Lit­tle Words Of Wis­dom

Kids say the fun­ni­est things in this ten­der com­plete story by Wendy Clarke.

The People's Friend Special - - CONTENTS -

A heart­warm­ing story by Wendy Clarke

CAN you help me?” Shan­non Reed squints up at my daugh­ter through the thick lenses of her glasses, and pushes her book to­wards her. They sit at a hexag­o­nal ta­ble, and as well as Shan­non there are another three chil­dren. Lee Con­nors, whose hair never seems to sit flat, se­ri­ous lit­tle Ly­dia Diamond, and Ed­die Simms, who likes to chew his pen­cils un­til there is not much left of them.

My daugh­ter takes the book from the lit­tle girl and stud­ies it. I no­tice she hasn’t made much of an ef­fort to smarten her­self up for her day in the class­room; one denim-clad leg, torn at the knee in the latest fash­ion, sticks out into the aisle be­tween the ta­bles.

The chil­dren don’t seem to mind, though – they like the nov­elty of hav­ing some­one new in the class­room with them.

“What’s that mean?” Lee is hold­ing his book up and point­ing to it. Na­dia looks up. “What?” “That squig­gly thing there.” Lean­ing across the ta­ble, she looks at it. “It’s a ques­tion mark.” “What’s that?” “It’s what you put at the end of a ques­tion.” “What’s a ques­tion?” Na­dia laughs. It’s nice to hear the sound. It’s one I wish I heard more of­ten – my daugh­ter can be such a se­ri­ous girl at times.

“You should know, Lee. You’re the king of the ques­tions. It’s when you ask some­thing, like why did the chicken cross the road? Lee scratches his ginger head. “Why did it?” “Are you OK there, Na­dia?” I leave the group I’m help­ing and walk over to her ta­ble.

She’s been at a bit of a loose end since tak­ing her “A” lev­els and I thought it might be nice for her to come and help me in the class for a bit. “I’m fine, Mum.” She looks back down and her dark hair falls like cur­tains across the book, just like it used to when she was a child do­ing her home­work at the din­ing ta­ble, and it hits me again that soon she’ll be gone and I know how much I’m go­ing to miss her. She might be eigh­teen, but she’s still my lit­tle girl.

“Is that your mum?” Ed­die Simms takes the pen­cil from his mouth and points it at me. “Re­ally?”

“Don’t point your pen­cil at peo­ple, Ed­die. That’s rude,” I say, tak­ing it from him and plac­ing it on the ta­ble.

“Does she live in the school with you, miss?”

“Mrs Allen doesn’t live in the school, silly.” This is Ly­dia. Although she isn’t very good at arith­metic or spell­ing, she likes to think that she knows more about life than the boys. “She lives in a house with Mr Allen, and a dog and a cat and a f ish.”

Ac­tu­ally, I don’t. Na­dia is al­ler­gic to an­i­mals, and we’ve lived alone since Keith died, but the lit­tle girl’s imag­i­na­tion never ceases to amaze me.

“We must say a big thank you to Na­dia for com­ing and help­ing us to­day, chil­dren.”

“Will you come again af­ter the big hol­i­day?” Lee asks, pulling the sleeves of his jumper over his hands and flap­ping them in front of his face. “I like you.” Na­dia smiles but shakes her head. “I won’t be here, I’m afraid. I’ll be liv­ing in another town.”

Lee looks dis­ap­pointed – all the chil­dren do. Next to him, Ed­die is bal­anc­ing a pen­cil across his tongue. Lee reaches out and flicks the end of it and it rolls on to the floor. Nor­mally I would tell them off, but this is the last day of term and I de­cide to let it go.

“Won’t you be lonely?” Ed­die asks, bending to pick the pen­cil up.

I glance at Na­dia, won­der­ing what she’ll say. She’s not talked about it much and I have no idea if she’s wor­ried or not. She shrugs. “I don’t know, Ed­die. I’ll just have to wait and see.”

“When I f irst came to the class, when we f irst moved here, I was lonely.” Ly­dia looks at Na­dia through thick, dark lashes, then takes the hand of the lit­tle girl next to her and holds it up high. “But then I met Shan­non and I’m not lonely any more.”

IT’S the start of the new term and I’m sit­ting in a small class­room next to the off ice. Mrs Jack­son, the head teacher, has asked if I’ll take a booster group to help some chil­dren with their English, and Lee, Ed­die, Shan­non and Ly­dia are seated at the ta­ble with me.

“What are we do­ing to­day, miss?” Lee asks, rest­ing his head on his arms and look­ing at me over the top of them.

“We’re go­ing to f in­ish what we started yesterday.”

“Oh, do we have to?” Ed­die threads his pen­cil be­tween his f in­gers and stares at it. “It’s so bor­ing.”

“That’s not a very po­lite thing to say, Ed­die,” I say.

He’s right, though. Usu­ally I have the knack of mak­ing the lessons in­ter­est­ing to the chil­dren, what­ever their abil­ity.

Yesterday, though, I could tell my voice lacked an­i­ma­tion and it wasn’t long be­fore I had lost the chil­dren’s at­ten­tion. “Can’t we do some­thing else?” “Learn­ing to write letters is part of the cur­ricu­lum. It’s very im­por­tant to know how to do it.” I look at the chil­dren’s faces and won­der, at seven years old, how im­por­tant let­ter-writ­ing could re­ally be, or how rel­e­vant.

I get the chil­dren to open their books with the idea of get­ting them to read their work out to me. Ly­dia has her arm around her writ­ing, try­ing to hide it.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.