By The Prophet of Life
I wasn’t always a writer. Years of trauma in foster homes stifled my ability to talk, let alone write. I could barley read when I was in Elementary school. In my second to last year there, things changed. The change came with rumors of a teacher that was mean. A teacher I was going to have that year.
It was the beginning of the school year, I and my classmates from the previous year were all lined up before school waiting to meet our new teacher. An older kid in another line of students leaned over to me and asked me if I knew what teacher I was going to get.
I said “I think his last name is Kaneoff”
The kid said ’Exactly, I had him last year and he is the meanest, cruelest teacher in the whole world!”
A chill ran down the spine of every child in the line, including me. The next 15 minutes of waiting seemed like a tortuous eternity spent thinking about horrible cruelty. Our minds filled with thoughts of a teacher that looked like an ogre. We imagined an ogre who wouldn’t let us out of his classroom for lunch or even to go to the bathroom. An ogre that demanded silence and assigned standards for homework or even worse, whipped children with a strap.
When Mr. Kaneoff appeared, he didn’t look like an ogre at all. He was a short, thin, frail looking, elderly, bald headed man. He took us to his class and explained what he expected of us. His expectations were high, among them, he expected us to write each day. Some days it would be a few sentences, others, it would be a paragraph and on still others, it would be a complete story.
I struggled the first three months of class. A poor reader, I was an even worse writer. I had creative thoughts in my mind I just didn’t know how to commit them to paper with a pen. Then Billy joined the class. Billy transferred to our school from a distant city. Since he was the new kid everyone was curious about him yet everyone was aloof towards him as well because he was still an outsider, not yet officially one of “us”.
Then Billy wrote his first story. As was the tradition in Mr. Kaneoff’s class, Billy, like the rest of us, had to read his story out loud, in front of the whole class. While most kids were nervous about reading what they had written, Billy was not. He read his first story,. It was comical and he even called Mr. Kaneoff a bald headed eagle! The entire class roared with laughter including the bald eagle himself, Mr. Kaneoff. He later told us he would normally be mad but Billy’s story was so well written that he couldn’t help but like it and laugh along with the class.
As a result of hearing Billy’s story, three things happened. First, Billy became the most popular boy in class. Second, all the other kids stepped up their writing to try and write like Billy. Third, I realized that I might rise in my rankings from the least popular student in the class through improving my writing. Over the next few months, everyone competed to see who would have the best story. Billy often won but every now and then, one of the other students would win. I won three times, more than anyone other than Billy.My popularity within the class rose accordingly.
As the years passed, my writing skills developed as did my ability to read. My writing got me through all of my schooling up through college. It was in college that teachers began putting a new comment on my papers “Great Insight”.. I guess I have always had the ability to write with insight and that is, perhaps why I always got good grades on writing assignments but it wasn’t until college that it was officially recognized. Now I write for my own reasons, not because I have to. Everything has to start somewhere and for me, my writing began in Mr. Kaneoff’s class back in elementary school.
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