It is 6.33pm and I am so tired that I don’t know what my name is and I have forgotten the rudiments of written English. So this is not exactly going to be Scott Fitzgerald putting on the Ritz.
But, true to my new One Thing theory, I had one thing of such ravishingly loveliness today that I must write it down. (Actually, as I think about it, I had at least three. Now I feel a bit vulgar. Surely one good thing is enough for any woman?)
Anyway, my one outstanding thing came when I was doing an online tutoring session. I’m incredibly lucky to have wonderful pupils. They are brave and funny and interesting. They really, really try. They do me the great honour of giving me their trust. (Some of my teaching methods are faintly unorthodox, you may be amazed to hear. I ask them to do stuff that their regular teachers don’t. They could easily baulk, like a horse faced with a Grand National fence, but they don’t. I feel wildly grateful to them for going with me, for jumping those fences, even though they don’t always know what is on the other side.)
This particular pupil is one of my newer ones. I’m just getting to know him and the more I know him, the more I love him. He’s growing in confidence all the time, and that makes me profoundly excited. I adore watching the young people blossom and bloom, as they discover that they are much more brilliant than they think they are.
This afternoon, I asked a lot of him. I thought he was ready, so I took him up a notch.
I’d made the mistake of doing this a while ago, before he was ready. I could see his potential, but he wasn’t yet convinced of it himself. So we’d had a rather sticky session and I felt I had failed him. Today, he was there, and he did not hesitate, and he flew. I watched him in wonder and awe. ‘Yes!’ I yelled. (They all get used to me shouting in triumph when they give me a dazzling answer.) ‘Yes!’ I hollered. ‘You’ve absolutely nailed it.’
I also discovered, to my intense satisfaction, that he has a natural talent for lateral thinking. He started coming at my questions from fascinating angles, so that he took me by surprise. I love it when they surprise me.
And then, at the end, when I told him how far he had come and how much he had changed and how proud I was of him and that he deserved five gold stars, he broke out a smile so wide and free that I almost burst into tears.
All my life I have wanted to teach. I knew I could never control a rowdy classroom or go through the rigours and disciplines of regular school life. I could not fill in the forms or submit to the system. I have such admiration for teachers, because what they do is so much more complex than simply imparting knowledge. But I’ve discovered that I can do a small form of teaching that suits me, with these individual pupils and their encouraging parents. So I get that profound sense of joy I have always craved – when you see a young person start to have faith in themselves. When they really get it. When they believe that they get it. When they do something they think they can’t do. When they laugh at my stupid jokes about Hamlet. When the give me the last answer I am expecting, and it’s so much better than the one I was thinking of.
It’s like nothing else. It’s close to the exhilaration I feel when the red mare rolls into a perfect, controlled canter, when she and I are in perfect harmony, when my thought is her thought. It’s a two hearts thing, I suppose. It’s connection, which is so very precious in these disjointed times. I don’t know what it is really, because my brain is making crackling, sizzling noises as it snaps itself off. All I do know is that it is a thing of beauty and a joy forever.
Oh, and PS. One of my other lovely things was that I found the quote at the top of the page. It’s so wonderful that I’ve put it all over my social media, and I’m repeating it here. Because it’s the kind of humane wisdom that I can’t read enough.