high school in San Marcos, California. My handouts were ready, as I anxiously stood at the podium of an empty computer room, waiting for the bell to ring. I hoped my suit and tie would command respect. I didn’t know what to expect but was braced for the worst when the classroom door opened from the hallway.

The girls filed in first, followed by the boys. It was impressive to see the students all dressed in similar school uniforms. Each stood by his or her own computer desk, apparently waiting for my signal to sit down. I lowered my hand and they all sat in unison.

At no time was I interrupted by horse play or talking in the back rows. When I finished a segment of the study plan and invited questions, their respect for an elder spoke volumes. I later learned their curriculum contained not only bookish information but a course in good manners. A quality private school like this is expensive, but the public alternative is a world apart. I don’t envy public school teachers who daily work to survive the hell of their black-board jungle.

Richard M. DellOrfano spent ten years on a cross-country pilgrimage following Christ’s instruction to minister without possessions. He is completing his autobiography: Path Perilous, My Search for God and the Miraculous.

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