I did not intend to write about one of my A-Level teachers tonight. I was going to write about a quotation relating to The Mayor of Casterbridge that I committed to memory for my A Level English Lit exam and which has been buzzing around inside my head this week.
To put the quotation in its context I dug out my Collins 1981 diary to see what I had to say about the Eng Lit exam that June. As I flipped through the diary I inevitably got distracted, but then one page, Thursday 14th May 1981, jumped out at me. It was an affectionate portrait of Jim Watson who was one of our favourite teachers at West Kent College of F. E., Tonbridge, Kent, England.
Googling Jim Watson
I googled Jim Watson and was delighted to find some info at the first search, thanks to the MacmillanIHE website:
I was delighted to see that he had a string of books to his name, and the latest edition of Media Communications was published as recently as 2015 along with a Kindle edition of his Dictionary of Media and Communication Studies. The clincher was the author photo on Amazon: Grey hair but instantly recognisable!
My excitement was instantly dampened by Wikipedia, however, which reports that,
James Arnold Watson (8 November 1936 – 28 April 2015) was an English writer.Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Watson_(author)
Another look at the MacmillanIHE site and the past tense in the more detailed biography was clear to see:
James Watson was formerly Senior Lecturer in Media and Course Director of the BA in Media and Communication at the University of Greenwich and West Kent College, UK. As well has having over 30 years of teaching and journalism experience, he was also a highly-regarded author of children’s novels and plays. He co-authored the Dictionary of Media and Communication Studies (2015), now in its ninth edition.Source: https://www.macmillanihe.com/
Homage To James Watson
So what was intended to be an improptu and amusing stroll down memory lane now seems more like a homage to the memory of a wonderful man who I am very grateful to have had as my A-Level teacher. I think homage is an especially appropriate word, given our shared admiration for George Orwell, and I hope you’ll see the affection behind the fun my 18 year old self was having in sketching the character of our teacher.
For me, as a teacher of 18-21 year olds, it is fun to roll back the years and see the roles reversed. I recognise myself as a teacher in my description of Jim Watson, and see my students in what I write about myself and my classmates and I am hit with a poignant nostalgia (although I do not actually wish to turn the clock back) and a feeling of gratitude for those times as a student and these times as a teacher.
Anyway, here’s what I wrote – scrawled rather – on Thursday 14th May 1981, incidentally, the day on which Spurs beat Manchester City in the F. A. Cup replay.
A Portrait of Jim “Pad” Watson
Jim Watson was going on about his favourite subject today; the cinema. Like [my classmate] Stephen [Dark], he has a relish for a good wholesome discussion of the film, in the guise of giving us a brain pattern [i.e. a mind map] for revision. He lamented with Stephen our lack of knowledge and enthusiasm.
Jim is a character who is never seen as downhearted. Even in the midst of the great turmoils of previous terms, and in periods of low attendance on our parts, he bounces into the ‘hut’ with [an] eager grin on his face, cordoury [sic] cap set in [a] jaunty position, carrying [a] battered brown brief case.
His apparent casual and easy going attitude with the students and his knowledge of good teaching techniques give an impression of not getting any work done, but in fact he is one of the most comprehensive teachers I know. Never once has he raised his voice to us or lost control, even though we tend to banter on in total discordance with what is going on in the lecture.
His stature and appearance, dark curley [sic] fairly disordered hair, have been great causes of hilarity from the start. His nickname ‘Paddington’ is very apt. His huge Cortina estate and his socialist views complete the picture of a lovable chap; an unwitting pervayor [sic] of much mirth.DH Diary 1981 LOL
I doubt that our Pad was as unwitting a pervayor of mirth as a condescending 18 year old might have supposed.
Thank you, and rest in peace, Jim “Pad” Watson.
P. S. After finishing this I found this Obituary on the Guardian website.