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Love at First Sine: the full interview

Recently, I had the great pleasure to interview math teachers James Allen, Mike Dicken, Patrick Odarczenko, and Brian Thornley on their school-famous bromance. With limited space for their article in the month’s issue, I wasn’t able to put in everything I wanted, so here is their full interview.

  1. What are your full names?
    Allen: James Thomas Joseph Albert Aloysius Allen.
    Thornley: Brian Gregory Thornley-Allen.
    Dicken: Michael Joseph Dicken Esquire.
    Odarczenko: Patrick Odarczenko Jr. II.
  2. Which classes do you each teach?
    Allen: Algebra II Blended and Honors Geometry. It’s what I attempt to teach.
    Thornley: Discrete math, Algebra II Honors Blended, and Algebra II Honors traditional.
    Dicken: Algebra I Honors and regular Algebra II.
    Odarczenko: Geometry Blended and Discrete.
  3. How long have you taught at HHS?
    Allen: Five years, but I’ve taught for two years.
    Thornley: 12 years.
    Dicken: Three years.
    Odarczenko: Six years.
  4. What do you think defines your friendships together as a bromance?
    Dicken: We wear the same clothing. It’s literally the same.
    Allen: No, that is exclusive to Mr. Dicken and myself.
    Dicken: Yeah, members only.
    Allen: We’re members of the Cosco –
    Odarczenko: I’m a member, I just don’t fit in the clothes.
    Allen: – and we buy the same flannels and jeans.
    Thornley: I would say that Mr. Allen and I have a – it’s so hard to put love into words –
    Odarczenko: Express it through dance.
    Allen: I wrote a poem for [Thornley] for Valentine’s Day. His wife did not even get him a card. [to me] I would put that in there.
    Thornley: Yeah, I would put that in there.
    Odarczenko: Do you have the poem?
    Thornley: I do.
    Allen: [to me] If you would like to publish the poem, you could.
    Thornley: Oh yeah, we’ll get you the poem.
    Thornley: So I would say, for Mr. Allen and I… And I actually would say for the most of us…a day doesn’t go by when we don’t say we love each other. So he’ll come into my room and say, “Love ya, Mr. Thornley,” and I say, “Love ya, Mr. Allen.”
    Odarczenko: You’ll hear Mr. Thornley yell it down the hall.
    Dicken: That’s a great element of their love.
    Odarczenko: Mr. Allen and I have our Thursday taco dates.
    Dicken: Sometimes I’m the third wheel.
    Allen: Yeah, sometimes he hops on the taco train.
    Thornley: And I think because they feel bad for me since I’m so old, they’ll occasionally buy me tacos.
    Odarczenko: It’s like three friends and their dad.
    Thornley: Don’t put that down because this is a bromance, and considering me a father is just creepy.
    Allen: He’s a father figure to us.
    Dicken: Mr. Odarczenko and I used to share a classroom together, and we shared everything. [to me] Bold the word “everything.”
    Odarczenko: Tears were shed when I had to move rooms.
    Allen: I frequent Mr. Dicken’s room for the pledge of allegiance on the mornings I do not have a third hour.
    Dicken: But he still likes to pledge [in his classroom]…
    Odarczenko: …and yell at his children if they sit down early.
    Dicken: He likes the world to know where his allegiance stands with the good ol’ US of A, as is traditional.
    Thornley: Mr. Odarczenko makes me coffee every morning.
    Allen: I also have Mr. Odarczenko’s coffee every morning.
    Odarczenko: Yep.
    Dicken: I don’t like coffee.
    *me* That’s a disappointment.
    Allen: It’s always here for us, just like our love is always here for each other.
    Thornley: [in reference to my statement] Mr. Dicken has been hearing those words for a very long time. On the record, he’s just been a big disappointment. He’s been hearing that his whole life.
    Allen: The coffee is there every morning, just like our love for each other is there. Wait, let me rephrase. Mr. Odarczenko has his coffee there for us every morning, just like our love is always there for each other…24/7.
    Dicken: All day, every day.
    Thornley: And really, the only reason Mr. Odarczenko makes that much coffee is because he’s longing to see us, because it’s been almost 12 hours [since we last saw each other].
    Allen: It allows for a good morning, both figuratively and spiritually.
    Dicken: “What defines your bromance?” It makes for a good morning…literally, figuratively, and spiritually.

    Photo courtesy of A. Downing.
  5.  How did your friendships begin? I’m sure the fact that you all are math teachers plays into that?
    Odarczenko: Yeah, being cooped up too close together forces friendship.
    Thornley: I think it’s really having lunches together too. That’s part of it.
    Dicken: [Our friendships] make it fun to go to work because you can just yell [to each other] down the hall.
    Allen: We were close even before lunch.
    Thornley: [in reference to Mr. Allen] When this little guy walked in his very first day, we knew it was gonna be special.
    Dicken: The little guy is Mr. Allen. He’s quite little. He’s a small man all around. Mentally and physically.
    Odarczenko: Spiritually?
    Dicken: [laughing] Yeah, and spiritually.
    Odarczenko: And figuratively.
  6. Do you recall when you all became close?
    Allen: Well, Thornley was here.
    Odarczenko: Yeah he’s been here forever.
    Allen: Odarczenko came a year before me. And then upon my arrival, I remember an immediate connection to Mr. Thornley here. And then when Mr. Dicken arrived two years after me…we could not be separated, the four of us. We’re inseparable, if you will.
    Odarczenko: We finish each other’s sentences.
    Dicken: No, we finish each other’s…sandwiches.
    Thornley: Exactly.
    Odarczenko: The whole math department is pretty chill and relaxed –
    Allen: But not like us.
    Odarczenko: [gasps] He finished my sentence!
    Allen: One person that doesn’t really fit our dynamic is Mr. Philpot.
    Thornley: [jokingly] God, I hate that guy.
    Allen: He’s tried to infiltrate our bromance.
    Thornley: I would say Mr. Philpot is too pretty for our group here.
    Dicken: He is a beautiful man. On the record.
    Thornley: He’s too beautiful for our group.
    Allen: We’re regular guys, regular blue-collar teachers. He’s more like a GQ teacher.
    Odarczenko: Like on a given day I’m a seven. Next to Philpot, I’m a two.
    Allen: So he really brings down our self-confidence.
    Thornley: My God, I’m a negative number then.
  7. What makes up your bromance (i.e. sarcasm, humor, etc.)?
    *general answer* Sarcasm, humor, and frequent pranks.
    Thornley: I know this is going to sound serious and I apologize for that –
    Odarczenko: Oh he’s getting all lovey-dovey.
    Dicken: If you’re making me cry, then oh my God…. Oh no, actually it’s the spicy popcorn. [he’s eating spicy popcorn during this interview] I just touched my eyes, ah!
    Thornley: – we genuinely all care about each other’s well-beings.
    Allen: Like if one of us is sick from school, we help each other out. Like, “Hey, do you need me to get anything together for your sub plans?” You know?
    Dicken: And give them rides to and from school if their cars are broken.
    Allen: Yeah, if his car was broken down, I’d drop Mr. Odarczenko off even if he slashed my tires the week before.
    Odarczenko: But I didn’t put packing peanuts in your trunk though.
    Allen: That did happen.
    Thornley: I helped move a telephone pole in somebody’s yard.
    Dicken: Oh yeah!
    Allen: Yeah and helped set up a curling rink in my backyard. But those telephone poles have been chopped up though.
    Dicken: We could pluralize that.
    Odarczenko: Yeah, we’re definitely there for each other. We help each other out, inside of school and outside of school.
  8. What about each other makes you get along / connect with each other?
    Odarczenko: We’re all different. Mr. Allen is short. Mr. Dicken is intimidating. And Mr. Thornley and I are smart.
    Thornley: That’s true!
    Odarczenko: One learned it over the years, while the other…
    Dicken: Over the years or the decades?
    Thornley: I love you Mr. O.
    Odarczenko: You too Mr. Thornley.
    Dicken: Many, many decades.
    Allen: We like to grill each other food. We hang out outside of school.
    Odarczenko: We’ve met each other’s families.
    Dicken: Yeah, we’ve gotten to know other people’s families very well. Very well. [to me] Bold that.

    Photo courtesy of A. Downing.
  9. How do you think students respond to your friendships together?
    Odarczenko: I think it makes it fun for them.
    Allen: I think they enjoy it.
    Odarczenko: Sometimes Mr. Allen walks into my classroom right as [my students] are bored out of their minds, so it brightens the day up. Or I’ll walk into his room, and make a height joke just to get his kids refocused.
    Dicken: We get standing ovations from Mr. Thornley’s kids every time we go into his room.
    Thornley: Yep! That’s true.
    Allen: Write that down.
    Thornley: But keep in mind that anybody who walks into my room that’s an adult gets a standing ovation, I’m sorry.
    Odarczenko: Right, but it’s still appreciated.
  10. Do you think that perhaps your friendships could be setting a good example to students?
    Thornley: Absolutely.
    Allen: You know, it’s all about positive reinforcement. In the halls, we’ll all say like, “Hey, Mr. Dicken, have you been working out? You look pretty jacked, bro.”
    Dicken: You say as I’m stuffing my face with caramel corn.
    Allen: Yeah, well you know what? Your body can take it.
    Dicken: I do feel a cavity brewing.
    Allen: And then you have Thornley, and I’m like, “Hey man, you look great for your age.”
    Thornley: Yeah, and then I have to change my perspective because when I look straight ahead, I can’t see anything. So when I look down, I finally see Mr. Allen and realize he looks great every day.
    Odarczenko: [Allen] has a great top of his head.
  11. How do you think other teachers respond to your friendships together?
    Odarczenko: Some of them are like Mr. Philpot: he wants to join.
    Allen: Some of them are envious and some of them are probably sick of it.
    Dicken: Most of sixth hour lunch is probably pretty sick of it by now.
    Odarczenko: I think it’s fun to see people enjoying that they work here. That puts a positive spin on days that aren’t that great.
    Allen: Right, it’s always something to look forward to at work: whether it be the wonderful children, or the wonderful coworkers, or the wonderful facilities. Write that down.
    Thornley: And, you know, when I have a horrible day at work, I don’t have to wait to get home to my wife to discuss it and make myself feel better about it. So if I have a horrible day at work, I can just go to one of my work-wives over here – or broskies. It’s nice to have that outlet where I can go in, close the door, and I got a good friend that I can talk about something with.
    Allen: Yeah, like maybe a lesson didn’t go as planned. And you’re like, “Dude, I need some help bro.”
  12. Do any of you have any inside jokes with each other that you’re willing to share?
    Dicken: I have one that starts off with, “what’s the worst that can happen?” I will not repeat the rest of it.
    Thornley: Oh I’ve said it to my children before.
    Dicken: But you don’t finish the rest of it, do you?
    Thornley: No, I cleaned it up a little bit.
    Odarczenko: Well the jokes aren’t inside jokes really because they’re all inside and outside the school. We make height jokes, we make old jokes.
    Allen: There’s a lot of height jokes thrown my way.
    Thornley: We actually don’t make fun of Dicken a lot though.
    Dicken: I get some height jokes as well, but [Allen’s] normally around, so they all generally deflect onto him.
    Allen: Then these guys [Thornley and Odarczenko] get jokes for being like, you know they have kids, so they can’t hang out with us and we give them a hard time. Like, “Hey man what are you doing this weekend?” “Can’t come over?” “Cool. Awesome. Then Mr. Dicken and I will have a grand old time then.”
    Odarczenko: There’s a lot of jokes, a lot of pranks.
    Thornley: We filled Mr. Allen’s car with packing peanuts –
    Allen: That I provided. So that one came back to me.
    Odarczenko: Then we filled them in Mr. Thornley’s desk.
    Allen: And then dumped them on Mr. Odarczenko’s desk.
    Odarczenko: No, they were all over the room, not just on my desk.
    Thornley: Mr. Odarczenko’s room got turned upside down.
    Odarczenko: Which I still have not seen.
    Thornley: I can’t believe that.
    Odarczenko: I know he’s not part of the bromance, but Mr. Philpot locked this lunchbox shut and wouldn’t let [Allen] eat his lunch.
    Dicken: Yeah, it was a good time. All these grown men crying.
    Allen: Seventh hour lunch, don’t mess with my food. So hungry.
    Dicken: Mr. Thornley is very good at peeling oranges. [to me] Put that in there.
    Odarczenko: Someone put Post-It notes on Allen’s car. And then you put them on my car, because I was an idiot and didn’t move my car.
    Allen: After I got the lock off of my lunchbox, I randomly placed about 20 plastic cups – in no discernable pattern – on Mr. Philpot’s desk upside down filled with water, and I put the lock underneath one of them. It worked out great.
    Odarczenko: Got a lot of water everywhere though. [Philpot] was trying to figure out how to do it, and he lifted a couple cups before he realized there was water under all of them. So then he slid them into the garbage can.
    Allen: I should’ve put little holes in them so they were slowly draining out. Like, “You gotta find it quick!”
    Dicken: [laughing] Haha, yes. [in deep, menacing voice] “Do you want to play a game?”
  13. Do any of you have any memorable anecdotes together that you’re willing to share?
    Dicken: Yeah…no.
    Allen: I would just say, go with [the cup prank]. That would be one of the memorable pranks here at school.
    Odarczenko: And the packing peanut fiasco.
    Dicken: At the start of the school year, Mr. Thornley came into my eighth hour and asked the kids, “Does it look like Mr. Dicken needs a hug?” And he tried to hug me and I didn’t want to be hugged, so he chased me around my room, for probably about three laps around the room before I just gave in and hugged the man.
    Thornley: Well, come on.
    Dicken: I enjoyed it. And he’s come in for hugs since…. It’s nice.
    Allen: Oh, so in February over the five-day weekend we did some canoeing. It was nice break that we had, with like 65 degrees outside.
    Odarczenko: And we had a man day.
    Allen: Yeah, and we had a man day. So we grilled, had fire, all that stuff, man things…and canoeing. So Mr. Philpot and Mr. Odarczenko got in a canoe together. And when the canoe came up on the beach, Philpot got out, tilted the canoe up and caught the other canoe on the edge, and ended up tipping the canoe and Mr. Odarczenko fell out into the water.
    Odarczenko: I had a bruise on my thigh.
    Dicken: Must’ve hit a rock or something.
    Thornley: I’ve also had great conversations with Mr. Allen’s neighbors sometimes.
    Allen: Yeah?
    Thornley: Yeah.
    *Odarczenko tosses out mints to everyone, and Thornley crushes Allen’s mint.*
  14. Is there anything else you guys would like to add?
    Odarczenko: As you can see, we just like to have a good time.
    Allen: We love each other very much.
    Odarczenko: We enjoy each other’s company.
    Thornley: I do. I mean there’s certain people I love more than other people, but I would never say who ranks in what order.
    Allen: How would you rank us?
    Dicken: Rank by height. Shortest to tallest.
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