Questions & answers with the author, Michael Moran

Q. When did you first think of teaching as a career?
A. In a college speech class, I was assigned a topic for an impromptu speech: “Stranger in a Strange Land.” I invented a story about being kidnapped in New Orleans and forced to feed coal to the engine of a steamship. The teacher believed it was true, and I was hooked on telling stories—true or not.

Q. Have high school students changed from when you first started teaching?
A. I think their struggle is the same: finding out who they are and where they want to go. The best academic students now match the best of previous generations. I don’t think the middle levels of students are as strong or as many.

Q. Are students still reading these days?
A. The National Endowment for the Arts says, “Not much.” I fear the drop-off with regard to books and newspapers is significant and may have long-range negative effects on both media. Reading of text-messages and Internet sites is booming, of course, but I doubt the effects are as beneficial as a book or paper can provide. The enthusiasm generated among the students for Catholic High’s “Book-of-the-Month” tradition (an extra book to read beyond one’s textbooks) is one means of fighting the trend.

Q. What will you miss the most about teaching?
A. I will miss the unpredictable nature of teenagers, a phenomenon that ranges from the baffling to the delightful. Adolescence can be the most acutely painful period of one’s life. Trying to assist young people through that challenging time was a fulfilling experience.

Q. What will you miss least about teaching?
A. Grading! If it were only the classroom that constituted teaching, I’d have plenty of fuel left in my tank. The older I got, the more heavily the burden got to grade my papers quickly and thoroughly. One might think I’d have gotten more casual about the process, but I didn’t.

Q. What prompted the writing of the book about Catholic High?
A. Roger Armbrust, my friend of nearly sixty years and an editor who had returned to Little Rock from New York, suggested that I give it a try. Prompted by his faith that I could do it, I tried.

Q. Was the writing easy or hard?
A. Roger told me that 30,000 words would do. I finished in about six weeks. The words came quickly—some who read them may think too quickly. Catholic High has had its fair share of noteworthy characters and wacky moments. I hope I did justice to the rich material.