Today I got a request for help from parents in Spain for ideas and support as they cope with homeschooling. Instead of sending lists of teacher manuals or student workbooks online, I thought back to my own experience of homeschooling during times when weather, illness and circumstance meant that attending school was not possible. It was a nostalgic trip down memory lane into the memories from my own childhood when Mum would help us create our own story books or learn how to plants seeds and harvest fruit to make jam to my recollections of building dens with my own children out of packing boxes as we moved to the other side of the world or helping them invent recipes and make fairy garden in jam jar lids. What fabulous times, what special moments. At that time moving down under was a huge adjustment and there were inevitably times of isolation and loneliness yet that was soon replaced with a sense of community through the children’s school where we were welcomed and included.
More than ever we need stories of compassion, kindness and care of others amidst the COVID pandemic. Teachers once more have come to the forefront of many online discussions as decisions are made by many around the world to teach remotely and parents globally discover the fine detail and commitment that their children’s teachers are going to ensure that each child’s needs are being met as best possible in the given circumstances. This brings to mind the inspiration behind my book about Mrs t and her magi pencil in which the central character Mrs T is fondly remembered by a former students who vows to follow in her teacher’s steps of kindness and care for others. Finding someone who can see people for who they are and who is prepared to go the extra distance to help others’ in their journeys can change a life. It can make all the difference in times of self-doubt, uncertainty and change.
Mrs T was such a person. As one of my children’s first teachers she will always have a special place in their hearts, in my heart. Indeed she captured the hearts of all her students, always taking the time and interest in each child and their special needs or difficulties, trying to find ways to help them grow and to build their self esteem. For staff who taught with her as I eventually did years later her attitude made me want to seek to be a better teacher and for the community around her, Mrs T has always been an example of kindness, friendliness and care for others.
As Mrs T herself tells she used the magic pencil to indent students’ works with ticks that the students then coloured to make visible. She would then tell them that ‘the magic was in them’! As you may imagine the children loved this concept and many – now adults – still recount the story. So as the children used to indent the paper with the magic pencil, Mrs T has indented he hearts of those she has taught and worked with bringing magic to their lives through her natural warmth and compassion.
I guess my thought today is to hope that teachers find strength to deal with the difficult and uncertain situation in which they are supposed to deliver meaningful learning experiences and that parents in lock down faced with home-schooling their children (many for the first time) might be kind to themselves and find ways of using the imposed home time to connect and build positive memories with their child not by supervising completion of worksheets and exercise books but by finding real experiences that help children to feel secure, loved and ‘worth’ spending time on so that they can look back with the gratitude as so many do when recalling their magical days with Mrs T.