Saturday, December 19, 2009

Seeing the Wonder of a Fairytale

There is the famous story of Anne Sullivan, who was the storied teacher for Helen Keller. During my year in Korea, I have often referred back to Anne Sullivan's struggle to get through the mind of a blind and deaf child, to communicate with her. Keller was violent, striking out at the world and at her teacher because she couldn't understand a thing. Helen Keller is a student that would have challenged the heart and soul of many teachers. As a matter of record, her parents were desperate to find a single teacher that could work with Helen. I have often felt like Anne Sullivan during this year, and yes, it has been a year of miracles.

This is my final week in Korea, and it has caused this liquid salty substance, known as tears, to come to my eyes.
I watched the children perform, sing, tell stories, and participate in an open class that I taught for the parents to observe (ah, no time for stage fright) how I worked with their children on a daily basis. This was an audience you don't want to disappoint. I decided to tell the story of "The Little Fir Tree", which I had vaguely remembered as a child. I had the children come up, one by one to select an ornament and decorate the small artificial tree to transform it for the use of a story that on the surface seems so benign. These little beings would tell their parents what they had selected and would place the ornaments on the tree. I saw nods of approval, pride in their smiling eyes, and most of all the morale of the story is not to say, "I am too little", but to be perfectly content with who you are. The tree wanted to see life, to possibly be a part of a ship or a timber in a house. Instead, the tree was beautified for sick children in a hospital ward, and touched and loved by the children. Smiles began to mask the threatening tears, because it hit me in that moment what these children had meant to me.
I didn't have one Helen Keller, I had two of them. They did not want to be at school. They didn't want to learn English. They were violent, stubborn and fought with everyone. I thought of Anne Sullivan and thought to myself, 'at least they can hear and see'. It took a lot of work to reach them both. They both happened to be incredibly talented, and on this day, I was presented with this bouquet from the most violent student I have ever had. He achieved the most of all of the students, winning a city-wide art contest, a speech contest in Seoul, and he became one of the best students. The other 'Helen' also transformed during the year, she began to achieve her own greatness by being herself.

I have to apologize for the sound quality, it is horrible...but here is the first verse of "I Have a Dream" by Abba...sound totally out of tune...but with the bravado that only children have.
As we joined the students in the third verse, on that little stage, I saw the whole audience join us as we sang. This is going to sound totally like I am a wet blanket...I cried.

I saw the wonder of a fairy tale.


shanavia said...


Earthula said...

What a soundscape! That is so fantastic Marilyn that you see the result of your work in this moment. And it will continue on in ways that are more than imaginable.

Thank you.

Marilyn said...

Thank you ladies for your beautiful comments...
Lady Earthula...just heard you on BTR...and smiling. You are correct, it will continue...far beyond my years.

See you soon... :)