Lesson 38 on What Danielle Taught Me
Teaching is a noisy job. It’s not just the clamour of corridors filled with voices and the clatter of many feet, it’s the conflicting demands of all sorts of activities and duties that create a kind of mental noise that won’t leave your head. You always know there is something you have left undone.
It is so easy to lose sight of what matters.
Danielle was a frail, sad, quiet girl who had started off her education in the School for Delicate Children. When I first met her, the phrase “Failure to thrive” jumped unbidden into my mind. She just seemed somehow blighted.
It was hard to know how best to encourage her. She hated any attention being drawn to her, and seldom answered in class, but she followed carefully whatever was going on. She didn’t interact with the others, but she didn’t upset anybody either. The group just accepted she preferred to keep her own counsel and in the end I simply fell in with that. With regard to written work, she jogged along in the slow lane, but she listened and thought about things. I always felt she understood.
If anything, I saw her as a failure on my part. She didn’t make dramatic progress, though she didn’t regress either. She was just a quiet presence on the edge of things.
It came as a complete surprise therefore to receive this hand written note from Danielle’s Mum when I was leaving.
“Dear Mrs Wise, We will always be so grateful for what you have done with Danielle. It has meant so much to her. You cannot believe what a difference it has made.”
I was pulled up short by this. I felt so ashamed. What on earth had I ever done for Danielle in all the time I had taught her?
All I could think of was this – I had provided a small place in the confusing, noisy world of school where she felt safe and where her right to be quiet and thoughtful had been respected.
I had simply been kind and tried to do my best for her.
Danielle taught me what a privilege it is to be in a position to make a difference.
And she reminded me what really matters.