It was the summer before fifth grade. The swimming pools, churches, and parks were filled with kids all buzzing about one thing: next year's teachers. We talked about which teachers we hoped we'd get, which teachers we hoped NOT to get, and most importantly, how we would throw a big fit if we did not get the teacher we wanted so that our mothers would "talk" to the principal and get us switched into a different class.
So . . . shortly before the new school year began, class lists were taped to the front doors of the school. I clearly remember the day my mom took me to see the lists. It was a Sunday. I know because I could barely pay attention at church because of my excitement. After church she drove me down to the school. I ran up to the doors.
And my heart broke.
My new fifth grade teacher was MR. DAVID KAHN.
All I had heard about Mr. Kahn over the summer was that he was very SCARY and very HAIRY.
I cried all the way home and threw the biggest fit I could. My mother told me I would simply have to grin and bear it . . . and that Mr. Kahn probably wasn't as mean or hairy as the other kids had said.
Well, let me tell you. The first day of school came and I learned two things about Mr. Kahn:
1.) He had a mustache and beard (so he was a little hairy).
2.) He was absolutely NOT mean or scary.
He was funny. He loved Garfield. He taught us silly songs. He loved teaching. He wrote riddles on the board for us to figure out. He even spent an entire afternoon making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches per our own hand-written recipes.
I had a wonderful year that year! And the best part was . . . we had "creative writing time" after lunch recess. I don't remember if it was every day or once a week, but I do remember standing by the doors, waiting for the bell to ring so I could be the first one back in the classroom to WRITE. This is the year I said to myself, "I am going to be a writer when I grow up."
Mr. David Kahn was the first great influence on my becoming a writer. I'm not sure he ever knew that, but I hope he does now.