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Brother Rice High School- Brother Sloan

"Jimmy Greenfield Wednesday Discussion Topic: To commemorate the end of the school year, tell us something about a teacher who had an impact on your life. And perhaps blog about it later."

Jimmy Greenfield is the Community Manager at ChicagoNow. He is the CHIC- Cat Herder in Chief. Along with is faithful sidekick, Julie DiCaro, he runs roughshod over this herd of feral felines. Every now and then he issues a challenge, like the one above.

Hokay Greenfield. I got your challenge. Right here!

If you attended Brother Rice High School during the 1960s-1970s, you remember the impact freshman English teacher Brother Sloan had on you. Brother Sloan had a great impact, some say too great and too many times, on the lives of many freshman. We all remember fondly the impact of his meaty, what appeared to be then, baseball mitt sized hands on our peach fuzzed faces.

Brother Sloan came from the "old school" in Ireland. If a kid looks at you cross eyed, smack him in the face. Corporal punishment was the norm in parochial schools back then. Our hard working blue and white collar parents were not weenies, wusses, or whiners. They worked hard to pay that tuition. They expected us to work hard to earn- note the choice of word- good grades. If, like me, you complained at home, you got another smack from your dad and were told to apologize to the good brother for making him hit you.

Inside the classroom Brother Sloan was a corporal punishment tyrant. If you looked up from the book you were supposed to be reading, bam, a slap to the face. If you got any answers wrong on his daily five word spelling or vocabulary quiz, there was a loud slap for each wrong answer. God, or whatever you believe in, forbid you talked during class, did not pay attention, or misbehaved. You wound up sitting on the floor with four of Brother Sloan's finger prints bruising your face. Sometimes both sides of your face.

Brother Sloan was an equal opportunity slapper. Irish, Italians, Hispanics, Blacks, Poles, Protestants, or whom ever. He was so equal opportunity he slapped the only Jewish kid in class, who just happened to be blind. He sent his Braille machine flying to the floor. No one was immune from the impact of those meaty hands.

Outside the classroom Brother Sloan was a jovial, kind, and humorous Irishman with a thick brogue. A natural story teller, he would regal his charges with stories of his youth. "When I was a wee lad in short pants..." Inside his classroom, and it was his classroom, he was a dictator. You learned very quickly you were only there for one reason and one reason only, to learn. So you learned.

One curious thing, I do not know of anyone who failed his classes. Most, if not all, his charges were beyond literate, could write complete declarative sentences, paragraphs that made sense, and spell even the hardest words from memory. They could tell you the definition of those words and use them in a complete sentence. They could comprehend what they read and talk or write short essays about it. Brother Sloan's students did not learn, they were educated.

I learned one very important lesson from Brother Sloan. Never underestimate the impact of a meaty hand to the side of your face. That lesson lasts forever.

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