‘Once Upon a Time’ Carrot Ranch #FlashFiction

This week Charlie Mills at Carrot Ranch has prompted us to write 99 words about ‘once upon a time’ by 19th January.

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Here’s mine:

Once upon a time, there was a little girl, who loved listening to stories of knights in shining armour, princes and fairy godmothers in faraway places, who rescued beautiful princesses in distress.

Years later she discovered that knights, princes, and godmothers needed saving, too, so she became a teacher and told her students stories about people who needed help, and how ordinary children who aren’t princes, princesses, or fairy godmothers rescue each other every day, in small ways, like saying; NO FAIL ‘Next Opportunity! It’s your First Attempt In Learning!’ and this isn’t the END because ‘Effort Never Dies!’

 

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Great prompt and flash, Charlie! I absolutely agree with you that fairy tales are mostly sexist, unrealistic, and often pass on dated cultural values. I wonder why it’s mostly men who told the stories? Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, Lewis Carroll, Wilhelm Hauff, Charles Perrault, Alexander Pushkin, Carlo Collodi, and I’m pretty sure the Arabian Nights weren’t written by a woman. More info here.

History is no doubt told by the victors, and fairy tales by men. It has left the women with the losers. I like to think/imagine things are changing and women’s voices are heard at last, in some parts of the world, in some sectors of society. Sadly not enough and not everywhere. It’s an ongoing struggle for equality, in which every mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, son and daughter must participate.

Teachers also have an important role to play in the transmission of culture and values.

How can we ‘teach’ or help children and future generations to be less sexist?

I’m a teacher. I know ‘teaching’ does not always lead to ‘learning’. You can’t ‘teach’ children to be less sexist, just like you can’t make a horse drink. We all know you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

 

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Children aren’t vases to be filled, or lights to be turned on, if they’re not actively involved and willing to learn, they won’t. Of course they can pass exams, and even memorise stuff, but they won’t learn.

Learning is an ongoing and lifelong process which changes our perception of the world, enables interaction with our surroundings, and our understanding of the events that occur around us. It gives us the tools, methods and knowledge to reflect on what is, and imagine what could or should be, in an effort to improve our lives and make the world a better place for everyone, but especially for each one of us. 

Parents can’t do it on their own. Teachers can’t do it on their own, because we all know..

It Takes A Village To Raise A Child

The village is global now, so we’re all responsible! Let’s do it!

Grain of sand

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Would you like to take part or read some of the other flash fiction? Respond by January 19, 2016 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome! Where you take the fairy tale is entirely up to you. Your character can break the traditional mold, or your ending can be less than happy. Elements of fairy tales include magic, predicaments, villains, heroes, fairy-folk and kingdoms. How can you turn these elements upside down or use them in a realistic setting? Write your own fairy tale here

Back to School: A Tribute to Sister Catherine on #September1st

Back to school today for teachers. September resits, staff meetings, new schedules, new students. Too much paperwork for all of us, but let’s not forget this essential piece of advice.

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I write because I’ve been an avid reader all my life. My wonderful teacher, Sister Catherine, at St Thomas’s RC High School, pointed the way. She showed me where to look. She taught me to love reading.

The last time I saw Sister Catherine, I was thirteen years old. That was 43 years ago. I don’t have a picture and I haven’t seen her since, but I have never forgotten her face, her voice, her smell, or what she taught me.

Her voice was soft, sibilant, and smooth, like the water seeping along a stream. I vividly remember her reading Blake’s poem ‘Slowly silently now the moon,  walks the night in her silver shoon’, and thinking that she might have written it herself.

Her shape was hidden under a heavy white habit, but she was short and I guessed plump. Her eyebrows were grey, so I imagined her hair had turned grey too, although it was well covered by her long black and white cap. A stiff coif held her chin and face firmly in place, making the movement of her head appear awkward at times. Her cheeks were round, rosy and kissable, like a grandmother’s. She was also very huggable, although of course, we never, ever hugged her.

She used to leave a waft of soap and talc in the air as she walked past, always slowly, not because she wasn’t young, but because she kept herself firmly in check. I don’t know how I know that, but I’m sure of it.

Now I know that Catherine wasn’t her name. She was probably given the name Catherine, after her order’s patron saint, Saint Catherine of Siena, when she was ordained. I often wondered if she was living the life she wanted to live, because her eyes, swollen behind thick round spectacles, were sad.

I suppose she was Irish, like the other nuns, but she didn’t have a hint of Irish accent like the rest did. I’m sure teaching and especially literature filled her life and compensated for her lack of children of her own.

She rarely smiled, and her eyes were always expressionless, but her voice would light up when she read, and she read to us every day, usually the last period, and all afternoon on Fridays.

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I dedicated my first book partly to her:

For Sister Catherine, whose sweet and patient voice introduced me to the mysterious, delectable, and delightfully mischievous, Victorians.

She was a great fan of Wilkie Collins, she read The Moonstone and The Lady in White. We also read Treasure Island, Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, and many wonderful poems by Blake, Keats, Wordsworth, and Hilaire Belloc, among others. I also remember enjoying Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, too!

I had never read an adult novel before then, and I didn’t really read them. She would usually do so, although sometimes we read in turns. I was caught in her enthusiasm in reading about adventures in faraway lands and eras, and the yearning grew over the following years. I moved to another school, the following year, but my love for the Victorians grew.

I wish I could tell her she sowed the seed of the reader I am and therefore the writer I have become.

The first day of the school year is a fitting time to pay a tribute to the very special teacher who I will never forget, sweet Sister Catherine.

Do you remember a special teacher who showed you where to look?