An old man clad in a pilly red Maryland sweater and beige pants shuffles through the upstairs A Hallway with a Scrooge-like air about him. Like Ms. Havisham, he never retires this specific part of his wardrobe. He is doubled over because he visited the chiropractor one time too many. As he paces up and down the row of English classrooms, students’ phones go flying out of their pockets and backpacks only to end up in the filing cabinet he has affectionately dubbed “Phone Jail.” He takes a red marker and writes, “SOPHOMORE HAS THREE O’s, SOPHOMORE HAS THREE O’s,” over and over again on the walls.
You’ve heard of him because many years ago, he used to work here: it’s the ghost of Joseph Aloysius Caulfield, English teacher extraordinaire, longtime journalism advisor and It’s Academic coaching king. Legend has it he’s to haunt the halls of Blake High School ‘til the end of time, never fully able to retire or peel himself away from the place to which he devoted nearly three decades of his life. It is said he tried retiring once, but ended up coming right back to work the next school year.
We on the It’s Academic team often joke that’s how Mr. Caulfield will spend eternity, terrorizing students at Blake as he’s wont to do. Mr. Caulfield is a Blake institution, and without him, the school will simply not be the same.
It is safe to say Mr. Caulfield is eccentric, but it is a label he wears with pride. No one else at Blake High School will ever have the conviction or dedication to run the It’s Academic program like Mr. Caulfield has (and hopefully will continue to even into his retirement years). No one else at Blake High School would dare pepper obscure references to very old and niche movies (like Field of Dreams), historical events (i.e. the War of Jenkin’s Ear), or songs or books (e.g. “Sweet Adeline”) into common conversation. No one else at Blake High School would even think to compare Silver Spring to Afghanistan or utter the myriad other pause-inducing phrases Mr. Caulfield has.
The Man from Mount Rainier has made an impression on and inspired so many students and staff members who have passed through this school, and regardless of how you will remember him, you will certainly remember Mr. Caulfield if you’ve ever interacted with Blake’s resident walking encyclopedia.
After four years, I still recall my first interaction with him. He noticed me reading Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte and was seemingly impressed that a newly minted ninth grader was reading a work of classic literature for fun. We would later go on to meet again at It’s Academic practice when I made the best decision of my high school career and joined the team at the end of ninth grade, and yet again the first day of sophomore year when I found out he was to be my journalism advisor. There have been many great students Mr. Caulfield has helped mold throughout his time at Blake—so many phenomenal It’s Academic captains and Blake Beat editors. I feel truly honored that I get the opportunity to bid Mr. Caulfield adieu with this most unconventional ode.
I’m somewhat at a loss for words when it comes to what to say about Mr. Caulfield, the coach and teacher who kindled my fire for reading great books; who always had a story of his own ready; who made me more intelligent and more resilient; who made me laugh at countless It’s Academic practices; who instilled in me an old-fashioned work ethic; who encouraged me to apply for journalistic honors and awards like the Neuharth program. I am the student, the writer and the person I am today because of Mr. Caulfield.
A large percentage of the people reading this article probably will not understand the many inside jokes I have woven into the text, but they should come away with the understanding that Mr. Caulfield is one of the finest people to have ever graced the hallways of Blake High School, and that the school will suffer a great loss of light and laughter when he retires (for real this time).
Mr. Caulfield likes to say he is a know-it-all, but he really does know it all and he certainly taught me a lot about not just academic trivia, but also about what it means to have a solid character. I’m going to miss you, Mr. Caulfield. Blake is going to miss you. Thank you so much for everything you have done for this school.
To Mr. Caulfield! The opposite of Roland: short on height and long on brains. Happy Retirement!