Sunday, March 20, 2005
Ode to Mr. James
Okay, so it's not often I do this, but I feel compelled. So here goes, I'm going to give it my best try...

There's a teacher across the hall from me at work. His name is Mr. James. His first name is Ralph, but I would never even dream to call him that. It might be b/c I know he's been teaching since before I was born, and he is just all teacher to me. It might be just b/c I respect him and look up to him, and it's like when you were growing up and had to call adults by Mr. and Mrs. Maybe it's all of the above.

Anyway, so his name is Mr. James. He is a math teacher. He teaches that dreaded subject that I cringe at the thought of having to teach. Don't get me wrong, I actually have my best days when I teach math, b/c it's a much more active subject than others and the boys know what it takes to finish it. That's another story, though. Mr. James does it everyday, and that is something I know I just could not do. As a matter of fact, he usually has to teach my lessons to me so I can teach them to the students! As well as being a math teacher, he is the lead math teacher, which means he is in charge of the whole math department (which, right now, consists of himself and one other teacher). He has been teaching at Birchwood for many years. I can't remember how many, but I do know that he was doing it long before I even entered a school. He really knows what he's doing, or at least has played the part very well! He has taught parents of parents of children who we teach now. Yes, sadly, we see students whose parents once graced our hallways.

So, I have the utmost respect for Mr. James. He has braved out a career that I have barely been in for two years and already want to leave. What I will miss most about Mr. James, though, is not his teaching. To be honest, I know little to nothing about his class or how he teaches. Our doors are always closed once class begins (a school rule), so I really have no idea what goes on in his classroom. I will, however, miss him. I will miss his stories, and what he's taught me. We have to stand in the hallways before classes to wait for our kids, sometimes for upwards of a half an hour in the mornings and after lunch. We have a lot of time to talk. This is something I excel at, if you have not met me. Mr. James is well aware of that. He's not so bad at talking himself. We talk about everything. I know all about his kids, and stories of how they manipulated photos when they were little, their relationships with friends and estranged spouses, all kinds of stuff. I even know a lot about his grandkids. I can't keep up, but I think he has about 452 of them. I know they are all very special to him, though, and I hope my kids are spoken as well of as his. I know he collects antiques and his wife collects dolls. I know Mr. James has a very full and loving life, and that he is definitely a very lucky man. He definitely sets a good example for me, and has inspired me to make changes in my life and to improve what I still have. What's more, not only does he tell me stories, he will listen to mine. I do tend to run on and on; I inherited that from my father, unfortunately. I can make a five second story last for hours (a wonderful talent when trying to drag out an essay with a minimum length!). Most tend to try to get away when I start to talk. Not Mr. James, he sticks it out, even if he probably wishes I'd just shut up! What a great friend!

I'm sad that Mr. James feels as I do about the sad state of affairs at our school. We have that to talk about sometimes, and we feel a lot alike. There's so much better out there to talk about, but we are both at this place where no one is respected, listened to, or treated like a human being. We're not alone, but it is nice to have someone to vent with. Mr. James is on TERI, which means he is actually retired, but can come back and teach for five more years and draw his retirement and regular pay. So you know the man loves to teach, or he would have been gone a while back! However, the situation is so bad at our school of late, that neither of us want to be there anymore. I remember when I first started few people were ever absent, and Mr. James was always there. Now we take turns being out. No one wants to be there, and we are both included. I'm sad b/c I'm leaving in June. Mr. James is trying to make it through January, then he, too, will leave. I will miss my students, believe it or not. They are products of their environments and don't know any better. I sometimes feel like we are the same way. I remember being a more caring and excited teacher when I first came to Birchwood. I think Mr. James was the same way. Now I think we are just biding our time until it's all over. Our environment has led us to this. I don't really know much about what Mr. James has done in his career, but I'm quite sure from just knowing him that he has achieved great things. I hope that when he leaves he knows and remembers that, as opposed to the last year of his career where all hell broke loose and education became a joke. I have few experiences to compare to his, but I will always look back and fondly remember the rare moments when a student "got it", or the other small things that have kept me coming back even this short time. I'm sure Mr. James has plenty of those moments, enough to fill an entire book (a big book!). I've heard some of those stories, and I will miss them, too.

Mr. James gave me a stuffed animal one day of Mr. Peanut. I told him how I had a Hamburger Helper hand and various other cool stuffed animals that my mom got me when I was little, and he brought it to me. I was thrilled! I didn't intend for TJ to have it, but one day Trey gave it to him. He fell in love with it, and now sleeps with it every night, and Mr. Peanut is one of his closest friends. Who would have thought? Maybe TJ knew it came from a really cool person, and was drawn to it much as I am to Mr. James. Who knows. I just think it's cool. It means a lot more to me that one of TJ's favorite toys came from Mr. James. Perhaps years from now he'll still love it. I'll always know it came from Mr. James, and I will always remember him for having such a huge impact on my life. It's funny the people who influence your life. Sometimes they're the last people you would expect to. Of course, if you ever met Mr. James, you would know that he is someone who would. I'll be sad to leave in June (or sooner), and a lot of it will have to do with the fact that there will no longer be a Mr. James every morning. Neither Trey nor my kids will ever have the patience to listen to me run my mouth! Who will tell me all the great stories Mr. James has? I have no idea if I'll ever see him again. Perhaps we may run into each other at Wal-Mart one day (isn't that really where life happens?). I'll have to eagerly await that day!

I remember telling Daemon I would do an ode to my favorite teacher. I have some that actually gave me credits for graduation, but none that have taught me so much as Mr. James. So, here's my long, drawn out and rambling Ode to Mr. James, my favorite teacher. Mr. James, if you ever read this, I wish you the best retirement and fullest life ever! Thank you.

Talk to you later! Have a great day!
posted by Christi at 2:48 PM | Permalink |


  • At 6:09 PM, Blogger Julia

    Sounds like a great guy. You should show him this. Can you imagine who thrilled you would be to see that someone had such nice things to say about you?

  • At 7:32 PM, Blogger Kurt

    I lasted fourteen years. Now I substitute. No meetings, no politics, the bell rings, you go home.

  • At 11:35 AM, Blogger Karla

    What a lovely rendition of Mr. James! Don't you love when people touch your life and have such a profound effect like that? We all need people like that in our lives.

    I wonder if he'll ever google his name someday and find this post?

  • At 7:06 PM, Blogger Daemon Cain

    How nice! Mr. James would be proud undoubtedly!

    Change the title of your post to have Mr. James full name...that way if he ever does google his own name he'll find this!!