i now divide teaching into grammar lessons, which are usually hard and require real thought and technique and mankilling boots, and conversation classes, where you’re more like a conductor, getting everyone to talk in a reasonably structured way, and you wear dandy shoes. The earlier levels have lots of grammar so require considerable thought and planning; the later levels have lesson plans like “tell students to discuss their holidays”.

Earlier this week i travelled to a nearby locomotive company to teach a lovely MILF, level 5 – so just directed conversation, no real grammar; a very enjoyable 90 minutes. There’s usually another student but only the MILF turned up so we sat in a quiet, small room with trees and birds outside, ran through all the topics in the lesson plan, and then just chatted about everything else – traffic, birds, magpies, crows, battlefields, death, the sea, Venice, Cambridge, eternity, mathematics, engineering, Wittgenstein, philosophy, Highlander, the weather, sunglasses, other teachers’ dogs. i was pleased that the students (apparently) requested i remain as their teacher after the first lesson, whereas we normally split one group’s course between several teachers.

This was our second lesson; on the first she gave me a tour of the factory; we stood close together, though i don’t think she was aware how close, nearly touching. An easy warmth developed very quickly between us – in an earthly sense, it will go nowhere – but i am increasingly aware that these energies go somewhere, are not wasted.

With this MILF and a couple of other students, i feel sure i have known them before – and, i suspect, they were among the children i taught in an earlier life, when i was a prick. Perhaps this is the case with some of my other students – some are hesitant, ready to be afraid, or hostile, already armoured with contempt or suspicion. i suppose they are naturally timorous or aggressive, but it seems particularly so with me. i tend to be gentle with the timid and bland or good-humoured with the angry – in either case, transparent – and so far they seem persuaded from whatever they bring with them.

Earlier this week my MILF student told me of a brilliant colleague of hers; he sounds semi-autistic – always eats the same thing, doesn’t have any friends, doesn’t go out, is only interested in mathematics, engineering, and model railways. He is apparently brilliant, but utterly incapable of ordinary human relations, almost too gifted for the little human things, like conversation, politeness, friendship.

“Sounds familiar,” i murmured darkly.

She gave me one of her wonderful girlish grins. “The conversation we have, talking about – everything – he couldn’t do that. He couldn’t talk like we do now.”

“Some people can’t.”

Today i travelled to another tiny village in the middle of the country, to teach a group of German engineers. An amusing group – one young lass  was once the “cherry princess” of a nearby town, an award for her great beauty no doubt, to do with the cherry blossoms and Ishtar or something; she also likes shooting guns in her spare time, as do so many Germans.

It was tremendous fun and when the class ended a BMW pulled up by me in the car park, driven by a 50-something lady student. She offered me a lift to the train station – about 5 minutes’ away on foot – i accepted and ended up getting a guided tour of the village in her BMW. It was a subtly strange experience – because i felt, just, some earlier energy being reworked between us – though i have no idea who she was, how i knew her before this life. She seemed pleased and bemused as to why she felt so friendly towards me, why she wanted to show me her home town, her favourite view of the distant hills, to share this with me. i think she was a little puzzled, to feel this quick, deep affection for me; i was curious as to who she had been, before.

A gathering of threads from my other lives – many moments coming together again in redeeming conjunction, so i am undone of my old mastery and loss, i am my own best student, unlearning what i have been.

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