My Favorite High School Teacher – A Reunion
It’s with bittersweet feelings that I write this piece. As I type, I’m sitting in my “window seat” on a Jet Blue aircraft, which took off from the tropical shores of my beautiful homeland Barbados to return me to my adoptive home – exciting, but wintry New York City. Moments ago, as the blinding sun beamed through this tiny window, I squinted to get my final glimpses of paradise, clicking away on my iPhone camera to preserve each image for posterity. Even after almost a decade, every time I leave Barbados, I cry. Yet, I am always eager to embark on the new adventures the Big Apple has to offer.
This was my most emotional “home for the holidays” trip. Much of my time was spent with my immediate family, visiting relatives, dear friends and long-lost friends. Not that I don’t usually do so, but it featured more prominently on this occasion, with me limiting my usual attendance at countless social events. I reunited with people I had not seen in 10, 15 and in some cases almost 20 years. I met new additions to my family or friends’ families – children born since I moved to New York. I connected in person with Facebook friends who have now become friends, ran into former journalistic colleagues who’ve been promoted or have changed jobs, and saw folks that I’d almost forgotten.
I was warmly welcomed into the home of my first boyfriend’s parents; his mom still keeps a framed photo of me. One of my best friends and his wife took me out to an exclusive event, another drove me around the island showing me all the developments that have been taking place in my absence, others invited me over for lunch, dinner and even to stay over, and some took the trek to rural Barbados through potholes, sparsely lit streets, along cane fields and off the “main road” to my mom’s house just to see me.
There are many stories I can write about these “reunions” and over time I probably will, but the one I’ll share with you today is when for the first time in 15 years, I saw my favorite teacher from secondary school (high school). For each of us, I’m sure no memory of that pivotal period of our lives is complete without the thought of at least one teacher who in some way positively impacted our lives. As a student at Louis Lynch Secondary (formerly Roebuck Secondary School), there were a few teachers I admired, who helped mold me into the person I am today, but there’s one only one I called my favorite teacher. His name is Addison Cadogan. Mr. Cadogan was my Social Studies teacher. He taught me from first form – age 11 – until my graduation. I could go back to those early years and tell you why Mr. Cadogan holds such a special place in my heart, but I have a more recent memory that will show you why!
If you follow my blog, you might have read about the devastating loss to my family last April when my favourite uncle Moses died of liver cancer. He was just 51 years old and one of the closest people to me throughout my life. My grief was exacerbated by the fact that I was unable to go home to Barbados to attend his funeral. The night after the funeral, my mom called to tell me about the service. She mentioned that a couple of my friends attended adding, “Your teacher was there too.” I responded, “My teacher, which teacher?” Mom said, “Addison Cadogan.” I was pleasantly surprised.
While Mr. Cadogan had recently added me on Facebook, I had not seen him since the mid to late 90’s. I messaged him that night. He confirmed that he’d attended the funeral: “This morning I looked left, I looked right, I looked up, and I looked down, but I did not see you. . .” I thanked him for attending the funeral saying, “I didn’t know you knew my Uncle Moses, what a small world.” He responded, “I did not know Moses.” But Mr. Cadogan knows me and that’s why my favorite teacher attended my favorite uncle’s funeral.
While in Barbados it was a priority for me to see Mr. Cadogan. Not just because he attended Uncle Moses’ funeral, but I genuinely wanted to see my former teacher, to reminisce with him and hear all about his exciting travels, cruises and his life overall since he retired in 2000. Mr. Cadogan and I met up on Friday, Jan. 4, at Sheraton Center and drove five minutes away to his Kingsland, Christ Church home. For the next three hours we traveled almost 25 years back down memory lane. He has aged well, just a tad slimmer than I remember, but hardly any other visible difference.
His inimitable sense of humor that tickled the fancy of pre-teen me sitting his classroom was still in tact. His keen knowledge of what’s going on in the news, politics, sports, entertainment and even popular television shows reminded me of well he knew the topics he’d taught me. His skillful play with words, still inspired the writer in me. He was still thoughtful, ever patient, giving attention to every detail. The latter was even evident in the immaculate way in which he kept his home. Nothing was out of place; tasteful décor and an ambience that made me feel totally at home.
Mr. Cadogan still spoke in that schoolteacher voice; a slight projection, yet measured toned, carefully pronouncing each syllable. That hint of a smile still punctuated his every word, his eyes twinkling as he spoke, still offering a lesson in much of what he said. And as with social studies, he still made the occasional mundane subject matter as interesting as ever. As I watched and listened, it was easy to remember and to be affirmed in why I liked Mr. Cadogan. But it was hard to comprehend how after a lifetime of teaching and now 13 years retired that he could so vividly recount so many classroom events, with such precise detail. He remembered students by their full names, their idiosyncrasies, the troublemakers and star students alike, and even the quiet ones.
He told me about two of his favorite students, the only two he said that ever brought him close to tears. I didn’t know one of them; she attended Louis Lynch long after I’d graduated. But I know the other one, the one he described as a stellar student, who paid attention to everything he said, perhaps too much attention because she even included his tangential comments in response to a question on an exam. While the comment was accurate and related to the question, it was not the right answer so he did not give the student the “mark”. This led to heated debate with that student.
Mr. Cadogan said he was torn when the student started crying, insisting, “But Sir, you said that in class.” I laughed as he tried in a high-pitched voice to imitate 15-year-old me and wished I could remember when I had confronted him on that matter. Then I smiled and my heart grew full at the realization that my favorite teacher – Mr. Cadogan, had just revealed that in his 40 years as teacher, I was one of his all-time favorite students.
~ I Keep it Irie ~