Miss Shaw - English 2-A
(Ep 82 - "Kodachrome")
It seemed like my high school teachers came in every conceivable shape, size and style.
(The math teacher points to the wrong part of the blackboard.)
There's your answer.
There were the hopelessly confused...
(The Spanish teacher looks forward blankly, tapping her hand.)
Hablo, hablas, habla - again...
The terminally repetitious...
Hablo, hablas, habla - again...
The insufferably boring.
(Mr. Raply stands in front of a map of Europe, with a pointer.)
The Hundred Year's War...(points)...year four.
(Cut to English class as Miss Shaw walks around the room, reading.)
"I saw on that ivory face, the expression of somber pride...of ruthless power..."
But of all the teachers I ever had...I only ever had one...who was...a natural.
"Did he live his life again in every detail of desire and temptation..."
Miss Shaw taught English 2-A. She was a year out of graduate school, and there was something about her that was...cool. She didn't take attendance - she didn't need to. She let us sit anywhere we wanted. And she never, ever, used the word "literature".
"He cried out, at some image, at a vision. He cried out twice, in a whisper that was no more...than a breath. 'The horror, the horror'."
But maybe the most remarkable thing about her was...she actually liked what she did.
OK, everyone, open your eyes. Any questions? Comments? Complaints? Kevin - what do you think Conrad meant by "the horror"?
Well, I think Kurtz was...seeing his life.
And, he saw...how...horrible it was.
And...he saw the...truth.
Truth! The horror, everyone, is truth.
(Miss Shaw leans closer to Kevin.)
Ya scare me sometimes - you know that Kevin? (Smiles.)
Yeah. We all felt lucky we got Miss Shaw - even if some of us didn't "get" her.
(Felicia raises her hand.)
Are we gonna need to know this for our mid-term?
No, Felicia...you need to know that...for life. (Smiles.)
(The class giggles.)
And the best part was...the woman never failed to surprise you.
Everybody...you know what I have in my hand here? "Ivanhoe". Seven-hundred-and-thirty-three pages that the board of education requires you read. But I do not. I mean, let's be honest - it's long...it's boring...and it's old. But do me a favor, huh? Take one, and keep it around for appearances, ya know what I mean?
(Felicia raises her hand.)
Wait! Are we reading it or not?
Not. We're reading this! "The Catcher in the Rye".
Does the administration know we're doing this?
Not unless they find out.
But what if they do?
Well then...we'll just have to take our chances, won't we?
And that was what was different about Miss Shaw.
Hey, take one of each before you go!
She took chances.
And enjoy it! And remember...they're your parents - they can't help it.
In a word - she opened doors.
(Class on the grass.)
But if school was the heart of darkness, then English 2-A was a ray of sunshine.
So. Why do you think Holden ended up in a mental hospital?
(A preppy boy answers.)
Obviously, Holden Caulfield has a problem perceiving reality as it is.
Well, cuz he's nuts!
He's not nuts! He just couldn't put up with the system.
(Harold looks at Kevin.)
The system stinks!
Yeah. Kinda like school!
Well, that's certainly one way to look at it.
That was the great thing about Miss Shaw. You never had to worry about anything you said in her class. Everything was up for grabs.
Any other questions? Comments?
And I mean everything.
(Felicia raises her hand.)
Are you gonna tell us our mid-term grades...before you record them?
I wouldn't worry about grades, if I were you, Felicia. I only give two. "Pass" and "no pass".
I said "pass", and "no pass".
"Pass"...and "no pass". It was...amazing. A ground-breaking concept. And we reacted as any tenth-grade class would.
But my dad gives me a buck for every "A".
But what will happen to my grade-point average?
You mean I'm not gonna get an "F"?
With total confusion.
This isn't a math class. There are no right or wrong answers here. Only thought. And you can't grade thought. Besides, it doesn't matter what I think about you - it matters what you think about you.
So, with those words, we set out to make history - with...one reservation.
Can you really do this?
I'm doing it.
(Later, in the hallway.)
What I needed was a little clarification.
Kevin - give me a hand with these, won't ya?
What are they?
Book reports. A drag, isn't it?
So, what's up?
Well, I was just wondering if I could talk to you about -
Your report card?
Yeah. (Smiles.) You see -
It didn't go over too well on the home front - right?
And, your not exactly sure why we're doing this. Hmmm? You're not the first person who's come to me.
So why'd you do it?
Why not? (Smiles.)
(Dr. Valenti approaches.)
Excuse me, Miss Shaw? May I speak with you - for a moment?
Yes, Dr. Valenti?
I think we have to talk about your grading system...
Well - we don't do this here.
You mean we haven't done this here.
Miss Shaw, students don't respond without grades.
But my students are responding just fine...
(Dr. Valenti looks at Kevin. Kevin smiles.)
Why don't we discuss this in my office? (Points, and exits.)
And there ya had it.
Attend class, Kevin...(Exits.)
So much for the great leap forward of 1972.
(Cut to class indoors.)
Seemed pretty clear to me we'd been stopped in our tracks. Shut down. Busted.
(Miss Shaw enters.)
And there was nothing more to do than settle in for the bad news.
Before we dig in, I'd like to tell you about a very interesting conversation I had with Dr. Valenti, this morning. Or rather, one he had with me. I was informed that I had broken several important school regulations. Now, according to policy, it is required each of you receive a traditional grade. So, therefore, I have decided all of you will be getting...traditional grades.
Bummer. There goes my "P".
I couldn't believe it!
With...one little wrinkle. For your next report cards, each of you...will decide...your own...grade.Any comments?
And of course, we had only one.
(The class cheers.)
(Fade to the class outdoors.)
Over the next few weeks, Miss Shaw's class took on a life of its own. the word was out. Things were different here. The old rules...just didn't apply. Instead of lectures, we actually had discussions. And not just about books - about...ideas. About...life. It was sorta like riding shotgun with Che Gueverra. It was pretty cool.
(Dr. Valenti is watching from the distance, frowning.)
(Next day at Miss Shaw's car.)
Obviously, I needed more clarification.
You got a minute?
My time is your time - what's on your mind?
Well, it's about...you know...
Yeah. Ya see, people are talking about it, and, uh -
They just can't believe I'd let a bunch of bozos like you handle something like that.
What - was this woman clairvoyant?
Yeah! Well...it is kinda different, ya know.
And what's wrong with that?
Well, nothing! Except, we can't all get "A"'s, right (Smiles.)
I see. And is that what you were going to give yourself? Really?
No. I guess not. (Smiles.)
Big decision - right? But it makes you think - and that's good. My guess is, when the time comes, I'm gonna have to beg you guys to break-even with "C"'s. (Smiles.)
And that's when I realized...she had more than a lesson plan - she had a whole concept.
Tell ya what - let's go get a cup of coffee. Talk it over.
(Fade to coffee shop.)
That afternoon - a couple of things happened. I had my first...cappucino...
How is it?
They make 'em good here. (Smiles.)
And, I got to know Miss Shaw.
So, what do you think?
About the class - what do you think?
Oh. I like it. (Smiles.)
Yeah, I do, too. (Smiles.)
We talked for hours. About football, and dating...and of course - about books.
My dad gave me a copy of "The Red Mask" once - I thought I'd never read a book like it. I was like...falling into another world. And I read it over, and over, until I broke the spine. My dad had to just keep taping it up...
And the amazing part was...it was never boring.
(The waiter approaches.)
You want another?
Oh...I'm good. (Smiles.)
The thing is, I'd never met anyone who was so right for what she did.
It was incredible.
A woman with a gift.
I mean, it's really...
(Fade to Kevin's bedroom. He is tossing a football.)
Maybe it was the talk we had, or maybe it was the buzz I got off the three cappucinos...whatever - I found myself doing something I'd never thought I'd do. I picked up that copy of "Ivanhoe" - all seven-hundred-and-thirty-three pages...I mean, hey - you never knew. Maybe there would be a surprise or two.
(Cut to class as Dr. Valenti enters.)
Miss Shaw - May I speak with you?
But then, life is full of surprises.
Well, I am in the middle of a class.
This'll just take a minute.
You heard the man - I'll be back. In the mean time, why don't you guys write me a descriptive paragraph...on anything that's on your mind.
What should it be about?
Anything you want, Felicia. And have fun! (Exits.)
Yeah. Fun. I'd like to say I wrote something profound that day, but the fact is...I didn't. I don't think anyone else did, either.
(Miss Shaw enters.)
OK, everybody...turn in your papers! I can see genius has been burning. I'll really enjoy reading these.
(She collects the papers, puts them on her desk, then turns and sighs.)
Well...I guess there's no sense in keeping you in the dark, so, here goes. (Smiles.) Dr. Valenti and I had a talk. Seems he got a call from the school board...so he set me down and explained that from now on, I must...follow State guidelines as they pertain to curriculum, grading - the whole thing. His arguments were well thought out, and reasonable. And he left it up to me to decide what I wanted to do.
And the way she said it, we all knew what it meant. A fight to the finish between Miss Shaw, and the system. A battle of right versus might.
So I've decided. This...is my last day.
(She starts collecting her things, then hesitates as she walks out.)
(Cut to the parking lot as Kevin catches up with Miss Shaw.)
Miss Shaw! Miss Shaw - wait up!
I couldn't believe it. One minute she was teaching a class, the next minute...
Where are you going?
I'm sorry, Kevin. I have to do this.
You can't just leave, can ya?
I'm afraid they didn't give me a choice...
Look - if it's about the grades, that doesn't matter! Give us grades - it's OK.
It's not just the grades.
Well, then if it's "Ivanhoe", hey, I already read it! (Smiles.)
Kevin, it's really very simple. I'm a teacher - but they don't want me to teach! Not the way I can. So, I won't.
And then she said something I'll never forget.
It's just not worth it.
Not worth it? (Frowns.)
(Students gather behind Kevin.)
And even though I'd heard it - I just couldn't believe my ears.
It's not worth it?!
I know you understand - don't you?
Course, maybe I should have. About the hassles. About the frustrations.
(She gets in her car.)
But all I could think was...she was walking out on us.
What's she doin'?
She's sticking it to Valenti - that's what she's doing.
(She looks at Kevin and starts her car.)
(The students applaud as she backs up.)
That afternoon there was kind of a...celebration. They were celebrating youth. Enthusiasm. Idealism. They were cheering for the best, and the brightest.
(Fade to classroom. Mr. Raply is standing at the blackboard.)
Only they didn't know what I knew then. But they found out.
The hero...as defined in Aristotle's poetics is a man not pre-eminently...virtuous or just, but through some...
I guess in the end, Miss Shaw did what was best for her. After all, no compromises, no regrets. The only thing is - she didn't do what was best for us.
(Mr. Raply walks across the room.)
Whom, however...succumbs to great misfortune...
The cause of which...
I don't know who to be angry at. Her...or the system that drove her away.
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