Middle School; that difficult and confusing time period when children begin the evolution into pre-teens, it’s when discovering yourself and each other is just as important as learning US History or building a city out of modeling clay. This is the time when a new world of opportunities opens up and you are now given the ability to make some of your own choices. You begin to see a glimpse of the person you envision yourself becoming.
But this is also where the separation begins. This is where the future jocks start to grow muscles and cheerleaders prance around with their first set of pom-poms, singers exercise their voices, artists have paintings hung on school walls like trophies, geeks gather around Bunsen burners and (my personal favorite) the Audio Visual and news paper/yearbook group is formed.
Through all of these milestones, there is one constant – the educators. If you’re lucky enough to get one teacher who speaks to you and pushes you to be the best regardless of your surroundings or personal situation then you have been truly blessed.
That teacher for me was Mr. B. He had a reputation of being absolutely nuts, off his rocker and one step away from the funny farm. Regardless, when you stepped into his class, you knew one thing for sure; you wouldn’t be falling asleep!
When you were in Mr. B’s class, you knew without a doubt that at that very moment his students were the only thing on his mind. So much so, that interruption of any kind was simply unacceptable and blatantly intolerable. He was the only teache who taped a hand drawn monster face to the intercom speaker and would lob whatever was in his hand or had the unfortunate privilege of being nearby when an unwanted voice broke his rhythm? At one point, there were reports that a classroom chair was thrown – but that’s just a rumor of which has yet to be proven.
I had Mr. B for two subjects throughout my stint in middle school; reading and math, my best and worst subjects respectively. It was in 7th grade reading where he introduced us to what I consider a classic science fiction novel: A Wrinkle in Time. Since I am as far from a sci-fi fan as you can get, it took me a while to appreciate this book, but I soon found myself fascinated and immersed soley because of how he explained every detail. To this day, I still have the original copy we read in class packed away in my treasure trunk ready to be passed on to my eldest.
The next novel was kept strictly top secret. On the day of the unveiling, I remember sitting at my desk literally giddy with anticipation as I watched him. The glimmer in his eyes was clearly shining more brightly than usual. Once the bell rang, he casually strolled to his desk wearing a Cheshire cat grin. Instead of picking up books to pass out, he picked up stacks of neatly photo copied paper stapled together. There was no cover, no title sheet, just the beginning of chapter 1.
It was here, at this moment in time that I experienced my first and last horror novel. One I slyly hid from my mother for fear she would march into the school’s office and demand we cease and desist reading, discussing and passing out such filth. I still get chills when I think about those hours in the classroom reading this novel out loud, scary voices included. And oh, heaven forbid a voice break the through the intercom or a stapler or tape despenser would face certain death!
I’ll bet Stephen King never imagined his book “The Mist” would ever be given as homework for pre-teens!
Here, is my personal shout out to B for igniting a passion in my soul for the age-old pastime of reading. Oh, the places I’ve gone in my imagination over the years and the large volume of boxes upon boxes of books in my garage! Thank you for giving me a gift that I will cherish and take with me through all of my life.