It was Mr. Jones who did it for me. I was in the fifth form at Antrim Grammar School – 16 and full of myself – when I encountered this teacher who introduced me to Chaucer and Thomas Hardy and taught me how to underline in red the most important lines in my Choice of Poets textbook which sits proudly in the bookcase in the den of my home in Phoenix, Arizona. Taught me how to annotate text with comments like, “My thoughts entirely, ” or “How true.” I was one of those students who was notorious for throwing out red herrings which ultimately led to Mr. Jones sharing his musical tastes – Dylan, Springsteen, Jackson Browne.

Mr. Jones, with leather patches on his elbows and a ‘Save the Otter’ badge on the lapel of the tweed jacket he wore every day.
I recall, with some embarrassment, a morning when he was reading from Hardy’s Return of the Native. Eustacia Vye was described as a pre-Raphaelite beauty. I remember how Mr. Jones instructed us to write the definition of pre-Raphaelite in the margin of our novel. Convinced that I shared Eustacia’s facial features, I raised my hand and asked to go to the bathroom. Mr. Jones excused me, and I was gone for a long time. When I finally returned to class, he asked, “Well, are you a pre-Raphaelite beauty?” Busted. Of course I’d spent all that time staring in the mirror wondering if, perchance, there was any way that I could pass for a 1970’s version of Eustacia Vye. While Eustacia came to an untimely end, I’m still here. And, thankfully, so is Mr. Jones, and he’s still teaching.
With great delight, I reconnected with my friend, Ruth, on Facebook. Truth be told, we werent the most academically focused students at Stranmillis College, Belfast in the early 1980s. Shared a love of good music and concerts, good literature, and completely unsuitable men. As has been said by someone smarter than I, “well-behaved women rarely make history.”
Fast forward 25 years, and I learn that the lovely Lucy, daughter of Ruth, had my Mr. Jones for English all through high school. Six years of Mr. Jones with his bang-on explications of The Pardoner’s Tale and the Odes of Keats and, no doubt, a little Wordsworth and Coleridge. Six years of chuckling as he shared the bawdy lines from Shakespeare.
God, if you’re listening, I have 200 Freshman students who need a Mr. Jones.
Can you help me out?
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