The Sprinkled Pepper Diaries Archived
Tuesday, July 30, 2013 You are here (, , )

This is for Georgia, who said she didn’t understand.

1. I stood on one side of the wooden gate; she sat on a bench some way away on the other; our eyes met.

She was four years old at the time, four-and-three-quarters to be precise: a round little face, pink waterproof overalls, her hair in bunches. I was almost twenty-seven: deep in transition, not any longer the person I had been before, not yet the person I would become. She looked at me, and in that moment she was as big as she was little; I looked at her, and in that moment I was as strong-and-brave-and-true as I was lost-and-scared; and as her clear, steady gaze was matched by mine her eyes seemed to say, “oh good, you are here.” As if she had never expected anything less from me but she was happy to see that I was carrying out my part of the plan nonetheless.

She was five and a half when she told everyone I would be her teacher. We didn’t quite believe her, but she knew what she was talking about. She was six-and-a-quarter on the morning she walked down the wooden plank bridge we had build for the start-of-school ceremony. I stood on the other side: twenty-eight, finding my way, ready to catch her.

In the three-and-a-half years that followed, the years in which I was her teacher, I sometime thought back to all of this — always with wonder, often with the sense that I was exactly where I ought to be.

2. Places can do this too: take for example the East Coast of Scotland, or, to be more specific, the hills of Fife as seen for the first time through a train window, on the summer of my first big adventure. It had been grey all day, and raining on and off, but as we left Edinburgh the sun burst through the clouds giving me my first experience of that common but exquisite British summer experience, sun-after-rain, causing my heart to burst into something as well, something like joy-after-having-been-scared. The sky was blue, and high, and ever-present, the hills were greener than green, the sunlight slanting and golden yellow, and it was all so new to my southern self, so delightful in its differentness to everything I’d known — and yet a part of me was resonating with a strange sense of recognition, as if the landscape itself was whispering to me, saying, in its own quiet way: “you are here.”

In time this feeling faded –these days the railway line from Edinburgh to Dundee does not call my name in the way that it once did– but for a summer or two Scotland was the place to be, and Dundee sometimes felt like home.

3. This is what Athens is doing to me at the moment, what it is doing to me again — it has done it once before, which is perhaps why it is so good at it. It seems to be singing to me with a hundred voices, all of them saying the same thing: “you are here.” What am I to do but listen?

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:43 pm [3 people said all this]
Thursday, July 14, 2011 Half-time score (, )

I thought of that moment a lot. I thought about it through the flat, exhausted evenings of the winter months. I thought about it in the early hours of March mornings, when the world seemed intend of waking me in good time to watch the light change. I thought about it in April, in Athens, as I looked down on the city where a hundred bells called out ‘Good Friday’ and the night fell. I thought about it in May, on a train that inched its way up the Devon coastline, where I sat and wondered whether my life had indeed changed in the span of a few hours, just as I thought it had. I thought about it in June during the dreamy, sad weekend that followed a conversation that set my world spinning in the right orbit once again. And I thought about it today, at lunchtime, on the first hot afternoon of July.

Today was the next-to-last day of term, the term whose end I have longed for, despite the fact that I am not half as stressed, or as exhausted, as I was at this time last year. I mentally checked my list of things to do and sighed, waiting for the slow, idle mornings and the empty afternoons, for the freedom of summer. I made plans — I’ll cook more; post on the blog every day; visit places. I counted the days down, in the mornings and in the evenings too. But this lunchtime, with one-and-a-half day to go, with most things on my list accomplished, with freedom within reach — something happened.

I looked up from my lunch. The children were spread out on the floor, quietly playing with blocks or reading to themselves, as they always are at this time of day. The the class assistant was glueing a bit of fabric to a book cover. Through the wall, I could hear the teacher of the class next door read a story to his children. And it’s hard to describe what it was, but I’ll say that there was so much love in it all — in the way the children were absorbed in their tasks; in their respect for me, which kept them quiet; in the way they were comfortable around each other; in the fact that Laura was working through lunchtime to finish an important end-of-the-year project; in Adam’s voice — that I felt a pang of longing for what I had right then and there, for what we have created, for what I am about to temporarily lose.

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 10:12 pm [say something]
Tuesday, January 6, 2009 What I have been up to (part 4) (, )

In September it transpired that a lot of things in school were changing. The changes meant that the person they had given the job to might not want it any more. Upon hearing this, the words “I will do it” left my mouth before I had any time to think. So there was more waiting, more hanging on the line, hoping, dreaming, and another “no” at the end of it. At this time my favourite child left the class, and I started to wonder whether perhaps it wasn’t meant to be after all. Even so, I decided to go part-time on the course, just so that I would have enough time to take on the class in case I needed to. Why I would need to I didn’t know, but it did my heart good to feel prepared.

In October school finally started (late), and I ended up being the assistant in that class for the second half of the morning. I walked in, on the first day, with an open heart and an open mind, just waiting to see whether the class felt ‘mine’ or not. It didn’t. By that point that came as a pleasant surprise; to have to walk every day into a class that felt mine and yet was taught by somebody else would have been a nightmare. And so October went by in a happy haze of busyness. Working at that school felt like the right thing to do; still; despite the fact that I couldn’t make sense of what had happened, despite the fact that I had never been wrong about anything so important before and I just couldn’t imagine that I had been wrong this time, either. I just put that whole matter aside for a while. If nothing else, the way things had turned out, I got to wake up at the luxurious time of 8.30 am. I wasn’t too keen to change that.

You can see where this is going, too, can’t you?

It changed. Because after October came half-term, and after half-term came November, and the Class One teacher decided to leave, at the same time as the school’s little world was turning upside-down. And something funny happened then — the moment the class had no teacher, it felt mine all over again. I felt that familiar kick in the gut that meant ‘I have to be there for them’, I had to make sure they’d be okay. There were options, there were opinions, there were concerns, there were secrets, there were doubts; and in the the end, there were some decisions, too. The whole thing got very complicated for a while, and a great many feelings were hurt, many times over.

And at the end of it all came December. When I became the Class One teacher.

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 11:59 am [2 people said all this]
Monday, January 5, 2009 What I have been up to (part 3) (, )

I tortured myself for a long time. I was overwhelmed by self doubt; the desire to do this became stronger. Logic said, again and again, that it was a stupid idea; my heart sang at the thought. I made the grave mistake of turning to others for reassurance — I should have known better: there is always somebody willing to take my doubts and magnify them before returning them to me. It happened again. And yet, I kept telling myself, if I have learned one thing so far, it is to listen to my heart. On and on it went like that.

March came and went, and with it my birthday. I stood above my candles and wished for “a class of children of my very own — but only if this is the right thing to wish for.” Confused doesn’t begin to describe what I was. I was stressed, depressed even. April came and went. I let it go for a while — and it came back to me. May came and went, and the world gave conflicting signs. Some said yes, but some said “I don’t know”; some said one thing one day and the opposite the day after. And yet I became a little surer as time went by, and then a little surer still, and by June I had made up my mind. Given half a chance, I would do it.

I spent June waiting to be given that chance, waiting and waiting. I wished on a bamboo shoot, and stuck it in some water. July was a mess. One day I was almost given the job –I was this close– and it felt like everything was right with the world. I forgot what I couldn’t do and remembered all the things that I could do; I bought children’s books; I started planning my first lessons in my head. But the next day the job was given to somebody else, and my heart was broken. That night –and the ones that followed– I burst into tears when it was time for bed. They were tears of loss, and of frustration, and of disbelief — how could something so right go so wrong? I cried, and I wondered — why did this mean so much to me? What other answer could there be but that it was meant to be? That only made me more sad.

“But my name is written in the stars next to the children’s,” I told Martijn one night. “Can’t they see that?” Well, apparently, they couldn’t, and there was nothing I could do, so I decided to quite wondering and go to Indietracks instead. (This turned out to be an excellent decision, although that is a whole different post.)

And you would have thought this was the end of that, but it was not.

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 11:41 pm [2 people said all this]
Sunday, January 4, 2009 What I have been up to (part 2) (, )

February came, and I got out of bed at an ungodly hour and jumped on a nearly empty train to Exeter before the sun was up. In fact I got to watch the sun rise behind the Exeter skyline through the fog, and it was a beautiful thing. I got off the train and found that things at the school were indeed, better, somewhat; and that my assigned classroom corner was indeed cold, as I had expected it to be. Despite that, I did not leave it much. I didn’t feel ready to be a teacher.

It didn’t take long for this to start feeling like a problem. After all the School Experience Handbook stated it quite clearly. I should have been feeling ready. And most other people in my year were, evidently. I sat in my corner and wondered why I was the odd one out, again, and why I just couldn’t do what everyone else was doing already, and why did nobody find it as hard as I did? And did I have to think about everything so much? What was wrong with me?

At this auspicious moment in my path towards becoming a teacher it was suggested to me that I might want to take the next Class One. Whyever this suggestion was made to me will forever remain a mystery — I certainly hadn’t done much besides sit in the corner, and think about it a lot. It just so happened, however, that it was made while we were standing in the playground, where the children who were to make up the aforementioned class –they were still in Kindergarten at the time– were playing.

And so I sat there, in the pale sunlight, or perhaps under overcast skies, and I watched them, and then I watched them some more. And then I felt something tug at my heart, and I knew that I just had to do it. I wish I could contain that moment in words. I wish I could describe that for you. It wasn’t spectacular, and it wasn’t like falling in love. It wasn’t like the moment when the band plays your favourite song and it didn’t take my breath away. There just was a small and subtle change inside me, and the feeling that I was called to do this, despite everything.

Oh, if only it was that simple. ‘Everything’ decided to fight back, and a great battle ensued inside me. Who did I think I was? What exactly made me think that I could do this? And what exactly made me think that I should do it? When I was well aware that I couldn’t even do as well as everyone else was doing, let alone better? When I couldn’t sing, draw or paint? (These are a big deal for a Steiner teacher.) When I was the one questioning the system the most, why was I also the one itching to work with it the most?

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 7:48 pm [say something]
Saturday, January 3, 2009 What I have been up to (part 1) (, )

As usual, I don’t know where to start. Because, as usual, the story starts in five different places at the same time.

I could start here, in December 2005, when I first visited Exmouth and the course that was going to be ‘my course’ for the following two years. Because one of the things that happened on that Thursday was that I got to sit in on a session, and listen to people’s accounts of their experiences in the schools they had been visiting. And two of those people had been to a tiny little school in Exeter, and the things they said made me think, rather irrationally –they talked about a mixed-aged, mixed-ability class of about a dozen children operating out of a caravan– that it was my kind of school.

Or I could fast forward a year to the first time I actually visited said school, in December 2006. It had just moved to a new building, so the class had an actual classroom of its own by that time. A very cold one. I spent two weeks largely sitting in a corner, half-asleep, owing to the hour-long commute from Exmouth, and half-frozen, owing to the lack of heating. When the two weeks were over I wrote a long and (I think) eloquent essay about the history of the school and how it affected its every day running. The sentences “you can’t run a school on idealism and goodwill alone, at least not for a long time”, and “you can’t run a school when you don’t know in which direction you are running” stood out, along with a firmly held belief that, were I to get involved in something so messy, it would be years before I looked up again. I resolved to stay well away for the foreseeable future.

You can see where this is going, can’t you?

Fast forward a year and a month, and you’ll find me sitting on my couch, gloomily contemplating my imminent return to Derbyshire, where I had previously spend two sleepy, cold weeks in another classroom corner. This time it would have to be for four weeks, in February at that too. Upon realising that the prospect filled me with dread, and that the thing I would love the most would be to be able to sleep in my own bed after spending long days in yet another classroom corner, I thereby committed myself to another hour-long commute to Exeter and forgot all about my previous resolution. After all I had heard rumours that things at the school were better, and the teacher I would be observing from my cold corner would be someone I knew and liked. It sounded promising. And so I dug out some of my initial love for the school and proceeded to get a little excited about it all.

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 5:45 pm [say something]