There’s a book on my shelf that’s not like any of the others. Beside my volumes of poetry, my tattered short story anthologies, and my well-thumbed novels is a picture book by Jay Williams, called Everyone Knows What a Dragon Looks Like. Today, I want to tell you about how I acquired this book, and why it still has a place in my library and in my heart.
When I was in primary 2 (age 6) I had an awful teacher; she was loud, angry, aggressive and controlling. I can still remember her voice shrieking at a little boy who dared to use the Scots word ‘ken’, instead of the accepted standard English, ‘know’. I can still remember her physically dragging a child out of the classroom to go to the higher power of the headmistress. And, I can still remember her anger directed at me following a particularly lacklustre effort at writing a story. I, too, was sent to the headmistress, but remembering the incident of the last child who objected to this directive, I went quietly.
The thing was that the headmistress, Mrs Faulds, was one of the most gentle, generous women I would ever meet, and she genuinely cared about the children under her charge. I can only assume her hands were tied in some way concerning the continuing employment of my class teacher! However, this being the first time I had been sent to her, I had no idea what to expect, or how to handle the situation, and, understandably, what with my experience of authority figures in school, I was, quite frankly, terrified. Trembling, I passed over the meager 3 sentence narrative scrawled in my jotter. She read it over and then looked at me with eyes filled with kindness, tinged with disappointment. She said, “I know you are capable of so much better than this. You have such an active imagination, but your daydreaming is interfering with your work. Maybe you could try writing down your imaginings and share them with everyone else? I’m sure we’d all love to read them.”
Now, I don’t know whether it was her interest in my dreams, her faith in my ability to communicate them, or just the sheer relief that she was so unlike the teacher that had sent me to her office, but her words lit a fire in me. I started to write epics… Ok, well 5 page stories, while my classmates struggled at 2. I began to be known for my stories and my writing. It felt good. It still does.
Anyway, the following year, my family and I moved away from the area. On my last day at school, I was once again called into Mrs Faulds office. This time, I went gladly, confidently. I sat down in front of her desk and she gave me a leaving gift; she gave me a beautiful picture book with an illustration of a small fat, old Chinese man, a village and a colourful dragon floating above the clouds. Later, when I opened the front cover, I discovered that she had written a message in silver ink:
It reads: “Dear Amy – just remember to keep your head out of the clouds and I’m sure someday you’ll write your wonderful book. M. Faulds”
This lovely lady’s encouraging words, first spoken and then, a year later, written, have stayed with me throughout my years as a child and then as an adult. I’ve still not written my ‘wonderful book’, although I remain convinced by Mrs Faulds’ certitude that ‘someday’ I will. In the meantime, I continue to write down my dreams, my experiences, my thoughts. I continue to feel joy in sharing my words. I continue to feel humbled by others’ appreciation of my writing. I continue to read Mrs Faulds’ message from over 20 years ago.
I continue my love affair with writing.
What childhood experience inspired you to go on to become the person you are today? Did you have a teacher who gave you the confidence to follow your dreams?
P.S. This is a post for Joanna Young’s group writing project, My Love Affair With Writing over at Confident Writing. You can still join in as the closing date for entries is the 28th Feb, and if you do, let me know and I’ll add a link to your entry here.