16 May 2014

Published May 14, 2014 by rochellewisoff

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Genre: Literary Fiction

Word Count: 100

TO THE SHEARING

            My seventh-grade social studies teacher strode the aisles like a stalking tiger.

            “If Seventeen Magazine told you to, you kids would hang beach balls around your necks and dangle pop cans from your ears.”  

            I squirmed in my striped mini dress that varied only in color from seven others in the room.

            “What’s wrong with wanting to fit in?” I asked.

            “You know anything about lemmings?”

            “Good in pie topped with meringue,” whispered the boy behind me.

            My teacher extended his arm, hand straight, palm down and shouted, “Turn in your textbooks to page 245, ‘The Indoctrination of Hitler Youth.’”

.

.

My story this week is dedicated to my 7th and 8th grade social studies teacher, Kevin McShane.  Thank you, Mr. McShane for words of wisdom that have guided me through life. 

McShane's Admonition

114 comments on “16 May 2014

  • Brilliant, Rochelle – the subject matter and the succint way you got the whole thing across.
    So thought-provoking and so true and so important. And I loved the fun and the humour…

    I was remembering the other day the story of an American class I read of years ago, when a Chinese table tennis team were visiting – and because of the West’s unfortunate relations with China in the past, the teacher asked all the blue eyed children to leave and go home that day.
    The ensuing drama in the class, ended with bullying and hostility and the humiliated blue eyed children standing up to go, with just a few brave souls standing in solidarity with them. At which the teacher said ‘you’ve just had your last class on Nazi Germany.’ and made them discuss why each had reacted the way they did…

    • I saw a documentary where a teacher did something similar to her elementary class in 1962 or 3 to teach the lesson of discrimination (her class was all white and had similar economic backgrounds). A brilliant and powerful way to get the message across.

  • Dear Valerie,

    Your recount sends chills down my spine. I’ll bet that’s a lesson those students still remember.

    Brilliant is not a compliment to be taken lightly. Thank you, my friend. You’ve made my day.

    Kia Ora,

    Rochelle

  • Well done Rochelle! Love the story (I assume it is). I remember the ‘blue-eyed’ incident in school. We learned it In our civics class. Wow – how memorable now – but I have never forgotten the lesson we learned. People will follow anyone if no one stops them. Stand up for your beliefs always! Good one Rochelle! Nan :)

    • Dear Nan,

      We do tend to be sheep, don’t we?

      Yes, it’s fiction this week, although I could picture Mr. McShane doing just what the teacher in this story did. He was fond loudly voicing his distaste for fashion and blind followers. And you can see this from what he wrote in my 8th grade yearbook. Delightfully intimidating man.

      Glad you enjoyed. Thank you.

      Shalom,

      Rochelle

  • I’ve learned to read your title first (not sure why that’s a lesson that didn’t stick in school), and I could see that it clearly tied to the photo prompt this week. But as I was reading, I wasn’t sure how you were going to bring it all together to include mini dresses and lemmings. I’ve got to tell you that my stomach roiled when I got to the last paragraph and discovered exactly what the shearing was. Such a powerful piece. And a teacher whose unconventional approach just might make a lesson stick in the minds of his students–how else will we learn not to repeat the mistakes of the past?

    • Dear Michelle (did I get this right or did I dream I saw your name?)

      A dear friend of mine is fond of saying that a good title adds a hundred words to the story.

      I don’t recall Mr. McShane actually doing what the teacher in the story did at the end but he very well could have. He did have a lot to say about fashion and mindless following as you can see from what he wrote in my yearbook.

      Coming from a writer I admire your affirming comments mean a lot.

      Thank you.

      Shalom,

      Rochelle

      • Michelle is correct…not a dream! :-) it sounds like your Mr. McShane was a great teacher, involved in the education of the whole student, not just peddling his own subject material. I bet he’d be pleased that his dedication made such an impact as to be featured in your writing. As a teacher myself, I can tell you that feeling you made a difference is worth more than a thousand paychecks (my husband doesn’t necessarily agree LOL).

        • Thanks for the answer, Michelle. ;)
          I’ve searched the internet for Kevin McShane and found several, none of them him.
          The last time I saw him was close to twenty years ago when he came into the bakery I worked in. We had a brief exchange in which he remembered me as being one of the smart kids. I wish we’d talked longer. sigh.
          He definitely made an impact. I just wish I could tell him so in person.
          Kudos to you as a teacher. Tell your husband to get over it.

          Shalom,

          Rochelle

  • Rochelle, Your story is always a good one. When I was in elementary school in the 50’s, not conforming wasn’t stressed by many schools. However, I went to a convent girl’s school in high school and the nuns stressed that we “dare to be different.” This mainly had to do with modesty, but it could apply to any good habit. I’ve always followed that advise. If you know you’re in the right, you can’t worry about what others think. My dad was part Irish and taught me to not give in to bullying. :) Once in the neighborhood the bullies were a couple of brothers so he took over and warned them. They listened. He’d been a Chief Boatswain’s Mate in the U.S. Navy. :)

    Susan

    • Dear Susan,

      I think you had the advantage being in the convent school where the moral standards were higher.
      Those days in junior high were tough ones for me. I didn’t quite fit the mold and I certainly didn’t look like Twiggy. Nonetheless I tried to straighten my hair and wore white go-go boots. And, unfortunately for those of us who didn’t quite fit, bullying went unnoticed.

      I’d love to hear what your dad said to warn the neighborhood bullies. I’m sure it’s something they never forgot. ;)

      Thank you for sharing that.

      Shalom,

      Rochelle

  • Great job, Rochelle. As a teacher, I can attest to this. :) Ironically, I just watched Daria before I read this and this teacher really reminds me of Mr. DeMartino from that show. If you’re not familiar with it, here’s a taste of the teacher. :)
    -David

    • Dear David,

      As always I appreciate your comments. I’ll have to watch the clip later.

      There are some teachers who stand head and shoulders above the rest. Mr. McShane was one of those for me. He was snarky, pushy, demanding as hell and one of my favorite teachers of all time.

      Thank you.

      Shalom,

      Rochelle

  • Shocking turn-around but oh so true. I spent all my school years trying to blend in with the walls so I was neither a leader nor a follower. Hopefully there will aways be one who dares to question and not conform and follow blindly. Why is it I always feel so much smarter after reading on of your stories ? :)

  • Dear Patricia,

    I was pretty much in survival mode in those days, too. By the time I reached high school, that changed and I became a nonconformist hippie (like everybody else…there are sheep and then there are sheep, eh?)

    Thank you for your kind words.

    Shalom,

    Rochelle

  • Very powerful story of sticking up for yourself instead of fighting to fit in. I wonder if there will ever come a day that the majority of youth begin to think for themselves, that the conformist tendencies of our society will dwindle… I really enjoyed Mr. McShane’s comments. He seems like a very insightful and amusing man!

    • Dear Adelie,

      It’s sad that we don’t fully appreciate a person until much later in life. Mr. McShane was never one to run with the herd and eschewed those who did. He was funny, fascinating and intimidating all at the same time. He left an indelible mark on my life.

      Glad you liked my story and happy you stopped by to say so.

      Thank you,

      Shalom,

      Rochelle

  • As usual, Rochelle, a fantastic character put across well in just a few lines. I did originally think the teacher was female, so the ‘he’ made me have to backtrack, but I think that’s my own prejudices (girls’ school = mostly female teachers), not the fault of your writing.

    • Dear Jennifer,

      Perhaps it would’ve been clearer if I’d used his name in the piece. Mr. McShane was one of the first two male classroom teachers I ever had. You’re very good at picking up on those little details I don’t think of.

      Thank you for your comments that are always welcome.

      Shalom,

      Rochelle

  • People make light of it, but you’ve nailed it on the head. We see it with internet memes and Facebook campaigns and things trending on Twitter. People are losing their ability to think, and it’s not a modern concept, but certainly with the amount of media stimulation we have, and the overstimulation we experience, it’s getting harder and harder to be an individual. (and when you are, you get ostracized)
    Much love coming your way today.

  • Seriously, I could actually see YOU in that story and it taking place at Center High. I really enjoyed it.

    BTW, I laughed out loud at the pie joke. Pure Rochelle! I even “rim-shotted” after. :D

    Good job, Miss Wise-off! ;)

    • Dear Q,

      Hadn’t quite gotten to the high school at this stage. Awkward puberty transitional stage of life and trying to desperately to fit into an on-the-rack world. Never was me. Never will be me. HARKNRF.

      Thank you for the kudos, Cuz.

      Shalom,

      Miss Wise-Off ;)

  • Nice to commemorate a well loved teacher. I remember my parents asking me if everyone jumped off a cliff would I? We do so want to fit in when we are young. Hopefully we get over it later.

    • Dear Alicia,

      There will always be a special spot in my heart for this man. Glad to have been able to share him if even for a snippet.

      Adolescence is a tough time. I don’t think you could pay me enough to repeat the experience.

      Thank you.

      shalom,

      Rochelle

  • Nice tribute to Mr. McShane, Miss Wisoff. He seems like a cool guy to write something like that in a kid’s yearbook. You didn’t fool him… he could see the potential. I’m sure he is proud of you.

    • Dear Ted,

      I’ve tried to find Mr. McShane via the internet but haven’t found a thing other than a number of Kevin Mcshanes that aren’t him. It would be just like him to not be on a computer, just to avoid following the beaten path of the masses. Needless to say, your comment caused me to well up.

      Thank you,

      Shalom,

      Rochelle

    • Dear Jan,

      I wish I could find Mr. McShane to thank him. I encountered him nearly 20 years ago but t the time it didn’t occur to me how much of an impact he’d had. I cherish the inscription in my old yearbook. Ah hindsight…

      Thank you.

      Shalom,

      Rochelle

  • Hi Rochelle,so good to be reading you once again.This was an amazing take on the prompt-a great lesson that even made me giggle-striped mini dress,lol!We humans definitely have sheep mentality-follow the herd,hide in the crowd,and the rest-most of us lack the conviction to stand true to our own convictions.A great tribute to your tiger like Sst teacher :-)

    I was down with some health issues and missed reading,writing and commenting till a few days back.Am seeing my Doc in a few hours and hoping for some uplifting news.I also hope to join in and read some more entries but just in case I am unable to,just wanted to say hello I have missed FF and all the fun and this is the first time I have read a few entries before I even saw the photo prompt clearly :-) Have a great week,lots of love

    • Dear Atreyee,

      I’ve wondered where you’ve been. Sorry to hear that your absence has been due to health issues. I hope things are looking up for you.

      Glad you liked my story. I’ve missed your sweet presence.

      shalom,

      Rochelle

      • Thank you Rochelle:-)I do hope that in a few months time I will be feeling better -just now I am fighting Hashimoto’s disease and thus hardly much energy and a lack of “good vibes” :-(I do hope to participate as much as I can but will not be bale to read and comment as much as I used to-hope the FF community will be tolerant of my enforced “laziness” :P

        Thank you for your sweet response and so sorry am so late in responding-trying to inspire myself today :D Take care,loads of love xx

  • I was wondering what you will come up with this pic. Brilliant and so different, what do they say ‘ out of the box’. Loved it though could not understand the pie joke.

  • Wonderful story and lesson, Rochelle! I didn’t follow or lead back in my school days, which made me invisible to almost everyone except the occasional bully. We didn’t have any money for fashion trends, and I remember wishing so much that I could have a pair of pretty clogs like the “popular” girls. Clogs! Bleck! :) What was I thinking?

    • Dear Lisa,

      By my senior year I’d quit trying to fit anyone’s mold and as a result enjoyed that year more than any other. ;)

      Glad you liked the story. Yours was fabulous this week.

      Shalom,

      Rochelle

  • Ah! We went in the same direction this week! What a wonderful tribute to Mr McShane! I can really feel the awkward moment when they all notice that they’re wearing the same thing. Very clever. You’ve truly captured a 7th grade class, and taken me back there. Love this. :-D Have a wonderful weekend; Shabbat Shalom!

    • Dear Dawn,

      I’m rather tardy in getting around to reading, commenting and replying. Such is life as a cake decorator…lots of graduation cakes and we still have another week of it to go.

      I did notice how close we were, in fact they could be two chapters from the same book. ;)

      Thanks for dropping by. I always look forward to your stories and comments.

      Shalom,

      Rochelle

      • Each week, I find it so interesting when I stumble on another story that is nearly identical, or so simpatico, as to be two chapters from the same book… I never read anyone’s post until I am done, making the surprise that much more interesting! This week, I am honored to share very good company. ;-) Good luck with the rest of the grad season! Shalom, Dawn

  • I especially liked the part about lemmings being good in a meringue. =D I also like the air of menace in the very beginning and the way the scary teacher is *really* trying to help them think for themselves, to jar them out of their complacency. It took me a second to deconstruct that image in light of him asking them to study Hitler at the end. Then, it all worked together perfectly. I love how you manage to do so much with 100 words!

    • Dear Anne,

      I’m pleased that it all fell into place for you. As for the lemming meringue pie, I love playing with words and when this came to mind I couldn’t resist. ;)

      Mr. McShane was definitely the kind of teacher who’d go out of his way to shake us. Those who dared fall asleep in his class knew the truth of this.

      Thank you for your kind words.

      Shalom,

      Rochelle

  • Nice work this week, Rochelle. Even as a teenager, I never understood the compunction of others to dress and act like everyone else. History tells us about the dangers of such compunctions. Well written.

    All my best,
    Marie Gail

    • Dear Alice,

      When I was thirteen, fashion was a big deal to me. I never quite could wear a lot of it since it seemed to be tailored to a 5’8″ 100lb figure, :(

      Thank you for your comments.

      Shalom,

      Rochelle

  • A light-hearted humorous story at the beginning – well done with the final line which suddenly brought home the serious point the teacher was making.
    I can imagine many teachers striding the aisles like a tiger – ours certainly did while invigilating exams!

    • Dear Ali,

      Mr. McShane was a stalker. ;) He was fond of stopping behind you and just sort of peering over your shoulder like a hungry vulture. Pity the poor student who dared fall asleep in class. They would often wake to a hand slapping their desks within inches of their bowed heads.

      He abhorred 60’s fashion and our compunction to follow the herd.

      Thank you for teaching me a new word…invigilate. And thank you for commenting on my story.

      Shalom,

      Rochelle

  • Dear Heidi,
    I can just picture you in your striped dress and curly hair asking why, why, why? Or what’s wrong with that? I can’t imagine anyone ever comparing you to a lemming.
    – Horace

    • Dear Horace,

      My lemming phase lasted only a short time. But oh those painful years of early puberty when you’re no longer a child but not even a teenager. I was never Twiggy and despite all the torture I put my hair through it just wouldn’t straighten out.
      Fortunately, the answers to my questions were answered and I gave up trying to fit anyone’s mold. Whether or not that’s a good thing…well, I guess it depends on who you ask.

      Thanks for swinging by. Hope you had a good time at the conference. I’m still on the lookout for a nice restaurant in Joplin to meet with our disc golf champion from the Islands.

      shalom,

      Heidi

  • I’d jump off a cliff to get a lemmings pie but the lesson I’ve learned is to never throw a Meringue pie (it tends to boo-meringue back at you). Lovely tribute to tribute to Mr McShane (may his tribe increase).

    • Dear Subroto,

      You get the puntification of the week award. Or should I just call ewe the chief punned-it? In other words, you’ve cracked me up this week.

      Thank you,

      Shalom,

      Rochelle

    • Dear Freya,

      Sometimes a phrase or idea pops into my head and I just have to go with it. .Lemming meringue pie just seemed to fit. I had a particular boy in mind, too. ;)

      Thank you for commenting. You made me smile.

      Shalom,

      Rochelle

  • Dear Rochelle,

    Powerful, powerful piece. Wow! Thank you for writing it. I had a teacher or two like Mr. McShane. One that changed my life. That I think about to this day. They helped to shape the woman I am because of their guidance.

    Love, Renee

    • Dear Renee,

      I enjoyed the journey back through time. He was one of the first male teachers I ever had. He was the epitome of intimidating, passionate, interesting and funny. At the time I probably wouldn’t have added caring but in retrospect I’d have to. What would we do without those life-shaping teachers?

      Thank you.

      Shalom,

      Rochelle

  • Rochelle, I am so in awe of your pieces! This one was no exception. It’s brilliant the way you brought together the title, dialogue, history, your teacher’s photo, and not to mention the photo prompt itself. I am left with an emotional imprint as well with the weight of your story. Brava!

    • Dear Jessie,

      I truly wish I could tell Mr. McShane face to face what his words eventually meant to me. At the time I laughed off his inscription in my yearbook but his words left deep imprints in my heart. I don’t even know if he’s still living but I’d like to think if he is living he might find my story on Google and happen by.

      Thank you for your sweet compliments.

      Shalom,

      Rochelle

  • The image of the ‘stalking tiger’ teacher and the mini dress copycats amused me … but you’ve flavoured this with the dark side of lemmingdom (I just made that word up, in honour of the poor lemmings) and created something meaningful and powerful. As always, your story is so very well done.

    • Dear Joanna,

      A former classmate and dear friend confirmed the image of Mr. McShane’s silk stalkings. ;) He used to stop behind a student and watch over his/her shoulder for a few intimidating moments. One never dared sleep in his class.
      Somehow the old myth of the lemmings following the herd over the cliff popped into mind as I was writing. I love it when that happens. ;)

      Thank you for your kind words.

      shalom,

      Rochelle

  • I am struck by the image of pop cans as earrings. This is one great teacher to have. My dad was a primary head teacher and made a similar point when the UK government introduced a national curriculum. Coupled with Doug’s story, this is a great reminder not to be a sheep, not to let the little things pass.

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