Dream and Reality
I woke at 4.44 with a dream fresh in my mind.
The tables had been set out in a square-edged U. They were the light-coloured wooden ones with metal frames you’ll find in any conference hall. There were about twenty-five of us seated on matching chairs with contoured backs. In the open space at the end of the U stood our tutor. She turned to the woman sitting to her left and my right.
“What is the title of your book?”
I don’t remember what she said because my mind was considering how I would answer the question.
The tutor was looking at me. The room was quiet.
“It’s a trilogy,” I said.
‘Should I tell her the whole work is called the Thea Dora trilogy or give her the names of the individual books?’
“The first book is called ‘Gifts of the Goddess’”
There was a pause.
“I like it”
“The second book is ‘The Half-Life Girl’”
“I like that too.”
“The third is called ‘Rosebud’”
“There certainly seems to be a theme running through here.”
She asked the same question to the person on my left.
I didn’t listen to any of the responses until my attention was drawn to the young woman standing at the far end of the U. She had been asked the same question and was talking passionately. I recognised her. She was a former pupil. I had taught her. I don’t remember what she said but I woke shortly afterwards and remembered another pupil.
I had taught her English since she had entered secondary school. She regularly occupied the bottom place in the class. Her handwriting was an illegible scrawl and her use of language was desperately weak. In class, she was often the butt of the other girls’ jokes.
By the fourth year, when she was fourteen/fifteen she seem destined for the lowest CSE English grade.
One morning, at the end of class, she handed in her book to be marked. Homework had been to write a story.
It was break time. I wanted to make a start on marking. I don’t know why I picked up her book first.
It was a long story. And it had my total attention throughout. The moment I finished reading it, I put on my jacket, locked the classroom door and went to find the head of the upper school pastoral team.
“Have you got a moment?”
I handed her the book
“I should sit down if I were you.”
She too was gripped by the story.
“Leave this with me.”
I heard no more for a couple of weeks.
Then the pastoral head drew me to one side.
There had been an arrest. ’A friend of the family,’ she told me.
The telling of the story transformed that brave girl.
She began to smile again. The quality of her work improved. The bullying ceased.
I remembered this morning how powerful a story can be.