Having My Childhood Neighbor As My Physic Teacher Was a Challenge

5 Apr

In the Kansas City Star today there was an article about a man who has searched for some of his high school teachers to thank them for all they had done for him. This article made me think of one of my teachers. Not to thank him, but to ‘sort of’ apologize for a bit of misbehaving.   There was a reason! Imagine if your neighbor became your teacher!

My home from fourth gra

My home from fourth grade till I married.  Bobbie’s home is just past the parking area.

Growing up on 78th Street near Boulevard East, in North Bergen, we had wonderful neighbors. We knew all the children on the block, and we often played stickball in the street after school and on weekends. Everyone knew everyone else. It was a community.

Our next-door neighbor going up the hill was the DeSocio family. The son, Bobbie, was about six years older than I. So although he was part of the community, he really did not hang out with the kids on the street. But of course we all knew him.   And he was part of the teasing and kidding that went on daily.

When I was about 12, and he was 18, he helped my brother and his friend, Jack, put me upside down into a garbage can. Bobbie was raking leaves. And the three boys thought it would be funny to dump me in. I did not find it so amusing. From that point on, I saw Bobbie as an adversary instead of my friend. He had joined the boys!

The next fall Bobbie went on to college: Steven’s Institute of Technology, which was in Hoboken. Not far from home. I believe he earned both a BS and an MS in physics.

During these years, we really did not have much contact with him. My Dad and his Dad would talk. And we would hear about what he was doing at dinner. Sometimes he would come by and we would wave. My parents talked to him the most. I think my brother, who was a bit closer to his age, and two-years ahead of me in school also talked to him. My brother actually got his master’s at Steven’s Tech, years later.

But then life changed. I was a senior in North Bergen High School. I was a good student and active in many school activities but focusing on the school newspaper and yearbook. However I did take physics and I loved it.

When we returned from winter break something had changed. They had divided our physics class. Some of the students stayed with the original teacher and some of us were put into a class with a new teacher. Someone just starting out; someone named Mr. DeSocio. Yes BOBBIE! And guess whom he got in his first class? Yes, ME!

I cannot imagine how he felt when he saw me walk into his class. But I know how I felt. Bobbie is my teacher! Impossible. I really did not know what to do or how to act. So I acted with all the maturity of an 18 year old. I totally goofed off. I giggled. I laughed. I really could not take him seriously.

I do not know why he did not request that I be put into the other class. But he did not.

However, I do know what happened in my home. I think my Dad and his Dad had a little talk over the back yard fence. And I got the parental lecture. I was in BIG trouble.

I was to treat Bobbie with respect at school and I was to call him Mr. DeSocio. When he was over at the house, I could call him Bobbie. But at school I could not. I could not tell my friend’s any Bobbie stories. I had to treat him just like any other teacher.

The parent lecture worked. I started behaving. I listened in class. It took about a month for me to calm down. And yes, I believe I had an A in physics.

But years later, I taught high school journalism in a small private school. Although none of my students were my peers, many were the children of my friends. And later, some were friends of my daughter. It was a bit difficult. And I often thought back to North Bergen High School and Bobbie.

I wondered if Bobbie continued teaching. I know he did for a while because my younger sister attended North Bergen High School until 1976, and he was still there. In fact she also had him as her physic teacher. But since she was so much younger, there was not the same issues that I had faced. I also found a yearbook listing on line that showed he was still there in 1978. Did that semester having me in his class toughen him up for anything?

In reality, I was really not that bad. (Although my sister disagrees, she says I was terrible. ) In 1973 there was a decorum that had to be followed. I loved high school and I loved learning. I did learn physics from Bobbie. So in the end, I guess we worked it out to everyone’s advantage…. I hope. But I will say that having my neighbor as my physics teacher was a challenge!

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