My first encounter with Mr. J was in junior high, called junior secondary school in my country. I was in JSS 2 (grade 8) and my school was test-running an after-school program at the time. Mr. J was to cover for our English teacher on the day of the said encounter.
You might have heard a pin drop when Mr. J walked into the classroom. He had on a look that appeared, to me, to be almost as menacing as it was mocking. He wiped down a desk and, after setting his books on it, turned to attack the chalkboard, wiping off everything that was written on it. Next, he wrote the course title and the topic for the day. Finally, he turned to face the class, introduced himself, and announced the topic loudly: “Effective Communication.”
At this point, everyone was confused but none dared voice their concerns – except for one student, who bravely pointed out that the topic on the board was not listed on the syllabus. Mr. J explained to the class that he was only informed at the last minute that he would be covering for our teacher and that he had no previous knowledge of what we were being taught, as he usually taught the senior and not the junior secondary classes. In the end, everyone was able to calm down and we had a fun time learning about the elements of effective communication as taught by Mr. J, namely: sender/encoder, message/code, and receiver/decoder.
Four years later, I was in SSS 3 (grade 12) and my class had Mr. J for English. On the first day of class, Mr. J announced that he had been assigned to be our teacher so we could focus on the study of the English Language “for the purpose of WASSCE,” his exact words. At first, I did not understand why he felt the need to constantly remind us of the fact; however, as we covered more material, it became clear to me how comprehensive the English Language portion of the test would be.
I learned a lot in Mr. J’s class. His class focused heavily on the different types of essays, parts of speech, figures of speech, and sentence structure. I was particularly surprised at the amount of detail included in the parts of speech portion of the class. The title of this post, Mr. J will go to Heaven, was one of his classic short sentence examples for identifying the parts of speech; he used it wherever and whenever, as if to torture us at will. It was so funny, little wonder it stuck! Also, this was the class where I first learned about figures of speech. I had heard about metaphors, idioms, ironies, and similes before this class, but did not know much about stuff like hyperboles and oxymorons. I remember wondering about “onomatopoeia” – it was a strange-looking word and I somehow found it hard to believe that it was taught in English class and not in some other subject.
One other thing that intrigued me about Mr. J’s class was the concept of British English versus American English, though we focused mainly on the differences in how words were spelled. This knowledge has definitely come in very handy for me, especially since I moved to the United States; I think I would have given my college professors quite the laugh, otherwise. I still catch myself every once in a while spelling words the British way, like how I actually typed “spelt” without thinking just a few seconds ago.
I hope Mr. J goes to heaven, he taught me well.