Through the Dark Sod- As Education. The Lily passes sure feels her white foot - No trepidation. Her faith - No Fear. From Through the Dark Sod by Emily E Dickinson born in Massachusetts, America on December 10th 1830 - May 15th 1886
To me education is a treasure. A buried treasure. Something to seek out and hunted down. Like anything of high value it doesn’t come easily to all, and can cost the earth too. With that in mind, I wasn’t expecting to walk away with an English degree when I signed up at my local college for some evening classes in Brush Up English: basic skills in 2006, but I was expecting more than what I actually received.
Yes, the classes were free. The government at that the time wanted to improve adult literacy and numeracy in Britain. The courses were paid for by the taxpayers, and as I worked full-time and paid my taxes, were I not entitled to learn too. I hoped the evening classes would improve my understanding of English Grammar and help build my confidence, or at least give me something I could build on, to increase my understanding of how grammar worked. I saw it as a building block to a better future.
Class 6 of 32: A Class of Distinction.
After having an evening off from my classes, I was looking forward to getting back. This seemed strange somehow. When I compared returning to my evening classes, after the half term break, to being at school as children we all looked forward to the school holidays, rather than returning to lessons.
Now the season was on the turn and the evenings were drawn in, the air carried the smell of autumn. I felt strangely alive and refreshed as I walked up to the college gates. I arrived a little early, stood waiting alone, and felt slightly lost because the college seemed so busy. There were mothers with their teenagers wandering the hallways looking for certain classrooms. A mother stood asking her daughter what she thought of the college overall. I thought how lucky the teenager was to have the opportunity to study here full-time.
The first to arrive was Mrs. Mid-forty. We were both surprised when Mr C arrived early. He was closely followed by the classroom assistant. In total for the evening, there was only four of us, plus Mr C and the classroom assistant.
Mr C chatted while we waited to see if anyone else would arrive. He told us he had been rushing around getting things together for this evening, and as always, he had achieved nothing.
“But there again,” he said brightly “None of us do. I’m still working on my novel I started 25 years ago.”
“What!” Mrs. Mid-forty said aghast, “By now, I would’ve thought you would have lost the plot.”
Mr C narrowed his eyes at her and sat down in his chair. “Right, tonight we are going to learn about the comma. Now I’m not the world’s best driver. I’m driving along and stop at a set of traffic light then turn right. On my left I see another sign, and then I turn to the right, and see another road sign…”
Mr C waffled on for about 2 minute in the same vain. Then he stopped and told us, “Commas are like road signs, they tell us what’s coming next. Commas tell us when to pause. If we didn’t have commas… It’s a pause… It’ll all make sense; you just put a comma in at a natural pause. Certain words also have a comma to separate them.”
Mr C just stood there, and looked as though he was trying to remember something. We all looked at each other. Then he smiled brightly at his very confused class, even our classroom assistant looked perplexed. “Never mind, I can’t think of an example,” he said before handing out his worksheets.
Together, we read through the examples on the sheets with him before he set us some work to do. He went off to started up the computers so we could find the answers to the questions on the worksheets. The classroom assistant helped Mr C by printing off them from the BBC website.
It all still seemed so disorganised to me. I was puzzled to why we needed to be given the answers rather than being encouraged to hunt them out for ourselves through learning. But what did I know?
This week I took along two of my poems for him to read. He said they were very good, though a bit too romantic for him. Out of the two, the one he liked the most he said was a bit morbid and reminded him of the sort of poem which a Bronte might have written. “It’s a bit old fashioned,” he said as he corrected the punctuation and explained to me why it needed to be changed.
His remarks about my poems and to compare them to a Bronte pleased me though. Who would have thought it? Well, I never.
Just before Mr C followed the rest of the class for tea-come-smoke break, he gave me a sheet to work on, and asked if I had been doing any more writing. I told him I had seen a writing competition in my local newspaper, and was thinking about entering.
When he returned to the classroom, smelling of smoke, he said that once I’d written the story to bring it into class, and he would read it with me to see if I had made any mistakes.
“I won’t do it for you,” he added strongly.
“I wouldn’t want you to; it wouldn’t be my baby then.”
It surprised me that he thought I would want him to write my competition entry for me. Where was the fun in having someone else doing it for you, and what would be the point of it? I saw no fun or enjoyment in submitting work created by someone else. Most importantly of all, there would be no pride in it for me if his story won the competition.
Here’s the poem Mr C liked out of the two I showed him. I’m not a poet, so please excuse my lame attempt.
Now We’re Parted The wind echoed around the old oak tree, lifting its forgotten leaves as I hurried by to make my leave. You, who had been so quick, so pleased to say your final goodbye, with no thought or care, I made my way along the path. The one for so many summers before, we had made our own. The distant bells which had once rung the joy of our union, now echoed a mournful tone. What earthly reason was there for you to go? I who had nothing to give you, but me, myself and I, sit alone and mourn the passing of the tide. This one life, one love can never be again. I hear your voice, it echoes in the wind that lifts the leaves around the old oak tree. Then it chases itself down the valley and is gone. A distant reminder of some forgotten time. You, who were so dearly loved, my perfect world have left me so broken hearted. Once we had said those words, I held to be so true. Let no man put asunder, and you had said 'I do'. Where now are the long hot summer days? Where are our gentle walks under the green canopy, while all around the birds sing? I must hurry now for soon you will be gone, and all that will be left to mark your earthly life, Will be a cold, cold stone.