He was one of the naughty boys, the ones who couldn’t settle to their work, who were always in trouble after playtime, who had a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
He sidled up to me during ‘Golden Time’, the magic half hour at the end of the day when the children were allowed to choose what to do.
“Miss,” he said, leaning towards me.
“What story are you telling today?”
“Well…” I said. “I can’t tell you the story, cos it would spoil it…”
His face fell a little.
“But… I could give you a hint or two…”
He looked up at me.
“There’s a frog in it,” I said. “And a princess. And a talking tree.”
He pondered this information briefly, then announced, “I’m going to draw the tree!”
And off he went. When he returned a few minutes later, he brought with him a sheet of paper with a felt tip drawing of a tree in the middle, orange and green, with a face carved into the trunk. And it was beautiful. He had a real talent.
“Would you like to stand and hold your picture up when we get to the bit with the tree?” I asked.
So that’s what we did. When I got to the bit with the tree and he stood up, there was a brief moment when his teacher wasn’t sure, when she assumed that he was doing something he shouldn’t, because that’s what he always did. But the moment passed, and he stood there, proudly holding his picture, for the rest of the story.
It was a small moment, just a brief passing of time in one hour of one day of his whole life. But that moment made a difference. Because in that moment he knew what it was to be proud of himself, to feel like he’d achieved something. It was a good moment that he could share with his mum as they left school together.
And from that moment, I knew that this was what I needed to do.
I still have the tree picture…