I never thought I’d be good at reading, or even be close to liking Shakespeare however, every once in a while we have someone come into our lives that has the ability to change even the strongest of opinions.
Mr. John Ford was that person for me.
When I read of his passing, I immediately thought of my first interaction with him.
He accompanied his wife Dr. Susan Allen Ford on the Delta State Ireland trip and I couldn’t help but admire his love for absolutely everything he encountered during our time there. Another student grinned as she told us that evening how Mr. Ford came into the lobby and said, “Today was fascinating.” It seems that’s how he viewed all things — or at least any experience I happened to witness.
Everywhere we went as we explored Ireland, the Fords held hands. They did this in Cleveland and I often saw the two of them strolling the sidewalks as I drove home or to Charlie’s house.
Their love for each other meant a great deal to me. From the outside, it seemed so kind and genuine. He spoke of her with the utmost respect and she spoke of him the same. Their love for each other inspired me. Their kindness and respect towards one another was my example as I navigated how to treat my own spouse.
Shortly after his retirement, I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Ford about her and her husband’s careers. In that interview I asked a question I always had. Why is it you call Mr. Ford “John Ford?” I noticed it when I took Dr. Fords advanced comp class for the second time. It was something so cute that I copied it making Brettwarren a habit that has stuck for the last 8 years.
Her answer made me appreciate their relationship even more.
She said there were several men named John in their family so the need to differentiate was important. She also said that with his personality, “One name just wasn’t enough.”
That got me. It was so true the more I thought about my classes with him and the times learning from both of the Fords, one name just wasn’t enough.
I had the privilege of being a part of his last class at Delta State. By then, he was a man of few words but each word he spoke was an important one and never fell on deaf ears. Our class loved and respected our professor so there was never a time where his students did not wait patiently for him to gather his thoughts and teach us about each play we read.
He was a little put out with my bringing our giant collection of Shakespeare to class but also using a No Fear Shakespeare bookmark right alongside the text. He said I should be able to read the plays on my own with confidence. I remember giving him some song and dance about how I’d get there but in reality I was more intimidated in that class than any other.
I was in good company with students that excelled in the English Department, which added to my intimidation. However, with each class I was met with encouragement and insight from not only Mr. Ford but also my classmates.
I later learned during my Spotlight interview that Mr. Ford felt some nerves in regards to preparing for our class. He was worried we wouldn’t grasp the material or understand what he was trying to convey.
On the last day of class as I sat with my No Fear beside my massive textbook, in the second row second desk (my favorite desk) Mr. Ford looked at me and said quietly and slowly, “Do you think you can do it on your own now?”
I answered yes, because he’d made it so.
Years later, Dr. Ford cleaned out her husband’s office, offering up some of his books to former students and fellow teachers. I made the time to swing by and choose a text.
So, in September when I stood before a group of junior high school students, preparing to present to them Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” I had a realization.
I couldn’t do it alone.
As I taught the play and did my very best to recreate the excitement for Shakespeare Mr. Ford gave me, I kept him in the back of my mind.
I stood at the front of my classroom clutching his very own copy of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” filled with is own scribbled notes and revelations. I clung to it like a life raft.
Mr. Ford got me through a 400 level Shakespeare. I didn’t expect him to also get me through junior high school Shakespeare, as well, but I am forever grateful.
We all have those teachers that leave something on our hearts. Many of mine were loud and excited, bringing costumes to class or treats or taking us on trips.
But Mr. Ford stands out for the exact opposite. He was quiet, he was thrilled, and he was fascinated.
I can only hope I give my students even a small piece of an appreciation for literature that John Ford gave me.
I can only hope I approach and end of each day with the same thought he did.
“Today was fascinating.”
Courtney Warren is a contributing writer with The Bolivar Commercial. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.