Jane Ballot

Being me in the world

Wednesday 22nd April

I wonder how many lessons a person has to learn in one lifetime. I think the answer must be infinite. We never stop learning. We should never want to.

The group of students on this workshop is so different from those last week and yet, in many ways, they are the same. Perhaps the most important of these is that they are interesting individuals who are keen to learn.

The session on the first day of the workshop is aimed at revisiting what we have called the ‘basics’ of English grammar. Half way through the day, one of the students asked at what level a high school learner should know the rules and be able to use them. He was interested if what we were doing was language, or moving into the territory of linguistics. He was also quite surprised when I told him that everything we were doing was understood to be simply grammar and that, in fact, a high school learner should be able to understand and apply the rules at the level we were working.

All of it is about understanding how the bricks fit together and then building the wall.

One of the students has the habit of saying something like ‘this grammar thing’, which is so similar to the way I always talk about the ‘cancer thing’. I obviously could relate to his way of phrasing ideas J

When I have an idle moment in the workshop (which is not often), I have a small moment of beginning to wonder, “What goes on in your lives?” Here I stand / sit (depending on the time of day and my level of exhaustion) and interact with the students. They have little idea of me as a person, beyond what I have told them about my background and, also, what they observe during the sessions. I have little or no idea of them as individuals, save the few details we have from asking pointed questions, or simply from observing them. In my life, especially recently, there is so much other than what is ‘put out there’ going on (and having done so, especially with the cancer), of which they have absolutely no idea, unless they happen to be extremely observant and notice that I have a lopsided chest (something which I am sure people just don’t notice and wouldn’t really register if they did). They too, must each have so many things going on in their lives that have shaped them, that continue to influence them. Perhaps one of them has also battled a dread disease. Perhaps one of them is extremely fortunate and has had a really good windfall sometime. Perhaps one of them has suffered a loss fairly recently, that has changed their lives forever. Perhaps one of them has encountered a new individual, who has had an important part to play in their lives.

Perhaps they are all just ordinary, leading uneventful lives and never having had to deal with loss, heartache, or disease. Perhaps they have not had any greatly significant experiences and their lives plod along quite ordinarily.

Perhaps doing this workshop may be the most significant thing that ever happens to them and it unlocks something that helps them to go on to become highly successful writers.


And I will never know. And it will change nothing.

The thing that matters is where we are for these short three days and what learning comes out of that – for all of us. I can specify the points that I have, literally, learnt, or been reminded of, because of interacting with those particular students. I will also never be able to articulate some of the development and learning that has already happened and will continue to happen this week.

The thing is, that I am learning. I continue to do so in many ways all the time. For these opportunities to learn different things from different people I am always grateful.

I am well on the way to learning just a few of the lessons life has to teach me, especially through interacting with other people. I just hope I continue to appreciate opportunities like this and to take away from them everything I can.


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