Mud Run memories and other school tales

“Philip, there’s a man up front who says he’s an old friend. Do you have time to see him?”

“Philip, there’s a man up front who says he’s an old friend. Do you have time to see him?”

Sure, I figured. Wonder who it might be?

Never in a million years would I have guessed. The visitor was Mr. Rodman, the principal more than three decades ago when a much younger version of yours truly was a student at Mt. Prevost Junior Secondary.

Quick aside here to get everyone caught up. A couple of weeks back, as part of my official Flashback 2016 tour (a handful of tickets still available), I was reminiscing about all the changes in the 25 years since I moved away from the Cowichan Valley. I mentioned noticing that Prevost was now a French immersion school, and tossed in a “wonder whatever happened to Mr. Rodman?” line as a bit of an insider shout-out to former students.

And here he was. It took me a second. I gave it the old “hey, how are you?” (without saying the person’s name) routine, offering a firm handshake and buying myself a little time and hoping the people-recognizing portion of my brain would get off its duff. Fortunately, it did.

“Mr. Rodman!” I said, shaking his hand for a second time and for a brief moment feeling like I was 14 and late for class.

We had a great chat. He said his recollection of me was of a “quiet, light-haired, unobtrusive” young fellow. I laughed, both honoured that he remembered me and delighted since I’m guessing most others would recall me as leaning more toward the loud and obtrusive side.

“Maybe around you,” I said with a chuckle.

He asked about my memories of Prevost, and I had nothing but good things to say.

I easily rattled off a list of former teachers. Miss Cooper, probably my favourite teacher of all time and the reason I can understand hockey broadcasts in French. Miss Kemshaw (later Mrs. Foster), so good as an English teacher and very encouraging of my early newspaper-style efforts. Mr. Zinkan. Mr. Price. The other Mr. Price. There was a huge focus on sports at the school, which I couldn’t get enough of. Epic ping pong matches with Mr. Robinson, who somehow convinced the local cable TV outlet that letting a couple of 14-year-old meatheads do junior hockey play-by-play was a good idea. Mr. Sturhahn in science. Mr. Cramb, who I used to watch race at Western Speedway, in metalwork. Mr. Mather. Ms. McPherson. Mr. Judd. And on and on. Mr. Rodman shared anecdotes about many of them, which was fantastic. The place — and the people — had a huge impact on my life and the lives of countless others.

We chatted about the relative merits of the old Mud Run and how I thought it was tremendous that we actually had to do it, no matter how long it took you or how wet and dirty you got. (None of this stay-at-home PE and 10 minutes of flexing your fingers at your desk and counting it as exercise). Mr. Rodman made me think about my hardline stance when he said “what if you only had one pair of shoes (and they were ruined on the run or you had to wear them the rest of the day)?” He didn’t change my mind, but I was impressed with the perspective and the leadership shown by viewing it in that context.

Mr. Rodman (I will always call him that, I can’t help it, it’s ingrained in me — my former teachers are always Mr. or Mrs. or Miss or Ms., no matter how old I get) retired several years after I left the school and still lives in the area. He said he loves bumping into former students and catching up on their lives and their successes. He talked about the “special culture” we had at the school, and how important it was to him, even all these years later. That resonated with me.

Now, I’m a huge teachers guy and I make no apologies for that. It is easily one of the most under-appreciated (and woefully underfunded) professions out there. The impact these people have on our most precious resource — our children — is beyond vast. For an educator, 30-plus years after the fact, to swing by to catch up with me speaks volumes about the man and the job.

And for the record, it wasn’t me who Krazy Glued all those lockers back in ’82…