Loving Teachers & Loving Schools

Anecdote in Memory of Loving Teacher, Mr. Paul Johnson
A friend and colleague of mine died this past week, Mr. Paul Johnson.  I have been asked to speak at his memorial service and I want to share an anecdote with you about Paul.  He was my first friend in my new career as teacher.  The year was 1982 and I was assigned to an inner city junior high school here in Greeley. (John Evans Junior High School - now a middle school)  Of course I had no idea how to relate to or control 150 young teenagers and I was such a mess that first year.  Paul and I were neighbors and his classroom was right across a center pod from mine.  The classrooms were arranged in a circle with a center area for books and coffee and a telephone.  About halfway through the first semester, just before Halloween of that year I walked into my classroom to greet my first hour class.  I detected something odd in the air.  The students were all seated, orderly, expressionless at their desks. How strange! Total silence.  I looked around, puzzled, and there it was.  Or better to say, there it wasn't.  A total empty space where my desk and chair should have been.  I was somewhere between devastation and panic.

 At that moment the door to the inner pod opened and Paul with a big smile said, "Don, I think some things of yours are back here." 
Yes, desk and chair had been moved back there and shoved to one side.  "Hey, grab an end.  Let's just move everything back."  I opened the door and backed my end of the desk into the room.  Paul saw the embarrassed, pained look on my face and for all to hear, he said, "They're just showing how much they love you.'  And I just burst out laughing.  And then the students broke up laughing, and my career turned a corner.  Paul was the antithesis of the stereotypical English teacher who needs two colleagues to change a light bulb.  He could build anything - grandfather clocks were his specialty.  He gardened, photographed, repaired automobiles, and knew how to love.  So many will miss him.

By Don Perl, Coalition for Better Education Newsletter 
January 12, 2010