Sophomore class, first lesson of the year. At the back of the classroom, there are Luigi, Dario and Antonio. They are exempt from Religion class but they don’t know where to go, so they stay. I explain to everyone how, through the work done in class, we will discover how Christianity isn’t a story of the past, with its certainly glorious traits. It is not comparable to studying Egyptian religion to understand the pyramids. Christianity is something deeply related to each one of us, because it claims to be the answer to our questions.
Luigi whispers with his classmate, smiles, minds his own business. The week after that, we start class again. I point out that our human questions aren’t abstract artefacts but impose themselves in our daily lives through the things that happen around us. Luigi is present. From the back, where he was seated with his classmates that will show up after the first hour of lesson, he moves up to the middle. He watches, listens to what I was saying and the remarks of his classmates. I ask him what he thinks but he remains in silence.
Third lesson. Luigi is seated in the front row and recalls what we spoke about last time. At the end of the hour, he asks me for my email address. Throughout the year we keep in touch and see each other, even with others.
I’ve been teaching in the Roman public school system for 20 years now. I started out as a substitute teacher in a professional Institute, in a suburb, then I taught in a Classical high school (Translator’s note: in Italy, high schools are divided in different categories). Now I’m teaching in a Scientific high school near via Veneto in Rome.
What happened with Luigi is paradigmatic of how important it is for me to walk into class every morning. It’s striking to discover how the things I confusingly started living when I was these kids’ age are the same things that they are longing for and desiring. It fills me with awe to rediscover that I am part of a history that impacts my life to this day and that, through me, can also interest those fifteen-year-olds, that have already stopped living, allowing themselves to settle.
For the new school year, Luigi decided not to exempt himself from Religion class. Now, he’s one of those faces I desire to see again when I walk into class every morning.
In the picture: Rome, playing a game at the “Centro”, where don Sergio Ghio is the responsible.)