Jane Ballot

Being me in the world

Thursday 11th June

Every so often, you get the opportunity to see things from the other (or, at least, another) side.

Today some of our students presented a session at a school in Soweto and we went to examine them. On one level, it was just like being in any school, in any process drama class, because, basically, kids are kids and a school is a school. On another level, though, it was so very different being in an environment that is so unfamiliar and so different in many ways. One huge difference was the size of the group of learners, from some other schools we have been to. Another difference was the way the learners were completely unfazed by having strangers there and the way they just jumped into the drama. Enthusiasm is always infectious.

Being in that environment also made me think about the use of language. Not one of the learners had English as their home language. In fact, neither did either of our students. There they all were, though, conducting the lesson and responding in English, as though born to it – well, almost. It brought home to me the extent of English as an additional language in schools in this country.

I don’t know if it’s because of being involved in education, or because of drama, or if it’s just my mindset, but I am fascinated by people. I sit there in these sessions and look at the kids being taught. Each one of them has a home to go to (of some kind), people to whom they are close, friends to relate to. Each of them is a complete  individual. They all occupy a world of home, school, shops often completely removed from where I am used to being and often very unlike the ‘world’ I am familiar with. And yet, they are all just like me and the people I know in so many ways.

And that is just in this town. All over the country, there are ‘pockets’ of people living in their own communities within a larger community. All over the world, too. It fascinates me to think of so very many, many people all going about real life all the time in areas and ways that I will most probably never see and never understand and yet, which are so similar, in many ways, to what I know.

In those ‘other’ places, there must be people who have had cancer, like me; who have gone through chemo, like me; who are, perhaps, still getting over the treatment, like me. There may very well be someone who also has this damn chemo taste recurring and who also wishes it would just go. Or maybe not.

Maybe, nowhere else is there anyone like me, with any similar experience, or any similar journey with this cancer thing.

It really, really doesn’t matter, though, because there are definitely people everywhere with their own kind of journey, their own problems to work through, their own solutions and their own challenges. That is partly what makes us human, what this world is all about. This is partly why people fascinate me: there is so much going on within, so much others will never necessarily know, but which is so fascinating and rich when we do get to find out.

Whichever school a kid goes to, wherever s/he calls home, whomever s/he turns to for love and comfort, that kid is a whole person with a journey and a story of his/her own. As a teacher, or at the university, I am sometimes privileged enough to be allowed onto that journey for a short way, allowed to become part of the story and, hopefully, sometimes able to make a slight difference in the individual’s development.

That is why I teach.

As real as this cancer journey is to me, as bogged down as I can feel by silly things like this chemo taste that has been back for the last 2/3 days, I know it will pass, I will move on along this path, because this is only one journey of many that I must take – often at the same time!

What I do, what I hopefully achieve as a teacher is a much longer-term journey with completely different outcomes and a completely different relevance to me and to the world. It is also a journey that, hopefully, makes a little difference some of the time.

Sometimes, when I sit in a session being taught in a school that may be way out of my ‘jurisdiction’, I can see some of the evidence of something I may have done, some influence I may have had, and I know that, with that student, together we may have got something right.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *