Wednesday 14 September 2016

Let me tell you about Evie

Again, not her real name.
She was a bright, somewhat naughty and attention-seeking child. I first met her when she joined my first year class. I taught her German as a first foreign language.
 A lot of her naughtiness was explained when we found out that she had been horrifically abused by one of her parents. She became even more attention seeking as she went through a process with social services and to our great relief was transferred to a foster family and another education area within the same authority.  
We hadn’t seen the last of Evie, however. I bumped into her at our local paper shop. She now attended the same school as my own children. And she’s already paid for the day trip to Germany. Would we still take her, asked the foster parents? She was still very keen to go, you see.
I sighed inwardly and agreed.  “You’re kidding me!” said the head of Key Stage 3 when I told him. He was coming on the trip.  
Day trip to Germany? Yes, that’s right. You have to insist that the students sleep all the way on the coach and all the way back but you do get a full day in Aachen. The town is small enough and charming enough to make it ideal for the sort of day trips I used to organise. More about these in another post.
We gathered at the school on the appointed day. We waited and waited.  No Evie. We phoned both the mobile and landline we had for her. No reply. We left a message to say that we had to go without her.
A shame but a bit of a relief.
We were just getting into Dover when the phone rang. Evie’s foster parents.  They’d read the time wrongly and had driven fast to Folkestone when they realised. Could we pick up Evie at passport control? Of course we could, even though the head of Key Stage 3 rolled his eyes and shook his head.
It worked. We picked up Evie. She delighted in having caused a fuss and had a seat all to herself. She had no particular friend on this trip.
The students were good. They slept on the long coach journey from the tunnel to Aachen. We arrived just in time for breakfast. We gave them half an hour of free time before we started the day’s activities. They all piled into MacDonald’s. Well why not? They do decent breakfasts.
There were students of all levels on this trip including some very intelligent year 11s who went on to get A* grades at GCSE. Most stuttered and stumbled over their words, even though pointing and gesturing can be quite effective in MacDonald’s. Not so Evie. She had rehearsed the words she would need. She said it all as if she meant it and with a smile. She had even studied the money so she so was able to give more or less the correct change and  knew exactly what she should get back. She put the others to shame.  
The head of Key Stage 3 stuck with her all day, by his own admission not because he didn’t trust her but because she was so useful as an interpreter.
The other students warmed up and soon got into the activities we’d arranged for them. Evie shone through, though, despite the expertise of some of the others and eventually won the prize for the best work. She made it her business to do everything to the highest standard.
Was this because she had had to learn to survive? Yet she did it with joy rather than resentment. Perhaps this was like a walk in the park compared with what else had happened to her.  
We may not all have the same motivation as Evie but she clearly showed on that day that it is possible to communicate with just a small input of language and what counts more than anything is the determination to do so. Well done Evie.  

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