Mr P

I've always had mentors. Usually men, usually older, people who taught me how to think about something, but not what to think.

The first real one was David Palmer, an english teacher who taught me far more outside of the classroom than in it - about art, history, literature, and the way politics and academia really works.

One of the few "grownups" who treated us teenagers as capable of rational thought - not that we always were - and who listened when we knew about something he didn't.

It was him who suggested I "try reading some philosophy", on what may have been our first meeting. I think the last time we met, he predicted I'd end up one of those people who never got a degree, but was always in demand as an expert.

In a strange way he was right - though ten years later I eventually got a masters in his field - art history. A subject I still know almost nothing about - I spent the whole course reading some philosophy instead.

I admit I did rather monopolise his time - even when he had better things to do, like helping a suddenly homeless older student get his life back. The student later became another mentor, and another one was the ex-boyfriend of Mr Palmer's daughter, which is probably quite strange.

Yes, he died recently. On January 5th, and I just heard about it. He must have been 82 or thereabouts. I always meant to thank him, but never got around to it. I think he knew anyway.


  1. You could write a letter to him, then burn it as way to send it to the next life. Or you could visit the grave.

    It's always nice to have mentors.

  2. I like Eros' suggestion.

    Recently I got in touch with one of my best teachers from elementary school and thanked him for his influence and enthusiasm in the classroom.

    It means a lot to me that he realizes what an impact he had on me.

    Unfortunately, it didn't work out as well when I went back to thank my high school languages teacher.

    He was away the day I arrived and he died of cancer before I ever got back to see him again.

    Ditto for a great college English prof I had.

    So I would encourage everyone who wants to thank ANYONE in their lives to do it NOW before it's too late.

  3. Heh. If his ghost saw me writing a letter to him and setting fire to it, he'd say "What the devil are you doing?!"

    Mr P (as we all called him) was cheerfully, casually atheist, with no temptation at all to believe in an afterlife.

    He did once mention the subject of his own death - in a semiformal discussion of religion. He said "When it comes time for me to die, I'll probably wish 'I wasn't here'".

    But as for other great teachers...

    There's been a few. One who taught me A-Level computing is still doing it - despite being technically retirement age. Another never taught me at all, but she somehow always "got" what we youngsters were thinking.

    And the man who got me through a good friend. He's also the man who told me "Do Not Become A Teacher! You'll Hate It!"

  4. This really touched me, especially as some of my teachers have had a profound impact on my life's direction.

    MJ is absolutely right, never pass up the opportunity to say thank you.