Child 1 wins a prize… (part 2)

Today I wrote an email to Laura’s teacher because I was feeling emotional and verbose. I’m not sure what she’ll make of it but it read like this… [pictures added to illustrate my badly made points]

Heading: Laura’s Prize for Progress

Hi Miss B,

I just wanted to let you know how happy we are about Laura actually winning something!

Honestly (and this is no reflection on Laura’s abilities – it’s more an observation of the other students’ performance), I don’t think either of us ever saw this happening. Everyone seems so smart, accomplished, outgoing and enthusiastic about applying themselves to new things.

Laura, in contrast, is lots of those things (definitely not all, though) but she’s often been a little bit reticent at school and she gets nervous about putting herself ‘out there’. I totally get that.

Laura – a blonde 9 year old girl – poses for a photograph of a lonely pickpocket sitting on the steps of a church.

I don’t know if you know about her adventures in mime but she got into it last year and Miss Brown encouraged her. Miss Brown called her “quirky” and that worried me at first because, although I love weird and wonderful, kids can be mean. Miss Brown told me that her mum was quirky too and that she thought we should foster it. So Laura got into mime.

Anyway, I’m not going to lie, mime is not my favourite performance art. It’s big in France… And only France. Half my family seems to be trying to be French and I still don’t like mime – but she worked out that none of her classmates knew anything about it so that meant that they wouldn’t criticise her work. That’s very Laura. She could be ‘out there’ but with the minimum level of risk. Now that is smart in lots of ways.

Lockdown 1 was awful in terms of school. Laura hated the lack of social contact and I started to bribe her with YouTube mime lessons. That I had to participate in… Yes, I have now mastered an art I hate. I feel like I’ve truly earned my History of Art degree and a French passport now.

When Lockdown 3 started my heart nearly froze. I got a prescription for anxiety medication and some antidepressants – you know, just in case – but she loved every moment. I lent her my horribly expensive, very posh laptop (it was made in a colour I designed because I used to be extremely pretentious) and I think she felt like a grown up.

Laura – a blonde 9 year old – looks at the screen of a laptop. In the background we can see pictures of landscapes, a vase of tulips and a gold lamp.

She wore what she termed “professional clothing” almost every single day. There were a total of two days when she wore what I term “lockdown clothes”. Two days of trackies… Two days. Every other day she made sure that she was wearing something she thought I’d be able to wear for work. Including shoes. I tried to encourage her to wear slippers but I bought her relatively posh new boots in October and she said she wanted to get her money’s worth. She was a fashion plate.

I never believed in that ‘dress for the job you want’ stuff but she made me question my wisdom. It seemed to transform her into a much older, wiser student. I often had to switch off the laptop because she went overtime to finish something. I hope you don’t mind that but I wouldn’t work overtime if I had the option either. And a 9 year old with burn-out just looks like a case for social services.

Laura wears a black dress with a white polka dot print while sitting on her bedroom floor watching YouTube on a tablet.

Anyway, she found the connection between you and her comforting and intimate. I think, to her, it was like she was the only student in your classroom. She wasn’t distracted by everyone else and she learned that maintaining focus on a task has its own rewards.

She also liked succeeding. She hadn’t really experienced it academically before. In Year 2 she and Thomas ran for Head of House. Their entire platform was ‘vote for us because we’re popular’. They won…but she told me this afternoon that it wasn’t the same as today’s success. She actually said “I think I deserve this, Mum.”. [coincidentally both she and Thomas won 2 out of three prizes today as well]

I’m sure she does but I’d like to tell you that the real credit should go to you. You formed a bond with her that she hasn’t experienced with a teacher since Miss Saleh. Everyone has a couple – even a few (if you’re lucky) – of really halcyon memories of a teacher or so, and you two have given her plenty.

Once, when Laura and Alexa were (of course) wasting time chatting in the bathroom, Miss Saleh came in to straighten her hijab. It fell off and both of the girls saw her natural hair. Miss Saleh made no fuss and righted her coiffure calmly in front of them – but they somehow (impressively for 6 year olds) intuited the privacy of the situation and they swore that they would only ever speak about it with their own families and each other. Amazingly – when you consider what chatty Cathys they are – I think they’ve managed to keep to the terms of the pact.

Laura and her best friend, Alexa (a dark haired girl with plaits and glasses) pose together wearing waterproof jackets before a school outward bound trip.

With you her relationship is different but equally touching. Thanks to Teams she now thinks she knows everything about you – and she likes everything about you! You’re her much imagined ideal of a big sister. You have a dog – she’s scared of dogs but you aren’t, you daredevil, you! You have a relationship. Laura’s got a best friend. That’s the same, right? You have a nice workroom.

Laura spent a lot of time ‘curating’ her workspace on the kitchen table so that it looked like something Miranda Priestley wouldn’t absolutely hate – and that you’d think was grown-up. She often had a cup of tea at the table. Just casually drinking her tea like an office worker… Because imaginary perfect big sisters have glossy offices and like Russian doll mugs.

She wanted to impress you – not because you’re scary or too cool for school – but because you’re a good person. Not just that but you’re the kind of role model that children need. You’re kind and attentive and intuitive and engaged and actually interested. You’ve given her your enthusiasm. You bring joy to Laura’s life.

To us, I can confidently say that you’ll always be the teacher that changed Laura’s relationship with learning more than any other. She has flourished under your supervision. She’s blooming. At school she is so happy that, sometimes, we get the endorphin drop when she comes home. I don’t mind at all because it means that your classroom is her safe and – most importantly – chosen milieu. She hasn’t tried to pull a sick day all year – despite having some social glitches along the way. She’s with you and she has been content in your care.

I’m not really sure if I’ve managed to sum up what I wanted to but I think I’m trying to emphasise just how much you mean to us all. You are an excellent teacher and a wonderful person. Know that and carry it with you through all your professional and personal life. Print this out and begin a scrap book. Call it your ‘Look at how brilliant I am book’. You deserve it. And, if you don’t, I may just do it for you.

Sophie Blakemore

Laura poses in front of imposing school gates while holding an open red file. On display in the file is a certificate that gives the details of her prize.

P.S.


Also, on a personal / professional note, kudos to you for mixing up Sainsbury’s’ Tu range and Hobbs in the same working wardrobe. I absolutely love it – and I work in womenswear merchandising and marketing. Not many people do it well and make it look so effortless. It’s a gift.

And, that, dear readers, is how I probably embarrassed myself today. And I don’t care a bit. I meant every word.

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