Letters of Mass Construction

I Deal Imagination

Looking back on my life I am a little amused that the first teacher who really tried to get me to read was my third grade teacher Mrs. Llamas. Mrs. Llamas for all outward appearances hated me. She yelled at me frequently. She used to tip my desk over in front of the class because it was too messy. For all intents and purposes we were mortal enemies. Except…except she would buy me books. Every month when the book order form came out I would stare wistfully at it. Plotting out the books I couldn’t have and every month she would buy me an issue of Dynamite magazine and a book. That one day a month we were best friends.

I couldn’t read very well in third grade. I was pulled out for extra reading help. I had been getting pulled out since first grade. I couldn’t read but I loved the concept of reading. I loved holding the books, especially new books. This changed dramatically in fourth grade. That was when Mr. Nycum introduced me to comic books; Spider-Man, The Avengers, Iron Man, Fantastic Four. Mr. Nycum was a Marvel man. I ate comic books up like ice cream. Something about the combination of pictures and words sparked an interest that nothing else had sparked before. I began reading everything I could get my hands on. Mr. Nycum provided them often. Mr. Nycum was a sneaky man. It didn’t take him long to slowly move me into books. Providing me short histories of the mountain men of the old west. Short mystery stories (suddenly The Hardy Boys were all that). Mr. Nycum smothered me in stories. Encouraging me to skip books I had no interest in and always ready with the next suggestion.

By 5th grade I was no longer getting extra help for reading. By 6th grade the library was my second home. I gobbled up The Chronicles of Narnia, The Dark is Rising Sequence, The Indian in the Cupboard, and many more. Than I started reading Doc Savage and John Carter and my imagination exploded. I became a life long reader of Science Fiction and Fantasy right there. I moved on to Sword of Shannara, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Foundation, Dune, anything I could get my hands on.

I know now that Mrs. Llamas and Mr. Nycum still have their fingers all over the teacher I am today. While I always thought of Mrs. Llamas as my adversary. I know now that was just the world she was from. She wielded the carrot and the stick with equal dexterity. She bought me books. She fostered a love that was incomplete but trying to burst out. Mr. Nycum on the other hand. I am Mr. Nycum. I interact with my students the way he did. I care about my students the way he did. I peddle books on my students the way he did.

I am a dealer of imagination and my drug of choice is books. I am good at getting kids in books. I pride myself on my ability to find the hook which will get even the most reluctant reader reading. Last year I taught 56 kids language arts and they read over 100 million words. It was one of the high points of my career. The Mr. Nycum in me was running wild but you know what? So was the Mrs. Llama. My students have figured out very early on that if they smile and ask nicely I will buy whatever book they want. The amount of money I have spent on my classroom library and Kindles is large (like Death Star large). I don’t mind. I do it because those who came before me reached out and saved my life. Providing me with worlds and wonders to get me through all the hard times. I walk in their footsteps and it has been an honor.

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