I began teaching in a primary school in the then slum of Fulham in the late 1950s
I had wept my way through teaching practices.
I knew one just had to be well- planned and interesting.
I was given a class of forty 7-8year olds, C stream, so most couldn’t yet read.
I hadn’t learnt how to tell them I was well planned and interesting.
I managed to keep my weeping to Sunday nights. Everyone said:
“You’ll give up.”
One Sunday evening when I’d gone home to where my mother helped me make
interesting aids, I found “The Adventures of the Little Wooden Horse” by Ursula
Moray Williams. I had forgotten it. It had first come out in 1938 and I was born in
1934 so it must have been read to me when I was very young. The huge effect it
had returned as soon as I opened it. I made a miniature model of him as an extra
interesting aid and took the book back with me.
The following Monday afternoon, I gave this model to a boy who had shown no sign
that he could sit anywhere for more than two seconds.
I said “You can hold this while
I read a story, and when I read the next chapter tomorrow, I will give it to the person
who sits quietest now”. He sat frozen for the whole session, as did the rest of the
class. From then, every day ended with a quiet room and when the bell rang I could
point to a group and say “You can leave”, and then another.
I began to survive.
How do the Seahorses come in? One of the most overwhelming incidences in the
story is when the little wooden horse is swimming back across the sea with his hollow
body full of golden sovereigns for his starving master. He is challenged by real
seahorses who try to drown him because he dares call himself a “horse”.
Later in life when I was half teaching and half making sculptures I made a few models
of how I thought the seahorses would have been as a threatening wave. Later still, in
rash old age, I had a six foot version cast by the Tassis foundry in Athens.
The large Seahorses is now installed in a field in Kent. It looks at homethere but maybe
it should have a home by water, preferably by the sea.
Now I have survived making this website.